6/28 I was reluctant to go, but finally hiked out at 9:45, with an ankle wrap on the right foot and duct tape on the left heel blister earned by wearing micro spikes on light-weight trail runners. The spikes smooshed the shoe structure too, so until I get new shoes, there’s a crumpled ridge of shoe rubbing my heel.
I was really pleased to find great trail, no snow, no blowdown, chock full of day hikers, Colorado Trail (CT) hikers SOBO from Denver to Durango, mountain bikers and a cheery guy, Dr Bob, finishing the CDT and the Triple Crown. Even though I won’t see any of these hikers again since they’re going the opposite direction, I am gladdened by the human contact.
6/29. What a day! 21 people, 4 tail wagers with dog food panniers, and 3 large youth-ish groups. At the end of the day I was overtaken by JPEG, the guy I met briefly on the PCT 2015–he took my photo at the 1/2 way monument outside Chester, and I found out months later–he’s somehow related to USASA former-President John Schaal from Michigan. JPEG and Gutpunch were on about their 30th mile for the day, trying to reach the highway a few miles further for a hitch to Leadville. I didn’t hold them up long, and found a perfect campsite near a creek. It’s a bit buggy out here and during the night I got a few splatters of rain.
I do not usually talk about gear, but I got a replacement tent in Salida after much thought. I’ve been using the Zpacks Solplex that I used for a 1000 miles through Oregon and Washington in 2015. A great tent, single wall with bug netting, very light. I had to manage condensation in the snow and rain of Washington and eventually the zipper needed fixing which Zpacks did for free. But gear wears out, and gradually there were more screen patches than I liked, the zipper was going again, and honestly I was sick of not being able to sit up without touching the walls, the condensation issue. So I upgraded to the Zpacks Altaplex, a taller version of the Solplex for not much more weight, 2 ozs. I got the camo color, it’s a little less see-through, and I think camo signals to other people that I’m packing a gun or hunting gear, just adding to the all-around badassery image I project. Uh huh, I’m joking! I’m not carrying a gun! I love this tent, it sets up with a single hiking stick and I have to fiddle around to get all the lines right but it stands up to wind and weird pitches surprisingly well.
There was a lot of uphill today, the first stretch was steep and I dreaded the second, but it wasn’t so bad. I think a lot of trail here is like in my mountains, the Chugach, trail is created, not engineered, when people or vehicles take the shortest way up or down, as straight a line as possible. Not great, but designing and constructing graded trail is expensive and labor intensive so meanwhile we walk on what’s already there, whether ancient wagon roads, social footpaths, jeep ruts or old mining routes.
I hit snow at about 3 and was out of it by 4:30. Melting snow means bugs so I broke out the Deet, just 30% strength, this isn’t Interior Alaska. The flowers today have been incredible, I tried to get photos of all the colors–yellow, pink, butter, white, purple, lavender–but nothing can capture the fragrance, and I am a truly bad iPhone photographer.
6/30 CDT miles 1214.4-1234.4. Way more miles than I wanted to do. I couldn’t find a flat spot for my tent, so I’m in the worst pitch ever, or to put a positive spin on it, I’ll call it a creative pitch. I saw jillions of people today on the CT and the trail tripped through varied terrain as it went, paralleling and crossing the highway to Leadville, then through more abandoned 10th Mountain Division territory and up into the alpine and finally down through Searle Pass. An absolutely clear day but I was still nervous about the high elevation exposure past 3pm in the Rockies. Silly rabbit, no thunderclouds were developing but still I galloped as fast as I could for miles of alpine traverse until finally I saw the route heading down to tree line and I set up my crappy pitch.
7/1 The terrible tent site turned out not to be too bad. I piled my pack, clothes bag, etc at the foot of the tent with my slippery sleeping bag on my slippery sleeping pad on the slippery tent floor and slipped throughout the night, waking up periodically to scootch back up to the head of the tent. I woke at 4:45, then again at 6:45, whoo! It felt great to start a short downhill day to Copper Mountain at a late 7:30! Lots of hikers coming at me, lots. Then I saw chair lifts and soon I was descending on the road I used to board down from the USASA Boardercross course in April. Another warp in the space-time continuum. I continued across where the bottom of the half pipe is supposed to be. Just below was a huge pile of snow for Woodward Camp with rails and boarders and skiers and in the grass all kinds of summer toys and kids and families. This place is fun! Paddle boats, zip line, big bouncy balls, mountain bikes, crazy positive energy. Rooms are cheaper here than Frisco or Dillon so I’m going to rest my ankle, eat and enjoy the hustle and bustle.