CT Day 15: Lost at Ski, Salida Bound

July 13
Miles: 11
Total: 262

CW 5 Mile 0 to Monarch Pass

Though the rain stops in the night (and we are not swept away in a flash flood), we wake to incredible dampness in the narrow canyon too close to the river. And there’s only more dampness to confront: damp clothes, wet packs, soaked shoes. I put this off, if only temporarily, cooking hot soup for breakfast from the comfort of my relatively dry sleeping bag.

It’s only 11 miles to town and the promise of showers and laundry and dry everything. But of course the divide stands in between and here I am all soggy at the bottom. So on go the cold, wet clothes and soggy shoes, which warm up somewhat as I climb the steep hill, past lakes (Lakes!) until I am again walking right on the continental divide following a pleasantly crooked path past old looking stone cairns covered in lichens.
Much of the way down is a ridge walk. Which is pretty much my favorite, views on both sides, until the trail deposits me on the dirt roads of an off season ski resort. The roads are a maze and there are no signs. I tried up a steep, steep road, double checking my phone all the way only to get to the top and find out I was walking up a black diamond run.

I drain my phone batteries using GPS to navigate, wondering what happened to Steph who was right behind me until she isn’t. I later learn that she did some steep bonus miles, lost at the ski resort (her phone GPS hasn’t been working).

On and on, the trail seems to go, winding full circles around unnecessary mountains. I hike to see amazing views, but sometimes nothing is more amazing than rounding the bend to see a giant parking lot and a weathered mid century modern rest stop- gift shop.Inside, near dusty taxidermy porcupines, stone arrowheads and other curiosities, there’s a hiker box tucked in a corner. A giant air freshener has been strategically placed, synthetic floral aromas doing serious competition with hiker stench.

We score a ride to town with the second person we acost, a father from Leadville out mountain biking with his young sons. He deposits us near the hostel in Salida (though it is out of his way – thank you again!), which is rumored to be hiker friendly. But the big NO glows orange on the vacancy sign. Out faces droop in such sadness, but we go in anyway to see if they have space for tomorrow.

But they are so hiker friendly we can sleep on the floor for cheap and there’s bunk space for tomorrow. So much happiness. And Glimmer and Arcade are here! 
We don crazy town outfits from the loaner clothes pile and hit up the grocery store. Finally, two weeks later, we make the eggs and veggies we dreamed up way back on day one.

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CT Day 14: Eye on the Sky

July 12
Miles: 25
Total: 251

CW3 Mile 7.3 to end of CW4

It’s morning high on the Collegiate West, with surprisingly lush meadows of flowers swaying in unison to the gentle breeze. Sharp snow-streaked peaks behind, and bubbling creeklets below. To use John Muir’s favorite adjective: it’s glorious.

I’m walking along peacefully, maybe a touch drunk on unfiltered snowmelt, when SHRIEEEEK! I’ve tripped the marmot intruder alarm and the warning reverberates across the basin. Such a loud sound from my cheeky, waddling alpine companions. There are gentler squee! squeaks! from the tiny bunny-with-mouse-ears pika-friends too, but there are much harder to spot among the rocks.

The trail makes lots of ups and downs, continuing along one side of the divide, then crossing to the other before leading back below the tree line. The clouds generously allow my passage, though I keep turning back to make sure nothing dark is sneaking up behind my back. I’m getting lunch-hangry and struggling up the (totally gentle) hill when I hear a big crash in the bushes. It sounds bear sized but then even tiny deer are elephants when you’re alone. But this is no Bambi: I’ve startled a mama moose who dashes into the willows with baby in tow and then, with just her head poking out proceeds to stare me down. Hard. Ears locked in my general direction.

There’s a mama moose in there (I swear!) and baby too.
Except the lunch spot I’m struggling toward is just up the trail where the creek crosses the exact same meadow. I’m already on thunder watch, and now angry mama moose watch too. But hunger generally outdoes fear, so I gingerly cross the meadow and plant myself in the middle of a tree fortress to block any moose stampedes. So far so good. But as soon as I unpack my lunch it promptly starts hailing.

