Twin Lakes to Brekenridge with a summit of Mt Elbert

Day 85

It was an early morning as I left before the other two on my way to the Mt Elbert trailhead. I watched the sun rise over the town of Twin Lakes as I slowly climbed towards the trailhead. Mt Elbert is the high point of Colorado and is not on the continental divide trail, but well worth the side trip. It reaches 14,440 feet making it the third tallest mountain in the states. I summits the second tallest, Mt Whitney in California, last year along the PCT. This is my 8th Highpointer and 8 is my lucky number. We took the south Mt Elbert trail towards the top which is a 4,850 foot climb in 5.6 miles. Paperweight caught up to me at the trailhead where we hydrated and ate a few snacks. A large group of men started there hike with no packs on and I was jealous. Our packs were full with a little over three days of food. Chipmunk choose to stash her pack off the trail and take the north route up to the peak. The two of us began the ascent. Within ten minutes we had passed the large group of men as they were panting and stared at our large packs wishing us luck. We would pass over 50 people on our way up. It was a Saturday and the mountain way full of families and even lots of dogs which was a bit surprising to me. I have never hiked this steep of a climb with a large pack right out of town. Once we hit tree line it was unreal. The views back to town and the large amounts of people climbing ahead of us was surreal. The trail has multiple paths due to people not staying on the main route which is disappointing. I felt very strong today as we only took one break for water along the way. It was less than a five minute break and we were moving uphill again. We were passed by two people. One was a man in his 70s jogging up the mountain and another looked like a marathon runner with a tiny pack and headphones. I love the challenge of a steep climb and could feel my muscles burning. I’m one strong woman and thru hiking has proved this to me in so many ways. I couldn’t imagine being here 4 years ago and now I don’t know what else would make me any happier. As we neared the top, we could see the crowd celebrating. It was another unforgettable life memory and the reason I choose to thru hike. 360 degree views of other 14,000 footers and I could see for miles. All of the places we have hiked and all the places we have to conquer. We celebrated with a cardboard sign and some guys offered me a triple stuffed Oreo. It was a quick photo moment and then we began the descent down the south side where we could reconnect to the CDT. This route is certainly more difficult and I was disappointed to watch people slide on their butts downhill running any trail work that had been done. Yes it was super steep, but with hiking poles there was no need to butt slide. It was also nerve racking with so many people coming up as well. We ended up in a line at times before they would move to let us by. Next time I hike Mt Elbert it will be on a weekday and without a full pack. What a great hike! We connected to our trail following a line of hikers and stopped at a stream to filter and rehydrate. There were so many people around we decided to get back to our trail and away from the parking lot a bit for our lunch break. It was quite the feast and shoe off break. We ended up hiking many more miles in the trees this afternoon. We did almost a 25 mile day including the highest mountain in Colorado. I’m not too sure why maybe we were just so pumped. It was an unforgettable day and we set up our huge three person tent and slept very well.​number 8… 42 to go

Day 86

The hiking was a bit easier today without a 14,000 footer to conquer. At a road crossing we came to a sign that said “Caution historic military weapons usage area.” We did it find any weapons along our climb uphill. We entered the Holy Cross Wilderness area and enjoyed every moment. Time for serious hiking and 25 mile days. We took short breaks along the way to hydrate and snake as usual. On an uphill climb, we watched a man with a huge pack fall down hard. We rushed up to him and Dr Paperweight checked him out and questioned him on how he was feeling. He was embarrassed, but got back up and hiked on looking strong. Hope he is alright. Along the way, we came across a swing. We both sat down together and relaxed. What more could a girl want? I’m a sucker for a swing! We crossed through a parking lot where we could hitch into Leadville, but I’ll save that town for a future Colorado Trail hike. The next few miles were flat and zoomed by until we crossed the highway. We came to a “Hazardous asbestos” sign warning us to stay on the trail. This was followed up by an old concrete bunker that was a military site and warned of explosives. Again, we stayed on the trail! We filled up at a stream with a gushing waterfall above us. I found a campsite slightly off trail where we set up and had a restful evening after another 25 miler.

Day 87

We got an early start as the sun rose. Someday we are really good at getting started and other days not so much. We had a long climb up to the top of Kokomo Pass at 12,022 feet. It was beautiful with wildflowers everywhere and lots of CT hikers just waking up. This was another one of my favorite passes in Colorado. We hiked with Thirsty Boots along the way as well. On the climb down, I saw so many huge marmots and pika playing. The trail dropped down slowly and passed a beautiful cabin that can be rented out. I would love to live there. My favorite encounter was two women in there 60s. One woman had never slept in a tent before and the other was hiking the CT. She was so excited to be trying something new. It’s never too late! At a water break, we looked at our map and realized that we would pass Copper Mountain in a few miles. We thought it was a little farther off trail, but it was only like .1 to a restaurant. So we packed up quickly and zoomed downhill towards the ski resort. We took a table outside of the first restaurant we saw and suddenly Chipmunk walked out with a new hiker Crocs. She had did some alternates and got ahead of us. So we moved inside to the bar to join them! Crocs met 5 thru hikers today and all of New Mexico he met less than that. He was so excited to see hikers again. A nice guy! Thirsty Boots joined us as well at the bar, but he is efficient meaning he ate, paid, and got back on trail in under an hour. We paid our bill and headed outside when another bad storm came in. We missed the first batch inside at the bar. Using the Internet we were able to see it would pass over soon. So Crocs bought a six pack and we relaxed under an awning of a closed restaurant. We spent an hour here before it cleared and decided to climb out of the base of the mountain. I was so full and happy as we crossed the busy highway and began climbing. I began to fell tired as Paperweight and I looked for a campsite Croc encouraged us to keep going with some jams. We camped at 11,300 feet. Crocs, who hikes in crocs, wanted to get up and over the mountain, but he stopped to finish his last beer and hangout. It was a fun day of food, hiking our miles, and a new hiker.

