Friday, July 5, 2024

Breckinridge to Grand Lakes

I woke up early in a bunk room full of people and escaped to the kitchen area where I met a guy who was here acclimatizing for a trip to Nepal. Slowly more people came in for coffee and soon breakfast was ready for us. We slowly packed up and headed to the laundromat to start the chores.  While our clothes were being washed we went next door for coffee a giant cookie and then we shared a huge sandwich with nacho chips.

 After the laundry was done we headed to Patagonia but bought nothing and then to the bus station. We ended up taking a few buses but finally we made it to REI where we went on a giant shopping spree. I got new shoes. TBD got new insoles, rain pants, a new sun hoodie (I acquired her old one), a tent peg and a bunch of snacks. It was a good score and we decided to go for sushi to celebrate. While we were eating we noticed how late it was getting and wondered what time we would end up getting back on trail. I sent a trail Angel a message and she offered to come drive us to the trailhead. 

We ended up back on the trail after 6pm (thank you) and walked a few miles and set up the tent early. It’s been a long day!

I woke up at 6am and noticed all the condensation inside the tent and decided we should sleep in! We actually didn’t start hiking until after 9am. I’m pretty sure this is our latest on trail start. Just as we were about to put our packs on we met Cuppa (as in cup of tea) for the first time.  He also had Gossamer Gear stuff so we compared our gear failures and poor customer service stories. Finally we started hiking. The CDT is still on the CT trail so there was a bridge at every water crossing and perfectly maintained trail.  Most of the day was spent going up with only a few miles of down. So I was happy when TBD said we only had one miles left. As we were setting up our tent Purple (the hiker TBD met on her flight to Tucson) walked by. We haven’t seen him the entire trip! He stopped to talk for a few minutes but was planning on getting more miles in before he stopped for the night. 

Today was brutal! There was a lot of elevation gain and I wasn’t feeling it. It was beautiful and we saw mountain goats but it was a hard day.  

We also saw lots of hikers today. We saw the group of five that Door Three hikes with and then towards the end of the day two hikers named Poppins and Pathfinder. We actually met them where I would have liked to end the day but we were trying to get as close to Grays Peak as we could to make tomorrow easier. There were several more ups and I was moving at a snails pace. To make things worse, one of the downs was just a rocky ledge. I said I was done and wanted to stop as soon as we got down but the pass was way too windy to stop on.  We ended up going up and over another mountain and stopping on another windy pass. We saw two other tents set up in the wide open and decided to try to set up  where we had some wind protection. Even still the the wind hit the tent ferociously all night long.

I woke up with the same headache I had when we stopped last night and didn’t think much of it. But when we were all packed up and eating breakfast I struggled. I ended up throwing up the half of the Luna bar I had been trying to eat. That’s when I realized I had been having altitude sickness symptoms for the past day. We were about to turn on to the Argentine Spine alternate that has really steep ups and downs and then go up to 14,254ft to Grays Peak. We were already over 13,000ft and I felt like crap. The other option was to stick to the red line that went down to around 10,000ft. If we had to we could sleep in the parking lot and hike back up to 14,000ft the next day. I hated the thought of having to hike back up and I only had to do 9 more miles of elevation if we just took the Argentine Spine and then did the peak. So that was the plan but by the time we had got to the turn off for the alternate I changed my mind. I just wanted to get as low as I could asap. We started down the red line and there was a very steep up that ended in a crazy huge amount of snow. Ugh! This was supposed to be the easier route and I had no patience for it. There was a town we could see below on the grassy side of the mountain so that became the new plan. It would ruin our chances of hiking Grays Peak but I could get lower. I thought we were heading to Montezuma but TBD had other plans, she was already working on our new route so we could keep our continuous footpath. Our trail lead down Montezuma Road and then to Hwy 6 where we stopped at Keystone Resort for a meal. 

Then we walked to Dillon, stopped for a drink and then walked to REI and a grocery store to resupply as we had changed town destinations. She booked us a room at a fancy hostel called The Pad that was right near another alternate on our map that we could take tomorrow. It took most of the day for all my symptoms to go away and I’m still exhausted. It’s sad that we are missing the highest mountain of the CDT but it is better than having to press the SOS button in a country that doesn’t have free health care.  At The Pad we took advantage of the full kitchen and made pizzas for dinner. There is a hot tub here but I’m just too tired. We hit the thousand mile mark today. It would have been really cool to know that we hiked Grays Peak the same day we hit a thousand miles but I’m okay with hitting the thousand mile mark on the day that I didn’t have to hit the SOS button. 

I woke up crazy early in the hostel and went down to get coffee. They even had oat milk for TBD.  We had coffee, fruit and apple turnovers for breakfast and then very slowly started packing up. We each had another shower because we could and managed to check out 2 minutes before checkout time. Next stop the Starbucks down the street. After another coffee we noticed the Chipotle across the street and headed there for burritos. I filled up one of my bottles with root beer to help power me up the big up later. When we couldn’t delay any longer we started walking up to the trailhead. There is always an up leaving town so it didn’t surprise me when we headed up a very steep hill.  

I had forgotten to put my phone in airplane mode and was surprised to get an alert saying there was going to be a severe thunderstorm. The clouds were gray and I could tell that it was going to rain somewhere and sure enough I needed to put my raincoat on. There was no thunderstorm though. It rained on and off all the way up and some of the way down. 

We stopped near a water source to make dinner and had the rice and bean meal I had been carrying for ages. It was really good! We started walking again with the intention of crossing the water and then setting up camp but we found a good spot on this side of the water and will cross in the morning.

