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


  1. Have been watching YouTube videos of a 2019 Colorado Trail hiker. He found that shelter during a storm & was as grateful as you were. So right about the trail providing. Hike on, Yoda.

  2. Three hours in the shelter☹️ At least you were out of the weather. There are good and bad days wherever you are. I hope there are better days ahead. I remember you having a cough before on trail. Hopefully, tomorrow is a better day. Head up, shoulders square, feet moving, hike on👍😘

  3. Good for you running into folks providing water. You hung in there in that awful weather, you are awesome.

  4. You are AMAZING - such an inspiration! Carry on Yoda, the Force IS with you!!

  5. I can’t believe you ran into the only shelter on the trail when a storm hit! (Or that you turned down a hot drink...).