Last Day

Day 24 Segment 2/1 

24.2mi 2,546ft Elevation Gain

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Early in the morning I crossed a dirt road just as a huge truck was passing by. The owner stopped and was excited to see a hiker. We talked for a long time. He joked "can you tell I don't see people much?" 

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He told me that where I camped last night has the highest density of mountain lions in Colorado. He then pulled out his phone and showed me some that he had shot. He's described himself as "an old retired man that hunts all year round." 

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He showed me a picture of his house. A beautiful log cabin with huge windows overlooking this landscape. I wondered how many taxidermy animals hung from his walls.

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Overcast and smokey. I embraced the mood of the day and trudged on. I enjoyed the sun not beating down on me.  The sky complimented the landscape.  

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WHOOOO — almost there. 

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 What did the fish say when he hit a concrete wall?

"Dam!"

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 What did the fish say when he fell down a waterfall?  

"Dam it!"  

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No fireworks kids. 

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Lady goats were lapping up river water — they didn't mind me walking by. 

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FINISHED. I asked some stranger to snap this picture. I was secretly hoping I could Yogi a ride up to Denver from them. No luck. I talked to other people in the parking lot too. No Luck.  

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Luckily a hiker friend from the PCT, Bigfoot, had just gotten off work and was willing to drive the 45 minutes from downtown. He picked me up and put me up at his house. We got to his place and I jumped in the shower quick. He lent me a change of clothes and we went out for pizza and beer.  

A great thirst is a great joy when quenched in time. 

Smoke n' Guns

Day 23 Segment 4/3/2

25.1mi 2,290ft Elevation Gain

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I climbed out of the Wilderness area and started to hear gunshots. They grew louder and louder as I walked by the source. Guns — YEEEEHAW!   

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Aspen are the first to fill a forest after a fire. This grove appeared rather old with a canopy far over head. After the toasty exposed day I had yesterday the dappled shade was a welcome relief. 

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I don't know where the fire was but the smoke filled the sky. It didn't effect my breathing so I didn't much mind. I enjoyed the exaggerated atmospheric perspective. 

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The forests I passed through this day were all in various states of being maintained. The tree tops in a healthy ponderosa forest don't touch. Forest crews had come by and thinned the trees out. The ones that remained stood alone, only marred by a bright blue slash of spray paint. Fern Gully? 

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Just before getting to this sign a semi panicked solo hiker asked me if I had seen another southbound hiker. I was able to recognize and confirm that the hiker she was looking for was only a half mile ahead. Apparently her hiking partner had just quit and bailed on the 'little scraggy trail.' I wonder if this shoe had anything to do with it. 

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The trail was perfectly smooth — a roller coaster for mountain bikes.  

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I like areas like these — why not let locals pick the scraps for their homes? 

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The landscape shifted as I dropped lower and lower down.  Beautiful large boulders were beautifully clustered together. 

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Finally some relief from all the blasting. 

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The birds were quiet and the sky was apocalyptic. 

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"Covenants Enforced" — Which covenants? Weird 

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Blood Red. 

r'Amen

Day 22 Segment 6/5/4

27.0 Miles 3,716ft Elevation Gain

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I cowboy camped in a beautiful little tree shrouded nook with east facing views. The morning sun rose and warmed me up while I got an early start to the day.  Cowboy camping has its perks — I was packed up and on the trail in no time. 

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It was a toasty day and this section was pretty dry. I high fived a group of trail runners as they passed me. Tortoise and the Hare. 

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Towards the end of the day I walked down a very long, and unusually straight valley. My hip was giving me a lot of grief but I trudged on hopping to see some wildlife before sunset. 

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No animals... I was bummed. I enjoyed the sunset over a warm cup of Ramen. I don't know what they put in that stuff - I never tire of it. It's my dinner of choice in the backcountry 

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The moon rose over tomorrow mornings climb. The night sky was bright and I had trouble falling asleep. I sat in my sleeping bag and browsed old photographs. Mountain, mountain, marmot, mountain...  

