Saturday, August 29, 2020

Day 20- Mountain Weather and The Trail Provides

Saturday August 29, 2020
Monarch Pass(alt 78.1) to Freezing Stealth Spot(270.4) 
Total Miles: 318.4
Elevation: 11,300ft

I almost forgot what it is like to get a good nights sleep. Jess and I were both asleep by 9 o’clock last night. That is very unlike us, we usually stay up half the night talking and drinking. We were very well behaved. In fact we got margaritas togo after dinner last night and didn’t even drink them. I even slept in until 7:30. I felt very well rested. I had to finish a few things this morning in the hotel before we left. The weather wasn’t the greatest and so we weren’t in a hurry to get going. We grabbed breakfast on the way out of town, but since we ate so much food yesterday neither of us had much of an appetite. We decided to just split a breakfast sandwich. That was the right call. It was just the perfect amount of food. When we got to the top of Monarch Pass a huge storm had moved in. Jess really didn’t want to leave me, but she still had to drive a few hours to get her run in and I needed to hike some miles today. I started the trail at 10:30 in less than ideal conditions. My memory of this section really gave me a false sense of security. I thought I would go a mile and then drop below tree line. In reality I hiked 7 miles on an exposed ridge line. It was pouring down rain and hail with 15-20mph winds. I was so cold that I thought I had really made a big mistake. I just kept hiking so that I could stay warm. 

Notice the misty conditions in the background 

Around mile 7 I could see something in the distance. It looked like an RV. I decided I would knock on the door and demand they let me in to warm up. When I got closer I could tell it was not an RV, but a shelter. There is only one shelter on the entire trail and I found it in my greatest moment of need. 

Not so bad when I first started out

Quickly deteriorating conditions

Zero visibility 

When I got to the shelter there was already a hiker inside, a guy named Rabbit. I hadn’t met him before, but he knew of me because he started hiking with Flaming Hot. He was really nice and offered to make me a hot drink. I turned him down for some unknown reason. The shelter had a dirt floor, but Rabbit had laid down a tarp and let me share it. I got out of my wet clothes and put on my nighttime layers. Just being out of the wind made a huge difference. Rabbit was really easy to talk to and before I knew it two hours had passed and so had the storm. The sun came out and I was able to dry out my clothes and gear. I love and hate mountain weather. I hate how cold and miserable mountain storms are. I love how quickly they can end. Rabbit left before I did since he didn’t get soaked in the storm. He made it there just as things were getting nasty. I was there for almost three hours. I really wanted to warm up and dry out before getting started again. 

The trail provides

I should mention that I was already dreading hiking this section even before the bad weather. If you read my 2018 blog I think I named this day/section mountain bike madness. This is one of the most popular mountain bike spots in the area. I counted 75 bikers and 6 dirt bikers today. It is hard to get into a rhythm with having to constantly step off the trail to let them by. I also couldn’t listen to anything all day so I could hear them approaching from behind. The weather helped deter a lot more bikers from being out today. 

One of seventy-five 

After sitting around for three hours I really lost my will to hike today. I lost a bunch of calories shivering trying to stay warm. I just had zero energy for the rest of the day. The hiking should have been easy, but with being on constant alert for bikers I was just drained. I thought about stopping at mile ten, but it was still early and I’m meeting Jess and another friend I. lake City on Thursday. I had to make a few more miles at least. Hiking past mile ten was hard though, there was a privy and great camping. Oh well, that is thruhiking for you! 

Sun finally came out to play

Haven’t seen many cattle guards on this trail yet

Herd of cattle that was not impressed by me

I was trying to figure out my water situation for the rest of the day and it wasn’t great. I either had to hike 6 more miles to a water source, but no camping prospects, or carry water for five miles and then dry camp. I had decided to hike the six miles and hope to find a decent camping spot. I had gone about three miles when I came across a bunch of vans at a road crossing. They were just starting to pack up to leave. One of the guys shouted at me asking if I needed water. Yes! I replied. They were supporting a mountain bike race and were just finishing up. I even got to give them my trash, which was only 2 wrappers, but I love unexpectedly getting rid of trash on trail. They also informed me another storm was coming in and I should find cover. I hiked a few more miles until I found a campable spot. Thanks to the water they provided me I was able to set up camp before the storm started. I barely got my tarp set up before the first drops fell. 

