Up early, after another gloriously comfortable night’s sleep, we were fed fresh waffles, fruit and bacon, along with a near bottomless cup of coffee. Clifford dropped us off at the Copper Mtn Ski area, and we found ourselves winding our way up the runs, we had skied on several months prior.
It was a mellow day of easy ascent, with big blue skies that at times threatened rain, but never amounted to anything. Being rain averse we did take our rain jackets on and off…several times. Along the way, we talked with quite a few weekend day hikers and bikers who were curious about the CDT.
At the top of a pass, exiting the ski area, the trail opened up to rolling hills of wide open meadows, complete with herds of curious sheep.
Up an over another pass, we dropped down into the remains of Camp Hale (a WWII, 10th Mountain Infantry Division, mountain warfare training area, and German POW camp).
After exploration of the remaining concrete structure sporting 1ft thick walls, we set up camp.
9/5: 19.2 mi (1791.5 – 1810.7)
Holy Crap did it get cold! We awoke to the underside of our tent’s fly fully coated in ice crystals.
The hand grips of my trekking poles were coated as well. This is what you get when you camp in a valley next to a running creek, after a storm.
It took a minimum of 5 miles for us to warm up and find a bit if sun, in which to breakfast “comfortably”.
For the most part, the first 10 miles of the day were really cruzy. Upon reaching Tennessee Pass, we found a lone trekking pole, with a nearly devoured handle leaning against an interpretive sign. Its lower half conveniently fit my damaged pole. We decided that this was perfect “trail magic”, and Wa-La, a fully functioning pole now.
The 10th Mountain Division, during WWII, used this Tennessee Pass area for it’s Winter training. (Not sure if they still do). Near the Pass are also cool Continental Divide log cabins that you can rent, complete with awesome privies.
Once through the pass, and towards the 2nd half of our day, the trail devolved into typical CDT tread. Not sure what happened to the grooming that has so far been consistent along the “shared” portion of the CDT with the Colorado Trail (CT). The climbs and especially descents were rocky and tedious. We were completely wiped out by the end of the day. We had planned to be to our intended destination by 5:30, but it took till 7pm to get there.
Could it be because we lost track of the trail and had to bushwhack well over a mile through a maze of downfalls?
I hate to admit it, but this trail is starting to NOT be fun. I can’t keep this up without a break. To date, we have only taken 3 Zeros, everything else has been a Nero. My feet are planning a mutiny!
9/6: 15 mi (1810.7 – 1825.7)
Today was just a slog. The trail was not even difficult. My heart, brain and body had totally “checked out”. I was on survival autopilot until we came across Marvin.
Marvin (sorry I didn’t get a picture) was an eighty-seven year old man from Leadville. He was hiking with his dog. He moved at an incredibly slow pace, but emitted joy and serenity. He said that his “happy place” is in the mountains. He lamented the fact that he can’t backpack anymore, and expressed how fortunate we were to be doing what we’re doing. He even wished he had done more when he was younger, and more importantly, able. For now, he spends every summer day hiking in the mountains. He was a remarkable man, with remarkable stories. His smile is forever embedded in my brain. I think he was sent to squash my feet’s impending mutiny, and shut down my growing internal “pity party”. Well timed, and we’ll played Martin. You are magic!
With a newfound zeal, we hiked on. As the sun was starting to set, we found a wonderfully flat site, on a hill, just above our water source. This set us up perfectly for Twin Lakes, and our resupply.
The patter of rain against our tent fly was nearly a constant all night, and stopped just after we finished a leisurely breakfast that consisted of our last Jumbo Honeybun and Via coffee. We were in no hurry, and actually got to sleep in for a change. Clifford would be meeting us at the Gold Hill Trailhead around 11:30.
For the first time in a long time, we strolled along the trail. No push for miles. No push for time. No push because of weather. We were carefree and stress free. Of course finding out that the CT and CDT share the “Blair Witch Trail” was a little disconcerting.
We descended a meandering switchback that overlooked Breckenridge. Filed past the Tiger Run RV park and threaded our way under a bridge to the Gold Hill Trailhead.
When we got to the trailhead we had ample time to dry out our tent/fly and sleeping bags. People arriving at the trailhead to begin day and Colorado Trail (CT) section hikes looked at us quizically. Two CT section hikers dropping off a car stopped and chatted with us for quite some time.
By the time Clifford arrived, our “yard sale” chores were done. We had been looking forward to Breckenridge and meeting up with Clifford ever since he sent me a text (August 26th) to let him know when we were approaching Breckenridge.
Clifford took us to his home and laid out a spread of fresh food, which we devoured. As he had some work to do, he let us use his truck to do our “town chores”, that included REI for new shoes and Walmart for resupply food, and the post office. After completing our laundry and taking a glorious shower, we headed out for dinner at Clifford’s favorite Mexican restaurant in Breckenridge, Mi Casa. This was perfect, as we were “jonesing” for good Mexican food. The food and company, did not disappoint.
9/3: 15 mi (1759.6 – 1774.6)
Because we could, and because Clifford had always wanted to hike this section (Breckenridge ski area to Copper Mtn resort), we slack packed, or rather fast packed this section (to avoid the gathering storm) in record time (6 hours).
We did, however, get hailed on in the beginning and poured on toward the end, but avoided being at the top when the thunder rolled through.
It was great having Clifford with us. It was like have a tour guide for the entire hike, pointing out significant ski runs, adjacent mountains and enlightening us on the history, and the plethora of recreational opportunities in the Breckenridge area.
Once back to the house, a few more “chores” (REI had given me the wrong size shoes…I failed to check before leaving the store the day previous), a hot shower and another night out for dinner. Just prior to leaving for dinner, as we came down in our clean hiking “uniform”, Clifford asked if we had any pants. We looked down at our shorts, and replied “This is all the clothes we have. We can put on our rain pants”. Clifford, who is an engineer and an avid outdoorsman, cocked his head (I pictured wheels turning inside his brain), and replied, “Of course you wouldn’t carry pants. No worries. I’ve got the perfect place for us to go.” Once again, our dinner, the company and beverages did not disappoint. I do believe that Clifford (once he retires) is a perfect candidate for a thru-hike.
We are known to walk more than a mile to get good coffee, and this morning was no exception. Moon Frog Coffee Shop was well worth the two mile r/t trek.