Day 88

We awoke before the sunrise and was rewarded with the first daylight to warm us up on our uphill climb. We looked down at Copper Mountain before getting a whole new view of Breckenridge and Frisco. We began rushing down to the road to enjoy most of our day in town. We came across people pushing their mountain bikes uphill jealous that we were going downhill. If you only knew how much we have climbed. You could see the highway for miles as we continued to wait for bike rides to ride past us. We rushed to the road then walked down a paved bike path towards the free public bus stop. I had a mail drop in Breckenridge waiting for me so we took two bus rides to the PO where we ran into Crocs. They also had a $1 taco deal at the grocery store so we hit that up. Lodging is cheaper in Frisco and they have a Walmart so we jumped on the bus and headed to Frisco. We did our shopping then walked a nice bike path to the Snowshoe Lodge in downtown. The usual chores of showers and reorganizing got done. We went to brewery for dinner with Chipmunk, Phil, and Julia before spending the night lying in bed resting. Town days go so fast and I would love to take a whole day adventuring in town. 


Salida to Twin Lakes

Day 81

We checked out exactly at 11 and began hitching. CC stayed behind to fix her cell phone so it was the two boys and me. We walked a little ways before a woman offered to take us to Walmart. We then got a ride with a raft guide who went out of his way to drop us off at a gas station that would lead to the pass. It took a little longer, but a guy turned around and rescued us. He hiked the PCT back in the 90s and was heading up the pass to then go play in the San Juans for a few days. His Pct experience was much more wild than it is these days. He dropped us off and we had to get more food at the store. Around 2, three of us wandered out of the Monarch Crest Store and towards the highway. The trail walks the road for a short period of time before you cross three lanes of traffic and begin switch backing up from the road. I hiked with Nightwatch out of town up towards the ski mountain. The trail follows access roads to the mountain as I imagined what it would look like in the winter. The trail was steep up the rocky road, but we just talked the miles away before splitting up when I had to pee. He is a super fast hiker and we had a long uphill on an exposed ridge. The wind was whipping as well as I moved slowly uphill. The views continue to impress as expected. Some of the rocks were pretty slippery and I slid a few times. I made it to the high point surrounded by mountains topping 13,000 feet and sat down. I enjoy town stops, but moments like this is why I hike. Paperweight joined me ten or so minutes later. We soaked in the moment, beauty, and appreciate our current lifestyle. It was a steep downhill towards a lake where Nightwatch was waiting. If we didn’t need to worry about the miles, I would of camped here. The three of us hiked the rest of the evening miles together passing a dam and dipping farther into the trees. We came to a bridge that said it was out and not to use. We used it with caution as I went first. Check out the picture below. We found over 15 tents set up near this river all CT hikers. We need their guidebook to know where not to plan to camp. One hiker said there was one tent spot near her so the three of us moved along. We choose to follow the trail not a dirt road which took longer. We found what appeared to be a parking space and set up for the tent. This 3 person tent is ridiculously big! Four people could sit inside comfortably and play games. It set up easily and Chipmunk arrived to laugh at the size of it as well. The four of us enjoyed dinner together before a restful night. 

Day 82

The morning miles continued on a gravel road past old mining cabins and property. Some neat log homes still stand while others are simply rotting logs. There was one beautiful cabin that is still maintained and I would later walk past property for sale while taking a picture of the real estate sign. The road ended and connected to a trail that climbed up around a nice lake and stream. The four of us took a nice snack break next to stream looking up at the pass we needed to climb. I left first listening to podcasts uphill. You reach the pass to see a whole new landscape. It never gets old. I switchbacked down and chatted with a guy out fishing in one of the lakes. The trail reconnected to a dirt road for a little while before coming to a trailhead parking lot. The main attraction is the alpine tunnel which the CDT does not pass thru unfortunately. But the trail follows an old railroad track that was used in the late 1880s for many years. One spot was where a train overturned. It was easy walking with a few remnants of the rail left behind. I took a break where the railroad used to be snacking as the other three joined me. After lunch, it was neat to see how they had built the trail around rock cliffs. I bumped into Phil and Julia who had just woke up from a short nap. They are fast hikers and can afford to take naps along the way unlike me. I only kept up for a bit before they left out ahead like usual. Simply more stunning views, wildflowers, birds soaring and singing to enjoy. It was a beautiful day! Colorado is stunning! We had an option to stay on the CDT or take a road that would pass a lake, privy, and campground. If we followed the trail, we would have to camp above tree line and that freaks some people out. I wished I had my own tent on this section because majority ruled and we took the road. I hated it the moment we got on it. Hoards of dirt bikes, ATVs, and jeeps kicked up dust. My ankles and knees were sore as well. I walked alone slowly climbing up and up. The views were still beautiful. The best part was three weasels playing in a tree for me. Never seen them up close in the wild before. They are funny creatures. We made it to the privy which was a nice treat before we climbed onto a trail that had old CDT markers since this is the old route. We found a campsite a little ways up, set up, ate, and off to bed. 