Life savers

It was another nasty storm. This time I had lightening crashing all around me and the temperature dropped rapidly. For the first time on a thruhike I seriously considered quitting. I had a friend only a few hours away that would gladly scoop me up and take me home. I guess it is a good thing I’m not a quitter. I actually had cell service in camp and talked to family and friends, who encouraged me not to quit. My dad even pulled up a weather report to let me know when the storm would end. Tomorrow will be sunny and dry and that was all I needed to hear. Onward I go! 

View from under my tarp

“Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”
- Bruce Lee

Friday, August 28, 2020

Day 19- Mad Dash Into Monarch Pass

Friday August 28, 2020
Alpine Lake(alt 70) to Monarch Pass(78.1) 8.1mi
Total miles: 304.3
Elevation 11,302ft

Last night was rough. I had very few options of where I could setup camp. All of them were less than ideal. I tried to make due with the options I had available, but I ended up on a very slanted site. I was pleased with myself for eating all of my dinner. The water I collected from the lake had a very funny taste to it and was difficult to drink. After I ate dinner I settled down for the evening. As I was writing my blog my stomach was not happy. I tried to focus on keeping my meal down. I learned on the CDT that at high elevation I develop elevation induced asthma. It’s not as serious as it sounds, I just develop a dry cough. The wildfire smoke has not helped matters. Around 11:30pm I began coughing more violently than normal. All of the coughing forced my dinner to come back up. Then I continued coughing until I strained my back. The only thing I could do to ease my coughing was to drink the off-tasting lake water. Yeah, it was not a very pleasant evening. As I coughed, puked, and slid off of my sleeping pad all night. It probably goes without saying that I didn’t get much sleep. 

Beautiful high elevation camp

It was easy to get up and get going this morning. I was up way before my 5:30 alarm and looking forward to reaching Monarch Pass. My best friend Jess was meeting me there and we are spending the day together in the town of Salida. I told her I wouldn’t be there until 11am at the earliest. She is section running the Colorado Trail and has been on the road since Monday, sleeping in her car and running the trail. I figured I would see her running towards me at some point. I was surprised when I made it to her car at Monarch Pass and still didn’t see her. I was over an hour early, so I went into the store there and drank a few gatorades. I had just made it back outside to her car when she got back from her run. She had accidentally run southbound instead of northbound. Her trail name is now, Wanderlost. She had a cooler full of cold drinks which is the perfect way to pick up a thruhiker off of a trail. 

8 miles hiking on the actual divide

The hike into Monarch Pass was beautiful. I spent almost the entire eight miles hiking on the Continental Divide. I saw three other thruhikers, who all flew past me, trying to make it into town before the rain started. Just as Jess and I were getting ready to head into town Flaming Hot showed up. He has only been a few miles behind me this entire stretch. 

Monarch Ski Area

I found Luke

Once we arrived in the town of Salida I went straight to the PO to pick up my resupply package. It has been nice to get to town and not have to deal with the stress of resupplying. I dealt with that stress before I left for the trail. Then we hit up Soulcraft Brewery to have a snack and beer while we made our plans. I found a hotel for Jess and I, while Flaming Hot made plans with his friend Honeymoon to stay at a hostel. We all went to Walmart to pick up a few things. My headphones stopped working this morning so I had to buy a new pair. Talk about perfect timing. I would have been mad if they had broken yesterday or a few days ago. I really enjoy audiobooks and podcasts while hiking. Jess and I went back to our hotel to do laundry and shower. We both got in phone calls to our parents and I sorted my resupply. 

Snack at the brewery

Once all of my town chores were taken care of we went out for dinner. The restaurant we wanted to go to had gone out of business. We found a place called The Boathouse Cantina. We were able to get a seat at the bar for dinner. It was the first time since Covid that I have sat at a bar. Dinner was delicious. After not being able to eat on trail it felt great to finally eat. I forgot to get a picture before we ate everything. We shared jalapeño poppers, duck tacos, and a burger. I was absolutely stuffed at the end of our meal. 