Happily caffeinated, we got a hitch back to Berthoud Pass (11298 ft). Today we would begin a week with a series of climbs and traverses that would be difficult to forget. One could even describe it as traumatizing…but we survived. We did things that I never thought I could/would ever do, and with all seriousness, would not do it again. Had we really known what was coming up, I dare say we may have skipped this section.
From Berthoud Pass we made our first climb to Stanley Mtn (12,499 ft), followed by another peak, only referred to as “Summit” (12,648 ft.)
From there we worked our way around toward Hassell Peak (13,208 ft), but not before encountering what could only be described as burgeoning rave party, complete with a techno DJ!
From Hassell Peak, we ridge walked to and over Vasquez Peak (12,947 ft). The wind was howling and non-stop, until we began our descent that seemed to take forever. The most interesting part of summiting Vasquez Peak, is the fact that some “crazy” on a mountain bike rode our same route over the scree and between the jagged rocks that lined the narrow and sometimes treacherous trail.
Our campsite found us completely out of the wind. Tomorrow we climb Gray’s Peak. A fourteener.
8/30: 17.9 mi (1701.9 – 1720.8)
Up early…again, we made our way down to the highway. The trail was busy with day hikers and a high school cross country team.
Once we got down to Herman Gulch parking lot we made our way under the hwy. Thinking we were smarter than the trail, we attempted a “short cut” in hopes of cutting off a half mile. This meant a slight bushwhack and a stream crossing. Everything went as planned until the last two steps of the stream crossing. This resulted in double-footed soakers.
Determined to walk our feet dry, we returned to the trail that ran down the length of a paved bike trail whose edges were lined with wild raspberries, and flowing springs.
The bike path ended at the base of the dirt road approach to Gray’s Peak.
As it was now nearly noon, we had three options to get to the base of Gray’s Peak, 3miles away up a dusty, steep, rock strewn dirt road. As there was a serious storm approaching within two days, our window of opportunity was getting smaller by the hour.
Start walking up the hill during the heat of the day
Set up camp and try and hitch to the base at 3am with a prospective “summiteer”.
Hitch up the road, and based on what time we get up to the parking lot, determine when to start our climb of Gray’s.
I sat alongside the road, in the dirt while Paul went to fetch water from the nearby river. Just as he returned a Honda CR-V pulled up toward the road. I casually raised my thumb and smiled. The car passed me, then stopped. “Where are you trying to get to? The campground?”, the elderly couple asked. Ideally to the parking lot at Gray’s we told them. “We have a cabin right next to the parking lot. We’ll give you a ride”. How lucky was that?!
The 3 mile ride up the tattered road was fraught with erosion, but our driver was familiar with the twists and turns of the road and was unfazed. She nimbly weaved her Honda CR-V up the road as she told us the history of the area. It was once a gold mining community, whose plots were sold off to those who are seeking solitude in the mountains.
Since we arrived at the base of Gray’s at 1 pm, we decided that since it was only 3,000 ft climb over 3.6 miles to summit, we decided we had plenty of time. By 4 pm, after stopping and talking with numerous people, who wondered what the hell we were doing (climbing in the afternoon, and carrying more than a day pack) we reached Gray’s Peak (14278 ft.) by 4pm.
Along the way we were greeted by a mountain goat “sentry”, who meandered off the trail so we could summit.
Plenty of daylight left and not a breath of wind, the trail continued from Gray’s and across to Edward’s Peak (13856 ft). It took us 2.5 hrs to go 1.5 miles to make our way to the peak. No one told us about Edward’s, even though we had read comments about Edward’s on our Guthook app. Something about it being “dangerous” had us confused, as it was lower than Gray’s, and was on/along the redline of the CDT.
The traverse to Edward’s was for lack of a better description, “Fucking Scary Balls”, absolutely terrifying! Three times scarier than when we did Mt. Whitney in 2016. I’d rather of slathered myself in honey and walked through The Bob naked. The descent was even more treacherous. The “trail” was lined with loose rocks and sharp scree. And to think miners led mule trains along this route, as evidenced by what was left of a narrow road and delapitated mining sites.
Having been drained physically and emotionally, left us walking into the dark before we found a suitable place to camp.
8/31: 11.1 mi (1720.8 – 1731.4)
So last night was “fun”. I suffered from searing leg cramps ALL night. When I woke up the next morning, I felt like I had been dragged behind a horse. My knees and feet were sore. They were shot from the day before. It was hard to get going. My morale and energy was at an all time low.
This was not helpful as we had several 2,000 ft climbs…and an early morning stream crossing.
At mile 1725.6, we had a dangerous climb and traverse up the face of an old mining area.
In order to get to the ridgeline we were to walk at 13,000 ft. for most of the day, we had to climb the “remains” of a miner’s “ladder/stairs” to get to a faint trail, and then carefully traversed the hillside made of scree (loose rocks) and spotty vegetation. When we made it to the start of the Ridgeline walk, we took a well deserved break and surveyed what lay behind us.
Today’s trail would lead us (via carin to carin) up and over the following peaks:
Santa Fe Peak (13,140 ft.)
Sullivan Mountain (13,096 ft.)
Geneva Peak (13,245 ft.)
Summit (13200 ft.)
Feeling pretty drained and low on water, we dropped down into a valley for water and to set up camp. This would leave us with ruffly 27 miles into Breckenridge.
9/1: 27 mi (1731.4 – 1755.9)
Rather than backtrack, we found a route up a mining road that would lead us back to the “redline”.
An old miners cabin and scars in the hillside, as we climbed reminded us of how rugged and hearty the people of that era were…compared to us.
Atop a mesa we breakfasted. It was here that one of my trekking poles decided it had had enough and was going no further. The end section had broken cleanly in half. Better to find out then rather than on a sketchy descent.
Miraculously we made crazy mileage. Getting to Breckenridge before a nasty storm set to “land” the following day was our motivation. The fact that the CDT finally connected to the Colorado Trail (CT) helped as well. It was, as Paul said, “like walking on Berber carpet”. Our goal was to get as close to the Gold Hill Trailhead as possible. A family friend. Clifford, would pick us up and take us to his condo in Breckenridge for two days of r&r.