Day 83

I hate being off trail and wasn’t in a great mood this morning. I was dragging and to make matters worse my shoulder was killing me. I’m usually happy most days, but today was a tough one. Still uphill climbing along a gravel road for miles as I killed time with podcasts. Once I got above tree line I could see for miles and found it more enjoyable. Then of course the trail quickly dropped back into the trees. We finally connected back to the trail to see CDT markers again and lots of CT hikers as well. We had begun the climb up to Lake Ann Pass. Stunning! We had seen a picture of a nasty cornice that people were using rope to get over it a month or so ago. The sun stayed out all day and we cruised up the switchbacks. Yes there was still a cornice, but it was quick and easy to climb up and over. We were rewarded with views of the lake and more marmots and pika playing on all the rocks. Downhill we went looking for Chipmunk in the distance and not seeing her. You can see ahead about 2-4 miles often in this section of Colorado. I love this type of hiking. We kept hiking as the sun had already set looking for the perfect campsite for the three person tent. We found one tucked under the trees and set up quickly. We had a quick snack and climbed into the tent for warmth. Happy to be half a day out of town!

Day 84

We walked over a bridge and found chipmunk set up .2 from us. We had easy walking for the first bit of the day and since it was too late to cook last night we planned to cook at the next stream. We found Phil and Julia hanging out there and we joined them. Rice at 8am is a bit strange, but it hit the spot. We began the climb up Hope Pass and the first mile was super steep. You start out down in the forest and slowly make your way towards the pass that you can not see. Lots of CT hikers coming down as the trees opened up and I could see the switchbacks leading to the top. I admired a heard of elk somehow walking along a steep rocky slope. Also, the marmots and pikas were chatting and the sun was shining. We made it up to top of Hope Pass to see the small town of Twin Lakes before us. We met a nice CT hiker so we chatted with him a long time and he asked lots of questions. It was a beautiful spot, but I wanted food in town. We began the steep downhill and I kept saying I’m glad we aren’t going south. This is a steep and long climb in this direction. My knees felt it. We passed ruins of old cabins and possible mining sites. It rained for a total of ten minutes when we were back in the trees. I managed to twist the same ankle twice really badly! I was scared my trip was over, but my body is tough now. I sucked it up and kept walking a bit slower though. You can walk a highway for a while or cut through a swampy river area. Of course we choose the cut hoping the river wouldn’t be too high. I don’t take off my shoes anymore for fords so I just pushed along against a decent current until I reached the other side. It was nice cold clear water. The next bit was an old road with huge puddles and no way around so my feet were filled with mud and maybe even tiny water bugs. We reached the road and walked along the shoulder of the paved road towards town. Jaz was hanging out at the table outside the tiny store in town. I got my mail drop from their storage bin outside and looked at all my goodies. We then went to the restaurant at the inn across the road. This inn used to be an old brothel and there is information in each room about the girl who worked the room. The place was booked solid and too pricy anyway for our hiker budget. We each ordered a burger and he shared his soup with me as we relaxed inside. We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in front of the store organizing our packs with food, charging our phones, and enjoying each other’s company. Thirsty Boots joined us 5 as well talking about all of his hikes and various people he has met along the way. It was also bittersweet since Nightwatch has decided to head up to Canada and hike the GDT which is still the Rockies. We also enjoyed a last beer together before bidding him farewell. Paperweight is now outnumbered as he hiked out of town with myself and Chipmunk. We climbed up an old road winding around the mountain and soaking in a sunset over Twin Lakes. We camped at an established site with a teepee like stick structure in the middle. We all went to bed eager to climb Mt Elbert in the morning. I also fell asleep dreaming of opening a hostel in Twin Lakes. Anyone want to help me fund it? Hehe 

Lake City to Salida

Day 77We had to go back for the breakfast deal at Poker Alice’s. We ended up sitting on the couch until 11 at the hostel when one of the guys staying there drove us all back to the trail in Lucky’s truck. Pretty sure he had never drove a standard before or it had been a very long time. Five of us were in the back of the truck as Nightwatch rode shotgun. I wasn’t sure we would make it as we winded up the roads and he he almost stalled out ton many times to could. Phil joked that he should just drive the truck. We luckily all survived! We crossed the highway and connected back to the trail heading upward as usual. I wasn’t feeling well. Maybe too many beers, too much time in town making me town soft, or just so many miles in the last three years. The boys were chatting together and I walked along taking my time. The sun was shining and perfect hiking weather. We climbed up and up finally leaving the trees to a pass. I could see for miles in all directions. Met a few CT hikers getting ready to hitch into town and loving their hike so far. Paperweight hiked with me from the pass on as we talked the miles away. We took a water and snack break at a stream as Chipmunk passed by. We would not see any of them the rest of the day or all of tomorrow. I really wasn’t feeling up for a tough climb to end the day so we camped before it. We watched two pikas play in a stone pile near our campsite before setting up. It was a nice evening so we relaxed outside before climbing into our cozy two person tent. At least we made it out of town today. 

