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.

3 thoughts on “Monarch Pass to Twin Lakes

  1. I like the way you don’t sugar coat how you are feeling other than leaving out the actual expletives that come out when you hurt yourself. Your name continues to come up on our hikes when the whining starts about difficulty and how you would just be laughing at us.

    I’ll be up in Yosemite in a couple of weeks doing the Valley Protectors week working with search and rescue.


    • I appreciate that, Jim. It’s really hard work walking everyday, and I want to share that. Sometimes it’s more boredom than pain, that’s why so many hikers have their earbuds in listening to music or podcasts or books. Harder for me to capture and share is what I get from hiking–peace, love, contentment and all that other hippie stuff.


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