• Brandon A. Kelone

The Colorado Trail: Day 14

Laying here tonight, surrounded by all these beautiful mountains, I want to jump right into soliloquies about their majesty, songs about the vast beauty, and ballads to the forested highlands of the Collegiate Mountains of Colorado, but I have to restrain myself. I have to postpone the desire just for a little bit because to jump right to this moment would be a massive disservice to the fact that Salida was quite possibly the best trail town that I have ever visited in my life. And since the majority of my day was spent in town, I can’t go straight to the mountains. I have to begin where my day began, and that was at a hostel called the Simple Lodge and Hostel in Salida, Colorado. 

I know that I talked a little bit about the Simple Lodge and Salida yesterday, but I just have to say more, because I damn near stayed there for another zero, and were it not for the fact that I was afraid of being vortex-ed into the trail town for the rest of my allotted time away from work, I may very well have done so. 

I’m happy to no end to report that last night I actually got a pretty good night sleep. It as by far the best sleep that I’ve had indoors since beginning this journey, but mostly that had to do with the fact that the night prior I had probably only slept for a total of four or five hours when I normally aim for around 8. So after a long night sleep I woke up at around 7am, had a sip of coffee (I really don’t drink coffee, but I didn’t want to dig through my bag to find my tea), and sat down for the better part of an hour to organize my photos and videos from the last segment. I did the same when I was in Lake City, and I think that if I were to let it wait until I’m back home, the task would be so daunting that it may never get done. 

After around an hour, “Patience” woke up (he’s the hiker I met yesterday evening and went out to steak dinner with) and we went for a walk and breakfast. There is a little juicery that just opened next to the hostel that’s owned by a very eccentric younger gentleman who I absolutely loved. That is to say that I loved his personality, but I really loved the juice that he’s producing there even more. It’s all fresh, cold pressed juice, and it really got me going yesterday, so we stopped there, had a start to breakfast, and then wandered down to the Red Hen bakery for what I was expecting to be the best part of my breakfast—a muffin that they’d told me about when I popped in yesterday. Our attention was drawn more heavily to the scones though, and I’m glad that was the case, because the scones were the highlight of my morning... I feel bad saying that though, because the juice was good too. 

I had packaged and separated all my food out for the rest of the trail yesterday, so after breakfast I went down to the post office and mailed a box to Twin Lakes (3-4 days away, depending on how much time I spend dilly-ing and dally-ing here in the Collegiate Range) and a box to Breckinridge. I’m sad to think that there are only two trail towns left, but as I look to the end of the trail (I still have half the trail ahead of me though) I’m trying to remember that I’ll almost certainly be back next year for the CDT which overlaps this part of the CT. 

I also made an appointment this morning with one of my tattoo artists back home to get "CT18" tattooed on the back of my ankle when I return home. I already know with absolute certainty that this hike is something that I want to commemorate for the rest of my life. I already have "AZT11" and "PCT15" tattooed on my ankle, and this hike ranks right along with those two in terms of how profound an experience it's been even if the miles aren't quite as long this time around. 

After sending the resupply boxes I wandered around downtown for a bit, stopped into Howl (a store that has a lot of different things going on, but the back of the shop is what drew me in). They sell ice cream there, but to leave it at that would be like saying that wine stores sell fermented grape juice. Anyone who passes though Salida without trying the gourmet ice cream at Howl is doing themselves and the community a tremendous disservice. 

I’m sorry that this trail journal has now become a page discussion about the food of Salida, but can you really blame me? I went into that town starting, and I probably consumed 25,000 calories in the two days that I was there. 

“Patience” arranged for a trail angel to bring us back to trail this afternoon at 2:30. The guy who picked us up could not have been cooler. His daughter is on the CDT this year completing her triple crown, and apparently he (his and is “Chuck” if anyone needs a ride back to trail in the future) has shuttled 180 hikers to and from the trailhead this year alone. He is a true trail angel in every sense of the word. Really great dude who refused to even let us pitch in for gas when we asked to pay him back. People like that restore my faith in humanity. He is about as good as it gets. I’m going to make a point to send him a postcard from home when this hike is all said and done. He’s good people!

There was a part of me that wanted to stay in Salida for another night, but I needed to get back to the trail. Everyone had told me that this next stretch of trail would be mind blowing, and I was ready to get going. I was spending too much money on food in Salida anyways, so I started back to trail from Monarch Pass, where I had left the trail two day ago, and began my climb up about 1,500ft. The trail follows a ski resort run for a bit before breaking above tree line to some amazing views off to the west. I was quite blown away and kept stopping again and again to take pictures, but then it went up over a mountain pass and I was absolutely speechless. It reminded me of the High Sierras and parts of the CT that I walked through in the first week of my hike. There were mountain peaks in every direction, alpine lakes, snow patches, and views that went on forever!

The trail then dropped down towards some of those lakes that I would love to report that I stripped down to swim in, but by then the sun had dropped below the mountain ridge and was no longer shining down on that part of the range to warm the air, so swimming wasn’t really a good idea anymore. So instead I loaded my camera with as many pictures as I could and carried on. I walked by two different lakes before landing at the campsite that I’m at now. It’s not the best campsite I’ve ever found, but the maps seem to indicate that camping around here can be a pain, so I wanted to take what I could get. Plus my bag is way too heavy because although I only have about four days to Twin Lakes, I probably have enough food to get me damn near Denver. I suppose I’m over compensating after running short on that last leg, but I can say with certitude that I’ll be eating good on this stretch. Even tonight as I was looking for my protein powder I stumbled upon two more avocados that I’d packed away yesterday afternoon. I didn’t even know that they were in there; I thought that I just had the one. But on my last stretch I so enjoyed having an avocado out on trail that I was sure to bring at least one along on this stretch. I’ll be eating like a king for the next week, and I’ll have the views to match. 

Tomorrow I’m shooting for around 20 miles. The trail is rugged out here in these mountains, but I love it with all my heart. I’m excited to be up above tree line again, and I’m excited for the miles and photos ahead. I just wish that this could be longer. I never want it to end. To those who told me that the Collegiate stretch of the trail was too hard, I feel bad for them. I wish that they could have the perspective that I have now at this point in my hiking career, but I try to remember that it took me a long time to get to this place myself. For a long time it was all about the challenge and the accomplishment. I’m happy that I’ve found a place where I can appreciate the journey like I do now. 

Anyways, I’m pleased to no end to be sleeping on the ground again. I’m happy to be back in my sleeping bag. I’m excited to wake up tonight in the cold air to pee and watch the stars. I’m happy to be back on trail. 

Will write again soon. 


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