Day 78

We got on trail early to begin the uphill climb. We ran into a trail maintainer group that works on the Colorado Trail. We thanked them before continuing the climb. It wasn’t too bad and the miles passed quickly. Still snowy passes, but they are at most ten to twenty steps in snow before hitting the well traveled trail. The views were spectacular as always with huge 14,000 footers staring at us. We choose to skip a side trail up one of them and stay on the CDT. After the climb, the trail dipped down as usual into the bushes as we hurried along. We entered a cow grazing section and I managed to step right into fresh pile of cow shit. Whoops! We came across a bear can near the trail and we checked it out. It said trail magic on it and was full of pain pills, band aids, snacks, and lots of other essentials. We took a few things and closed it back up. We met two people who hiked AT same year as us. They were nice guys and bit exhausted from their CT hike. One said he will never do the CDT. We forded a river to be attacked by mosquitos. After I cooked, I couldn’t handle it so I just packed most of it up and kept going. They were unrelenting. I moved along with wet feet and horrible mosquitos attacking me. We walked along a stream before a sharp uphill where we choose to camp alongside a gravel road. It was a pleasant desert like sunset surrounded by sage. It was just the two of us going North today and over 10 CT hikers going south. 

Day 79

We woke up earlier than usual and got on trail quickly. It was mostly a gravel road walk to start the day so quick miles. We managed to catch up with Phil, Julia, and Chocolate Chipmunk. Waking up early has its benefits. We also met Thirst Boots who is 62 and on his way to earning his double triple crown. The two of us took a break meaning everyone got ahead of us again. We were on the lookout for a war monument named Soldierstone. We found it after a bushwhack through marsh land. One of the most peaceful and well designed monument. “In memory of long wars lost and the soldiers of Vietnam.” As you walk on the outside of the main monument, there are various plaques in different languages with quotes about war. Such a peaceful spot full of mementos of fallen soldiers. I’m very glad we took the side trip to this spot. We had heartfelt discussions about the realities of war and especially the type of war men fought many years ago. I am forever grateful to all who serve to protect our rights, but I want to live see a world of no war. I can dream! The two of us enjoyed the next few miles just cruising along. A few spots of the trail is accessible to dirt bikes and they sure do destroy the trail by leaving huge tracks and destroying the well groomed trail. The only benefit is they carry chainsaws to cut the down trees so I guess I can’t be too angry. We came out from the woods to a clearing where we saw a huge cloud of smoke from a wildfire near Denver. Scary sight to see. We continued walking towards a cabin that is a bit off trail. We had to pass a heard of cows, but it was waiting for us empty. It is part of a snowmobile trail and used more often in the winter. We each had a raised metal bed to sleep on and a table inside. The best part were chairs. We were able to cook outside and relax in chairs waiting cows graze. We have a home for the night. Chipmunk showed up as the sun was setting so we put up the third raised bed and it was cozy, warm, and dry inside. What a great place to spend a night with two of the best people.

Day 80

I got up and got moving quickly. Without needing to take down a tent the morning chores go quickly. I left first listening to a few podcasts climbing up a gravel road before it turned into a trail. Lots of remnants of old log cabins and possible mining operations dot the landscape. I checked out another shelter we had considered spending the night and was pleased we hadn’t. I climbed up above tree line before taking a break and waiting for Paperweight. The two of us cruised along the divide together finally seeing the highway that leads to town. We ran into over thirty mountain bike riders and lots of day hikers as well in the last five miles to the road. It was insane how many times we had to step off trail. We could see the road and almost the store. I just wanted to get there. I saw a box of cosmic brownies under at CDT sign so I opened it up and ate one! I was as so hungry. We headed into the little store at the top of the divide called the Monarch Crest Store. There is a ski mountain here as well as tourists ride to the top of the divide for $10 or so. No thanks I’ll just walk. The store had a museum section, lots of souvenirs, lots of animals mounted and displayed in the wildlife section. We went to the little food section where I ordered a pretzel with cheese and mistakenly bought a low calorie Gatorade. It was heaven here. Tourists. coming and going spending money on little gifts and kids buying rocks to add to their collection. A few people asked what we were doing as we told them. Lots of shocked faces! We spent about an hour inside before standing on the road hitching. There was an offer for just one so Chipmunk took it and we continued to hitch. An interesting fellow rescued us as we crammed into his two door truck he just bought yesterday. He had just left the shop having hit a deer last night. Bad luck I’d say. He went a little out of his way to drop us off in Salida. We checked into a hotel before getting a message from Nightwatch saying he was staying down the road at a much cheaper place. We went back to the desk and cancelled the room then walking towards the cheap hotel. Who did we find there as well… Phil and Julia. We waited for the owners to return to check into our room. It was the usual chores as Chipmunk was up town at Walmart. We split the room with her and a little before 5 headed into town with Nightwatch. We stopped at the PO where I first saw the three person tent Paperweight has. It was huge! Almost three times the size of the one we have now. It weighs about 4 1/2 pounds! I don’t know how it is going to work out, but we will give it a try. We then wandered into downtown to a pizza/ brewery where we met up with Phil and Julia. It was called Moonlight and had a band going as well. We sat outside under an umbrella ordering beers then food. Delicious meal and great company followed by a resupply at the grocery store. It was a long walk with groceries back to the hotel. We lounged in bed relaxing and watching junk tv as usual. It was a mellow night and good town day! Nice to have other thru hikers around!