3.4 miles from the trailhead we set up camp, just as it started to pour.
Three climbs were on the menu for the day. All in all it was a beautiful hike for the day.
Mountain ridges, meadows, springs leaking water all over the ground from the most amazing places.
Best of all scraggly downfalls that required some acrobatics, of which we are becoming quite adept at these days.
Our final pass opened up to a more than picturesque valley below, and eventually led us to the edges of Rocky Mountain National Park, and our first moose encounter.
A cow moose was feeding along the trail, and couldn’t be bothered with getting off trail for us to continue.
She looked at us like, “And you actually expect me to move for you. Have you noticed our size difference?” We were patient and enamored with her, and she finally walked off the trail just below us and continued to much on green growy stuff.
We had decided that once we reach the parking lot at Rocky Mountain NP, that we would try and yogi a ride to Grand Lake, rather than walk the busy highway…during tourist season. We scored a ride the moment we stuck our thumb out. A couple with a toddler picked us up. They were on there way to Grand Lake. They immediately apologized for their child, who had been crying non-stop. We told them we have been there with cranky kids, so it wouldn’t bother us. Ironically, the moment we got into their car, their child stopped crying and began to smile. Did we want to ride with them to Durango, they asked with a chuckle. I happily entertained the cutie, who apparently was enamored by my dirt streaked face, as we drove to Grand Lake.
They dropped us at the post office, per our request. Only problem, it was closed. Figures. The thing about Grand Lake is that the CDT runs the length of the town’s main street. Onward we trekked through town, whose wooden boardwalk “sidewalks” have the CDT emblem embossed on boards periodically. Shops lined the boardwalk with stuff we couldn’t buy, nor carry. We were now in search of adult beverages. We asked a couple who smiled and nodded at us, if they knew a place we could get a cold beer. “End of town. It’s happy hour. Two for one prices”, they responded. Perfect!
As we walked, we also noted the location of “grocery stores”, the outfitters, and lodging. Four beers later, we had lodging, back at the other end of town. The laundry and grocery store were right next door, and our hotel had an 11 am check out. Time enough to get to the post office and then purchase the rest of our resupply.
8/25: 13.8 mi (Grand Lake – 1646)
We have noticed a trend in the small “touristy” towns we come in to. The things we crave the most when we get into town, good coffee and an equally good breakfast place are mostly closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. Since we seem to be arriving in towns on either Tuesday or Wednesday, we have been deprived of both. There was, however, an open coffee shop, back at the far (opposite) end of town. With a fully loaded (resupply) we trudged , once again to the opposite end of town. It was worth the walk. Here we met up with “Sprout”, who had previously joined us momentarily on top of the Parkview Lookout. We talked for a moment, as she was going to charge her electronics at the library. We however, were going to hike on.
Today would be a milestone day, of sorts.
We would walk along the headwaters of the Colorado River
We would reach 1000 miles walked so far this year on the CDT
We would complete 1600 miles in total, on the CDT.
And are now well over halfway. Closer to Mexico than Canada. No turning back now.
More than halfway into our day, we decided to take a swim in the Colorado River. It was hot, and the water beckoned. We sunned ourselves on the sandy bank of the river, as boaters passed by, somewhat perplexed as to how we came to be on the bank of the river…without a boat. Eventually, it was time to continue on. Our plan was a “Nero” walk day, and there was a campground not far from where we were.
When we got to the campground, we walked by an occupied campsite and asked if there was a camp host, and/or if there was a fee to camp there. There was a fee, but we weren’t inclined to pay such a hefty price for a piece of dirt and a picnic table. And with that, we decided to continue on.
But, not before being offered brats, a bag of Dots (best pretzels EVER!), fire grilled ear of corn, beer and water. Fully satisfied, we toddled further down the dirt road, that was now the trail. At the next campground (Big Rock), we found the camphost, who gave us half a bottle of whiskey and the site next to her for $11. Such a deal! Best Nero ever!
8/26: 21.7 mi (1646 – 1667.7)
Today we would climb to over 12,000 ft again after passing by Monarch Lake. The previous year this particular section had been ravaged by a micro wind storm that toppled thousands of trees. The work the trail crews did was monumental.
Climb. Climb. Climb. It was steady ALL day. Not hard, but enough to make you sweat and take a breather from time to time.
Halfway into our climb, while stopped for lunch, Sprout caught up to us. We would walk with her the rest of the day. Just out of college, and having completed the Colorado trail last summer, she was on her first “long” thru-hike, as she described it. Solo, I might add. Although she said she didn’t like people, she was glad have someone to talk to, as she was tired of talking to herself.
At some point during our climbing, we had to decide on whether to camp at mile 1661.5, and save the pass for the morning, or commit to going all the way to the road. At the time, the next water available would be 6.5 more miles, and we had several hours of daylight left. We felt pretty confident we could make the 6.5 miles before dark, and continued on.
Boy did we pay for that decision. While we were rewarded with amazing views, we were, under bright blue skies, blasted by a cold, gusting wind, the entire time.
These were hard miles, with no “opt-out” place to camp, and absolutely NO cover from what appeared to be a quickly approaching storm. This took us by surprise, as according to our weather app, this front was not on the “radar”.
After the ascent of the pass, was a long traverse with stunning and seemingly endless views. With light waining, and after a tedious, rock strewn descent, we made it to the road where a railroad used to be. Water from freshly flowing springs cut rivlets of water in the road, but still no flat or decent place to camp. After another mile or so, we spied Sprout who had secured a descent spot to camp, with room for us as well. Quickly we set up our tent. Severe weather was approaching. Giant bolts of lightning accented the night’s sky on the horizon. We could hear it’s corresponding thunder. When it got to “three one-thousand” it was time to hide in our tent and hope for the best. No doubt, it was going to be a cold and wet night. Snow was not out of the question.
8/27: 12 mi (1667.7 – 1679.7)
Today was a poor mileage day, and hard as hell. It was in fact, almost a game ender day.
Because of the cold, we “slept in” till 6:30am. It had rained most of the night, and lightning had lit up the inside of our tent, like a four year old playing with a light switch for equally as long. We awoke, not well rested to a thin layer of ice coating the inside of our rain fly. Sprout had nearly froze to death. We discussed the value of an air mattress AND a warmer sleeping bag. Sprout was now convinced to borrow the zero degree bag her boyfriend’s mother had offered.
