Trip Report CDT: Colorado pt1

The Mountains are Calling

A little more rain over night but my tent is dry when I wake up. In the early morning I pass Happy Ending, who I met in Glacier, going NOBO. I pass Tommy Hawk as we do a river crossing most people have been avoiding. There is a sign mentioning that a bridge is out but I continue to follow the red line. The other side of the river is extremely overgrown but with some effort still doable.

Cloudy day in mountains

A little further on I leave the CDT to take the Three Island Lake alternate. It's a steady climb up a beautiful canyon with a rushing river. At the top I take a break by the lake before more climbing to rejoin the CDT. The elevation gain continues all day and it also begins to rain just as I pass Thumper and Locomotive. I have an exciting lunch as I managed to get leftover couscous packets from Gadget in town. It tastes great after rehydrating after half an hour. Rain continues lightly almost all day as I manage to do 40mi(64km).

Despite all of yesterday's rain, I get another dry morning! I push miles to get to the highway where I can hitch into Steamboat Springs. Just as I arrive at the road a car pulls over to let out a hiker, Steve-O. The driver Norm offers me a ride but first he has one more hiker, Mondo, to drop off further down the road. I eventually am dropped in town at the Walmart. I resupply, head to McDonalds for food and call Norm to drive me back to trail.

Ridge walking in Colorado

I take Norm's advice and have him drop me 12mi(19km) down the highway so I can skip walking on a shoulderless paved highway. Despite skipping that road the trail itself is still along a dirt road. I pass by a RV trailer where a trail angel, Jim, offers hikers water and conversation. From there it's climbs once again and the sky opens up. It begins to rain hard and I push for miles in the deluge to camp in the drizzle.

By some miracle in the morning my gear is fairly dry and the temperature is warm. It starts with a large climb but the sun is there to keep me company. At a road crossing I discover some trail magic, a banana and clementine left behind next to the trail. Around 1400h the heavens scream out again as it feels like I'm standing under a waterfall. The dirt road trail becomes a flowing chocolate river as dirt is washed down in torrents. I run into a NOBO hiker who is lost because he's only using paper maps.

The rain eventually subsides but the clouds loom threateningly all day. I try to squeeze in one final pass before the storm begins again. Just as I summit the rain starts anew. I descend and camp in some pines early to tough out the rain.

The rain does not stop all night. My camp spot was not well chosen as water pools under my tent and eventually the floor of my tent soaks through. Thankfully the rest of my gear works well and I manage to stay relatively warm through it all. Packing up in the morning feels like handling handfuls of wet paper as everything is drenched.

I hike into Grand Lake along the road to avoid trail closures and panic book the first lodging I see. I try to call the hostel in town but get no response so instead get a room for 220USD after a 10% discount... Thankfully I can check into my room right away so I get everything out of my pack and hang it around the room to dry. I head out to the post office to pick up my new phone and catch a SOBO hiker, Low Range.

I realize that my rain jacket has a series of holes in it. Apparently a little critter had bitten through it last night during the rain storm. I go to a local gear shop to buy a new rain jacket then head over to the hostel to see if any hikers are around. Arriving at the hostel there are plenty of travellers hanging out. The receptionist tells me she was just about to call me back and I could have gotten a room for 40USD... Walking back to town for pizza a local section hiker, Nine Lives, offers me a campsite which I politely refuse. After eating a large pizza and drinking a pitcher of cola I head back to my hotel to spend the rest of the evening.

Headwaters of the Colorado River

The forecast look foreboding with more rain coming in the following days apparently as I leave early under cloud cover. The trail is damp and marshy but the sun breaks through to dry it all out. I run into Nine Lives again and they mention that the forecast is actually looking like less rain, hurray! The trail meanders along popular trails as I pass many day hikers. I hike through the recent Devil Thumb's burn area and climb up to 12000ft(3658m).

Ridge walking in Colorado

I run into a SOBO hiker, Heidi, who I'd previously met briefly in Jackson. It seems like we have the same plans for camping that night. I tell her I'll see her there and continue forward along the ridge. Fog rolls through as I walk in clouds and hear gunshots as I reach the trailhead camp spot. A guy comes out of the fog shortly after carrying a rifle and I put my head down into my phone to avoid a confrontation.

Instead he comes over and asks me if I'm hiking. We start to chat as he explains he's out hunting marmots and the gunshot I heard was him taking a poke at a coyote. His trail name is Eskimo and he hiked the AT back in 2016. Offering to let me shoot his gun I take the opportunity to handle a lethal weapon for the first time in my life. Eskimo gives me a detailed breakdown of safety protocol and I take some shots at a metal target we setup on a berm. My adrenaline is pumping with each shot and I have to stop myself prematurely to give the gun back to Eskimo.