Weekend Warrior

Day 21 - Segment 6

26.0 Miles 4,816ft Elevation Gain

 

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Woke up from where I cowboy camped, which ended up being the most frosty cold place possible. Poor decisions made after a few too many cold ones. 

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Leaving Breck. Gotta protect those million dollar homes. 

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I made a fuzzy friend. 

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It was Labor Day weekend and the trails were clogged with mountain bikers and buzzing with distant off road vehicles. Everyone and every dog in Colorado was out. 

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I hiked late into the evening — all the 'campsites' I came across had a few tents already set up. Some folks were up late shooting guns, others were just sitting around giant fires. 

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The setting sun set fire to the large cumulus clouds.  The moon had an equal glow. 

Up an Over

Day 20 Segment 7 

16.2mi 3,808ft Elevation Gain

After a couple nights of sleeping indoors it was time to head back. My parents drove me up to Copper in the Platabus and dropped me off at the trailhead. 

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I suppose I could've skipped this section — all the north bounders said Segment 7 was a beast.... but, that wouldn't have sat well with me. So with my light backpack and well rested legs I climbed up the backside of the Ten Mile range, getting higher and higher above the resort city sprawled out at the base. 

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I crested somewhere between Peak 6 & 7. Breckenridge below. 

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I like lichen a lot. This toxic green specimen was photo worthy.  

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As is tradition, I packed out a beer.  Since I was about to stop back into Breckenridge to pick up my resupply package (and some more beer) I sipped on this delicious Gose as I hiked down the mountain. 

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On the descent I passed a huge burn section. This fire was probably a good thing for this forests health. You can tell it was in pretty bad shape before the fire. Lots of lodgepole pines growing on top of each other. 

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Summit County is a tinderbox. 

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Firemen came by on later parts of the trail and did some serious fire prevention / forest maintenance. This long tree sat alone in a field of slash piles. 

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Once I got down to Breck I treated myself to a giant bowl of Pho. 

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I got pretty Pho'ked up and felt like this dog afterwards. 

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Packed out a 6 pack as I couldn't find any tasty singles. With a full food resupply and 6 cold ones, my pack was pretty heavy.  I decided to lighten my load by drinking a few.   I was all smiles 'til sunset. I found a scenic meadow and set up camp. 

Breck

Day 19 - Breckinridge

0mi 0ft Elevation Gain

Doing nothing is exhausting.

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In the morning Uncle Awful treated us to a spectacular breakfast.  French toast of a caliber that puts to shame the soggy toast served by almost every breakfast joint. 

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I continued to spoil myself that day by lounging around and taking a nice long soak in the hot tub. 

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Adrain and Blair came out of the woods and joined us for the feast that evening.

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Pops grilling up some veggies.

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Ma trying to get the very beautiful but impractical stove to boil water. 

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Feast! I had seconds (and thirds) (and an another bowl around midnight) 

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Reunited. It had been 15 years since I last saw the Walkers. So many thanks for the hospitality.   I have to confess, the main reason I chose to hike the CT northbound was to make this visit happen. Totally worth it. 

Copper

Day 18 - Segment 8

17.5mi 3,565ft Elevation Gain

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Woke up and climbed up over Kokome Pass. There was a trail note "Kokome and get it." Heh.

At the top there were a group of 8 or so marmots having a party.

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I knew my parents were close by in Breckenridge. I called them atop the ridge before decending to see if I could arrange a ride. They took a day trip up to Vail and would be able to pick me up on their way back. I cruised down to Copper Mountain Resort with a warm cabin and a cold beer on my mind.

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My parents were in Colorado to attend Lauren's wedding, the daughter of our very close family friends, the Walkers.  After the wedding, the Walkers rented a cabin up in Breckenridge to entertain a large group of friends.  Judging by the stories and photos, there were quite a few special nights.

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My pops relaxing and recovering from all the good food and booze.  The afternoon was quiet. We sat in the grand living room overlooking peak six and seven of the ten mile range and caught up.

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My Uncle Awful, father of the bride, also reclining and recovering. There was to be more food and booze later that evening. After two weeks in the woods almost everything is luxury — this was beyond.