Today was to be the beginning of numerous 13,000 ft ascents/travereses over the next couple hundred miles. First on the menu was Big James Peak at 13309 ft. We would climb from 11400 ft, a nearly 2,000 ft difference…again.
We walked by a delapitated train trestle, where a family had parked to climb Big James Peak as well. We picked up our pace. We were CDT thru-hikers, no way were”day hikers” gonna pass us. Besides, we had to walk ourselves warm. The wind was biting cold.
Just before the middle leg of the ascent (day hikers were way behind us by now) we stopped at/in an rockwall depression that offered some measure of wind block, and made a hot cup of coffee. Sprout caught up to us, amazed at what we were doing. We offered her a cup. She did not hesitate, and joined us.
Once “warmed up”, the wind buffeted climb truly began. Of all the weather types, I can say that I truly, and without question, hate the wind… especially a when it knocks me off my feet. Gusts of 30-50 mph were the norm.
Once we crested Big James Peak, we could see that we weren’t the only ones, a top this peak. Most had come up from our intended descent route, that is the “redline” of the CDT.
The descent is when it got dicey for me. The gusts were blowing across the trail as we made our way down the switchbacks. A hefty gust caught me in mid step, and in an instant I was falling face first into a jagged pile of rocks. Time slowed, and there was no way to arrest my fall. Impact was imminent. My brain concluded that the left side of my face would hit first, with the pointy end of a large rock pushing through the orbit of my eye. This would be an SOS helicopter required kind of injury. “Shit”, was all I could think. “Fuck”, is what I said. Paul and Sprout were 30 yds ahead of me. Paul heard my utterance, and the impact, over the wind. I lay there motionless, doing “inventory”, as he and Sprout made their way back up to me. No one else witnessed the fall. Somehow I was able to see. My face hurt. Was I bleeding?, I asked Paul. Were my sunglasses (now termed “safety glasses”) broken? “No”, was his reply, followed by, “don’t move yet”. He had seen that my sun umbrella that was secured in the side pocket of my pack had been launched forward of me and lie in the rocks below. Obviously it had been a forceful fall. Knees worked. Legs worked. Face was miraculously intact. Gloves were torn and my left wrist however generated a sharp pain. Well, better my wrist than my head, I thought.
But once again, nothing broken. My wrist hurt and was not “useful”(couldn’t hold my trekking pole), for about two days, but definitely not broken.
Because I was so shaken from my fall, and I still wasn’t really sure about the extent of my wrist injury, we held up on making the second of the two 13,000ft summits (Flora Mtn. 13,123 ft).
This had us camping at its base (11,316 ft) near Bill Moore lake. Sprouts continued on, as she was looking for “town food”, and would exit at Berthoud Pass.
8/28: 6 mi (1679.7 – 1685.7)
The wind gusted all night, but we were fairly protected amongst some healthy trees. I awoke to no swelling and significantly more mobility to my wrist. Phew! The climb up to the peak of Flora mountain was fairly simple.
The tread was made up of fairly stable scree and interlocked rocks. As it was a Friday, we were not alone by the time we made it to the top. Our descent took us to a parking lot at Berthoud Pass. The parking lot was nearly full. Our timing was such that we met up with Sprouts, who had just gotten dropped off at the pass…rested and adequately fed. She was going to keep on trekking.
It was an easy hitch into Fraser. We should of however, just been dropped off at the Viking Lodge in Winter Park, as that is where we ended up. Nevertheless, we got dropped at the Fisher’s Bar, whose sign outside reads, “Where the beer is colder than your ex-wife”, as in Guthook people raved about it. The raves were well deserved.
After libations and fresh food our thought was to resupply at the Safeway and then catch the bus back up the road to the Viking Lodge that gives CDT hikers a flat $50 rate for the night. The plan was sound, but it’s execution was flawed, in that we stood at the wrong bus stop location. This meant that we had a 2mile road walk, with our 5 day resupply to the lodge. We tried hitching, but not one car/driver would even make eye contact with us…so we walked. We did however pass an outfitters, that allowed Paul to buy and install new tips to his trekking poles.
Our lodging at the Viking Lodge was fabulous. We will definitely be back…during ski season.
Of note, we enjoyed an evening of outdoor blue grass music and a beer just outside the Trout Brewing Company, next to our lodge.
Holy shit was that an eye opener. I don’t know how this slipped by us, but it did. It was so significant for us that I devoted a single blog post for this day’s climb.
I remember seeing video and photos of the the Parkview Lookout, but I never thought it would be this early in Colorado on our CDT SOBO trek.
Up until this point our lungs have NOT caught up with our legs. It takes some time to expand these sea level lungs. No time like the present!
We camped 6.2 miles from the summit to Parkview Lookout. A two mile trek to the last available watering hole, we had breakfast and drank a liter and a half. We were climbing to 12296 ft. And the next water was now 11 miles.
No worries we thought as it was still early, and the morning was quite cool. We would carry a liter and a half. How hard could the climb be? We were already at a little over 10,000 ft. 2,200 ft over four miles, shouldn’t be that hard? Oh how wrong we were.
The initial climb was “pleasant”, and had mild switchbacks. We were pacing ourselves appropriately, because the wind was starting to gust and we didn’t want to get too sweaty…and wet out our jackets. At some point we decided to stow our jackets. The sun had emerged so we thought it would continue to warm. Silly beach dwellers!
Our only reference to where we were was our Guthook app and intermittent carins, that mostly blended into the hillside. My greatest concern about reaching over 12,000 ft was how I would handle the altitude. I have altitude issues and was a little concerned my head would “explode”.
When Paul announced that we had reached 12,000 ft I was ecstatic. Only problem was, we hadn’t. For some reason the orientation on his app had us going the other way. We had another 1000 ft to climb!
The wind howled mercilessly. It was biting cold. Behind us, the clouds on the horizon, were grey and menacing. They were blowing in our direction. Not a good sign.
The further we walked the more the trail, as far as a distinctive tread, became relatively non-existent. It was a hike your own hike kind of vibe. We traveled carin to carin. It was difficult to see more than one carin at a time due to angles and elevation. At one point it began to mist (a non-committal type of rain here), so we put on pack covers and our rain jackets in addition to our other jackets and gloves. Of course we were still in shorts.
