Monarch Pass to Twin Lakes

Walking on the railroad bed built pre-1890



6/20 Flew Seattle to Denver, arriving 12:45 am.  Got the shuttle to the hotel nearby in the cluster of airport hotels and restaurants on the plain near DIA.  The next morning I got the shuttle back to the airport,  took the train to Union Station, wandered around until I found the free tourist bus and got to the Greyhound station.  Denver rather than Albuquerque because the ticket was $500-700 cheaper and I would get as far south as public transportation could take me.  I’ll have to hike the chunk I’m skipping later in the season, but there will be no snow.

I haven’t ridden a Greyhound since the 70’s and my boyfriend and I, just down in the Lower 48 from seasonal jobs in Alaska, drove my Mom’s friend’s car from Davis to San Antonio and then took the bus to Burlington, 3 days and it stopped everywhere but was a special $99 to anywhere in the US.  Pure misery.  But not as miserable as the 3 day bus ride the previous winter from Guatemala City to Calexico, where periodically the Federales would pull everybody off the bus and line us up with machine guns at the ready, and we, the only 2 gringos, were strikingly conspicuous.

This trip was civilized, 3 1/4 hours to Salida, CO, a 1 1/2 mile walk across town to my inn, and I saw Dassie, AJ and Party Saver there. With IPA!  I caught up on their stories of the trail, including more details on Nuthatch who after hiking continuously for nearly a year–PCT SOBO, Te Aroroa, CDT–jumped across a little creek wrong and broke her leg in 3 places.  I spent the next day walking around town getting a package from the post office, grocery shopping, going back to the post office to mail a bounce box ahead, etc.  A lovely town with friendly, helpful people.

6/22 I walked back across the town and two hitches later made it to Monarch Pass, which was inundated with cyclists in an assortment of eye shocking neon spandex.  I started up the trail at 11:30 which was fine, I wanted a short day to test how I did with altitude after a long break.  As I hiked, I was feeling unhappy, disoriented, uphill slowed and wind blown until I finally reached the high point and crossed over the Divide and suddenly, despite the snowfields, wind and uphill, it was beautiful and I was glad to be hiking.

6/23 I had a great campsite at the north end of Boss Lake, tough to sleep though because of the altitude.  The first part of the day was down through trees and then up through a pass.  I am very, very slow so I have to adjust my expectations and embrace my limitations.  Solo helps!  Nobody to keep up with, nobody waiting on me. There are really spectacularly beautiful cirques, the snowfields aren’t too bad, the snow itself is consolidated and shallow and there hasn’t been anything too scary or treacherous.  So of course I tripped on some brush on a flat stretch, rolled my ankle, yelled obscenities at the top of my voice, and laid on the ground till the pain subsided and I could do a self assessment.  Just the usual–it will swell and stiffen but I can limp along.  I hobbled slowly over the next 2 passes, and camped in a slightly sheltered spot behind trees and views that make my heart sing.  If the ankle isn’t useable tomorrow, I can retreat 7-8 miles back to a trailhead that had a bunch of cars and day hikers.

6/24  Party Saver passed my tent last evening and I talked with him  briefly this morning. We were all going to take the Mirror Lake alternate since it was supposed to have less snow and run a little lower than the “official” CDT.   What a day.  2.5 miles of blowdown and snow patches, then a long trudge up Tincup Pass Road to where it was blocked by snow, then a short, sketchy snow field, very steep, where I used my micro spikes to step very carefully in the footprints ahead of me. I went over the top and down the road, looking more like a river of rocks and water than a road, to Mirror Lake.  The maps all showed the road going around the lake. Not so.  The road was mostly underwater, so I waded on the flat roadbed below thigh deep lake for maybe a 1/4 mile, while people on the other side watched from their beach chairs.  It was a lot easier than trying to keep my feet dry by scrambling through willows on the steep hillside.  Then up an ATV trail, straight up, around a cornice at the “high point” noted on the map, and down beautiful double track, until it wasn’t.  Up again and down to Cow Creek where AJ and Dassie pitched their tent nearby.  Yay, company!  It was a great day really, gorgeous, exhausting.  My ankle looks like shit, but it works.