Camp Hale

Day 17 - Segment 10/9/8

28mi 5,090ft Elevation Gain

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The Rocky Mountains are noisy as hell. Airplane traffic is constant. In some photos you may see me wearing headphones. The sound pollution is my excuse — if I'm hearing the sounds of man, they might as well be entertaining.

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The more colorful and wild your gear the more interesting you probably are. If you wear just black you'll look like a rock in photos. Instead choose colors you'd find in a pack of skittles — makes you stand out. Good for photos and for search and rescue. 

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The shorter your shorts the closer you get to nature.

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These guys. I don't know if I should thank or revile them for their Vail / Aspen successes. Did they succeed in their goal of making downhill skiing more accessible? 

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I guess Smokey hired this guy to teach us about garbage. What's his name? From the belt buckle, I'm guessing it starts with a W.

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Abonded Kilns atop Tennessee Pass.

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Eerie abandoned barracks. From what I read on the plaques, the 10th Mtn division soldiers were a gnarly group of norewegian badasses. 

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Todays meditation was on benches. I was reminded of a quote from a Japanese woodworker "you can work with nature, or against nature." That applies to more than just wood. 

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Evening showers created the perfect ambience for a stunning sunset over the valley. The aspen trees were illuminated by the setting sun.  

Twin Lakes

Day 16 - Segment 11/10

16.6mi 4,004ft Elevation Gain

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I woke up at the Twin Lakes Inn. There was a complimentary breakfast. I sat there for a long time sipping coffee and staring out the window and watching the peaks outside light up.

I drank coffee and stared at my phone for hours updating this here journal. The internet was excruciatingly slow. I have to upload each image individually—every progress bar was glacial.

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Check-out was at 10. I packed up my freshly hotel sink washed clothes and headed across the street to the general store for some more quality loiter time.

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The Internet was even slower there. I wanted to stay and get up-to-date but two bars wasnt going to cut it.

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As I headed down the street on my way to the trailhead I glanced down at my phone. Five bars! There was a closed food cart parked on the side of the street. I saw on their menu they had a veggie burger. I asked a nearby storekeeper when they opened. "Within the half hour." Perfect, I waited and wrote. When they opened I ordered a burger and ribbon fries. I feasted and got this here journal up-to-date.

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It was 1:30 by the time I left Twin Lakes. I was in a great mood, but not really in the mood for hiking. So I moseyed slowly stopping often to talk to interesting looking hikers. I'm met some really neat ones and some weird ones. Eventually I realized that time is flying and I had to get some miles down. So I cruised. No big vistas, just lots of different and diverse forests.

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I hiked late into the evening. I found a suitable camping spot. Setting up camp is systematic and quick for me. I go on Auto Pilot. I have a certain order, method, and speed in doing things. I go from stopped to changed into my PJs eating and hot Ramen in my sleeping bag in about 15 minutes. Multitasking is involved.

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Hope Pass

Day 15 - Collegiate West 2/1

20.8mi 3,116ft Elevation Gain 

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The main thing between me and town was Hope Pass and 20 some odd miles.  

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I put it into low gear and climbed for forever. 

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I passed massive fields of bent and crushed aspens. Avalanche fields.  

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This thistle at the top was freakishly huge.  

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I rolled in to Twin Lakes  

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Found the trail register and my entry from when I passed through last year. "Unfinished Business." 

Red Sky

Day 14 - Collegiate West 3/2

25.2mi 5,751ft Elevation Gain  

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You know the saying "Red Sky in Morning...  "

 

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The amazing campsite came through and the sun woke and warmed me allowing me to get up and hit the trail early.  

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Blue skies ... I hope that old sailer rhyme doesn't come true.  

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Morning beer... why not? I've been carrying two cans since Monarch Pass. This peak seemed like a good place to crack one open and lighten my load.  

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Heading into Wilderness means gnarly trails and more fallen trees. It's a place   "where man is only a visitor"

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Lincoln Logs!  

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I ended the day by climbing up Lake Ann Pass. 

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I've finally figured out my 'low gear' — a nice steady pace that allows me to climb without taking any breaks.  

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My calves are cows.  