The remnants of our dinner

Ice cream and margarita for dessert

Tomorrow I’ll get back on trail, hopefully at a decent time, and Jess will continue her CT running trip. It was great to have a friend come to support me while on trail. She brought me a different pair of shoes, a water filter, and some leukotape. I can’t wait to switch back to my Altra Lone Peaks. I’m glad I tried the Timps, but they just don’t work as well for me. I’ll be using a combination of bleach and a Sawyer filter for the next section. I know I’ll be hiking through some cattle land and the Sawyer is better suited for crappy water. Thanks WanderLost for making the trip up to see me! 

“A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are.”
– Unknown


Day 18- The Railroad

Thursday August 27, 2020
N. Fork Chalk Creek(alt51.6) to Alpine Lake(alt 70) 18.4mi
Total Miles: 296.2
Elevation: 11,940ft

I made a colossal mistake last night. I set up camp close to water, in a valley, in grass. The result was I had major condensation. Everything was wet this morning. I knew I would have to take a long break at some point so I could set out all of my gear in the sun to dry. Even though everything was wet I managed to stay warm. I even shed some layers during the night. I was a little slow breaking camp because I’m not used to dealing with soaking wet gear. It was a beautiful morning as I climbed up my first mountain of the day. The trail was very well graded and the climb wasn’t as steep as the elevation profile showed. That was a nice surprise for a change. My legs were worn out from the big climbs yesterday. 

First big mountain of the day

I managed to eat a big dinner last night. I think that was the first time all trail I managed to get the proper of calories. I’m not sure why I have struggled with nutrition on this trail. It has never been a problem for me before. My goal was to eat all of my snacks I had laid out for the day. I have only been eating about half of my food daily. I had plenty of water sources today, but a lot of them were lakes or ponds. I really don’t like drinking from those types of sources unless o don’t have a choice. I decided to skip most of those and carry extra water from the streams I passed. My pack is light enough that o don’t mind carrying an extra liter if it means I don’t have to drink from a pond. 

Approaching another pass

After I hiked over my first two passes of the day I had a long downhill before hitting an old railroad bed. It may seem strange, but I have been looking forward to this railroad bed for days. It is the easiest 4 miles of the entire trail. It was like walking on a road, but much softer on my feet. 

Time to cruise

When I got to the railroad bed I took a break and used my Garmin InReach to get a weather report. I heard that today was going to be hot and dry, I was disappointed to see that it was going to thunderstorm again this afternoon. I hoped the timing would be better than yesterday. I had to major climbs, one in the early afternoon and another in the late afternoon. 

View from the railroad 

Once left the railroad bed, I had to hike a few miles uphill on a Jeep 4x4 road. It was not fun. There were a ton of rocks and it was very hot out. I didn’t see any jeeps or OHV’s, but I did get stuck behind an excavator. At the end of the 4x4 road I came across a trailhead parking lot. It seemed like a great place to set out all of my gear to dry. While I was waiting I met a thruhiker named Skunk. He had blown past me on the way up a pass a few days ago. He had a friend meet him at the trailhead and they camped there last night. Home and his friend were going to spend the day relaxing and hiking some peaks in the area. Speed and Grasshopper also caught up to me just as I was leaving. We chatted briefly and they told me Flaming Hot camped with them last night. I was camped .3 miles down the trail from them. 

4x4 Road 

Once all of my stuff was dry I got packed up and back on trail. The weather still looked good, but I didn’t want to take any chances getting caught on a big mountain in a thunderstorm. I made it up and over the Pass with no problems. While I was working my way down the clouds began to roll in. On the way down from the Pass I went by several alpine lakes. It was so hot out I was tempted to go for a swim, but I really don’t like hiking in wet shorts so I kept going. 


Lake I passed on the climb up

Just as I hit tree line it began to rain. It is amazing how quickly the temperature drops when the rain starts. It felt like 90 degrees out, then when the storm came I could have sworn it was 50’s. I put away my solar panel and battery pack before donning my rain jacket. It rained off and on for the next few hours. There was also a good twenty minutes of small hail. As I was dropping elevation I could see lightening hitting a large peak east of me. I had timed things perfectly. 

Random rusty half of a truck full of bullet holes

I made it to the Boss Lake Reservoir trailhead in good time. I sat under a tree for close to an hour hoping the storm would pass by. I had to gain about 1,100 feet of elevation and really didn’t want to do it during a storm. Finally the thunder and lightening moved on and there was only a light drizzle. After sitting for so long I was moving really slowly climbing up to the reservoir. 