The San Juans- South Fork to Lake City

Day 69

We all slept in until 8am in the most comfortable bed so far on trail. We borrowed the bikes and did a run to the post office then a food truck nearby. I had a delicious meal to give me strength for the hike out of town. Around 11, the three of us were hitching and within ten minutes we were riding back to Wolf Creek Pass. Lots of tourists taking photos at the sign so we took a few too then crossed the busy road avoiding the semis and huge RVs. I have 7 days of food in my pack along with an ice axe and microspikes. It takes some effort to throw it on my back. We began the first uphill climb into the San Juans. Epic views and wildflowers galore. We entered the Weminuche Wilderness which I’m told is one of the most beautiful places in the country. The first day sure did impress me! The trail was nicely maintained heading up and down various mountains onward to the next one in sight. Small ponds and lakes surrounded by rock boulders of varying size. At the higher elevations, marmots ran gracefully on the rocks as the pika squeak on top of rocks. Dark clouds loomed most of the afternoon. As we began the last big climb of the day, the thunder was booming so CC, PW, and I hid under some pine trees. They both cooked dinner as we stayed dry waiting out the storm. I left first continuing uphill and out of the trees to the beautiful views above tree line where I could see the trail for miles. As j reached the top and began descending the sun shone through the clouds giving me a special moment that took my breath away. I cruised along talking to the marmots and pikas with a huge smile and a full heart. These are the days I love. Little snow on the trail and cruising above tree line. I headed down where I found a campsite somewhat sheltered in the trees and began to cook dinner. They showed up a little later as we all set up camp. What a great day and we had hiked 15.2 miles out of town. I fell asleep warm next to Paperweight as we were both eager to see what tomorrow would bring. 

This may be my favorite picture ever! The beauty after a storm! ❤️

Day 70

Another beautiful morning hike walking above the tree line most of the time before dipping down to climb back up. Lots of marmot, pika, and elk everywhere. We spent most of the day staring up at the sky waiting for a storm to strike. We put in some good miles before the cold rain and thunder storm hit. We jumped over a huge snow drift and into the trees. We waited an hour shivering next to each other getting slightly wet as hail bounced down as well. So cold for the end of June! We had to keep moving knowing we couldn’t sleep here. The sky is tricky to decipher and we are usually wrong. We began the ridge walk along the actual divide as the clouds grew darker. Chipmunk emerged from a side trail where she had been hiding during the thunder. We zoomed as fast as we could along the rocky terrain having to get over this section. The rain turned to hail that bounced off of us. Painful! We walked in the storm for a while before deciding it was too risky so we bailed down the side of the ridge towards a patch of trees. The three of us huddled together as hail and snow turned the ground into a wet and messy slush. We debated our options and decided to call it for the day. We found flat terrain a little ways away and set up our tents on top of the hail. So glad I’m using a blow up sleeping pad this year and sharing a tent. I changed into dry clothes and got into my sleeping bag quickly. We were both too cold to cook so we just smacked and cuddled to keep warm. What a wild day in the San Juans. Today is the last day of June… Let’s hope that July is warmer. Day 71

It continued to rain as we cuddled in our tight quarters in our two person tent. The sky looked horrible so we did not get out for a long time. We drifted back to sleep for a bit then snacked the morning hours away. I think it was after 10:30 when we finally emerged to sun coming out. We packed up our wet tent as the hail and snow had melted. We climbed back up to the trail rubbing against wet bushes as I tried to warm up. We were lucky as the sun graced us with her presence for even tough to do a tricky section. The views were unreal as we switchbacked up a trail that I didn’t notice was even there. We turned the corner to see the famous knifes edge staring at us with still a few snowy passes. I waited for PW to catch up as I began getting nervous. He does a wonderful job calming me down. It was careful stepping and we crossed the first two passes easily. The next one had no prints in the snow and it looked like going down off the trail onto the loose rocks would be the best bet. I made it down a little ways before a panic attack set in and I felt like I would fall down the rocks to the bottom. He took his time and slowly made it back to the trail. I tried so hard to keep going, but I was so fearful as my hiking poles slid out of my hand. I tried to calm down and he said encouraging words, but I was frozen on the rocks. He took off his pack and came back for me. He hugged me, took my pack, and slowly led me to safety. What would I do without him? Maybe I would of quit a long time ago back before we bailed to Platoro. The next few passes were easy as well as I reminded him I don’t do well on rocks. I should of just pushed through the snow. We made it safety as it began to storm again. It was a cold rain where I couldn’t get warm at all. We pushed on wanting to get back to tree line. We passed two tents in an open field, but went into the trees around 5 calling it a day after doing under 10 miles for the day. We set up in the rain and crawled in. It was wonderful to put on dry warm clothes and snack in the safety of the tent. Today was a scary and short day. I’ve only had one panic attack in my life and this was the second. I hope it won’t happen again, but I had a feeling…. We went to bed very early as the rain finally stopped for the day. 

