There were not a lot of ups and downs today as the elevations stayed right around 11K. So 25 miles was not to bad although I continue to be toast at the end of the day. I don’t think I’ve mentioned how beautiful and plentiful the wildflowers have been on this trail. It’s amazing how they thrive in these mountains. The splashes of bright color as you hike along have really added a welcome addition to this trail experience for me.
A drop off back at Monarch Pass and we are back on our way. We will encounter lots of mountain bikers today as this is a popular stretch that stays fairly level at around 11K with great views. Despite a 10AM start we were able to do 22 miles without much trouble. We merge back to the main Colorado Trail ( East and West Collegiate Routes join back up) and run into a few other CTers who chose the easier East route. Somewhere along this stretch we lose John as he failed to stop at our agreed to stopping spot for the day. We hike pretty much solo during the day as we each get into our different paces. We usually see each other at water sources or rest stops with a good view. Before we get out of camp in the morning we agree to stop at a specific campsite and decide if we want to call it a day or keep going. John camped about 2 tenths of a mile beyond where Drew and I set up. We think he’s still mad at us for calling him a 60 year old.
Felt good to sleep in and then head out to a great breakfast buffet. Salida is a really great little town well below Monarch Pass where we got off trail yesterday. I walked around town after breakfast and was impressed at the residential area. So many neat ,well kept homes. A great little community off the tourist track for the most part. The Arkansas River runs thru town and this is a popular rafting area when the water is higher. They have a kayak course where we watched some guys doing some crazy stunts in their short boats. Those guys are nuts! Today is Marathon John’s 59th birthday although we try to convince him he’s 60. We celebrate with mexican food and a heavy dose of margaritas. John has a buddy in town who will drive us back to the trail in the morning. Salida has been a great town stop!
We started this morning from Chalk Creek at 11K and climbed to 12K and Chalk Pass. From there we descended to 10.5 and back up to 12.5…ugh!! About 3PM we made it to Monarch Pass along Hwy 50 where Cuban B was waiting to bring us into the hiker hostel in Salida. Cuben B thru hiked the PCT last year and did some miles with John.He’s a Physical Therapist in nearby Gunnison. We check into the hostel , which happens to be owned by a young couple from Grand Rapids , and we quickly head out for pizza and beer. Great stories were exchanged about the PCT in 2015.I love re-hashing everything about last years hike and finding out what fellow hikers are up to. It was a great get together! We will take a much needed zero day tomorrow……rest and eat.
Chilly last night camped at 12K. I had to keep my down jacket wrapped around my feet inside my down bag. Eating a hot meal along with a couple Snickers before falling asleep helps to keep my torso warm.I’m having no problems sleeping like a baby for 12 hours. This morning as we packed up we had a visit from a cow moose and her calf…a cute little thing about the size of a Great Dane.Tomorrow is town day as we make it to Salida and a much needed zero day. Time to eat and sleep!
Another big climb to start the day , starting at 10K and going up to Cottonwood Pass at 12.5. We will stay at 12 to 13K all day as we hike thru a spectacular stretch of Collegiate peaks . Mts Harvard , Yale and Princeton among others all well over 14K. You can drive up to Cottonwood Pass so we encounter lots of day-hikers and peak-baggers along the way.A lot of hardy folks like to summit the 14teeners in this state…there are 50 some in Colorado. I’ve done four previous to this hike and we hope to get up San Luis a little farther south of here. So 22 miles today at this elevation has been a great day..we are all toast and in our bags , snoring by 8.
The hike over Hope Pass @ 12,500 ft was not all that bad even with a pack full of 5 days worth of food. This Collegiate West Route will be a tough one ,but well worth it in terms of scenery.As we descend to Texas Creek the skies turn ugly real fast. We scramble to set up our tents at 3PM just before being pelted with heavy rain and hail. Texas Creek ,which was a manageable rock hop to get over before the storm, is now a dangerous crossing. We will cross in the morning when the waters have receded.
Today we are hiking down hill mostly to the tiny village of Twin Lakes to re-supply. Being a Sunday we are seeing quite a few day hikers who are out to summit Mt Elbert , the highest peak in Colorado at 14433 ft. I climbed this one back in 2010 and it was awesome. We will bypass this “14teener” and summit a different one farther south….probably Mt San Luis. In Twin Lakes we have re-supply boxes to pick up at the little General Store. There are probably 7 or 8 other CT hikers here with us. This is last place for supply until Salida , about 5 days and 100 miles south. We grunt our way out of town with full packs and camp along Lake Creek. Tomorrow we will begin the Collegiate West Route on the CT. As opposed to the Collegiate East Route , the West is higher in elevation and the more spectacular of the two. We were not sure this was the wise choice since the weather does not look to good for the coming week. Marathon John challenged our manhood …so the West it is. We will start tomorrow climbing from 9000 ft to 12548 ft. Mercy !
From Leadville we hitch a ride back to Tennessee Pass and jump back on the trail. The Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail , which runs from Mexico to Canada, share the same path for about 300 miles. We are seeing a bunch of CDT hikers going northbound as we travel southbound. Some of them we met last year on the PCT and we have fun reuniting and reliving trail stories from last year. Today we met up with Crocs…..yup ,he hikes ( and we are talking thousands of miles ) in crocs ! We are camped at about 11000 ft and the bugs are once again after us. Looks like another dinner inside the tent.
We pack up this morning and only have a short seven mile day to Tennessee Pass. From the trailhead there we catch a ride into Leadville where we will spend a night at the local hiker hostel. Most of the towns near the Colorado Trail have hostels which provide a low cost place for hikers and mountain bikers to stay. In the winter these places cater to snowboarders. Leadville is an interesting old mining town where the majority of the houses are really small…maybe 3 or 4 rooms all on one floor. This was how the miners lived way back when….one bedroom for mom and dad , one bedroom for all the kids , a bathroom…maybe , and a kitchen and dining room combo. Some of the houses are still pretty run down and some have been restored and have quite a bit of charm. A nice town , but not a lot of money here like most other towns in the Rockies. We did have a great steak dinner at Quincey’s. A real deal at $8.95 !