I catch Steph (who passed by my moose-proof lunch spot without seeing me) in the late afternoon. She wants to power on to the end of the segment to be close to town. I want to cross one more pass and then camp, but the conditions have been so, so good today. The thunderstorms have stayed on other ridges and as we start the last big climb of the day, there’s even a nice patch of blue sky to the west. Of course the last, late miles are much tougher than the rest. We descend a super rocky drainage, navigating from cairn to cairn across ankle-testing rockslides. This is not the cruiser downhill we were hoping for. We do our best to hurry down a path slippery with the orange-dead needles of thousands of beetle-kill trees. The shaky, branch-dropping skeleton forest ensures safe camp options are practically nonexistent.

As always, I’ve had one eye on the sky and though I say nothing I can see low clouds heavy with rain pouring over the ridge to fill the valley where we are headed. Just one Mile to go. A few drops fall. I have a bad feeling and stop to put on my rain jacket and stow my phone. A few minutes later and we are walking through a torrential downpour. A twenty-five Mile day without incident and it dumps on us a mile from camp? Seriously Colorado?!

It’s after 8pm and getting dark and we are absolutely sopping wet when we arrive at the Boss Lake trailhead where there is supposedly camping. And I assume a lake. And maybe even people with RVs who will take pity on us or at least let us use their big tent shelters for cooking. And offer us hot beverages and kind words.

But there’s nothing there. No RVs. No Lake. Just a sign, and deep puddles where there should be campsites. Water pouring down from above, pooling up from below. We finally set up tents on a path/patch of not completely swamped ground near the river. It is still pouring down. I peel off my wet layers, put on my thankfully dry sleep clothes and burrow into a down sleeping bag that is doing its best to loft in this incredible dampness. Dry(er), for the moment, I suddenly become acutely aware of the roar of the too-close Arkansas river, and doze off wondering how close it is to flooding its banks.  Worrying about Steph who is camped closer than me, and who, I later learned was so tired she just assumed her air mattress would keep her afloat, and drifted off to sleep with that (infalted) confidence.
 

CT Day 13 Weathered

July 11
Miles: 21
Trail Mile: 226

CW2 Mile 11.9 to CW3 Mile 7.3

Today we weathered a storm, and are beginning to feel a bit weathered ourselves. The clouds arrived early or stayed late, but either way it’s not the clear morning sky I was hoping for. A bit of a late start and I can’t find my groove, stopping in the first miles for multiple costume changes, to pick up dropped trekking poles. To dig a hole. Combine my clumsiness with multiple (very easy) creek fords and hello wet feet. I manage to fall in not one, but two creeks today. Most impressively I brace myself for a grand leap across a narrow channel, jump and land, thinking I’ve made it. Only to slide off the bank into a thigh deep pool. While wearing my wind pants.

Texas creek is the ‘big’ ford of this section, possibly of the trail (mostly the CT has amazing bridges, for the bikers maybe?). It’s not particularly intimidating, just a resign yourself to wet shoes and get across situation. It’s over my knees skirt-deep, and certainly flowing but not especially cold or fast.The real challenge is what comes after: miles of fallen trees to play over-under-around, just in case I wasn’t already feeling slow today.

I crawl under one, thinking I will fit only to have my pack snag a branch. Unable to go forward or back, I try down only to end up stuck lying on the ground in the dirt. I have to sheepishly take my pack off to extract myself. 

Even without the extra leg lifts, dirt baths, an detours the climb through the forest would be a true slog. But slog long enough and the trees relent, until there’s more meadow and all views. I perch on the last ridge before the highway to enjoy lunch with a view and wait for Steph (who wasn’t feeling the best today either), watching dark clouds trailing rain traverse the sky behind me. By the time we are at the road, there’s thunder and the deepest darkest blue-grey clouds have again settled up where we need to go. But this time we are already above the treeline, at Cottonwood Pass, a parking lot on the continental divide. The expanse of pavement offers no shelter, and the trail promises to stay above the treeline for the next seven miles along the divide. Which happens to be exactly where the storm is angrily perched.

