Gunnison to Monarch Pass

6/21-24 72 miles

It’s a sort of solitude when you’re holed up in a motel room with a Do Not Disturb sign hanging off the door but with all the human noise penetrating through the walls, people walking down the hall, doors slamming shut, the murmur of a TV, traffic noise. Solitude of a sort I guess.

And then there’s the quiet solitude when you’re in your little tent beneath a Douglas Fir, the only human in the quiet of a wild place. I lay in my tent the first night out after spending so many days sick in town, utterly giddy as the wind died down and the birds twittered their good nights to each other. I actually feel better, after a round of antibiotics, than I’ve felt in weeks.

I did manage to get information about shuttles out of Gunny to the trail. It cost some money and took nearly 2 hours, but Kenny got me back to Eddiesville Trailhead and I started hiking about noon on a perfect day, the cold and rain I’d been in a few days before, resolved. Summer Solstice! Hike Naked Day! I didn’t! I carried enough food for 3 or 4 nights in case I needed extra time to make the miles after being ill.

The second day the trail went from broad brown rangeland, spooking antelope as I walked, to lots of slow uphill and increasing wind. If I hike uphill for 20 miles, how come I never run out of ground? I saw 9 people hiking SOBO on the Colorado Trail (CT) including 1 guy pushing his bike uphill at about 7pm who greeted me with ” I need to sleep”. To get over the last of the climbs so I didn’t have to do them the next day I hiked about 24 miles and camped in a dumb, damp little tent site near a creek. My sleeping pad didn’t insulate me very well from the cold ground. Going to switch it out for my heavier, less comfortable, but always warm NeoAir Xtherm at the first opportunity.

The scenery was a tad tedious the third day, too much second growth, so I listened to an audiobook for a few hours. Today I saw 10 people including 3 dudes in assorted neon outfits on dirt bikes. Sigh. Colorado has a lot of multi-use sections on their National Scenic Trail, only authentic ” Wilderness Areas” are closed to wheels. The dirt bikes churn up the rocks and gouge the ruts deeper. A pain to walk on. But I had another perfect campsite.

Day 4 there wasn’t any reason not to make the 18 miles to Monarch Pass and the completion, at last, of the Colorado CDT. The day’s hiking was a mixed bag. Trail to dirt road with zillions of mountain bikers, then another dirt road and more mountain bikers and dirt bikers to single track. I KNOW I have the right-of-way, and posted signage at trailheads even has simple graphics illustrating that, but it doesn’t work out that way. If I don’t crawl out of the ruts to let the bikes go by, I will get run over. Annoying. The last few hours the trail ran high on the ridges and at altitude, it was gorgeous but the howling wind was cold. Sometime in the morning a hiker, trailname Sahib, caught up to me. French, my age, hiked the PCT in 2016. We got to Monarch Pass at the same time, witnessing the aftermath of a horrendous traffic accident with cars backed up for miles in both directions and a Medevac helicopter arriving after the ambulances. Not good. After a while, the helo left, the pilot masterfully wobbling in the high winds, and we got a ride the 20 miles to Salida from a couple returning home from the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Salida is a sweet little town and I’m staying at the same hostel as last year, Salida Hostel, a little away from town and clean, bright and spacious. Next phase of my hike is a bus ride to Denver and hiking the first 100 miles of the Colorado Trail (CT) with Burning Calves and Nuthatch (she was SOBO PCT 2016 when I was and on the CDT last year too!). Hopefully I can keep up with them.

2 thoughts on “Gunnison to Monarch Pass

  1. Seems we are in close proximity again this year. I left Monach MNT Resort yesterday (June 25). Opted today for the Mnt Princeton Hot Springs Resort Alternate today. As I wait for my room to be readied, I am enjoying the lunch special, 14.5 pounds of Chef Salad. A couple +\- of local IPAs are making a favorable supplement to my early lunch. Gonna go soak my weary bones in a bit. Bound for Twin Lakes in the morning . Probably rest there a day before tackling MT Elbert. Planning a few days of slack packing when I arrive Breckenridge. Seems I will miss the contingent of Valley Wanderers scheduled to do Peak Bagging in the Leadville vicinity around July 9.

    Maybe we will finally meet in Trail this year.


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