6/25  Not feeling it today.  I camped early, 5:30 at the last flat spot before the 2 mile climb up Lake Ann Pass.  AJ, Dassie and Party Saver are long gone, far ahead by now.  But my campsite is quiet and warm and I’ve been listening to “American Gods” all day.

6/26 Trudging up to the pass this morning, I was passed by 6 guys, including Tennessee and Bones.  I am so ridiculously pleased knowing there are other hikers around.  When I got to the top of the pass, all I could see was a massive snow bowl I had to descend after getting over a cornice.  As I stood there looking, a voice came up, “To your right!  Follow the postholes!”  Thank you, Bones!  It was steep, sketchy and scary.  I used my micro spikes again, I could tell by the footprints that the guys just  went down in their trail runners.  At the bottom, after a long, long way, my legs were shaking as I continued following footprints as best I could through snow, blowdown and overflowing creeks.  Suddenly a pair of day hikers!  Then 2 more with a dog, Cathy, Chip and Bear.  After hearing me snivel about my ankle, they offered me a ride to Twin Lakes at the end of the day and their out-and-back hike.   Too good to pass up as I have a box at Twin Lakes anyway.

See the trail coming down looker’s left? Lake Ann Pass

6/27-28 Twin Lakes is a lovely historic little town.  My quads were destroyed by the last stretch so I took a zero at the Twin Lakes Roadhouse Lodge.  Constance is awesome and I am much recovered.  Onward.

Alaska Really Is My Home

5/30-6/19 0 CDT Miles

Dan and I flew from Albuquerque home to Anchorage.  The next 10 days we got to play tour guide for Ashlee’s first trip to Alaska.  She and Chris packed a lot of vacation into a short period of time.  Because it never gets dark this time of year, they played frisbee golf until 2 am more than once, and Ashlee saw her first Alaska moose, a little guy on bended front knees nibbling grass on the course. We hiked Flat Top, went to Girdwood’s Fiddlehead Festival, visited numerous Alaska microbreweries, and hung out in Seward for a few days.  A friend took them to Talkeetna.  They biked the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.  Ashlee was amazed by the mountain ranges surrounding our city on Cook Inlet, fortunately there were a few clear days in Anchorage so she could see them.  We all had fun, including their dog Grimm who made friends with our older son Glen’s dog Tindy.  The three cats were less stoked, Shred taunted Grimm from his perch on the moose rack.

The day they left, I ran the Alaska Run For Women, a 5-miler celebrating its 25th year.  I don’t know how many times I’ve run it, but it’s a great event raising funds for breast cancer totally by donation.  I pinned a card to my back, “I’m running in honor of Noreen” and joined the parade of pink.  I don’t own anything pink but they let me run anyway.  I got a pretty good time too!  And I did Zumba, in public, with the post-race class. Later that evening, friend Tarcey and I went to an outdoor solstice show with The Shins at Moose’s Tooth Brewery.

Having seen both my boys, I wanted to see my daughter Sarah in Seattle on my way back to the CDT and somehow found myself running in a half marathon with her from UW to the Seahawks stadium downtown.

Meanwhile I’ve been watching CDT NOBO progress on social media and trying to figure out the logistics of getting back to the trail.  I am going to fly to Denver and take a Greyhound south.  I will skip (temporarily) a chunk of trail rather than try to get all the expensive way back to New Mexico.  There’s still a bunch of snow, but reportedly most of the south faces have melted so hopefully my microspikes, Whippet (combo hiking stick and light duty ice axe) and neoprene  socks will be good enough.  We’ll see. I’ve got a bounce box to mail up the trail with other clothing and gear I may want to switch out with.