So with lightening striking, we drop below the ridge to sit under some small trees and hope it all passes soon. Except the clouds seem to be stuck circling the divide. The thunder grows more distant and then with a flash it is closer again. We reevaluate our spot and decide it will do. The rain comes down with a vengeance. Then hail. We shiver under our scraps of plastic ground sheet, rain finding ways to trickle down my back. We sit counting between flashes and booms until it is right on top of us with one great FLASHCRACK and then the rain eases and thunder seems mostly to be behind us, if still too close for my comfort. We wait a little longer until we’ve spent a hour and a half huddled in plastic wrap under dripping shrubbery.

We chat with an older couple back at the parking lot (the woman hiked the PCT in 1986!), who offer us a ride to Buena Vista to dry out. But the sky is a bit brighter now and after much debate, we decide to head on rather than lose a day. It’s only 43 miles to a Salida zero and the important things are still dry.

Up on the divide snowfields still hide some switchbacks, bootsteps now filled with hail. There’s some rock scrambling to get around, slippery with the rain, but nothing scary compared to yesterday. The sky stays grey, but the views still go on and on in both directions.

The trail climbs over the divide one last time before the faint promise of “possible” campsites (after a guidebook warning not to try to camp in this section). I’m so excited I follow footsteps waaay down what think is the trail, but isn’t. I trudge through the damp valley of my stupidity, through flooded meadows and across small streams, soaking my shoes anew, until I have climbed back up to the trail feeling terrible for dragging Steph through my mistake while simulraneously admiring the dramatic evening light.We poke around rocks and trees and melting snow patches until a magic cairn Steph spots leads us to a cozy spot under some trees. Just as I settle in my tent, I hear the first few gentle drops. I am too tired to worry about lightening, and fall asleep to the clatter of rain.

CT Day 7: This is Not a Drill

July 5
Segment 7 miles: 4
Backtracking for emergency phone service: 1
Evacuating to Frisco: 4
Segment 8 hiked: 5
Skipped because bus driver: 1.6
Total hiked today: 14
Trail Mile: 124

Segment 7 Miles 1-4; Segment 8 Miles 1.6 to 6.6

I wake in the early morning, and lying in my triple bunk with the window fan running and my mouth so dry, I can’t help but imagine we are all slotted like stacked trays in a giant food dehydrator making hiker jerky. I peel myself out of my bed-tray and jump in the shower which is stocked with quality shampoo and such. Not the cheapest hostel, but truly one of the best. I grab a place of watermelon and sausages (no judging) and sequester myself away from the animated hiker conversation to knock out some blog posts.

Town has a tendency to breed anxiety. I have options that are not just keep walking. There’s a hiker here with the tightest set of gear and I have major pack envy. And ongoing worries about the abusive relationship between my shoe and left tendon. I want to go but am becoming shy and uncertain, wanting company for the bus ride to the trail as much as I want to be alone. At the post office I mail home my microspikes. I’ve had conversations with many hikers about this and have decided my skill and risk tolerance leans more toward the CDT hikers, who either didn’t carry or didn’t use them on the coming segments. So off they go, hopefully no regrets. CDT friends from last night are on the bus and someone makes a comment about the smoke in the valley from the fire north of town, how can there be a fire when there’s still so much lingering snow? “Yeah, the snow is on fire,” I add.

It’s mid- morning as Steph and I start walking and sweltering hot too. Sweat streams down everywhere, so much for doing laundry. I trudge uphill, chanting to myself “My pack is full of helium balloons it has no earthly mass.” I push hard, trying to walk off my town anxieties and find a little space for myself on trail today.

The smoke in the air seems thicker now, a stinging haze that burns eyes and washes out the view. Then a few miles in I see a pillar of grey smoke rising from the woods. It doesn’t seem particularly large, just bonfire sized, so I continue, while keeping an eye on that general direction. Then I reach a junction and pause. The fire seems close now, less than a half-trail mile off, and wider than before. One of the many passing bikers confirms it is indeed a wildfire but doesn’t know more. I pour over my topo map. Double checking. And again, it appears that the fire is directly in my path just up the trail. Then the semi-steady stream of bikers suddenly seems to stop and Steph, who I thought was close behind has yet to catch up. So I sit at the junction working out what do, as smoke continues to billow up. I try calling the sheriffs number in my data book, but the connection is too choppy. 