Knifes edge! Pictures don’t do it justice.storm coming after we finished the edge

I survived today with a little help!

Day 72

Today we were able to put in the miles. It was not raining when we started, but I was chilly. After a bit of the uphill I took off a layer. We had a short break in the sun before the clouds passed over and we hurried on. Water is flowing meaning waterfalls cascading down form the rocks. I could see Chipmunk over a mile ahead of me around a curve. Everything is blooming and the colors are stunning. Snow piles also dot the landscape. We took a snack break to dry out everything while we could. After our long drying break, we began to pack up as the rain cloud came overhead. So we put on all our rain gear again and headed down towards a meadow. The meadows are wet and we headed towards a raging river. By following the trail you come to water chest deep and no way to cross. We saw other footprints leading to a spot where you can jump across. I made it and quickly realized my phone was gone. I ran back finding in a few feet on the shore. I would of likely jumped in the deep water to search for it. Remember to secure your phone and waterproof cases are essential. We walked in the rain viewing elk in the distance. This was followed by an uphill where the rain eventually let up. You view a notch in the rocks called the window that we hoped the trail would climb through. It did not, but the rock formations were spectacular. We had planned to camp with Chipmunk at a lake, but we realized the trail did not go down to to it. No time for side trips. We continued uphill as I was exhausted and a few minutes later we found her in a patch of trees drying out her things. We found a spot nearby where we quickly set up our dry tent and then cooked a warm meal. It got very cold quickly as the sun was setting. At least tonight our sleeping bags and tent are dry so it was time for bed. During the night there was a lightning storm, but I slept right through it.  Day 73

The morning miles were easy and luckily dry again. The San Juans are unbelievable between the wildlife, wildflowers, and the high mountains I couldn’t ask for more. The trail is slow going, snow passes still await us, and the sky always is threatening, but we continue only . There was a steep climb up to a pass then down to a tiny parking lot and road. We crossed a road hearing dirt bikes and ATVs zipping around. Paperweight shouted for me to look down the road where a huge moose was running away. All I saw was its behind and I’ll agree that it was a moose. Still hoping to see one closer up. We continued on passing a stream and then climbing upward. We passed an old building off the trail that can be used in case of a storm. One snowy traverse and we met the sign for the Colorado Trail. The next few miles sure did impress being above tree line with epic views. Many sections of the trail is a stream or muddy due to all the rain and snow melt. So your feet are always soggy and stinky. Our snack, water break, and feet drying was cut short as dark clouds came. We were able to cover another hour of great walking. It was windy, but snow covered some of the lakes and the hiking part was easy. Still walking on snow many times and I am getting more comfortable with it. The sky was threatening and hail fell as we quickly put on rain gear. Chipmunk was waiting for us as she showed us a route to bail down to tree line as small bits of thunder boomed. It looked like a small storm and I really didn’t want to bail, but they both were scared. The CDT would stay above tree line for another 8 or so miles. We began bailing on a steep downhill as the storm passed over. We were over a mile down as the sky was bright blue and sun shone. I knew this was a mistake. It was later in the day and neither of them will ever camp above tree line. We found a campsite in trees and debated what to do. If we stopped for the day then we would certainly be above tree line tomorrow afternoon. We all ate then planned to do quite a few more miles. I was annoyed! I wished we would of just waited ten minutes for the storm to pass. This is the problem that comes with hiking with people and sharing a tent. You have to compromise. I would of kept going if I was alone… I began the stupid steep climb back up to the trail swearing to myself. We joined the CDT again and the sun was shining bright. It was tough hiking with beautiful views. I was exhausted. We joined a one lane dirt road being careful not to get hit by a few trucks on it. There top speed was 5 mph since it was such a bad road. We had more climbing and I was crawling. We were close to 25 miles already on the day. I stayed behind as they busted it up the hills and onto the divide. I stopped for a water break and snack alone knowing I could tent safely in the meadow. I took my time and headed up the pass alone as the sun began to set. From 7-8:39 is the best time of the day to hike. The animals are about and the sky explodes with beautiful colors. Actually hiking the divide is stunning! I met up with the two of them waiting at a junction for me where we would drop down from the divide and trail to a campsite in the trees. Again, I would of camped in the open. We hiked for almost another hour having to put on our headlamps and find a spot in the trees. The sky was clear and the stars were shining. No time to cook again just snacking since it was so cold I quickly climbed into the tent. I wished to be sleeping on the divide under the stars, but I compromised. It was a clear night with no rain or thunderstorms. I was exhausted and slept well.