Seward Sealife Center, AK: me, my sis Annie, Ashlee, son Chris, Dan
Chris on Flat Top, Chugach Range, AK
My sister Dogwater, son Chris, and his partner Ashlee top of the tram, Alyeska Ski Resort, AK
Winner Creek Trail, Girdwood, AK
Ashlee, Dogwater, Chris
Chris, friend Trevor, Ashlee at the Girdwood Brewery
Shredder on the moose horns
Bear at Portage Wildlife Center, AK
Grimm, Ashlee, Chris, me, Dogwater on the trail to Fort McGilvray
Resurrection Bat, AK
Grimm and Chris in the water taxi, Resurrection Bay
Resurrection Bay
Resurrection Bay


Cuba to Ghost Ranch 54 miles


5/26 The Subway says it opens at 7 for breakfast so we dropped our keys in the motel box and walked, arriving just past 7. Wefound that the doors were open but the woman was still setting up. It took till 7:30 for her to be ready and she said coffee wouldn’t finish brewing until noon. Deal breaker. We got take-out sandwiches for the trail and I grumpily made the Ravens backtrack to McD’s for breakfast and coffee. We didn’t start hiking the highway out of Cuba and the 15 miles of uphill until 8:30.

The trail got into trees.  There was plenty of snow in the shade under their protection. Nothing steep so the open areas were full of melt, all marshy and muddy. Out of the barren mesas into the lovely forests, spruce and pine, facing east and northeast, a little intro into what’s ahead. It wasn’t a hard day, but wet, cold feet can take their toll. Mama feels bad that I “had to put up with” her family. Really? After my meltdown this morning over no coffee at Subway? But I think it’s because Mama thinks she lost her patience when Joon had a mini hissy fit when it became apparent that she couldn’t keep feet dry in the umpteenth marsh we had to navigate. Mom guilt! It’s a trap! Anyway we camped at the top of all the climbing on dry ground and no wind. And I heard the usual wonderful sound of the kids laughing in their tent as the light faded from the sky. I love this family.  The day is done, tomorrow we go downhill to start with.

5/27 Since we did the big up yesterday, today was quite easy and enjoyable. I’m getting used to how the Ravens take their breaks and they’re not adverse to speeding them up a bit.

This should be my last night on the trail for awhile. I’m really excited to fly home to Anchorage and be tour guide for son Chris, his Ashlee and their ginormous dog Grimm.

I caught up to Robinath from Amsterdam on the switchbacks down to the creek, he hiked out from Cuba the afternoon before us.

5/28 13 miles to Ghost Ranch. Great setting, I see why Georgia O’Keefe lived here. There’s a fossil quarry nearby from which dinosaurs were dug, and this area has had culture upon culture through the millennia, each with their own tool making, pottery, basketry, and creation stories.

Arriving at the conference center, we were greeted on the deck by Treeman, Burning Calves, Dassie, Nuthatch, Party Saver, AJ and Quicksilver. Treeman had taken time off to trail angel but when he got back on trail, he slipped and split open his knee which is now stitched. From Berlin, and a PCT 2015 hiker, he said the last time he had that knee stitched due to another trail incident, he was told, “You have skin like an elephant!”  Apparently, thick, tough skin develops in athletes like hikers.  Treeman is friends with the Ravens from the PCT and they’d all been hoping to do some hiking together this year.  He’d reserved a bunk room that slept all 6 of us and included the all-you-can-eat breakfast.  We all had dinner in the cafeteria with more hikers.  The 100 or so regular people here for retreats and classes looked like they were enjoying this place too, although the hiker table was the only one that had a constant parade of people going back for seconds or thirds.  Hilarious!  Dan will arrive tomorrow to bring  me and Burning Calves, to Albuquerque airport.  She’s going to Atlanta to hike the AT with a friend but may come back to the CDT a bit later in the season.   Meanwhile I am drafting an “Application to Marry My Daughter” for Treeman.  It’s a perfect match.

Bling, Treeman, Robinath in the dining hall
Joon and Bling get to go on a trail ride!

5/29 I love small museums.  Ghost Ranch has both a museum of Anthropology and Palaentology that I visited while waiting for Dan.  He arrived and met all the hikers and ate lunch with us.  As we said our goodbyes before heading out, Treeman said “Bye Mom, bye Dad.”  He’s racking up points.