I mull over the conditions: beetle kill trees down every where, tinder dry conditions and it’s the hottest day of the year so far. Plus the trail goes above the fire (fires move fastest uphill) and the wind, which always seems to pick up in the afternoon could change things rapidly.

I semi-reluctantly side with caution, heading back out toward Steph and proper phone service, walking up a large hill I just came down until I find both. Steph calls 911 to report the fire and we are told trails are closed and to hike back out. Just then a couple of hikers show up and suggest hiking out toward Frisco, the general direction of the trail, downhill and away from the fire. We leave a note so those behind us know to get out too. Steph and I take off, at a good, steady clip (the other couple stops for lunch?!?). I still am feeling alarmist as if I am over reacting and it’s no big deal. But then the planes start circling again and again. And there’s a police officer closing the trail closer to town. “Don’t worry, the helicopter should be here any minute now.” Says the cop. Not words I was expecting to hear today. Or ever, really. Then we watch as a team of hot shot smoke jumpers parachute into the heavily treed area close to the fire. Aparently they just hope to grab branches and climb down? In any case, fear I was overreacting gives way to relief we did the right thing.

At Whole Foods a crowd has congregated outside, eyes to a now thick, dark cloud of smoke billowing upwards behind the ridge we just walked down and out. The fire has expanded, says the news to 70 acres in a few short hours. Our little note could very well have gone up in flames by now.There’s no way segment 7 is going to be passable anytime soon, so we opt, miraculously in the only place on trail this is possible, to take the free bus over to the next segment, fire stories in tow and move on. And as if the day hasn’t had enough detours and complications, the bus driver delivers us to the wrong stop. We end up starting a mile and a half in to Segment 8 instead of at the start, after wandering lost around the ski resort. Five miles up there trail, there’s a guy whose made a freaking campfire. We go over to “chat” and, as politely as we can, make sure he knows Breckenridge is on evacuation alert and that the rangers have been asking people where they camped and if they made fires. Is there ataully a ban he asks? Does it even matter, I think to myself. We are breathing smoke from a wildfire (and yes, there was a totally county fire ban). It is just Too Soon!

We press on toward a more enticing meadow spot, as thunder grumbles. What else does this day want us to go through? Calling 911 and self-evacuating isn’t enough???!

We end up camped on the pretty meandow and I feel kind of terrible squishing a few plants, but the more durable sites are taken and there are fire pits here and the grey remains of an old log cabin. Though there’s absolutely no way I’m lighting anything other than my stove tonight. The thunder clouds have thinned to whisps (smoke?) pink with sunset. And the almost full moon rises above the red hillside as the alpenglow glow fades into night.

CT Day 2: Fog, Foot, Food

June 30th
Miles: 20
Total: 40.2

Segment 2 Mile 3.5 to end of segment 3.

I wake in a fog. An actual one made of damp cloud obscuring what should be a fine view. Having spent half the night awake quaking in my tent contemplating an electric demise, I propose putting off our 6:30 start a bit, with the expectation the sun will soon pop out and dry off the tents. Everything is so clammy. Getting dressed in clothes damp with a mix of yesterday’s sweat and humid morning air makes me feel like it’s been seven days since my last shower, which was in fact only yesterday. But the bright spot to the east fades back to gloom, so I reluctantly shove a dripping wet tent in my pack pocket and start walking. A few miles down the trail we meet other hikers shaking off the storm and making later than intended starts. We see a campsite listed in the guide book, a sweet spot among boulders on the highest point of the ridge. I can imagine the view is spectacular on a clear day but it must have been terrifying up there last night, though the empty dirt patches betray nothing of last night’s drama.

Despite the general wetness, there’s ironically no actual water to be had up here on the ridges and through the burn areas, even early in the season. We meet several hikers completely out of water with five miles to go. Steph kindly gives a half liter to a women who has been out since last night. She even tried putting her pot out in the storm to catch raindrops!