Secret Spot

Day 13 - Collegiate West 4/3

22.1mi 5,026ft Elevation Gain

 

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Late start. My camp spot was nestled between tall peaks and did not get any morning sun. So I was surprised to see clear skies when I poked my head out of my tent. 

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After the first pass of the day I lay all my gear out to dry. 

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Dread Neck.  

 

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Train grade. Choo Choo! This railroad was built by some burly men. The tunnel at the top unfortunately had a fair bit of tragedy in its short time of use. It's now collapsed. 

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This collegiate west alternate sure do have some pretty views.  

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Meh.  

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Marmots ! Everywhere!  

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By the late afternoon clouds covered the sky, as they usually do up here in these mountains. 

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They were pretty threatening and I couldn't figure out what direction they were moving. Going up and over a pass is a gamble. You don't know what's on the other side. Could be blue skies or more storm clouds. 

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Unfortunately for me it was the latter. I got rained and hailed on at 12,000 feet. I pushed on because two southbound gals I passed earlier told me about an epic camp spot .

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I just had to follow the rainbow.  

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The clouds cleared and the afternoon shadow show was spectacular.

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I found the special spot.  

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With amazing eastward views I knew the morning sun was going to wake and warm me early.  

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I enjoyed some kale I had packed out from Chelsea's garden and mixed it up with a new spicy ramen that she gifted me. Trail gormet! 

Trail Cat

Day 12 - Collegiate West 5/4

15.2mi 3,195ft Elevation Gain  

 

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Did I mention Jambi? Jambi is one cool cat. He was frisky and full on energy in the morning. 

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After we had some coffee Chelsea drove me up to Monarch pass with Jambi. 

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On the way up we stopped at this 'spring' — a local not so secret secret. That was some fine tasting water. 

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Jambi and Chelsea joined me for the first couple miles out of the pass. 

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Hiking Cat!  

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The world is his sandbox. 

 

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Jambi definitely isn't the fastest hiker. He's easily distracted. After a mile I think he got bored.

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The mountains were covered in dark storm clouds. Chelsea and Jambi decided to turn back. 

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Wise decision. Moments later while I was hiking on top of the Monarch Mountain ski resort I got rained and hailed on.  

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Nothing a little Gore Tex can't handle. The views were stunning and I continued on, snacking and smiling. 

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The clouds didn't let up. I couldn't quite make out which direction the storms were heading. I forged forward late into the evening.

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I finally called it quits and set up camp during the downpour.  Lightning flashed and thunder immediately crashed right above and all around me.  

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The ground shook as I sat in my tent and ate my warm ramen. 

Gunni

Day 11 - Segment 16/15

19.8mi 3,206ft Elevation Gain 

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My goal today was to get to Monarch Pass and get my resupply box and maybe some goodies from the store. I started late, but I walked with a pep in my step and crushed the 18 miles getting to the store by 1PM.

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I passed a hiker shelter. Only one I've seen or know if on the CT.

I passed a hiker shelter. Only one I've seen or know if on the CT.

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The Monarch Pass Store as a trip. It is packed floor to ceiling with kitch for everyone.

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It is located next to the Monarch Pass ski area.

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I took the opportunity to dry out my gear in front of the store. True hiker trash. Hiker garage sale.

 

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I ate two giant salted pretzels and sat by an outlet waiting for my battery pack to charge. While I was there I got a message from my friend Chelsea saying that she was in Colorado near Gunnison. True serendipity! My phone wasn't on airplane mode and I was at the road that would take me down to Gunnison. 

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We had tried to cross paths last year when I was on the CDT. But timing and weather weren't in our favor. Originally the timing wasn't going to work out this time either as Chelsea was going to be out-of-state as I was on passing through. But luckily her plans got postponed.

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I was able to get a hitch from a delightful Woman on her way back from an art exhibition in Boulder. We talked about all sorts of things on the 40 mile ride down to 'Gunni.' She was a very accomplished road and mountain cyclist. She wore a bracelet with charms listing the names of every country that she had ridden in.

