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
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.
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.
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.