Archive for July, 2006

07/08/06- Colorado: Done!

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

What a long day of hiking. It’s not that I did a lot of miles, just a lot happened.
The rain of yesterday evening stopped at some point during the night, which was good because of the leaking. I didn’t sleep much, or at least it felt like I didn’t sleep much because of the wet in my tent and bag.
I noticed in the early morning that the wind had shifted about 130 degrees, so that it was blowing directly into my tent door. Lovely, but manageable. A little later, after dozing off, I woke up and looked out. I was still in the clouds. I thought, “I have the time. I’m going to wait until this burns off.”
That decision was a mistake because it soon began raining. The wind carried the rain directly into my tent. I was going to have a cold last morning in Colorado. The CDT always wins.
I got it all together and began hiking. I had on all my wool and my insulating jacket under my rain gear, so I was cosy. At some point I took off my glasses because the water on them made it hard to see. As it was, I could see about 30′ around me because of the fog and clouds.
I generally rely on visuals tied to maps to determine where I’m going, especially when hiking on top of the Divide, like I was today. The fog ruled that out. Both the guide book and the notes on the maps advised to stay on the trail and specifically warned against using the contours on the map to revise the route for less up and down.
I was hiking with my head low against the wind with just a short bit of trail in sight at any given moment. I looked up every once in a while, which expanded my view a bit, but not to the point that I could see any major landmarks around me because of the fog. And I hiked.
At some point, I dropped into, then below, treeline. I wasn’t supposed to do that according to the map. Crap.
I was clearly on A trail, but not a trail on the map. The GPS put me lower than I should have been. Rather than retrace my steps, I made the possibly risky decision to continue on this unmapped trail. At my first major water, I came to a trail junction with a sign. Clearly marked downhill was the Henderson Mine Spur Trail. The sign also said Continental Divide Trail and had an arrow that pointed between the other two directions I could take. I kept on my path, trusting my instincts that this path would lead somewhere useful, or at least a salvageabe position. I crossed the water sources I expected, and the next GPS placement put me right below Vasquez Pass, meaning I had side-stepped Vasquez Peak and the Pass, one of the major ups and downs mentioned in the guide book. Cool, since there were no views anyway.
The trail began to switchback up, and in my climbing and the lack of sun, I lost track of the direction. I moved into a period where I had to trust my compass. I thought I was heading south when my compass told me I was heading north. I had nothing else except this tool to keep me, literally, on track.
I soon determined that the tread was taking me to the top of the next peak on the CDT. Cool. Since it had, I also surmised that I was on the trail that Jim Wolf, author of the guide book, had said to take rather than the cross-country route described and mapped if it could be found.

The map showed that this peak had several radiating ridges. In the whiteness, I could only see the one I’d just come up. I was also under the distinct impression that I was making a giant U-turn, looping back above where I’d been in the trees earlier because of my disorientation. So I set a bearing on my compass based on my map and headed in the direction it told me to go.
It worked like it was supposed to work. I walked in complete trust in the system, and retained a reluctant willingness to backtrack if I needed to. As I continued through the fog, I began to look for the turn that marked what appeared to be the Divide’s departure from the trail. The trail on the map continues straight ahead while the Divide, and the CDT, took a right turn on the side ridge.

Trail in CloudsI reached a widening point and in my limited field of vision, saw the
trail heading off. (Where there was mapped trail, I saw nothing on the ground.) I let the direction settle a bit and pulled out my compass: right on the bearing it should be. I continued.

As I dropped, the clouds began to open up a bit. I got to see some of the beauty I’d been missing. As the sound of cars indicated that I was close to Highway 40, I got some glimpses across the way. I could see the trail I took down the former ski area to Berthoud Pass when I left the trail in 2004. I was a Berthoud Pass before I knew it.
I got a ride to Georgetown in a new pickup truck. I have special appreciation for a guy that picks up a soaking, dripping wet dirty backpacker in a truck with less than 700 miles on it. Thank you again to the driver on his way back to Denver.
I stood in the rain for a little less than an hour trying to get a ride from Georgetown to Silverthorne after eating two Chinese lunches. Having no luck with the shiny, happy people, I decided I would just get a room and wait for my friends in Silverthorne, Terra and Linda, to pick me up on their way back to Denver tomorrow. I called them to let them know and Linda offered to come pick me up.
As in 2004, I had a comfortable stay in their ski condo. And, as in 2004, they had a third dog with them, Gertie, whose owner is in Spain. I used their garage to begin to dry out my sopping pack.

07/07/06-Down, Up, Dry, Wet

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

Today started dry. I even hung my sleeping bag in the sun as I broke down camp.
Saw the largest herd of elk I’ve ever seen as I passed unnoticed above them on a mellow knife ridge.

The climb to Jones Pass was more than I thought it would be. Up, up, up. Although the really dark cloud had moved away a bit, as I climbed to 12,700′, the day darkened although it was only five. I could see the sun shining in other places, just not on me. Looking south while climbing Jones Pass.