We finally got to the base of a rather steep hill. One carin loomed high above us. Surely this must be the top, and our destination we thought. But where was the the trail? Where were the switchbacks? Silly hikers, there is no defined trail, because there are NO switchbacks. This is the CDT. Get your ass up the hill as you please. Up and across the face of this massive hill in the gusting wind, that would buffet every step, ever mindful that we did NOT want to be caught at the top, if the storminess behind us decided to visit…fully. Halfway up to that carin, we spied another. And halfway up to the next we spied yet another.
One more carin and we spied a square structure at what hopefully was the top. Son of a bitch! Totally my fault. Two days prior I had looked across the horizon, wondering where we were headed and asked Paul, “is that a square rock or a building way over there?”. ” Don’t know. Don’t care. I doubt we are going there”, was his reply.
Oh yes, we went there. Paul just marched straight up. I made my own “switchbacks”, forcing myself to take at least 40 steps, then 60 steps, then 100, before taking a break to re-oxygenate my lungs and especially, legs.
Paul made the top first, and was gesturing for me to hurry up. Frankly, I thought he was being an ass. Like I could move any faster, I thought. He was the one who gave me my trail name, OneSpeed. What I didn’t know, was that he was watching the skies in the near distance grow darker behind me. Bolts of lightning flashed from under the black mass in the sky.
When I finally got to the Lookout, I was elated, but not for long. So much for having lunch and admiring the view. A quick snack and equally quick video, it was time to beat feet and get off this mountain.
We practically ran down the trail to treeline. Now I can move when properly motivated, but that doesn’t mean I’m not fully gased, or happy about having to do so. But, it beats being struck by lightning.
Once we reached treeline, we breathed a sigh of relief, as it began to sprinkle. We still had 4 miles till a reliable water source, so no rest for the weary.
With a mile or so to go before water, we crossed a highway. By that time, I didn’t really care about water. I just wanted to stop and take a break…eat some food. We crossed the highway and plopped down in the shade. A blue truck was parked in the large turnout. We suspected that the owner was out for a hike. After an hour or so, it was time to get moving, and just like that, two heavily laden backpackers appeared. They, of course, were preceded by their dog who came over to us and insisted that we pet him. We, happily obliged the dog. One needs a “dog fix” from time to time.
From there, a conversation ensued. The couple had planned on a two day backpacking trip, but decided to turn around when they discovered the creeks they assumed were flowing, weren’t. We talked about water and where we had come from and showed them where the water sources were on our Guthook app, if they wanted to head out again. They were done, but offered to fill our water bottles with the water they had stored in their truck. They even offered us a beer! What a roller coaster of a day, so far. We gladly accepted the water and beer. This made having to walk another 6 or so miles, through a stark burn area, not so bad. This meant we didn’t have to conserve our water, as the cloudy sky was now bright and sunny, without a hint of wind.
We weaved our way through and around a tangle of burnt and trees. It appeared that the fire was so hot that it literally scorched the earth. This made for interesting, and quite sandy tread. Deep troughs lined the trail at times, evidence of the erosive properties of water and gravity.
Within a mile of our intended camp spot we ran into the most unusual and amazing character. His trail name was “Wolf” and he was hiking the CDT…in both directions. He was a career Army Veteran (retired) who loved hiking. In fact before joining the Army, he had hiked the Appalachian Trail (AT) five times, and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) three times. He’s closing in on 30,000 miles of trail hiking. He was now in the process of hiking the CDT North and Southbound, section by section. To do this, he parks his car at one end of a section, hikes the section one-way and then back again to his car. He figures that, next year he will do the CDT, again…in one direction and will become a Triple, Triple Crowner. (To be a Triple Crowner one has to have thru-hiked the AT, PCT and CDT…not in any particular order. There are currently only about 500 people who hold the title of Triple Crowner, but the number is growing.) From what we know of, there are double Triple Crowners, but no Triple Triple Crowners. And we thought we were crazy. Hiking the CDT once will be more than enough for us, but THREE times?! What an amazing feat, and what dogged drive and discipline. One of the happiest guys we’ve met on trail so far. A far cry from the NOBO we met just as we entered the burn area, who told us, “I can’t fucking wait to get out of Colorado”. He did Colorado ONCE. “Wolf” is doing both ways, at the same time, and is happy about it. “Wolf” was also a wealth of information about what we had to look forward to. His attention to detail was remarkable. If anything, he was truly in his element. When we get annoyed or dismayed about the CDT, we’ll just think of “Wolf”, and then stop our whining. March the hell on, and enjoy it damnit! Not everyone gets to do these things…even once.
We parted ways and headed in opposite directions to camp, as the light was waining and cooler air was settling into the narrow river canyon the trail traveled through.
In all, it was quite the roller coaster of a day from the emotions we felt, to the people we encountered and the literal trail we tread. All that in span of just over 16 miles and less than 12 hours (or so).
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.
8/18: 20.9 mi (1463.9 – 1482.8 + 2mi fire alternate)
We awoke to an awesome sunrise, and then it was downhill…very downhill, to coffee. Steep and rocky with no switchbacks, made for tedious foot work to keep from descending out of control.
Today was the day we would finish our third state of the CDT, Wyoming. Today we cross into Colorado. Breakfast in Wyoming and lunch in Colorado. Pretty cool we thought. There’s something special and invigorating about walking from one state to another.
Even better is coming upon impromptu trail magic. Just as we exited the single track trail, we came upon Mark, who, with his red truck and mountain bike, had “escaped” California, and the smoke from it’s fires.
He was on a lengthy camping/cycling/fishing trip. We talked at length about his, and our travels. He shared fresh fruit, and much needed water with us. He told us about the devastation the fires had near his home. It was when his cousin, around his age, who had completed a portion of the PCT died recently, that he realized life was short and he’d always wanted to do a “drive about” and see other states. We agreed that life is short and that’s why we take on the adventures we do.
Eventually it was time to get moving and make our way down the wide forest road, that was shared with massive logging trucks. Needless to say we have them wide berth when we heard them coming.
Forest road led to single track forest trail, and finally to our much anticipated Wyoming/Colorado border. No fan fare. No one to greet us, except maybe a curious doe, who wanted us to share our lunch with her.