Boss Lake Reservoir 

I decided I had enough time to hike another 3 miles before setting up camp. That was really as far as I could possibly go today. If I went any further I was going to be above 12,500ft on an exposed ridge line. I’m only eight miles away from Monarch Pass where my friend Jess is meeting me. There was no need to take a risk by pushing any farther. 

Hunt Lake

Alpine Lake

Home for the night 

There is no success without hardship.”
- Sophocles


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Day 17- The One Where I Stayed High

Wednesday August 26, 2020 
North of Cotton Pass(alt 35) to N. Fork Chalk Creek(51.6) 16.6mi
Total Miles: 277.8
Elevation: 11,118ft

It rained off and on all night long. I pitched my tarp on a very slanted spot and I spent most of the night paying for it. I kept sliding down towards to foot end of my tarp. So far I’m not in love with this tarp. It is barely big enough for me to fit under it. As a result I worried all night long that I would get wet. The one positive thing about the tarp is that it is so light, but I don’t think I’ll use it on a thruhike again. I just barely stayed warm enough last night. If it had been a couple of degrees colder I would have been uncomfortable. I bid Flaming Hot goodbye a little before seven and hit the trail. I immediately gained a bunch of elevation. In fact I stayed above 12,000 feet all day. 

Early morning leaving camp

Cottonwood Pass

When I hiked through here in 2018, Cottonwood Pass was still under construction and was closed to vehicles. It was nice to see it being used this year. After crossing the road the trail climbed even higher. The little bit of rain over the last few days has really helped with the wildfire smoke. 

View from 12,700ft

I climbed over six passes or mountains above 12,000 feet today. After hitting the summit I would wind my way down the basin and then climb over into a different basin. I had majestic views all day long. 

Another 12,000+ view

Small snowfield hanging on

I finally got a picture of a pika. They are small rodent like creatures that resemble a big hamster. The live in high elevation mountainous terrain. I usually don’t see them, but I can always hear them squeaking. 


I only had one concern today, afternoon thunderstorms. I have gotten pretty lucky with the weather so far, but of course the one day with an eighty percent chance of thunder and lightening was the day I would stay above 12,000 feet. I managed to make it over five of the six big peaks before trouble began. Coming down from peak number five it began to rain and the wind picked up. By the time I made it all the way down I started hearing the thunder. As I was taking a break to grab some water some other thruhikers caught up to me. All of us were a little concerned. I thought about waiting out the storm, but we were still at 11,000 feet and there wasn’t any tree cover. Scooter used his InReach to get a weather report and it didn’t sound great. The storms would last the rest of the afternoon. Speed and Grasshopper decided to go for it. We needed to hike up 850feet in one mile to get over the last peak, then we would finally get below tree line. I decided they were probably right and the four of us took off as fast as possible. We all managed to reach the top before the rain picked up. It was a very steep climb, but the sound of thunder was great motivation. We never did see any lightening. 

Sky beginning to darken 

Pretty ominous 

On the way down the rain really began in earnest. I stopped to put on my rain jacket and to put away my solar panel and battery park. As I was doing that it began to hail. My response was to run down the mountain. Eventually I hit a large talus field and had to slow down. I don’t like crossing talus when the rocks are dry, imagine my apprehension of crossing them in a storm. I do have to admit the trail maintenance on this talus field was impressive. For the most part the rocks were all lined up and very flat. 

Hard to get the scope

After four long downhill miles I finally made it to the bottom and the safety of trees. It was only 3:30 and I had hiked over 16 miles of high elevation trail. I really wanted to make it another five miles, but I couldn’t decide what to do. I sat under a huge pine tree for almost an hour waiting for the storm to pass. I had 2 more passes above 12,500 feet to make it over before dark. Then I would have to find water and a place to set up camp. Only .3 miles away from my large, dry pine tree was water and a place to camp. After agonizing over the decision I finally decided to not hike over the two passes. The rain let up for about an hour and a half. I had more than enough time to set up camp, cook, eat, and cleanup. Just as I got under my tarp it started to rain again. I am pretty pleased with my decision. 