Day 74

Chipmunk was gone by the time we got out of the tent in hopes of getting over the high pass before the storm. I was still disappointed to be in the trees not on the ridge for the morning hours. The trail wandered around in the forest before crossing a stream and joining a multi use trail. Many dirt bikes have ride it lately making it slippery and annoying to hike. We then began a steep uphill climb to reconnect to the divide. I had an awful headache. We saw some elk and heard coyotes howling in the distance. Even though it wasn’t the official trail it was pretty. We reconnected to the trail and met some divide bike riders. Those guys are crazy since they ride on the edge of cliffs on loose rock. I wouldn’t do that! We connected to a road which would led to the next big pass. We hurried along as the clouds were building and it was around noon. We decided to check out an old log building near a mining site for lunch. Within ten minutes of arriving the storm came roaring in. This old building has lots of holes in the roof and a few marmots likely live here as well. We both cooked food and watched the storm move in through the old window or hole in the log walls. As it started to pour, it was tough to find a dry spot as I decided to lay down under my polycro. It was quite he storm and we spent about two hours hunkered down. I was chilly and the sky was looking better so we took our change. We later found out Chipmunk was up there during the worst part and it even hailed on her. The trail continued on the steep rocky road as I quickly warmed up. Just kept watching the dark sky! We joined a trail again switch backing up higher and higher well above 13,000 feet. We found the highest point of the Colorado Trail and continued walking the ridge line hoping for no lightning strikes. I forget to mention Happy 4th of July! Third year in a row of living in the mountains during this holiday. What more could a girl ask for? The clouds broke up and the views were stunning! I’d say it was better then any fireworks display! We cruised along walking super fast to get lower in elevation. We dipped down and headed back into the woods where we set up camp alongside Chipmunk. There is a yurt that can be rented across the meadow from us and one of their dogs ran over and got some love from us. The dog tried to get into her tent. I thought we had a new pet, but then owner called her back. Tomorrow morning we will get into town and we just survived the San Juans! This section of trail was by far the most challenging so far. From the long food carry, steep climbs, intense daily storms, but the beauty was unbelievable. I will be back to play around some more in the San Juans!

Day 75

This morning we had a quick climb up from our campsite and some easy walking before hitting a two lane dirt road. I like making phone calls home on the way into town because town life is always so busy with chores. I caught up with dad as he told me mom was having a root canal. Ew! The hiking was easy, but my shoulder hurt and I just wanted to see the paved road. I made it a few minutes behind PW and we waited for CC for ten minutes or so before attempting to hitch. We survived the San Juans and the section across the road looks beautiful as well. We got a hitch from a kind girl who had just resupplied her two friends who are hiking the Colorado Trail. She was so friendly and dropped us off at a little outfitter in the town of Lake City. We headed to Poker Alice a busy restaurant with a cool story behind Alice’s life. We ordered a pitcher of Colorado Native and a huge pizza with every meat possible on it. It was a long wait, but well worth it. There was quite a bit of excitement as a marmot had taken a ride into town in the engine of a truck. Everyone was rushing to get a photo of the scared little guy as animal control. We left before the creature was caught and headed to Raven’s Rest Hostel. It is owned by Lucky who is from Ireland and runs a clean hostel. Really cool guy! We all showered at the same time since there were three showers then grabbed the bikes and rode to the laundry mat. We also did some grocery shopping at a pricy little store. I like this town a lot. Nice people with lots of history relating to the gold rush. We relaxed in the afternoon and headed to a little restaurant down the road. A laid back day with plans to head out in the morning. We all slept in a room with four bunks meaning eight beds with drowsy hikers and a few town employees. Day 76

We went back to Poker Alice for the $6.99 all you can eat breakfast. You pick three items to start then can go back for the same three or a different three. We spent a long time hanging out here before heading back to the hostel where our bags were already packed and we could get a free ride out of town. To our surprise Nightwatch was there and we decided to zero to catch up. So we spent most of the morning and early afternoon on a couch relaxing as I blogged about New Mexico. It was an easy day and Phil and Julian showed up as well. So we knew about the large cheese pizza and pitcher of beer for $15.99 at Poker Alice’s. So the six of us went back to the restaurant and ordered three pizzas and three pitchers to start. Again, it is a long wait so we got to drinking the three pitchers before they got too warm. The pizza was delicious and we ended up buying two more pitchers as well. Phil bought a bottle of whiskey as well for us to sip on so it was a wild night. We went back to the hostel dropping off a few left over slices and walking to the nice town park. We played on the swings, slide, and the spinning thing was a little much. The boys fooled around on the slack line and I thought one of them would end their trip that way. Luckily, we all made it back to our bunks around 11:00pm as I quickly fell asleep.

Platoro to South Fork, CO

Day 66Another delicious home cooked breakfast thanks to Chipmunks’s dad. We all packed up and began the drive back towards Platoro and the trailhead where we bailed. I rode in the backseat getting to cuddle with Jessie their dog on my lap. The ride was nice then we turned onto a dirt road. Her mom was anxious as a steep cliff was to our right as we hoped no cars would be coming down. We only met two others cars on this part. It was a slow going ride and took a few hours, but we made it just as the thunder clouds were rolling in. I can’t lie we were all a little scared about what the snow conditions would be like. We gave it 10 days and would soon find out. As we said farewell to her parents, her mom asked if we wanted to wait out the storm, but we declined wanting to push some miles. It sprinkled a bit and thundered then let up. All of the streams that were overflowing had improved and a lot less snow covered the mountain tops. It was easy walking as the thunder cleared out and the sun was shining again. Three times I have hiked this section. Wow! We walked through the meadow staring up at the mountain before us. It was fun finding the small ford even easier and the climb up was not over huge snow banks as the actual path was visible. We were making good time so we pushed on up to the point where I had put on my microspikes finding all the snow melted. 10 days was all it took. As we all climbed our way up this pass a second time, we kept saying how happy we were and glad of our decision making. We came to some snow passes, but they were much shorter and less terrifying. I did use my microspikes and plan to purchase some crampons this winter for upcoming adventures. I also would like to take a winter mountaineering course to feel more comfortable. We curved around the pass under blue skies loving the views and not uncontrollably shaking this time. I still avoided one of the long scary passes by going around which was slow, but the safest beat. We pushed on finding not much of a trail and lots of hard snow so we began dipping down towards the stream where we planned to camp. My toes cramped up on the downhill as I had to yank off my shoes to massage my feet. Need to stay hydrated and likely the higher elevations again had an effect. We found our way to the stream finding a campsite a little ways up. Today was one of the best days ever on trail. There were crazy moments, but nothing like before. We are content in our decision making and now just need to keep hiking strong to make it to Canada before it gets too cold. I slept very well tonight in the beautiful San Juans.