Our foray and excitement into Colorado was somewhat thwarted, as at mile 1482.8 we had to begin an alternate path to skirt a fire closure. This entailed taking two forest roads to Hwy 129, and into Steamboat Springs.
Colorado also “welcomed” us with our first real rain of the hiking season. We donned our rain jackets and hoisted our umbrellas, but the rain became so intense that we had to duck under a stand of trees for nearly an hour, before venturing back on trail.
Because we were on a temporary alternate, we had no water information. We did however discover a spring nearly a mile into the alternate. It was more of a seep, but we were able to improve it, in true “hiker trash” ingenuity, so that collecting water would be infinitely easier.
We knew a storm was brewing, and we were hoping to get into Steamboat Springs before it let loose. In true 2moremiles fashion, we had no such luck.
We had barely set up our tent on an old (unused) spur road off FSR 500 when the skies turned black and the wind began to roar…and then, the deluge began. The rain and wind did it’s best to punch it’s way through my side of our tent’s vestibule. Thunder rumbled for hours as flashes of lightning accented the night…and the interior of our tent.
8/19: FSR 500-550 to Hwy 129
The alarm went off at it’s usual ungodly hour. No audible signs of rain, even though a good portion of my sleeping bag and gear stowed inside was damp. (Paul’s side was nearly dry) I was thankful that I had decided before the deluge began to pull my pack inside the tent and stow it at my feet. Otherwise, everything would have been a sopping muddy mess.
Reluctantly we packed in a hurry and began our march to Hwy 129 via FSR 550. Gray skies threatened as we walked, and then fulfilled upon their “promise”. It rained. The wind blew fiercely. We kept walking, not only to keep ourselves “warm”, but also because we knew it was only going to get worse. We stopped twice. Once to make coffee, in a tired attempt to warm up, and the second time, when we came upon a Forest Service bathroom, that was warm and dry…to put on an additional layer of dry clothing.
Fully drenched and now road walking down Hwy 129 several miles past Columbine, a couple from Salida Colorado, picked us up and gave us a ride in the back of their pick-up truck, we were so pathetic. They took us a few miles down the road to where they were headed out for a hike, and where it was NOT raining.
From there, Katie picked us up and brought us all the way into Steamboat Springs, where we had packages to pick up at the post office.
She recommended Loco Taco Mexican Grill for quality Mexican food (of which we were craving), and The Rabbit Ears Motel. It was centrally located to where we needed to be.
8/19-20 Zero Miles!
We lounged and ate our way through Steamboat Springs and even caught the last weekend of the Steamboat Rodeo for an evening of entertainment. We even went to the Big Agnes outlet store in hopes of finding a bigger version of our tent (Tiger Wall UL2). No three person version available, but we did find out that if we contact BA, they often do trade-in, or trade ups of their products. We send them our TWUL2 and they will evaluate it’s condition, and allow us to apply that to, let’s say a Tiger Wall UL3. Pretty cool!
Resupply completed. Packages forwarded, and some articles sent home, we were ready to get back on trail, and see what Colorado has to offer.
On Friday August 13th we arrived in Rawlins after hitting the REI in Utah to get new long johns (for me), gloves and shoes (for Paul), a new air mattress (for me), as mine had gone flat over a week ago, and a new Katadyn Hiker Pro water filter. Somehow our filter developed a crack and we weren’t confident crazy glue would work… completely. We also stopped at Costco for some resupply food and new trekking poles (for me).
When we rolled into Rawlins, we mailed packages to Steamboat Springs and had a few hours to find a place to store our truck for the next three months. All but one place was available, but it fit our needs and the owner gave us a ride back to our hotel.
8/14 (1373-1406.4: 35 miles) The following morning we set off through the vacant streets of Rawlins, and onto the CDT. Mexico here we come!
We had a decision to make. Continue to road walk the 36 miles on (paved) Hwy 71 till it intersects with the CDT, or walk as far as Bridger Pass road, access a water cache and then follow the “redline”.
We did even better. We road walked for 5miles AND got a hitch from Rawlins’ CDT Ambassador, Jake, to Bridger Pass road. He was in his way to hike Bridger Peak at Battle Pass. We didn’t need to access the cache as Jake provided us with freshly iced Gatorades. This shaved off 10 miles of a brutal road hike on an ever warming asphalt. The day’s temperature was supposed to reach the 90’s, and with the Wyoming wind, we figured our umbrellas may not be useful. However, this particular day, the wind was almost non existent.
We marched on a well used dirt road for 20 miles in the searing heat, taking breaks every 3-4 miles, and getting water where we could.
We watered up at a particularly nasty pond (clearer than the others) who’s water was “rated” as “bitter” (highly alkaline) but “drinkable”, as a last resort before the Muddy Creek spot where we hoped to get water. Luckily we found a spring/pond off trail (not listed on Guthook) and were able to switch out the bitter pond water for a more palatable liquid. We topped off all our water bottles, just in case Muddy Creek was, well muddier than the last notes left on Guthook’s water report for that site.
When we arrived at the creek, we found it less than desirable. This required that we “dry camp”, which means that we did not heat/use any water, but resorted to eating our snacks for dinner. This allowed us to save our last liter of water for the following morning’s trek to a more reliable water source, some 5 miles away.
We were however, treated to one of the most lengthy and spectacular sun sets either of us had ever seen.
We may have used entirely too much of our phone’s storage capturing the brilliance of this sunset. Once the sun and set, the “light show” began. Giant flashes of lightning lit up the sky to our north. As it was so far away, no rumbling of thunder followed. Eventually fatigue overcame our evening’s entertainment on the “CDT TV”, and we drifted off to sleep.
8/15: 22.8 miles (1406.4 – 1429.2)
It appears that as the morning light exposed our tent’s placement, the area’s chief Bull had a problem with it. Luckily we had decided to rise early and pack quickly, in order to get to water…and morning coffee. Had we not not, I’d dare say that the Bull would have done more than just dust up the ground, “moo” , shake his weiner at us and stomp toward us. As I finished packing up, Paul was looking for rocks, to hurl at the Bull, just in case the clanking of the trekking poles didn’t work to ward him off enough, so we could skedaddle without being trampled.