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She dropped me off at the brewery and Chelsea met me shortly later. We enjoyed a brew then drove a little north to where her husband and her live. On the way we stopped to say hi to Dave as he was catching tonight's meal.

Big Horn sheep seen in the way to Chelsea's cabin NBD

Big Horn sheep seen in the way to Chelsea's cabin NBD

 

We ate really good that night. We made a salad from vegetables picked freshly from Chelsea's garden. Dave grilled up some corn on the cob and Chelsea filleted and perfectly prepared the freshly caught salmon.

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We were joined by a couple of their friends. They were about to set foot on the Colorado Trail in a couple days. It will be their first long trail. They were very excited and full of questions which I was more than happy to answer. We talked late into the night by a warm wood furnace.

 

Soggy Socks

Day 10 - Segment 17/16

26.6mi 4,848ft Elevation Gain

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I started the morning with a damp soggy climb. I remember being in this area with Banjo last year jumping over fell trees in our snow shoes— constantly falling through the snow, sometimes up to our waists. This time its much more pleasant.

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A woman I passed was complaining about the trail being terribly rocky because motorized dirt bikes tore it up. I said hey, at least there's a trail! She was being a negative Nancy. You gotta be grateful for these trails!

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I crossed over what the guide book called a river which in reality was little more then a dribble of water. With the use of a leaf I was able to fill my bottles. I took a break in the shade and a hiker passed by. I said hi. That scared the shit out of her. Apparently a he had just seen a pack of wolves. Her father had put the fear into her about wild animals and their danger. Her name was sock monster, because a tattoo on her ankle looks like a gremlin peeking out of her socks

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Towards the end of the day I ran into my first northbound hiker. He had a long story to share. He had a great attitude and was in good spirits.

I continued late into the evening. While enjoying the changing colors of the sky I heard thunder. Moments later it was pouring. I set up camp during the rainstorm and had a semi soggy night of sleep.

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Dark Forest  

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Light Forest  

Flat & Fast

Day 9 - Segment 20/19/18/17

33.1mi 3,636ft Elevation Gain

 

I crushed. I got rained on. I shared questionable water with cows. The eclipse made weird shadows.

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I got very interested in the differences of CT signs. I ate a ton of food. I think I got my first blister.

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At the end of the day I ran into Lucky Strike and Arctic Fox — Two hikers I met on the PCT and CDT! 

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300 more miles to go! 

 

Fueling Fourteeners

Day 8 - Segment 21/20

26.3mi 6,923ft Elevation Gain  

 

A Hostel guest hooked me up with a pre dawn ride up to the trailhead. 

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Climbing out of the pass I had an epiphany. Hiking is just like an ultra marathon, but twice as slow and 20 times longer.

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You get to eat whatever, pee whenever, and sleep wherever.

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You can go as slow as you want and you're always winning.

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I realize I don't talk much about eating. Aside from walking that's kind of the other half of my day. I don't think of it much as feasting, more like fueling. 

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In the first few miles I eat a bar, or more likely, a cookie and some granola. I stop at the first water source where I make a greens shake for breakfast and chug it. From that point on I'm just walking and snacking, eating approximately 200 cal every hour. Nuts, trail mix, salty snacks, and an occcasional clif bar.

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 I save the sweet stuff for the afternoon. Sour patch kids or Scandinavian swimmers really ads a pep in my step.

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At night I boil up some water and make delicious ramen noodles. Man I love ramen.  

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When I trip, the cook kit in my backpack rattles and sounds like tin cans clinking. It makes me think that I'm one of those old-style hobos with a simple rucksack and some empty cans tied to the back. 

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I hiked all morning and all afternoon. In the evening I got to the base of San Luis Peak, the first 14-er that I've passed nearby. It was only 1,500 feet up and one and a half miles. So, I crushed it.

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I remember this area from when I was here last year on the CDT. This time I'm not on snowshoes.

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All Downhill

Day 7 - Segment 22

6 Miles 675ft Elevation Gain  

Short walk to get to the hwy into Lake City. Got a hitch right away. Guy in truck was on his way to go check on some prospecting claims. Says he wants to make his living in the mountains, said that would be a dream come true.