It started to rain and it quickly got to the point that I put on my rain gear. It wasn’t a passing rain. Since I was walking the Divide, I wasgetting a lot of wind too. Cold wind.

I wanted to be as close to Berthoud Pass as I could when I stopped today, but I didn’t need to push it. When I passed a bed of decomposed granite next to a cornice, I decided to stop. It looked like a good campsite.

I set up my tent with its back to the wind and rain. I transition from the soaking outside to the relatively dry inside with surprising ease. Things were a bit damp. My Sea-to-Summit supposed dry sack is a piece of shit in that it’s not a dry sack. Stuff gets wet in it. How can they sell it as a dry sack? I bought it to keep my down bag and sleeping clothes dry. Ug.

In the end, as I sit writing, I’m warm enough and dry enough.

07/06/06-Elusive Pass

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

Today was a town day: Silverthorne. I had a late breakfast, then hit the PO. Since I have only two days to Berthoud Pass, most of the resupply box went home. The lady at the PO said I’d gotten the best deal she’d seen yet on the Priority Mail flat rate boxes. I sent a lot of weight for $8.10.
Even though it was a town day, I managed to hike 16.4 (Jonathan) miles. I did some climbing too., just over 3,000′ from Silverthorne to Ptarmigan Pass at 11,777′. Ptarmigan Pass was the elusive pass. I kept on thinking I was there, only to find out it was even further.
This landscape is very different from yesterday and this morning. Then I was in choppy, soaring, steep granite mountains. Here at the same elevation, I have open, rounded, hill-like mountains. I like them both. I like being above treeline.
I am excited about finishing Colorado. I’m happy to be done with it, and happy to have experienced it on my terms, i.e., not road walking just to get it done in 2004.
This morning I saw two baby birds on the trail. They had minimal flying abilities, so they couldn’t flee. I didn’t want to harrass them by taking a photo.
The flowers continue to be amazing. I saw lots and lots of glacier lilies this morning. And, as I dropped into Silverthorne, I saw for the first time on this trip, blooming fireweed. It’s a common plant, but tends to bloom later, so I hadn’t seen it yet. I’ve seen rein orchids over the last couple of days too.
I got some sprinkles today, but nothing enough to put on my rain jacket.Camp
I’m in a lovely camp. I sat on a slope of blueberry plants and watched the sun set as I ate my yummy dinner.

07/05/06-Hail, not Trail

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

I had an expensive, mediocre breakfast at Copper Mountain (CO18), but it was better than what I had in my pack. Leaving Copper Mountain, my map indicated that I should take a cross-country dash across I-70. It’s a big freeway, and I opted for the mile longer route using an overpass. Just south of Copper Mountain the Colorado Trail and the CDT diverged.
It’s so nice to be back on the CDT. The tread is more rugged, the river crossings unconstructed, and the trail marking non-existent (so far). Branches close in around the trail, blow downs are for the most part unattended, and there’s more snow.Cairn & Trail

The two passes I crossed today, Uneva and Eccles, are both at 11,900′, but between them I had to drop and then climb 1,600′. In that drop and climb, I got intense hail with moderate rain. The hail stayed on the ground for more than an hour, and at times I was walking on hail, not trail. Both sides of both passes are beautiful. Lots of green expanses rimmed with rugged, corniced rock.
I decided to stop for the day just below Eccles Pass, on the north side. I had wanted to be closer to Silverthorne, but I also wanted a good campsite. Just after I finished putting up my tent, the rain resumed in earnest, and it’s been raining ever since. Back where I come from, this is winter weather, not summer weather.

07/04/06-What a Lovely Evening

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

A friend of Jim & Ginny’s (Carl?) drove the four of us to Turquoise Lake
(CO21). The three of them got out to hike northbound, and I took the car
to Tennessee Pass, where I left it for them as I resumed my northbound
hike. It worked out quite well for all of us.
My goal for the day was to be in hiking range of Copper Mountain (CO18)
for breakfast. I ended up about 6 miles out, not as close as I would have
liked. Rain was starting to fall, it was around 7PM, and I found a great
campsite, so I took it.
My tent is tucked under trees in a flat and level spot. I cooked sitting
on a log with a little log table for my stove. I did my end-of-the-day
map work and stretching at a different level spot that overlooks Guller
Creek. All this with warm air, no rain, and no mosquitoes. During the
course of my evening, I watched dark clouds hanging behind Jacque Ridge
while the setting sun drenched the red rock and green plants with warm
light.
The flowers around camp are fairly representative of what I’ve been seeing
for the last week: Colorado colombine, violets, heart-leafed arnica,
Indian paintbrush, anemone, mountain blue bell, and other stuff I can’t
name . I also saw monk’s hook and delphinium today.
On the trail, saw many southbound Colorado Trail hikers.