We got away without any further incident, even though the Bull did try and follow after us. As such, we made excellent time to the next water…5 miles away. It was a stream that had been rehabilitated, which was short for they figured out a way to keep the cows from fouling the water. Here we watered up and had breakfast. This might turn into a “thing” – hiking a couple miles in the morning, and then having breakfast. Our next water was some 6 miles further, and was fabled to be a piped spring.
Glory of glories, it was true! It was delicious and icy cold. Here we “cameled up” and drank 2 liters each, as well as filling our water bottles. This section of the Great Basin (Red Basin actually) has very few good and reliable water sources this time of year.
The day’s walk was through wide open spaces and vast stretches of sage brush. We spied a few pronghorn, who saw us and ran…like the wind, as well as a few rust colored mule deer.
Most of the day was overcast, which made for a pleasant trek. The first half of the day was mostly walking a dirt road. The second half of the day morphed into “two-track” (ATV). As we slowly climbed in altitude, trees became available for a shaded lunch stop, and nap.
We concluded our day, camped aside a clear flowing creek, nestled in a narrow valley with short green grass and wandering deer. If we didn’t know any better, one would have thought we were in a county park.
8/16: 20.1 miles (1429.2-1449.3)
Up early to beat the heat, we rolled up camp sans breakfast and were hiking uphill with headlamps before sunrise. In no time our trail intersected with Hwy 71, that now once more became the official CDT.
After a 1.5 mile road walk down the middle of a perfect asphalt road, the CDT made a left onto a dirt road and headed toward the hills, and trees. At the turn off we stopped for breakfast. We had 12 more miles till good/reliable water, that of course involved a 1500 ft climb, but over the 12 miles.
From breakfast we carried two full liters, just to be safe. In all we would be gaining significant elevation (2877 ft), as our intended end point, making it a 20 mile day, would be at 10,620 ft. Tomorrow morning we will crest 11100 ft, our highest on the CDT so far.
8/17: 14.6 mi (1449.3 – 1463.9)
Up early again. This time no coffee. It’s a town day! The idea was to get going, and hopefully have a full breakfast in the town of Encampment and/or Riverside. This did not mean that we didn’t stop some three miles in (1451.5) on an amazing hillside to eat what little breakfast food we had left and sip coffee, and gaze at the hazy ripple of mountains before us, as the sun rose. For us, it’s the best part of the day. The youngsters seem to like sunsets better. I think we’re more drawn to sunrise as it’s a promise of a new day, full of potential.
As usual for the past few mornings, Thomas sauntered by us and smiled as we sipped steaming Via coffee from our plastic cups.
When we got to Battle Pass, Thomas was still trying to get a hitch. Paul got out our sign, “CDT Hikers to Town”, and in no time we had a ride. They dropped us at Riverside, as it had the best Country Store. We did a quick (and expensive) resupply and then wandered over to the Mangy Moose for a beer, while waiting for the restaurant next door to open. No breakfast meal for us…darn.
After fueling up with “fresh” vittles, we wandered over to the Carbon County Visitor’s Center. Here we charged our electronics and met the most interesting man…in the world. “Cowboy Wadsworth”. He is a WWII veteran, who was full of stories, that oddly were very close to home. He was quite familiar with Newport Beach, Mammoth, had surfed Doheny and Trestles. Skied and built the Yoddler in Mammoth. We talked about the 395 and how lush the orchards used to be along that stretch before LA used up all the water. He was full of stories, laughter and vigor. Time passed quickly. He thanked us for stopping in. He even finagled a ride for us back to Battle Pass. When we go to pick up our truck from Rawlins when we finish the trail, we are going to make a point to stop in again. He says he’s there every day.
Once back at Battle Pass, we were treated to an easy trail with wide open green grassy meadows and easy rolling climbs. For awhile we also played the “can we walk out of a brooding storm?”, and “where’s the next carin?”
Eventually we ran out of steam and found a semi flat piece of ground, near water and called it a day…still in Wyoming.
We lucked out and got a hitch out of Anaconda to the Twin Lakes trailhead, from a local trail angel (Free Spirit). As it turns out she had already planned to head up to the Twin Lakes trailhead to hike with a friend. She had just ducked into the Hostel to give Destiny her card to let CDT hikers know she was available for rides. She offered to give us a ride rather than have to walk the highway to the trail head. We seized upon the Godsend opportunity.
Up and early, we cram into Free Spirits car. The highway was an easy drive, but the road up to the Twin Lakes trailhead was more adventurous than I would ever drive my car…and I have 4wd. She said she loves these kind of drives.
Once at the trailhead, we parted ways and literally skipped up the trail. We had two big climbs for the day. Both had to beat a predicted thunder storm.
The trail to Twin Lakes was gorgeous, and opened up at times to “Disney-esque” meadows.
A quick snack break at Twin Lakes and then onto the first big climb. We of course somehow lost the actual trail, and found ourselves on a well worn game trail. This led to a scramble, jungle type bushwhack uphill, through a tangle of trees, in order to rejoin the “redline”.
Up and over the first pass (Twin Lakes), we could now see clouds gathering into menacing shapes and colors. As we made our way down to Storm Lake (appropriately named) the wind picked up and the sun became muted. As we crossed the dam, we spoke with a couple. One of which was a retired backcountry forest ranger, who had actually worked this particular range. We asked her about the pass up ahead and what she would do with the current brewing storm above. She said she would wait it out, as there was no cover after the pass. We took her advice and made our way around the lake to a stand of trees that blocked the fierce wind, and now cold rain. Here we had lunch and took a nap.
It was amazing how quickly and ferociously this storm passed through. In an hour and a half it went from the sun shining brightly, to dark moist skies with a blustery fog sweeping across the lake, to placid calm, and piercing blue skies.
Up and over the Storm Lake pass we climbed to reveal an open bowl of wonderment, and another pass…Goat Flat.
It was stark and treeless, but stunning all the same. It is here that the Anaconda Cut-off meets the CDT redline (mile 544).
We continued down the trail and set up camp at Flower Lake, just as it started to rain.