We walk the remainder of the usually scorching hot burn sections in the shady remnants of storm clouds. Those without water could have been in a serious situation on a usual summer day. I think about the Southern California PCT, but these “long” treeless-waterless bits are nothing in comparison to the 40 mile charred stretches in the mountains behind LA. And there isn’t even any dreaded poodle dog bush to up the difficulty. I got this, I think confidently, while trying to ignore a nagging pain in my heel tendon. Not a blister, but a pressure point from a design change to the most recent iteration of my beloved Altra Lone Peaks. A break for water at the North Fork fire station is cut short by the not so balmy weather. The wind is making the conditions downright chilly. I sit shaking in my puffy wondering how cold it is going to be when we hit 11,000 feet in the coming days, regretting the decision to mail my warm hat ahead to Breckenridge with my microspikes.

The trail follows a wide dirt road into segment 3 where we “share” the trail with loads of mountain bikers, some more polite than others. Some careening downhill with barely a glance, giving zero f***s about hikers.

The air stays pleasantly cool. The trail is gentle and smooth. I should be crushing miles, but I am beginning to hobble. The jabbing sensation in my right heel has gone from irritating to downright painful since I first noticed it yesterday. Why now, when I have worn this exact pair of shoes on several backpacking trips? My left foot is perfectly happy. Right foot why doth thee protest so much? We stop for lunch-snacks optimistically laying out our went tents hoping a tiny window of sunlight will linger. I sit and sew down the offending flap of shoe, hoping at least it will hold long enough to prove itself the culprit. Once I am sure that’s the cause I can do shoe surgery and amputate the pokey bit.

The results are positive. A few hours later I  happily start noticing other more expected feelings. Like generally tired feet and the chafing reminder that yes, I do have thighs, a sure sign than the tendon problem is much improved because in general you only notice whatever hurts the most. And with (most of) my suffering contained, I return to noticing the scenery which has shifted to gentle forest punctuated with curious rock formations that seem transplanted here from some alien ecosystem. On we walk, taking note of which seasonal streams are still running (all the ones the guidebook awards the cup half full symbol, though some will soon be dry). But now we are camped at least partway up the giant hill. There are four other tents already here, just a hare before the end of segment 3. 

I cook a package of Good To Go Pad Thai to share with Steph (who is experimenting with going stovelenss this segment) to celebrate to a great day (OK, because it is the heaviest meal in my bulging food bag). And it is Am. Aze. Ing. Like the best food I have eaten on trail ever. Except partway through eating, Steph, who was long vegetarian, realizes the meal contains shrimp (I did ask if she was OK with seafood!) and admits that she has never in her life eaten shrimp before and has no idea if she is deathly allergic. So we are about to find out here in the woods somewhere. I promise to shove liquid Benadryl down her throat at the first sign of struggle, but luckily  she polishes off the rest of dinner without incident. In other news, Steph’s friend Erin who lives in Denver started at segment three today, hoping to catch us at camp. But she’s still not here. We expect that she was wooed by the lovely creekside sites a few miles back, just before the start of what is a very long climb. We took a long break at the creek and totally understand its allure. But there’s always tomorrow. Tomorrow when we will wake to keep climbing this mountain of a hill. Tomorrow when we will top out near 11,000 feet. Tomorrow, after a good sleep.

CT Day 1: A Lightning Start

June 29th
Miles: 20.5

Segment 1 Mile 0 to Segment 2 Mile 3.5 (the CT is divided up into 28 more easily digestible segments bordered by road crossings)

Slumberkat and Maestro, two of my favorite PCT 2015 peeps, have been totally upping their trail angel game. Yesterday Slumberkat picked Steph and I up from the train and took us on a hiker dream tour to REI, (vegan!) happy hour and a grocery store. This morning Slumberkat wakes up early to drive us to the trailhead, and generally fuss over us, making sure to take plenty of start photos and offering again, to meet us down the trail should we need anything whatsoever. You two are the best!At Waterton Canyon there are eight others, in ones and twos, starting out for sections and thrus at this same hour, a surprising number to me. I wonder if the CT will be John Muir Trail busy. Or worse, since so many have come here after bailing on the still snowed in Sierra.

The official first six miles of the CT follow a wide dirt road and are almost dead flat. Not a terrible start really, as the miles come easily and the river is pretty, if tamed by various bits of infrastructure culminating in a large dam.

