Monday, July 1, 2013

Brownies and Blowdowns

Jack and Sara
Day 64-1153.2 miles and 1377 switchbacks

Leaving Silverthorne took a while.  Since we were meeting Sara's parents at Grand Lake (just outside Rocky Mountain National Park) there was no benefit to rushing out of there only to get to our next place and wait around.  So we decided to hit up the dollar menu on our way out of town.  Apparently dollar burgers do not help when trying to climb up out of a town to a

Above Lake Ann in the Collegiate Peak Wilderness

pass while carrying fully loaded packs.  We felt rather lazy anyway that day, so we managed seven or so miles then opted to camp just beyond Ptarmigan pass.

The next day we somewhat broke our up-a-pass, down-a-pass pattern and walked along another sweet knife edge ridge.  The random snow drifts along the top made it difficult to hike and look at the elk below us but we made it through.  We reconnected with the official CDT route (apparently took an alternate to get to Silverthorne although both were loosely signed) at Jones Pass and had the privilege of camping below Vasquez Pass where we could hear the monotonous grinding of a huge mine right below us.  Unfortunately a creek drowned out most of the noise otherwise we could have better heard the mining drone, which came from a mine that had torn apart half a mountain.  Ah, progress.
Sara's sister sent us wine

One of the really scary marmots
We set a personal record the next day with 125 switchbacks.  Our previous high was 91 so this was a big day for us.  Whichever trail crew built the section of trail between the top of Flora Peak (just over 13000' and the valley below should do landscaping work because the trail was incredible.  Aside from actually having switchbacks where they should, the crew turned all the rocks in a talus slope to create a flat-ish road for us to walk on.  It was incredible.

Later that day we climbed James Peak, which was just over 1330', and then had an awesome walk on the CDT again.  In case you have not noticed, we enjoy walking on the ridges.  We were able to camp somewhat legally(?) at Rollins Pass at the entrance to Indian Peak Wilderness.  We had a gorgeous sunset, no wind, and woke up to elk grazing outside the tent at sunrise.

Push-ups below Hope Pass
Hiking a sweet ridge edge
Quick pushup update.  Sara is still doing at least sets of 20, sometimes 40, sometimes 64.  I am still in one set, although the last few days have been rather on the difficult side.  We have 65 today, still looming over our heads.  Why did we think this was a good idea?

Our last full day of this stretch we put in some miles.  It helped that we dropped down to a measly 9,000' and had flat, well groomed trail, but we still pushed it.  Late in the day we hit Monarch Lake, which by dem-bones logic is connected to the Granby Lake, which is connected to the Shadow Mountain lake, which is connected to the Grand Lake.  And all of these aquatic appendages are connected to Lake Powell by the Colorado River.  We had the great realization that when we urinate it flows down to where our friends get to guide river trips on it.  Anyway, all these lakes have more water than Arizona.

Climbing the trail
As we were passing through a campground we stopped at the Little Moose Trading Post where Connie (the woman who runs the place) takes awesome care of hikers.  She immediately offered us food and drinks and most importantly, a chair.  Our quick stop turned into gatorade, ice cream sandwiches, muffins, and chips.  We left an hour later armed with three chocolate brownies, which went very well in our pudding that night.

 With only 10 miles to go the next morning we slept in before tackling the blow-downs on Knight Ridge.  The bark beetle has completely ravaged this area so any wind that comes through creates a nightmare for trail crews, fire fighters and hikers being chased by bears.  This section was supposed to be incredibly bad, so I took more weight in the pack since I can steeple chase most fallen logs and this allowed Sara to nimbly pole vault over the worst of them.  In many areas there were three or four trees fallen on top of each other, criss-crossed with the next group.  We ended up going higher up the ridge off trail and found it to not be quite so bad.  Sara had some lovely stomach issues that day so it was good we did not have to go to far.
Sara outside Indian Peaks Wilderness

the Divide from James Peak
We got into Grand Lake just in time to take shelter from a rainstorm that blew through.  Sara's parents met us up here with their new camp trailer and Zeno!  I was worried he would not remember us after so long on the trail but he nearly jumped out the car window trying to get to me.  Definitely made my day to be covered in dog hair again.

At the top of Mt. Elbert
Originally our plan was to day hike a 25 mile loop in the Park today, but a fire on the trail closed that section.  Instead we are just relaxing for today and tomorrow before heading toward Steamboat Springs.  'Tis all for now.

Happy Trails

Track and Field

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