We’ve spent the last nine days with friends and family. This respite gave us time to rest and energize, see people we love, and get organized for the next section of trail.
The one common destination/factor for our three recent summer-long adventures (TransAm, Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, and the CDT), are our friends and trail angels April and Jeff, in Frisco, CO. They fed us, hosted us, and even threw in a full body massage on one trip. Many thanks to them both. ❤️
I flew back to Kansas on June 18 to celebrate my sister Cathy’s 60th birthday while John spent time in Frisco with his sister Barb. While in Lawrence, I got to spend some quality time with my sisters Karen and Cindy, plus see all my siblings and much of my extended family. Love = Positive Energy. Upon my return on June 21 to Frisco, I spent a glorious day with Barb and John, hanging out and cruising downtown.
For our grand finale to our vacation, the ice cream on our pie, was a visit to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park with my sister Cindy, nephews Ryan and Jeff, and niece Jen. Estes and RMNP have strong sentimental ties with our family and is my happy place. We hiked the Bear Lake trails, took a fly fishing lesson, soaked in the Sulphur Hot Springs, and ate some wonderful food. Good times.
Backpacking tomorrow! We had planned to continue in the CDT but rainy weather is bringing more snow (irk) to the mountain tops so we are hiking the Great Divide Mountain Bike trail to Steamboat Springs. We WILL return to the CDT red line soon, I promise. Just not yet.
Looking forward to celebrating the Fourth of July in Steamboat Springs!
Three stories of emergency rescue this past week, all in the higher elevations of the San Juan mountains. In the first story, a woman was avoiding a certain notorious glissade (downhill slippery slide made of snow) by walking around it. Unfortunately a boulder came loose from the mountain side above her and crashed into her leg, breaking it.
Bad news for her but somewhat good timing for the unconscious hiker that came hurtling down the glissade (I believe she called him “a human log”). This hiker had slipped, hit his head, and slid down the glissade. The woman with the broken leg had to wait for the helicopter to return after taking the unconscious dude to the hospital. (Both were later treated and released at the emergency room).
The other emergency rescue wasn’t actually a rescue. In an effort to avoid what they considered dangerous snow conditions, a couple found themselves outside of their comfort zone and called for help. But instead of being helicoptered out, the emergency rescue team helped the hikers reach a safe spot and left them with some advice about backpacking in higher elevation snow conditions.
Could be that all of these hikers have experience and knowledge for hiking in alpine snow. Accidents happen. John and I, on the other hand, are not experienced or educated about alpine mountaineering. So when faced with snow at higher elevations, we choose to hike lower elevation routes that involve lots of roadwalking.
For us, the past eight days included a mix of hiking on the Colorado Trail and self-designed routes along local roads. I don’t mind roadwalking so much, John is NOT a fan. Sometimes we have differing opinions about which type of route to take.
For example: the section of the Colorado Trail past Mount Princeton Hot Springs has two options. One option is to roadwalk a pretty flat 12 miles to Buena Vista. The other option is to follow the Colorado Trail for 30 miles with 6,000 feet elevation gain, then hike back down to the valley to avoid a snowy section. Two very different routes to reach pretty much the same place. Well, what to do?
We hiked the longer route, mostly because John wanted to and I felt like a flake preferring to roadwalk. Yes, the route was longer and more difficult. But it was also prettier, with cooler temps and better photo opportunities, more solitude, and came with a feeling of accomplishment when finished.
Some good news. The snow is almost all gone due to the high temperatures in Colorado during the last week. And since we are going off-trail for the next nine days to spend time with family, we will return to a snow-free Continental Divide Trail. We can safely return to the CDT red line, the main trail. The place of adventure, impressive photography, memorable moments, and exceptional stories.
The first two days outside of South Fork, CO, consisted of low elevation, high mileage days (22-24 miles a day). We experienced rolling hills, streams, and good weather. As we reached the end of the mapped blue and green alternates, we made our way up to the red line. And this is where it gets interesting...
Sunday, June 6. 11 miles. Ten and a half hours hiking.
Woke up super excited! We would be reconnecting with the red line today after hiking alternates. Early this morning we hiked up Middle Creek Trail, 5.5 miles, with 1700 feet elevation gain.
We reunited with the CDT red line at mile 1043 and celebrated with a view, Triscuit crackers, and Laughing Cow cheese. We made it back to the big league at 10,700 feet elevation. Perhaps we might even use these ice axes and micro spikes we’ve been lugging around.
Reality rudely interrupted my alpine daydream when we passed through the Gate to Snow Hell at mile 1046.4, along the north side of the mountain range. The sky over the valley was dark, filled with storm clouds. Thunder could be heard in the distance. Deep snow drifts amongst the trees, as far as we could see.
We wasted time and energy trying to hike around the snow. Finally determined we had to go through it. The only other footprints on the snow were a pair of snowshoes that never broke the surface. As it was the middle of the afternoon, the snow was wet and mushy with a likelihood of postholing with both feet, getting buried up to our bellybuttons or higher.
So we did the logical thing. We crawled across the snow on our hands and knees. And sometimes we slid down the snow, glissading. Other times we scooted across the snow on our butts. We got super wet and cold. Definitely living in the moment with a keen concentration on getting through this.
We climbed an additional 1400 feet on the red line, making it 3100 feet elevation gain for the day. After hiking a grand total of 4.5 miles in 5 hours on the red line, we bailed on the Silver Creek Trail, catching a snowmobile path down to the highway, where we walked to Poncha Springs.
Feelings about the day: Alive. Engaged. Worried. Culpable. Proud. And at the end of the day, Relieved.
We’re in South Fork, CO, celebrating my 58th birthday and resupplying. Our plans have changed a bit since we heard about more snow on the “red line”— the “official” CDT route. Currently we’re on the blue route but tomorrow we’re hitching a ride to Del Norte to hike the green route. Confused yet? Basically, we’re going even lower in altitude to skip snow.
The last four days have been a blast. Lots of nice surprises along the trail—an inexpensive National Forest campground with running water, picnic tables, and toilet; sunny mornings; small towns with cafes and restaurants; beautiful Colorado scenery; and climbs to 11,600 feet with snow.
My journal entry for this week is from Monday, May 31
Hiked for a little less than 8 hours, an easy road walk, a bit of uphill. Just as we’d hoped, we made it to the Gold Pan Cabins in Platoro, CO, just as it started to rain. We’re paying $30 each to stay in a large cabin, could have some roommates before the evening is over. We’re so grateful to be snuggly in a cabin while it’s thunderstorms outside.
Even though the dining room is closed on Mondays, the owners (Michael and Debbie) cooked a chicken dinner for the CDT hikers. There was no electricity due to a transformer malfunction, luckily the kitchen had a gas stove. Dinner conversation was about the weather (will it rain/snow tomorrow?) and concern for the hikers on the red line. Michael told us that 40-50 bailed off the red line last week, seeking refuge from the snow.
Postscript: A Great Divide cyclist joined us in our cabin. He got caught in the rain and was cold and soaked, Jeff from Denver. Great to talk bikes! Electricity resumed about 4am, just in time to bake biscuits, make coffee, and make an early start. Good times.