August 21: 19.1 mi (1539.4 – 1558.5)
Miraculously we got a hitch outta Steamboat Springs right in front of the Rabbit Ears Motel, where we stayed.
Kris was a local, and avid hiker, an all around outdoors woman. She thought road/hwy walks were dangerous and was happy to take us to Muddy Pass, where we would rejoin the CDT at Hwy 14… and, ironically, road walk the 9 miles to County road 53, which is a dirt road.
As we started out, the air was crisp and traffic was practically non-existent. We walked opposite traffic, on the shoulder. Most cars would steer wide of us, smile and wave, obviously familiar with CDT hiking season. At mile 6 we stopped and talked with two fisherman whose trailer had “smoked” a bearing. They offered us a beer. We graciously accepted, at 9 am. With less than one mile before we were off the CDT highway walk, we nearly got sideswiped by some impatient jackhole with California plates who thought it was a great idea to pass three cars, while going uphill. He came so far into the oncoming traffic lane that he missed us at the fog line by a foot. I nearly turned into him as I turned to see where this odd sound was coming from. This incident furthered our resolve to avoid paved road walks, in the future, at all costs. One would think that if 9miles of the CDT has to be along Hwy 14, the CDT coalition, or at least the Colorado highway division would post a warning sign to alert drivers to CDT hikers.
Once off the 14, we turned onto County rd 53, and breathed a sigh of relief. We parked ourselves, and lunched at a newly erected CDT interpretive panel (SOBO mile 1548.6), sans the panel information.
The dirt road/CDT weaved it’s way over rolling hills and thickets of Aspen and pine. A ferocious, but “quick” storm rolled in that had us diving for cover amongst the trees as thunder roared above us. Once in the trees, the spigot turned on full blast. We quickly dug out our rain jackets that had been securely stuffed at the bottom of our packs. A flash of lightning directly in front of us, and an immediate crack of thunder had us more than a little concerned. 20 minutes later, and still fairly dry, we emerged from our cover and continued down the trail.
Eventually the trail entered Arapahoe National Forest and began it’s gradual ascent as it wove through groves of Aspen whose leaves chattered in the wind. We completed the day at our intended stopping point, just short of a 20 mile day. Luckily, Jim, who is a regular camper/hunter in the area came upon us on his side by side, and gave us water, after informing us that the supposed water source where we intended to camp and get water was dry. He gave us some good information about the area, and additional reliable water sources.
Shortly after setting up camp, who should appear, but Thomas. He too thought water would be available at this site. We informed him of his water choices, to either go back 2miles, or go forward 3. He chose to continue forward. We told him that we’d see him for breakfast. He smiled and laughed, and continued on his way.
8/22: 18.4 mi (1558.5 – 1576.8)
When we got to the spring to collect our water and have breakfast, Thomas was just packing up. Seems that he lost his charge cord for his iPhone along the way. Sadly we were of no help to him as we are Android people. He was in a quandary as to whether to walk back to hwy 14 and hitch to a town and buy a cord, or continue on to where the CDT crossed hwy 123 and hitch to town then. His phone was completely dead. He looked at our maps on Paul’s phone and took a mental note of where the trail goes…forward. He told us that he’d sit awhile and decide what to do, as we continued on.
In a few places along the way, we made sure to leave arrows to mark the way, in the event he decided to move forward. Along the way I discovered more ripe and wild strawberries, enough to treat myself to a handful. Paul couldn’t be bothered. Everytime we stopped for a short break, I also picked the grouse berries whose short bushes practically covered every inch of the ground. When we stopped for lunch and water, Thomas reappeared. He told us he would continue on and duck out at hwy 123 for his phone cord.
Most of the day was spent climbing to 11530ft in chilling winds that blew like they were from Wyoming!
Once past Troublesome Pass we found a decent campsite and 4G cell reception. We called our kids.
Water for the last two days has been a deciding issue as to where to end up, mainly so we are set up for the next day’s lengthy carry…usually uphill. Tomorrow would be paramount to be watered up. A 2,200 ft climb to over 12,000 ft was on the menu with no water for the next 10 miles. This should be fun.