Two miles in, and we are already grateful for company and conversation because the walking doesn’t exactly require brain power. I am kind of tired this morning, not exactly bubbling over with the combimation of excitement and nerves that often mark the start of a long hike. Maybe I just need to get some miles between me and my work life to get back into happy hiker mode. But what if I am bored with backpacking? I worry about this to myself and about work aloud.

There are pit toilets and picnic tables every mile or two. Most notably, the last one comes with a small herd of mountain goats (?) intently slurping some mysterious nutrients out of the gravel road. There are plenty of bikers, walkers and runners out this mornings too.

But soon the road ends for us and while the single track finally feels like hiking the way is mostly up. I distract myself with all the pretty flowers and plants along the way. Some familiar, like sky rocket. Some I only know from photos, like Colorado columbine. Which is much bigger than I expected in real life. And some, I have never seen before. There are delicious surprises too, in the form of tiny wild strawberries. I perform a unintended thigh workout, via a series of strawberry picking squats with fully loaded pack.

We stop for a “proper” lunch (read handfuls of various snack foods) at Bear Creek, which is still running well and clear at the main crossing. But, after carrying a few litres of water another mile up a steep hill, we discover that the seasonal upper creek is also still running – right across the trail in three places -further up as well. Yay for bonus water carries!?

It’s only four hours in to day one, but talk has drifted to town days. Here I am planning to eat eggs and spinach in six days. Mostly though, it’s generous switchbacks both up and down, and with our steady pace, segment one turns out to be not so hard. At 4:30 we reach the campsites just above the South Platt river. They are already mostly occupied and the spaces left are not so flat or welcoming. And there’s word that the pit toilet is a poo- smeared trash filled disaster. I cannot confirm this as I was unwilling to investigate.

We chat with one of the hikers already camped here who is carrying the full CT guidebook (too heavy for me, but seems to have more campsites listed than the data book or Guthook) and learn that the next campsites are in about 2.5 miles, up a massive hill, of course. And in a 13 mile waterless stretch. Through an exposed burn area. Fun!
We decide to go down to the river, and only water source, and think about it. But of course I already know I will not be dragging my pack backwards uphill today. So forwards uphill it will have to be.

Before the climb we stop for dinner on a dusty patch of riverside that almost passes for a sandy beach. I stand in the cool water and rinse off dust and salt. The air is so dry I seem to be sweating solid crystals. I had planned to get all the way in the water to rinse, but of course the clouds are at their darkest just at this moment. I eat my heaviest dinner before semi-reluctantly filling bottles with enough water to dry camp and make it 10 miles to the next source in the morning. At least we will we doing the bulk of this exposed climb in the cool evening air. But such effort it takes! My pack feels like a sack of bricks (even though it can’t be more than 26 pounds), and though they are switchbacks there are some steep sections.
But up we go, to hard earned ridges and the promise of camp. The sun even peeks out for some stellar late day illumination, brightening distant hills and peaks. Except when we reach our intended campsite, it just doesn’t feel right. The spots are super exposed on a ridge and a wind has kicked up and the afternoon’s thunderclouds have yet to dissipate. Steph decides she can manage one more mile. We plod on, imagining all kinds of flat spots that really aren’t (Steph even hallucinates a fire ring!). I must be overreacting, I think. We should have just stayed at those lovely first view sites. I must be too tired to know a good site when I see one, way too cautious with the clouds breaking up for the day. Both of us, however want the site to feel ‘right’ so we can get a proper night’s sleep after two travel-shortened ones. 

Then finally, exactly one mile later we find it: lovely, flat, cleared spaces among the trees with grand views between, slightly below the ridge and with a lot more tree coverage.
We set up tents and settle down for some good sleep all content with our big first day, feeling pretty accomplished for having conquered what was supposed to be most of tomorrow’s big climb too.

Until….

I wake in the dark listening as drip…drop…drip becomes a steady patter of rain against nylon above my head. I tuck in my groundsheet, close my tent flap and hope the stakes hold in the shallow soil. Hope Steph has everything inside where she is camped a few hundred feet away. Rain the first night. When I thought the cloud situation was clearing up. When I thought the storms were more of an afternoon affair. Colorado weather you are a mystery to me!