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Got to the Ravens Rest Hostel and met Lucky. His story in summary: came to the States to hike the Appalachian Trail, became a hiking addict, fell in love on a hike, got married, had three kids, opened a hostel in Lake City for hikers and climbers.

After seven days it was time to do my laundry, take a shower, and sleep indoors. I also had to fix my phone. After a series of unfortunate events, my phone got wet. The volume rocker was stuck on a volume up position, so everything I did on my phone had the volume up and down notification smack dab in the middle of the screen. Luckily, I found some rice in the hostel kitchen and I threw my phone in there. Then I took off, phone free, hoping that that would fix the problem while I did my chores.

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Being phone free in town was great. I took a shower then borrowed a bike and rode down to the laundromat at the end of town. I think it's important to mention that I was wearing clothes that I borrowed from the hiker box: a triple XL polo shirt and basketball shorts.

I talked to an old lady from Texas when I was waiting on my laundry. She asked if I had a safety pin so that she could pin all of her socks together before throwing them in the wash.

I biked around town, bought a Coca-Cola from a local grocery. Taxidermy and DVDs to rent behind the counter. Lots of frozen food and a six dollar bag of wilting lettuce. I guess Lake City is pretty remote — you gotta love books and movies to live there through the winter.

I filled my day with conversation and food. At night I went out with Lucky and another hostel guest. We went to the Packer, yes it's a Packer bar. It had an amazing backyard patio. Little wire tables and chairs with umbrellas around a fire pit complete with bar. Surrounding the pit were local musicians jamming out with their dreadlocks and steel drums. Lucky explained that the town is 40% hippies and 60% old people from Texas. He added that the votes in local elections surprisingly favored weed. Maybe that's how they all get along.

High Point

Day 6 - Segment 23/22

25.1 Miles 4,477ft Elevation Gain  

 

I set up my tent in the shadow of a mountain, so I didn't have the luxury of being warmed by the morning sun when I got out.  

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In the morning the sky was cloudless. I was unprepaired for such beautiful weather. I tipped my hat low to shield my face. At high elevations the sun has a special way of spanking your skin. 

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Meh.  

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I hiked at high elevation all day. The views were breathtaking. Pictures don't really do it justice. 

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The clouds built up all morning and brought on and off relief from the sun. What a major difference the sun makes. It was shining when I got to the high point. I was hot. I took my shirt off and celebrated. Then shortly after the sky closed up and it was time to put on some layers. 

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I hiked out with a cold one just for this occasion. Best part was... it actually stayed cold. 

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Its all down hill from here.  

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You might be able to see a cyclist pushing his bike uphill in the middle of this photo. He was not a happy camper. 

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After a good high point celebration I was in a great mood and flew down the trail. I was jamming out to some good tunes and enjoying the views. 

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Its a rather barren moonscape up here.   

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This tree was the largest plant I saw in hours. 

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The views all around are a bit more interesting. 

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Selfie to check on degree of sun spankage.  

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I guess slumgullion is a made up name that describes something that's a mixture of everything... like a clean out the fridge soup. Which sounds pretty good about now. 

Slow and Steady

Day 5 - Segment 24

24.7mi 6,415ft Elevation Gain

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I knew my day was going to start with a big dissent followed by a huge ascent.

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I steeply switched back and forth on my way down to the Animas River. The views were spectacular.

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At the bottom, I crossed over the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad tracks into the Weminuche Wilderness.

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I climbed steeply all morning roughly following Elk Creek.

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Just before the top of the climb there were several small hard rock mines and this dilapidated old cabin.

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At the top of the climb the Colorado Trail meets up with the continental divide trail. They'll share some miles through the San Juans. I thought it was funny that here there were two treads worn into the mountaintop. The left is CT, right CDT. 

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Once I got up to 12,000 feet the evening thunder clouds rolled in. They held out for a while. I could see storms in the distance.

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On my way down I was treated to some side ways hail! 

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I like to photograph these things .

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The division of reclamation, mining, and safety...  that's a new one for me. 

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The sky cleared up. I continued trucking into the evening. I set up camp by a small alpine lake at 12,000 feet.