07/03/06-Figs in the Laundromat

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

I told myself that if it was raining by the time I reached Tennessee Pass,
I would hitch into Leadville.
It was and I did.
Rain by 10AM does not bode well for the rest of the day. All of my gear
was damp, if not wet, and in need of drying.
I got a ride quickly into the frenzy of the pre-rain 4th of July weekend
Leadville. The holiday meant a hotel room might be scarce. A stop at the
Visitor’s Center had me even more worried. I wish I’d just gone to the
hostel, but, instead, I went to the far end of town and paid $70 for a
ratty room. It did, however, have a phone that worked.
I spread out so that my stuff could dry, then got lunch one, Mexican food.
I then gathered up my stinky laundry to head to the far end of town to the
public laundromat. When I was almost there, I met Jim and Ginny coming
back from Safeway. I had assumed they were back on the trail. They’d
taken a zero and invited me to join them and a friend for dinner.
I put my laundry in with the usual two boxes of soap, then headed to
Safeway. While in the produce section, I noticed that they had big boxes
of figs, so I got some. In addition to the figs, I got, for town, five
bananas, a bottle of pomagranite juice, a pound of guacamole, a bag of
blue corn tortilla chips and a big pink grapefruit. For the trail, I got a
big avocado and two apples.
I couldn’t wait to eat the figs, so I rinsed them two at a time in the
laundromat’s sink, the one with the sign that said not to use it. I ate
the figs while working a crossword puzzle and watching three generations
of women do their collective laundry.
Lunch two was half the guacamole with chips. The bananas are anytime snacks.
The library was closed (presumably so the staff could have a 4-day weekend
too), so I went to a coffee shop that had some computers. They were
pretty limited in what they could do, so I couldn’t post any journal
entries or upload photos.
Dinner was nice. To end the evening, I watched two episodes of MTV’s Room
Raider, or something like that. It was dull.

06/29/06-The Bunny Threat

Sunday, July 9th, 2006

Last night the bunnies were at it. I think what they were doing was
chewing one of my guy lines. Whatever it was, it made the tent vibrate.
I’d make a noise and they’d be off, only to return to awaken me again. I
think I eventually won.
In the morning, no sign of damage. Bizzare.
Lots of up and down today, but no water of any form fell from the sky.
Met a group of Baptist from north of Dallas today. They were nice, plus
they took my litttle bag of trash.
Camped with Jim & Ginny. They were here when I arrived, but I could tell
from footprints that I wasn’t far behind.

06/28/06-The ATV Threat

Sunday, July 9th, 2006

When I awoke and peeked outside, I thought it was a grey morning , but it
was just the grey pre-dawn sky. It soon turned grey though.
I said goodbye to GI Jane and Chuckwagon. They are hiking to get to the PO
by Saturday, and that looks like 20+ mile days. I’ll just wait for
Monday.
ATVs are so threatening. I see the damage they do to the landscape and
people riding them are generally yahoos who think the wilderness is one
giant unregulated amusment park. They tear up the tread, then, rather than
use the torn up part, create a parallel path. They drive across soft
alpine tundra, scarring it.
I saw seven people on five ATVs today. All five passed me twice. They are
tearing up the tread, making a huge racket and belching old-fashioned
(stinky) exhaust, and then are very cheery as they pass you. I just turn
my back to them as a sign of disgust to their hostile passing.
I don’t think ATVs should be banned. They just should NOT be on the CDT,
whether that means building new trail or banning them from the CDT. I can
get noisy engines and smelly exhuast almost any other place in this
country. Why the CDT too?
Had the second day of mid-day snow/hail/sleet/rain.
I got a bit misplaced today after Mirror Lake (CO25). I think things have
changed on the ground, or I was just stupid. I did find and eat one ripe
strawberry though.
Bunnies are outside my tent.

06/27/06-Damp

Sunday, July 9th, 2006

The thunder/rain/snow continued off and on during the afternoon. It
mostly came down when I decided to take a break.
I noticed some hikers behind me. A little later, I noticed that they were
fast hikers.
Before too long, I was hiking with GI Jane and Chuckwagon: Team Doodah.
(Cy’s taking a toe nail break.)
We are camped where there are two cabins, although no one is sleeping in
the cabins. We did have dinner inside one with the wood-burning stove
keeping us a little warmer and a lot smokier.

06/27/06-A Bike for My Hike & Kim Chee for the CDT

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

I rented a bike yesterday to get around Salida. My hotel was on the
highway and most things of interest to me were downtown. It worked well.
Back at the hotel, one of the workers offered me some home-made kim chee,
which was incredibly good.
I ran into Jim & Ginny yesterday, and they are now ahead of me on the trail.
I had about an hour hitch to get back to Monarch Pass. I arrived to
thunder and slush falling from the sky. The mix of rain, hail, and sleet
continues as I sit in the snack area of the Monarch Pass building.