The Colorado Trail: Day 17
Today has been a day of agony and ecstasy. Little bit of agony... Lot a bit of ecstasy. It wasn’t a day that went according to plan, but if it had then it wouldn’t have been nearly so amazing as it turned out to be. I wonder as I write this how I’m going to manage to go back to normal life after the trail. The trail is wonder after wonder after wonder. Every day there is a challenge, a dragon to slay, and after the day is done, you sip your tea, you lay in a tent, you look back on the battle, and you dream about tomorrow. It makes the world outside of the trail pail by comparison. It will be hard for me to go back, but I know that the time will have to come.
Today was a day that I expected was going to be good, but I underestimated just how good it would end up being. My plan was to get up early, hike into Twin Lakes, get lunch at the food truck, get my resupply, and continue onto the trail, but three miles into the day I got distracted. There was a sign that said “Mount Huron”... I had heard about that mountain in the trail towns south of here, but it wasn’t on my agenda. I thought that all the 14,000 ft mountains were north of Twin Lakes, so I had no plan to hike one today. And I needed to get into town on a timeline, so I hiked past the trail cut off for about 100 yards, then I came to a stop. I looked at my maps, then back towards the mountain, then back at my maps, then at my watch, and remembered that I’m not allowed to have any regrets on this hike. And the only way to ensure that I don’t have regrets is to take the opportunities when they’re available. So I backtracked for 100 yards back to the trail cutoff and started up towards Huron. The trail split was at 10,100ft, and the peak was at 14,004ft, so it was a bitch of a climb to get up there, but I don’t regret taking the detour. I hiked for about two miles with my pack and then when I broke above tree-line I hung my bag in a tree so that marmots couldn’t get to it, drank some water, then slack-packed to the top. It felt amazing to be passing day hikers who had no pack on even when I had my big pack, but by now my legs are pretty strong and I’m used to the miles. The fact that I had a big meal last night didn’t hurt either. Then when I did get to the point where I could drop my pack I felt like an elf. I was weightless by comparison to my normal load!
The climb up to the top was amazing. I enjoyed it to no end! Not only were the views outstanding, but the terrain was awesome! It was rugged and unforgiving up top, and since the smoke from the California fires has blown in this way, it created an amazing silhouette effect as the mountains grew farther and farther away. Really I can’t even begin to say how awesome the view was up there, and I had it completely to myself. I passed maybe a dozen day hikers on the way up, but no one was up at the peak when I arrived. The view from up there was actually much much better than what I found up on San Louise Peak even. I felt like I could see forever.
I wanted to stay up there longer and soak in the views, but I was literally only wearing a T-shirt and shorts and I had no food or water. I also needed to make some miles so that I could get to Twin Lakes in time. So I cruised down to where I had dropped my pack, ate a meal of avocado (still had one left from Silverton), hemp seed powder, and honey, and from there booked it down to the CT again. The miles that I clocked after connecting with the CT were some of the most pleasure filled miles that I’ve had on trail so far. The food hit me perfect, the weather was ideal, and the grade of the trail was almost completely flat.
I ended up getting about 3.7 miles per hour for the better part of two hours before the trail took a sharp turn and climbed up towards Hope Pass. The 2.5 miles up to Hope Pass were probably the most brutal miles that I’ve seen on the CT so far. They felt almost vertical. It was like climbing the Grand Canyon again, but in some cases even steeper than the Grand Canyon. I was still feeling strong. That said, the climb ultimately kicked my ass. I enjoyed every step of it, but it's a different ballgame climbing up a 14,000 foot peak with no pack on versus climbing a 12,500 foot peak with a pack. The weather luckily held out for me though. Although it was warm down in that lower elevation section, as soon as I started the climb some clouds rolled in and gave me some cooling effect, and after I broke tree-line it was windy enough that the heat was no loner an issue. There was rain off in the distance, but I only ever felt a raindrop or two—never enough that I had to put away my camera.
It was a funny feeling getting to the top of Hope Pass. I realized that would be my last pass of the Western Collegiate Loop of the Colorado Trail. It felt good to get up and over it, but it was hard to say goodbye. My time there didn't last long though. I had to get into town. And I’ll be honest with you. First off I needed to book it into town because I needed to pick up a resupply box at the general store before they closed, but just as big of a motivator were the rumors of the best burger on the Colorado Trail. It was from a food truck that closed at six, so I hauled ass down from Hope Pass and into Twin Lakes with about 20 minutes to spare. I don’t know if I’ve ever had food from a food truck before in my life prior to today, but I doubt that I’ll ever find food that meets the experience I found in Twin Lakes. I was so exhausted, hungry, and dehydrated that I literally laid down on the stoop of the food truck while she cooked my burger (Called the CDT Burger, and I’ve been hearing amazing reviews of it for almost two hundred miles now) and I could barely stand when she served it up. It was amazing. Worth every mile that I had to hike to get here in time. While I waited for my order a young lady who lived in the town chatted my ear off, and I found her to be very strange and unable to stay focused; it was only after she left that I realized that she had to have been on amphetamines or something of the like. She was friendly, but it was a very odd interaction, and she didn't seem to understand that I wasn't going to go hike 10 miles back in the direction that I'd already come just to see a "nice place to visit" while I was in Twin Lakes. Don't know why I add that, but it was a memorable interaction.
From the food truck I walked over to the general store which was basically right next door, got my resupply box, and I’ve been here writing this since then... that’s a lie... I spent about an hour talking to an ultra-runner who will be running in Leadville Ultra-marathon later this week. After this hike I want to start training to run a 100 mile race in either the later part of this year or the early part of next year. It was cool to pick his brain, and I really would have liked to stay and talk for longer if it weren’t for the fact that the sun has now set and I need to get back to trail to find a place to camp tonight.
My plan was/is to climb to the top of the highest point in Colorado tomorrow. It’s Mt. Elbert and it’s about 400 feet higher than the 14,004 ft peak that I climbed today. Also right after that Is Mount Massive, another 14’er, but I’m a bit worried about weather. To hit both of them in a day is *technically* possible, but I’m going to have to get an early start, and the Gods of the Colorado Trail are going to have to bless me to keep the weather open for me to climb both of them. Honestly I’m going to be lucky to get just one of them before the weather turns bad. We’ll see though. I hope that it works out and that I’m able to summit them both, but if I can’t then I’ll know that it was ultimately out of my hands, and I can’t regret weather.
From here it’s 3-4 days to Breckinridge (my last trail town) and although I won’t need a zero day, I plan on taking one just to soak in the last bit of time that I have left in Colorado before heading to Denver. It pains me to think that I probably only have 10 more days left on the trail. I don’t want for this experience to end, but when it does I know that it won’t be the end forever. After this trail I’m going to start training for some ultra running events, and after that I have the CDT to look forward to next year.
So for the time being, I’m going to sign off for the night and see if I can figure out a place to camp now that the sun has set and it’s become fully dark.
All the love in the world,
PS: another mile and a half in the dark trying to find the connector trail between Twin Lakes and the Colorado Trail. Never found the trail (about a half mile up this dirt road to go), but found my way out of town and found a good, flat campsite. Anyways, with the extra distance, the mileage today now reaches about 27.5--among my longest mile days of the hike with a 6,750 ft elevation gain over the course of the day. I suppose that makes today a success!