Chipmunk admiring all the snow melt

the snowy peaks 10 days earlier

This is where we bailed 10 days earlier, but Paperweight defeated it this time!
Day 67

The morning climb warmed me up quickly reminding me that we aren’t in the desert anymore. Lush green plants, flowing water, wildflowers representing each color of the rainbow, and views for miles in every direction once you climb above tree line. We met Lemonade who is from Florida and doing a section of the trail this year. We continued an uphill climb and had to do a few snowy traverses. They still really freak me out. I hate falling and in this case you’d slid down snow and into sharp rocks along the way. I took my time as usual and Paperweight made sure to make good steps for me. We came across Chipmunk looking at her map and considering how to cross the upcoming cornice. She wanted to go down then climb back up. No thanks! As I was preparing to conquer it, I hear cries to realize a large herd of elk were down below. Strange sounds! I left first from the break stop and with careful steps I maneuvered my way down the cornice. I found my way to a set of rocks cleared from snow and did a little butt sitting to get safely back to the trail. They came up behind me and asked how I got down as I pointed to my spot. It felt good to be on solid ground again as they slowly joined me. The next traverse was even more scary as Paperweight led the way for all of us. Phew! The rest of the day was less terrifying and absolutely beautiful. We cruised along flowers and bees buzzing and chatted the time away. We ended up complimenting how nice the trail was to find ourselves on a dirt road. Somehow we missed a turn and had to road walk back to where the trail crossed again. We took a nice lunch break in the shade airing out our toes as Chipmunk caught up. She also missed a turn somewhere and had to walk the road. We continued on cruising at close to 3 mph. This would not of been happening 10 days ago. The afternoon miles went quickly until we came to what looked like an animal trail nope just the CDT. Careful stepping with one foot in front of the other as rocks slid under my feet. It was stressful, but Paperweight reassured me as I wondered how this trail was even made or how it could be maintained. We made it across at a slow pace then zoomed downhill to a campsite. I could hear water to the left of the campsite so I simply headed towards it. I wandered my way to a gushing waterfall. It was tough finding a way down to it as I slowly slid to the bottom filling up bottles then climbing back out. I may be the only human this year to drink from this source. I continued back towards the campsite on various paths and heard CC chatting. She joined us as did two thru hikers we had never met, Phil and Julia! New people and instant friends. A solid and beautiful day on trail.

Day 68 

I did not sleep well last night as my body slid to the tent wall since we camped on a slope. I was exhausted and sore with about ten miles to get to the road. Paperweight felt good and he walked off ahead as I said see you at the road. I struggled along barely moving it felt like. You climb upward looking at a ski resort and busy road in the distance. I just wanted to get to the road, but the trail continued up passing ski boundary markings. I assumed we would head right up to the ski mountain, but we had to climb up a bit more of another mountain then all the way down to the road. Some of the uphill included careful stepping to avoid a rock slide down the mountain. I took careful steps also admiring all the wild flowers. I found myself nearing the road going downhill as lots of day hikers climbed up. Of course I chatted with a few and even pet a 5 month old puppy. I zipped down quickly to the road and the trail sign as people took pictures then went off into their car. I looked for chipmunk and Paperweight seeing no one. I realized they must of already go a ride. So time to solo hitch. The first group of 5 cars grove by and then another saw me, slowed down, and rescued me driving me to town. He works as a ranger and we chatted about his experiences and mine exploring various national parks by foot. It was a good hitch. I made it from Wolf Creek Pass into South Fork to find the two of them at the hotel. Wolf Creek Lodge turned out to be one of the best stays so far. Clean rooms, comfy beds, and a great deal. Most hikers choose to go into Pagosa Springs, but we had already seen it and were underwhelmed by all the people. We all showered then borrowed the bikes that the town purchased for hikers to use. We rode about a mile through the town to do laundry then back to the malt shop. We all ordered a burger and got a free ice cream on the owner. Very hiker friendly town. Then a quick stop to grocery shop and a visit to the liquor store. We relaxed for a while in the room watching dumb tv before walking down the road to the Mexican Restaurant. Lemonade joined us as well. Delicious meal with great company. The business also gives free desert to thru hikers as well. Highly recommend the small town of South Fork. Everyone had a nice buzz! Those two margaritas were amazing! We all cruised back to the hotel to lounge in the soft bed and drifted to sleep full, clean, and happy!