Posing with AR15

I continue to chat with Eskimo and eventually Heidi comes through the fog. She starts saying how she was freaked out by the gunshots, thinking it was someone shooting at hikers on trail similar to stories we had heard about in New Mexico. I apologize to her and explain it was me shooting and it definitely was not along trail. The three of us spend more time chatting and then Heidi and I setup camp in the fog.

Fog obscuring ridge view

There is a strange sound of like two explosions that occur overnight but nothing comes of it. Waking in the morning the fog still lingers and so everything is covered in wet. I begin the XC to James Peak and pass Heidi who had set out before me. From the peak I follow the Berthoud Pass alternate which takes me down and over a sketchy knife's edge then over beautiful ridge walks. Surprisingly I run into three day-hikers also doing the ridge walks before I reconnect to the CDT at Mount Flora with hordes of day hikers. I descend to Berthoud Pass and try to hitch into Fraser.

The third car passing along the highway pulls over to give me a ride. Mark and his electrician Kirk are heading to the Fraser Safeway and are happy to take me. Mark invites me to his mansion in town where I take a shower and dry out my gear! I listen to them talk for a few hours before they drive me all the way back up to the trail. I hike until sunset and get a light sprinkle with rainbows in the evening. I pass Low Range, Eeore, Christoph and Diane but do not see Heidi. I camp at 12000ft(3658m) on a precarious ridge with lightening roaring off in the distance. My luck holds out as I only get a short hail burst and rain before it calms down over night.

Double rainbow Mountains covered in low clouds Sun dog

I wake to soaked tent and take a shallow descent from the mountains in the morning. I pass a few day-hikers and then walk for a few hours along a bicycle path. I hold my tent over my head to dry as I cruise over the paved trail and make my approach to climb some 14ers.

I do ~20mi(32km) to get to the Grays Peak trailhead and eat my couscous lunch with my hands as I've lost my spoon. The climb up is well maintained but steep. I get up to the main saddle and do Torreys Peak first which is just off the CDT trail. I spend a moment at the top to eat a granola bar the descent and then the climb up to Grays Peak, the highest point along the official CDT. Descending from Grays I'm lead over to Mount Edwards which has me questioning if I took a wrong turn somewhere. The trail disappears and leaves you to scramble alone over a few rocky exposed ridges.

As I reach Argentine Pass and look back I see clouds gathering in the distance. I hope my luck holds out as I take the Argentine Spine alternate which keeps me above 12000ft(3658m) for the rest of the day. I have to use my maximum effort to keep going as the course over the spine is like a XC roller-coaster with it's climbs. I pass several groups of mountain goats hanging out on the ridge. I reconnect to the CDT in the late evening and camp on a saddle. The clouds catch up to me in the evening and I get a bit of hail and rain as I camp for the night.

Mountain goats on ridge Argentine Spine

A new surprise this morning, my tent is covered in ice! Both the outside from the rain and the inside from my condensated sweat has frozen over night. I didn't realize it was that cold as I slept warmly. There is a bit more ridge walking in the morning before a long descent into a hot valley.

Trail traffic begins to pick up and lots of bikepackers whiz on by. I chat with one group about their route as I spend time drying out my gear. They mention they are just doing a section of the Colorado Trail(CT). I hadn't realized that I've already joined the CT, but in hindsight the quality of the trail should have been a give away. The track is well graded, maintained and consistently navigable unlike the majority of the CDT.

Trail signage

I push 33mi(53km) to arrive at Breckenridge where I call to reserve a bunk bed for the night. I take the free bus to the nearby town of Frisco where I buy some Subway and resupply at the Walmart. I miss the earliest bus back so I double back to a nearby Safeway to buy chicken tenders for dinner. Finally arriving at the bunkhouse around 2000h I am pleasantly surprised. For 60USD it's a gorgeous little property that the owner Mitch shares with his guests. I am able to do laundry for free and take an amazing shower under a rainfall shower head. I'm the only person staying in the bunks so I have the whole space to myself for the night.

In the morning Mitch lays out a simple continental breakfast and I meet a CT hiker who was staying in a cabin, Merril and her pup Newt. After stuffing my face with cereal and yogurt, we head out to catch the bus back to the trailhead. On the bus there is another CT hiker, Jon, and within a few minutes along the trail I meet a CDT-alumni, Eats. I leave the CTers behind and blast for the rest of the day doing 40mi(64km), passing by Leadville.

Mountain range

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