7/13 It’s a lovely place, the Shadowcliff, and not expensive, but the hostel was full so I took a room in the main lodge and the noise was challenging, so I moved to the very quiet Bighorn for a second night. Did all the chores: laundry, fuel, groceries. And ate an early dinner for the second night at the Stagecoach happy hour. Cheap, delicious and a welcoming place. I got a text from Dassie. The next morning we met for breakfast (“We thought the Fat Cat Cafe would be appropriate,” joked Dassie) and the big surprise wasn’t AJ (Mudslide) but Burning Calves back on the CDT from the AT! It was great to see friends, the CDT has been lonesome. I told them to give me a head start and I’d see them on the trail. They slackpacked the RMNP loop today.
7/14 I took the RMNP shortcut to save miles and because you need a permit and a bear canister to camp in “Rocky” as the cheerful trail crew called it. It was an uneventful but beautiful day filled with day hikers. Best question of the day was “Have you seen anything?” I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain… “Anything?” “Animals!” I camped below Bowen Pass near water. Today I finally finished listening to the 10th anniversary edition of American Gods. There was an Epilogue, then a Post Script, then an Appendix.
7/15 I walked up the valley to Bowen Pass and saw a bull moose curled under a tree like a cow, then just past him, 3 more moose, the mythical herd. Our moose don’t herd up like this. Then a minute later, a hare came bounding up to me. That’s a new one. Somebody been feeding this guy? I thought I’d have to settle for the usual fleeing butt.
The pass wasn’t so bad, and the down went quite a ways, full of blowdown to a “road,” a skinny, slippery canyon full of 4-wheelers, Mr and Mrs plus the kids. The road transitioned to trail, ominously marked with tire treads. A few minutes later the dirt bikes were barreling downhill at me on the single track as I continued a 3-hour uphill trudge. They were polite and legal, and there was no blowdown in this section, just noise, fumes and dust. I turned off onto a no-motorized trail that crossed a paved highway and continued up. I found a sheltered tent site and called it a day before the cloud burst. I had been packing 3 liters of water since there were 9 more dry miles in the morning.
7/16 This morning was hard but gorgeous. A goat! Mama grouse and her two chicks, all equally stupid. I could be dining on fresh grouse daily if I would just take advantage and whack one with my hiking stick. There were a couple long waterless stretches. People in cars on the dirt roads are a little weird. I walked onto an isolated dirt road junction and a lone old guy in a car drove slowly into and out of view with just a little wave, didn’t even roll down his window to check if I was OK.
7/17 Up and over this morning to a series of good dirt roads. Fat Albert overtook me, super friendly and helpful.
As I walked down the road, I chatted with a 4-wheeler couple who later in the day on their return trip told me my friends behind were trying to catch up. Yay! Then a retired couple invited me into their RV and a cold drink. Nice! I made over 25 miles today, although I am now stealth camped behind some bushes on Highway 14. I feel like a freaking hobo.
7/18 I hiked the blacktop 8.5 miles to Hwy 40 to hitch to Steamboat. I hate hitching, it also makes me feel like a bum. I waited an hour until a really nice woman, 24, picked me up on her way to see a friend about a job with a SUP company in Steamboat. Thank you! I had happy hour beer and tapas with Dassie, AJ and Burning Calves who rolled into town an hour or two after me.