8/9: 18.4 mi (546.4 – 564.8)
We awoke to a brutally cold morning. My REI thermometer read 34° and didn’t get much over 42° all day! On top of that, we had two hard climbs. Rainbow Pass (9250 ft) and Cutaway Pass (8736 ft). Both passes opened up into beautiful views with wide open bowls. Both climbs however left me totally wrecked, to include the lower third of one of my trekking poles. Luckily we had a rubber tip to place on the end to keep it from splitting further up the shaft.
8/10: 17.2 mi (564.8 – 582)
Two climbs for the morning. Rainbow Mountain at 9264 ft, and then Pintlers Pass at 8736 ft. Both were hearty climbs, but “gentler” than the previous day’s climbs.
As the day progressed, we weaved our way through a dry and heavily burned area with a plethora of tangled blowdowns. As it was tremendously windy, the trees still left standing became suspect and worrisome.
We came across a saddle (not the horse kind) where the wind was absent, but the sound was like that of a roaring waterfall. As we walked along the trail we braced for the moment that the wind would match it’s sound. When we reached that vortex, it was like momentarily being in a wind tunnel. Strangest thing ever.
Collecting water and finding a safe campsite became our marching orders, as the gusting wind was non-stop, and the hazardous trees were a-plenty.
8/11: mile 852 – Mussingbrod Lake Campground. (Creek Fire alternate)
Turns out that where we decided to camp (another saddle devoid of wind, but NOT it’s roar) was the safest place for miles. The wind howled but not a flicker of movement from our tent or nearby trees.
Our 8 mile walk into Mussingbrod Lake was cluttered with countless blowdowns, and even more creeking with failing intentions.
Due to the still burning fires of the Trail Creek and Black Mountain fires, the portion of the CDT that continues to Lemhi Pass and ultimately to Leadore, was closed. This resulted in our reroute to Mussingbrod Lake. Once there, we had to either finagle a ride or walk the 20 miles from there into the town of Wisdom.
We walked into one of the nicest, but vacant campgrounds we’ve ever seen. This campground was laid out beautifully, with an equally pristine lake in which to recreate, sans motor craft. While searching for water, in preparation for our 20 mile shadeless road walk, we located one camper. Jason and Shanon (from Missoula) had an awesome set-up. Great rig, truck, bikes, ATV. They must have been overjoyed to have the entire campground to themselves…then we arrived. We asked them about the road to Wisdom, and they described it as dry and desolate. No cover what so ever. Awesome! But then they offered to give us ride into Wisdom, in “exchange” for tips on backpacking and thru-hiking. Shanon has her sights on doing a long trail.
We gladly accepted the “terms”, and piled into their truck. They were right, the road to Wisdom was dry and desolate.
They dropped us at Wisdom and we immediately went to the Antler which Jason and Shanon said had the best Pizza and Salads…as well as cold beer. They were not, incorrect.
Once fully satiated, it was time to hitch to the Lost Trail Pass. We had NO intention of walking along the shoulder of Highway 43, that from what we could see was fairly busy. Nor did we plan on walking the shoulder of Highway 93 to Salmon Idaho, and then onto Leadore. We have been nearly hit so many times during road walks, that having a “continuous footpath” during closures and/or reroutes is not worth the danger it presents.
Now Hobbit, who ate entire pizza by himself, was not convinced that we could successfully hitch from Wisdom to Hwy 93, let alone to Salmon and/or Leadore. Paul, the eternal optimist countered with,”watch, 10 minutes tops”. In less than 5 minutes, Diane (who owns the Crossing Bar & Grill) came racing toward us in her car. “Get in” she said, “I don’t work for another hour. I’ll take you as far as the Pass”. Wala. Hobbit was more than impressed. We all clamoured in, thankful for our Providence. As we got to the Pass, we saw a red Dodge truck with it’s hood up. “Maybe if you can fix his car, he’ll give you a ride to Salmon”, Diane said with a chuckle.
With that, we unloaded, and thanked her for the ride. Paul then struck up a conversation with the Dodge truck owner, John. They talked trucks and it just so happened that John was on his way to Salmon. John offered to give us a ride once his truck cooled down. Providence once again.
John dropped us at the Saveway in Salmon. The plan was for Hobbit to buy his resupply for the Leadore to Lima leg. Once we got to Leadore, we would retrieve our truck and drive him to the Bannock Pass trailhead. First we had to get to Leadore. As luck would have it, while seated at the food service/deli tables, a man sat beside us and asked us about our packs. We explained that we were hiking the CDT, but because of the fire closures, we were now trying to get to our truck in Leadore, to drop off Hobbit. Guess what? The guy lives in Leadore, and would gladly give us a ride, but sadly he only had room for one. Divide and conquer became the plan. Paul would ride with Bill, and Hobbit and I would wait till Paul returned with the truck. We would eat ice cream in the meantime.
Staying at the Pintlers Portal Hostel was amazing. They have bunk rooms with triple bunks to each room. They plan to have double bed bunks, but the parts hadn’t arrived yet. Seems that most of what they ordered was sitting on a boat outside of the LA Harbor.
Destiny, the newly hired manager of the Hostel was magnificent. Because their hiker washer/dryers had not arrived yet, she allowed us to wash our clothes in their industrial washer/dryer.
The Hostel is a converted Elks or Lions Club type building. The downstairs included a large area to “lounge” about (on leather recliners), large dining tables and a complete kitchen to cook meals if you want.
In the evening we caught up on our Alone episodes, and I did my best to also catch up on this blog.
The following day (our zero), included shopping for our resupply and attending the Smeltermen’s Brewfest. Problem was, that when we finally got there (3pm-ish), they had actually run out of beer! This meant we had to saunter over to the Smelter City Brewery.
Anaconda was once a town of over 40,000 people. There’s about 9,000 now. In 1891, it lost out to Helena in its bid to become Montana’s capitol. It was one of the largest copper smelting towns in the country. In 1980, the Atlantic Richfield Co., who owned the Washoe Smelter closed the plant. Its 585 ft smoke stack, known as the “tallest surviving free standing masonry structure in the world”, is what remains of the once bustling factory. That, and a huge pile slag (byproduct of copper smelting).
We wandered the downtown and nearby neighborhood areas. It’s a town under a slow renovation. But it holds promise.
The town of Anaconda has been trying to reinvent itself into more of a tourist destination. It holds plenty of history, and loads of recreational opportunities. It is worth a visit.