More storm clouds rolling in

Nice bench to cook and eat at

Marker left next to the trail so Flaming Hot could find me(he never did show up) 

No difficulty can discourage, no obstacle dismay, no trouble dishearten the man who has acquired the art of being alive. Difficulties are but dares of fate, obstacles but hurdles to try his skill, troubles but bitter tonics to give him strength; and he rises higher and looms greater after each encounter with adversity.”

- Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Day 16- Moose Galore

Tuesday August 25, 2020
Stealth Spot(alt 15.5) to N of Cottonwood Pass(alt 35) 19.5 miles
Total Miles: 261.2
Elevation: 11,982ft

I was so tired and it was dark when I got to camp last night so I didn’t bother setting up my tarp. I knew there was a good chance that it would rain, but I was lazy. At least I had the foresight to put the tarp right next to me. Around midnight it started to rain. I just reached over and covered myself with the tarp. Luckily, it wasn’t a hard rain and it didn’t last long. I also learned a good lesson about cutting corners. The spot I chose to camp at was well sheltered and I stayed warm. 

Today was another tough day with a major pass to climb over to start the day. I probably shouldn’t have skipped dinner last night. I was noticeably sluggish this morning. I felt like I was swimming through molasses making my way up Lake Ann Pass. It took me about 2.5 hours to go 4.5 miles. I also gained about 3,000ft of elevation. 

Lake Ann Pass

Lake Ann

At least this time of year the Pass didn’t have any snow. In 2018 it had a cornice I had to down climb that was super sketchy. When I finally made it to the top I was rewarded with a great view. I chatted with a mother and daughter who are hiking the Collegiate Loop. I asked them to keep an eye out for Flaming Hot. If they saw him I asked them to tell him I was at the top of the Pass at 9:30. This way he would know how close or far behind me he was. 

View from Lake Ann Pass

I spent the remainder of the day working my way downhill. Some of the descents were steep and rocky, others were so gradual it was hard to tell I was going down. Today probably would have been much more enjoyable if I didn’t have a major chafing issue. I just bought a new pair of Nike running shorts for this trail. After only washing them twice the inner compression liner has torn. The tears lead to weird rubbing today. After about 8 miles I was rubbed raw and had started to bleed. It became apparent that I need to stop and do something about it. I used the rest of the leukotape I was carrying and it worked well. I tried to use duct tape yesterday and I think that made it worse. Once I had that taken care of my day was much better and the miles came easier. This section of trail allows dirt bikes on it. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to deal with any, but I came across two guys halfway through my day. They were very nice and super considerate of the trail. It had started to rain and the trail was getting a little muddy. They seemed were being extra careful not to tear up the trail. They asked me how close they were to a trail junction and how steep it was to get there. I took the time to show them my map and the elevation gain. They decided it was best to turn around. I really didn’t like having to smell their exhaust fumes for the next 5 minutes. 

Not only did I have to deal with muddy trail, but I had quite a few stream crossings to contend with. I managed to find dry ways across them all. Three of them have small logs to use to get across. The rest had rocks that were perfectly spaced to help me across. 

Muddy trail/water source 

Nice log crossing

The real highlight of the day came in the last mile before making camp. I came across a huge willow patch. Moose love that kind of terrain. I turned off the music I was listening to because I just had a feeling I would see a moose. Within seconds I saw one way in the distance. It was so far away I couldn’t get a decent picture. A few minutes later I saw a giant bull moose wishing 15 feet of the trail. He was beautiful and could have cared less that I was there. He must be used to hikers walking past his spot all day. As I was watching him two more moose appeared. That was definitely a great way to end the day. 

Good looking moose

Moose number 2

Moose #3

There was absolutely zero chance I wasn’t going to set up my tarp tonight. It had been raining off and on for the last two miles. I’m also camped just below 12,000ft and could use the extra little bit of warmth the tarp provides. I had just finished eating dinner when Flaming Hot came strolling into camp. I was beginning to get nervous that something had happened to him, but he was fine. I think we were camped within a quarter mile of each other last night and today he stayed about an hour behind me all day. Every person he came across today he asked if they had seen me. Apparently my solar panel on my pack makes me memorable. According to Flaming Hot everyone said I was moving along quickly. I think that is just because when I see other people I stand up straight and pick up the pace so that I look like a badass hiker. When no one is watching I’m back to swimming through molasses. 

View from camp 

“Success does not consist in never making mistakes, but in never making the same one a second time.”
– George Bernard Shaw