Today was another hard day. I woke up with a headache and knew right away that I had altitude sickness. We had three mountains to climb today and about 22 miles till the next bail out point.  TBD looked at the map and found an alternate for the last mountain and we started hiking up the first. It took a long time.  I wasn’t feeling as bad as the other day but knowing that I was going up I was more careful to take deep breaths the entire way. I was excited for the top because it meant I would be going down. But it wasn’t a nice, easy down. We were following cairns and the trail was almost inpersceptable. TBD used the Farout app a lot to keep us on trail. The trail crossed several steep slopes and was barely wide enough for a foot in places.  Most of the patches of snow we were able to walk around up high so we were surprised to get lower and have to walk through snow, snow melt or streams of ice cold water. We had both been counting on making up for lost time coming down that mountain as we knew we had another big one to climb. The trail turned into a dirt jeep path that  zig zagged up the next mountain. Again it took awhile to get up but at the top was where alternate began. We wanted to follow the dirt road up and over the other side of the mountain but it was covered in snow. There was a big cornice and way too sketchy to try to walk over the snow. We ended up hiking up the ridge line to where the snow was just a vertical patch and slowly made our way out on the snow to slide down. TBD went first and used her heels and poles to slow herself down as much as she could. I went down much faster but we both managed to stop at the end of the snow and not fall off the steep mountain. We could see where the dirt road below us and just had to edge our way down to it slowly. To make things worse it started to hail and there were gusts of wind that made it feel like we were going to be blown off the mountain. We made it down to the road safely and as quick as we could. Then we raced down the road trying to get as low as we could quickly.  By now it was raining and we hiked right by some beautiful campsites.  We didn’t realize till we passed the last one that maybe we should have stopped and set up for the night. But we kept on in the rain and hiked by a mine that was very loud. Later we would look up the mine and learn that it was a  molybdenum mine (used for making steel alloys). When we could see the highway and still hear the mine we decided to call it a day and set the tent up in a day use picnic area next to a waterfall. All of our gear was soaking wet so it was a chore to try to keep the inside of the tent dry while we unpacked our gear. 

By the next morning the rain had stopped but we weren’t in a hurry to get out of bed. It was cold and we knew we had a highway walk to do. We started our walk up , up, up on a highway full of tight S bends.  There wasn’t much of a shoulder but most of the vehicles were respectful and moved over as much as they could. After a morning of up we reached the top and had intended on crossing the highway to go to a warming hut but we didn’t feel safe enough to cross where there wasn’t much line of sight for the traffic coming over the top. And so we began our afternoon of down. At one point we stopped for a break and dried out our wet gear. Closer to town a car stopped and offered us a ride…. But we were walking. As we neared town we saw Winter Park Resort and could smell the food. We quickly made it to a bar and grill and ordered black bean burgers and root beer.

Our plan was to walk through Winter Park and only stop for food and maybe a shower at the rec centre but there is a cheap hiker friendly hotel in this town and that’s where we ended up. The place is older but cute and I can tell that they cater to the skiers. The owner is super friendly and laundry is free. Did I mention the coffee and chocolate bar across the street! It’s just perfect here! I called my son tonight and he said that from reading the journals it seems easy and we are just hiking from town to town. While it’s true that we are calling this the food tour of Colorado and enjoying all the amenities of town, the hiking has been more difficult for me lately. I feel bad that TBD has to go at my pace and make alternates when I can’t handle the peaks. But I’m happy she is here, I probably would have quit the other day when we came down without submitting Grays Peak but she just figured out an alternate and we kept going.

I woke up warm and clean and packed up quickly. I was excited for coffee and breakfast! We walked down to the Perk where we met a local trail Angel who offered us a ride. When we told her about our alternate she offered to let us stay at her house in the next town. We plan on going much farther today but thank you for your kindness! We hiked to the next town and stopped at the grocery store to grab fresh water bottles and drinks and then continued on down the road. I was surprised when it looked like we were coming up to another town and I could see a Subway, a Domino’s and a McDonalds. We quickly decided to stop for another round of drinks. Then it was a 45 minute walk to a Chinese take out! We carried our order up a hill and stopped in the shade to eat. It was awesome! We were so full but still had to hike. As we hiked out of town the mosquitoes were brutal and we sprayed ourselves with bug spray and moved a little quicker. The sky looked threatening and we could see lightning ahead but we managed to make it to a bar and grill for another yet another round of drinks and a snack without getting wet.  The locals were nice and one of them offered a place to stay but we had already decided to get closer to Grand Lakes tonight. It was dark by the time we left so out came the headlamps for the last push to town. We ended up stopping and setting up in a picnic area and will be able to walk in for coffee in the morning! Perfect!

I woke up crazy early knowing it was town day. We walked the last miles to town and stopped at a grocery store for orange juice and sat

outside eating bagels. We actually made it to the coffee shop before it was even open. They give CDT hikers free coffee!

And the smoothie shop next door gave us free wellness shots! Thank you!  Cuppa arrived so we sat and chatted with him before starting our chores. After another trip to the grocery store we headed up a steep hill to Karen’s house. She has been a trail Angel here for the past 6 years and opens her home to thruhikers. We showered, did laundry and hung out on her front porch most of the day. Karen told us there would be another hiker arriving and it turned out to be Kodak! And that Jedi was slackpacking Rocky Mountain National Park today and would be back later. We each had a pizza for dinner but wish we had brought more food up the hill. 

Day 58.   2.7 miles/4.3km

Day 59.    14.9 miles/23.9km

Day 60.    14.4 miles/23.1km

Day 61.     19.3 miles/31km

Day 62.    10.9 miles/17.5km

Day 63     16.4 miles/26.3km

Day 64.     19.3 miles/31km

Day 65.     29.2 miles/46.9km

Day 67.      3.9 miles/6.2km

1095.1 miles/1762.3km so far!


“Hiking: the art of slowly walking uphill while being simultaneously happy and miserable.”Unknown

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