RECAP: after hiking a lot of snow, I found low routes from lake city to breckenridge. I trespassed through ranches and walked an unreasonably long highway that was luckily closed, then went home to Utah for 2 weeks where I started the Wasatch High Route that I have been thinking about and decided it needs a little more preparation before I give it a go. I lost a few days of journal entries here and there, so I am starting at when I got back on trail from my break in Utah.
7/5 alone again. this weekend I was "backpacking" not thru hiking with Maddy Brent and Camille. it's always nice to slow it down from the typical 30+ day to under 10 miles a day. There was time for relaxing and just enjoying each other's company. They dropped me off at breckenridge at 3. It was hard to say bye to Maddy after having been with her for a couple weeks and really enjoying my time. I am alone for a couple of days until twinkle joins me for the rest of the hike. It will be nice to finally hike with someone consistently until the end. Tomorrow I summit Greys peak, which is about 14,000 feet high. It is the highest points on the whole continental divide. I am going to try and get out by 3 AM so I can summit around noon before storms roll in. I am currently about 32 miles away.
July 6 the whole day I was rushed. I needed to get to Greys peak before it stormed, and Greys was 32 miles away from where I camped. If I didnt get there before the storms, I would be caught far behind and would not make good time. The trail was nice and easy to follow from when I got started at 3 am right up until I got on the divide. The Colorado Trail split from the Continental Divide trail and it was like driving from San Diego into Mexico; I was immediately needing to pull out my maps and GPS; taking wrong turns, backtracking, and now not seeing any signs of a trail. It was cold. I was cold. My hands were numb. I had all my layers on and was mad and frustrated. It was dark and I was above 11,000 feet climbing up a peak and back down and I was getting blasted with strong winds and icy drizzles. Why am I doing this? The time went by, and it got lighter out and I warmed up a bit. Things were improving. Then the sun peaked out. It was then, after all the annoyance and cold and exhaustion that I thought to myself "this is the most beautiful thing I have ever done." I mean, I had seen the Rockies before when I was going through in the snow, but this was the first time I was up high on the divide and I got my first glimpse of the hype of the Colorado Rockies. So many colors. Green trees, red mountains, black mountains, blue lakes. It was like the impressionist style of painting; harsh, raw, colorful. Well, that didn't last forever and the clouds swallowed me again, so I decided to take the new CDT route down to a valley and then climb back up to Greys peak. My map set said there was a new trail going down to the valley, but I saw no trail so I skied down some soft dirt that was particularly steep, but it didn't matter because it was the perfect type of dirt for shoe skiing. I got to the the dirt road that would take me back up to the trail and I was relieved for the first time in a while. I put my headphones in and let the audiobook cruise me up to the trailhead. There were some really old, large mining operations that were neat to see, then I saw my trail up ahead, one long continuous switchback that gains a couple thousand feet in however many miles, leading me to the ridge that would then take me to Greys. I sat down for a bit, a luxury that only comes about 3 times a day when I hike alone. I dried out my tent, pooped, ate some food, and began the approach. I was tired, but I loved it. The sun was actually out now and I was racing my way to the peak. I made it to argentine pass and went up more 12 and 13 thousand foot peaks on my way up. Walking was slow, but it was rewarding. The ridge thinned out and I was finally using my hands to scramble things. Engaged. This is great. I reached the final ascent to the peak and slowed down significantly. Breathing is hard at 14,000 feet and especially when you are walking straight up. I saw some day hikers at the top and finally made it. It was sunny and I had just walked 32 miles by 2 to beat the storms as I had planned. I posted some victory snap chats, texted some people, and headed down. Some mountain goats made me circle around them and I said hi to lots of day hikers. It was all downhill from here, however many miles I wanted to go and I would camp early. Days like these are perfect days to me; they piss you off, make you question what you are doing, then let you know what you are doing is the most beautiful thing you have ever done, then beat you down, then the day is over and you can rest for a few hours to get up and do it all over again.
July 7 So, kind of the same thing again today. I had two 13,000 foot peaks I needed to get over by the time the storms rolled in. I was hiking by 4 and it was mellow, next to the I70 on pavement. I went up a canyon and hopped in the ridge, but this time there was an absolutely beautiful trail that took me over bumps and sometimes even around the larger, pointless bumps on the ridge. I was cruising, everything around me was green and beautiful and I even saw a CDT hiker. Main Guy, from Maine, we chatted then parted ways. I got up and over the first peak with slight rain and got to the bottom where it started raining a bit more. I heard thunder in the distance as I went up the next climb, but it sounded far enough away to hopefully make it up and over. I was racing the storm now. It was coming, and I was flying up the climb. I didn't stop and everything felt so good. Literally as I was cresting the summit, the sun peaked out and I sat down for a few minutes to enjoy my surroundings. Down I went and back up I went. I had knocked out another 36 or 37 by around 5 and I camped on a ridge just before James peak because I just couldn't go much further.
July 8- 45 miles
I was camped in a crappy spot that was windy all night so it was easy to want to get up and get moving. I checked the weather and I had a window starting at 4 am. I got going a bit before then and took my time up James peak, really the last high summit in Colorado and tried to tell myself I would take today easy and get in to Grand Lake the next day, but I knew in my mind that I wouldn't be able to help myself from doing 45 miles for some good food and a cabin that had been offered to me by some family friends. Once I got over the peak I was decided that I was going to go for it. It was cloudy and drizzly all morning which was a shame because I was ridge walking in some beautiful country. I got off the ridge and met some other CDT hikers who said it would be a good day to do 45 if I wanted to. I dropped down and went along some big lakes where it was mostly flat. I only had one 500 foot climb left, then smooth sailing to grand lake. I met day hikers and car campers and the sun finally came out. I sat down for the second time to stretch out my sore Achilles and eat some, then pushed the final stretch to grand lake. A weekend backpacker told me the trail was "very rugged" and I had to "choose to either go over or around trees" that had been knocked down. So I did that. I went around some, and then even over some! Walking can be so hard core sometimes. It rained harder and I didn't worry about getting wet because I would be warm and toasty tonight. I got close to Grand Lake and then made a beeline to the quaint town central to have myself some barbecue. My hands were so cold that I had to awkwardly open the peanuts by crushing them between my palms and then I had the best brisket sandwich ever, and the Richmond family arranged for a neighbor to pick me up in town. Timothy picked me up in a big truck and took me to the cabin. This couldn't have come at a better time. I went first for the shower that blasted warm water on my back, then watched movies until I could no longer keep my eyes open. Perfection.