Then the distant rumble of thunder, and I am so relieved we pressed on that last tough mile to find somewhere more forested and somewhat less exposed than the first ridge. Hoping it passes fast and far off. Then the flash and rumble closer. I am live blogging this storm to myself (without service) as I can do little more than be a spectator at this point (other than run off a ridge into the dark rain in my pjs). Welcome to 3am our first night! So much for a good rest after a long day.

One one thousand… two one thousand…three…BOOM! Closer still. Lightening truly freaks me out. Scares me more than bears. More than hitch hiking alone.

FLASH….one one-thousand… twBOOM!!! And I am terrified, shaking a bit to be honest, thinking about death by lightening. Thinking about that one time on the PCT when the storm was stuck swirling against the ridge again and again for 12 hours. Please, please let the next flash shows signs of moving on.
And then, half an hour later it is gone. The rain tapers back to drips and the thunder fades into the distance, off to terrorize other hikers on other ridges.

I’m starving now that I have time for more feelings. But of course my food is all tied up in my ursack (a bear resistant bag) attached to a tree. And with my senses all riled up and over sensitive I think I hear footsteps in that direction. But maybe it’s just the last fat drops falling from the trees. Or a deer licking up my pee. It just might be time for the earplugs. Oh blissful oblivion! Much better.

Colorado Trail! Gear and other pre-hike thoughts

In less than a week I’m setting off on my next adventure: a thru hike of the Colorado Trail! The CT begins just outside of Denver and ends in Durango, arcing 480 trail miles to the southwest. Along the way I will enjoy views from the ridges and meadows along the continental divide, climb a 14er or three and hopefully catch the spring bloom. There will be some new challenges too. Like angry moose. And afternoon thunderstorms charging through on an almost-daily basis. There’s also some lingering snow after a cool spring, but hopefully the melt will precede me. And it’s nothing like the current situation in the Sierra or Cascades! But I’ve been practicing just in case:​

 

​Other than possibly carrying microspikes, mostly I’m just bringing my PCT gear. I already own it, and know it works for me. Two very important qualities in gear! You can see my even-the-diva-cup complete CT gear list here. I have replaced a few worn out items, mostly socks and shoes, but also my Marmot Essence rain jacket that no longer beads up and is starting to de-laminate after three seasons (not terrible for such a lightweight item). I will re-waterproof the old one and still bring it on shorter trips, but wanted some factory-coated certainty for the whole summer monsoon thing. Also the new red really pops against stormy skies.Having re-sealed the seams after last summer’s storm debacle, my TarpTent Notch is still going strong after 150+ nights. I will be bringing the inner net because mosquito season, but would probably just go with the outer tarp for an August start. I keep dreaming about replacing my reeking-with-the-stench-of-a-thousand-armpits but still perfectly functional ULA circuit pack with something slightly smaller and more colorful. The ULA OHM in orange and Superior Wilderness Designs 35 in teal (swoon!) are top contenders, but I’ve talked myself out of it so far. Sorry airplane seat neighbors. It’s not me, it’s my pack. Actually, I have been fighting off the urge to buy all kinds of shiny-clean new things, but seem to have kept the consumerism mostly at bay. It wouldn’t be too hard to justify an upgrade to a full-sized Saweyr filter, but would it still feel like thru hiking without my daily mini squeeze struggles? I’ve made it five months patiently filtering through a pinhole, surely I can make it one more?

I am slowly learning not to invest big $ in hiking shirts since I tend to trash them (literally). I found a shfancy ex-officio Halo shirt on Sierra Trading Post for $30. It has some magic (anti?) fairy dust that keeps bugs away and hopefully won’t give me cancer. I’m not especially in love with the pale color, but it looks (excessively) respectable with my purple rain hiking skirt (as seen on Half Dome). Am I even hiker trash anymore?Resupply boxes are (mostly) packed. Data book torn into sections with care. And I’m even starting with a friend – Steph who I met on the High Sierra Trail last summer. We have hostel reservations in Breckenridge for the 4th of July (mile 104). I’m only bringing five days food as ‘motivation.’ I might not have told Steph about that part. Follow along and see if we make it on time!