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Colorado Trail: Days 10 - 16

Segment 10: 156.4 - 169.7 (13.3 miles)

Segment 11*: 169.7 - 183.5 (13.8 miles)

CW 1: 0.0 - 9.7 (9.7 miles)

CW 2: 9.7 - 35.2 (25.5 miles)

CW 3: 35.2 - 50.9 (15.7 miles)

CW 4: 50.9 - 67.6 (16.7 miles)

CW 5: 67.6 - 92.0 (24.4 miles)

Day 10 - July 10th

Daily miles: 17.0

Official distance covered on trail: 175.2

Segments witnessed: 10, 11

Took me a long time to agree to get out of bed. A warm, dry, elevated, non-deflatable bed. I was awake at 5:30, but waited until about 7:00 to get up.

Mitch drove me to the trailhead and stayed behind to do some trail magic. The beginning of the hiking day was challenging physically, but mostly mentally. I forgot how difficult it was to get back into the trail mindset after spending a day in town.

I do feel good about having dialed in my pace. I know that my average pace is 2.5 mph - closer to 2 if it's all challenging uphill, closer to 3 if it's flat or relaxed downhill. I started my hardest and longest climb of the day at 10:25. I knew it was a 3 mile ascent, so I estimated I'd arrive at the summit between 11:35 and 11:40. Got there at 11:37.

Today was just a get-through-it hiking day. No spectacular views, nothing of note, just a day.

Tomorrow, I have to stop into Twin Lakes. I was just in Leadville yesterday, but I intentionally didn't get enough food because a 4-5 day carry sounds a lot more tolerable than a 6 day carry, so I shorted myself a little.

Day 11 - July 11th

Daily miles: 10 or so?

Official distance covered on trail: CW 8.8

Segments witnessed: 11, CW 1

Best sleep on trail yet! Slept basically through the night. Is that what flat camp sites are like?!

Woke up with the intention of hiking the 2.5ish miles to the highway to get to the general store in Twin Lakes by 8:00. That's when they open. I thought. Apparently on Mondays, they don't open until 10:30... So I just had to sit around and wait. There were a ton of other hikers in town waiting to resupply. I knew a few, but most were strangers.  At least the general store was next to a food "truck" that sold burritos and coffee drinks, so I was able to have a nice breakfast and hang out for a bit before resupplying.

There was word of a shortcut to remove the pointless walk around the lake to get back to trail, which involved a brief river fording. I definitely took it. Like I'm still walking...

At this point, the trail is split into two parts: the Collegiate East and the Collegiate West. The East is the part that is officially a part of the Colorado Trail, but almost everybody does the West nowadays. It's marginally longer and harder, but significantly more scenic. Because it's not technically a part of the trail, the "official distance covered on trail" will be for the Collegiate West (CW), and also won't end up matching with when the trail reconnects on the south end, but I'll take the loss of mileage counted in the end. Anyway, the reason there's an asterisk next to Segment 11 is because S11 continues into the Collegiate East, so I didn't finish it out.

The Collegiate West begins on the north end with a brutal climb up to Hope Pass. Looking at the map, I knew it would be tough, especially since it was getting from about 9,000 feet to about 12,500 feet, but I had no idea just how challenging the ascent would be. A woman I met the other day who's doing sections of the CT said that it's called Hope Pass because she hopes to never have to do anything like it again. I've decided it's called Hope Pass because, just as you've lost all hope, it reminds you why you're out here. I'd allotted 2 hours for the 4-mile climb; the first three miles were pretty on pace, but the last mile alone took over 40 minutes, and it was an absolute slog. But as soon as I got over the top...

Even though it was a low mileage day, I'm just exhausted. Double Dip and I are planning a pretty long day tomorrow, but we'll see how it actually pans out.

Day 12 - July 12th

Daily miles: 24.9 miles

Official distance covered on trail: CW 33.7

Segments witnessed: CW 1, CW 2

Today was an overall confusing day. Not a bad one. Just confusing.

The first part of the morning was really beautiful. I watched as the red morning sun that bounced off majestic mountain faces turned into golden mist over the meadow. It was truly lovely to watch the sun morph over the early morning hours.

But for whatever reason, I just.. wasn't feeling it. Double Dip speculated that, since I spent 3 hours in Twin Lakes yesterday, my brain processed it like a town day, and today, my brain is showing its grumpy post-town-day attitude. Whatever it is, I just really wasn't in the mood.

Double Dip and I split about 5 miles into our hike. She wanted to take the junction for Mt. Huron, a nearby 14er, but I don't particularly enjoy 14ers - especially ones that would be at least 5 hours' worth of detour - so I stayed on the trail. I wish I liked doing 14ers. There are so many that aren't that far off trail. A lot of people did Mt. Massive and/or Mt. Elbert these past few days, and there are more coming up. But I struggle to breathe at 12,000 feet, so I'm not super interested in pushing that limit further unless I have to. Regardless, that left me as a solo hiker for the first time since before Leadville.

The big view of the day was Lake Ann Pass. Simply gorgeous. These passes are gonna be the death of me, though; the first few miles seem fine, and the last mile takes every ounce of effort to slog through. Damn good thing they're so pretty!

I would have loved to take a longer break at the top, but storm clouds were starting to roll in, and above tree line is about the last place you want to be during a thunderstorm. Thankfully, it only drizzled on me on my way down. The sky was dark and grumbly for hours, but I never got more rain.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, but I was able to push through more miles than I'd originally intended. It definitely helped that the rain stayed away, and I had no hard plans or anyone to meet, so I just.. kept going. Finally got to camp sometime after 7:00, which is way later than I've normally been hiking.

My feet definitely hurt, though. Double Dip and I were saying the other day how good the break in Leadville was for our feet, and while I don't doubt that it helped, I think the real reason was that we hadn't pushed over 20 miles in awhile. So now I'm sitting in my tent with throbbing feet, hoping I'm tired enough to not let it keep me from a good night's sleep.

Day 13 - July 13th

Daily miles: 17.5

Official distance on trail: CW 51.2

Segments witnessed: CW 2, CW 3, CW 4

Ok sooo maybe pushing all those extra miles was a mistake. I know for a fact I neglected to properly nourish myself last night out of sheer exhaustion, and I suffered for it today. Had to take a long break after only 1.5 miles of hiking. Also didn't wake up until 6:30, and only did then because a coyote was howling not 20 feet from my tent, so that was all the alarm clock I needed.

I literally cannot tell you why today was so difficult for me mentally. It was by far the most scenic day I've had on trail - almost entirely above tree line, so tons of views all day - but for whatever reason, I was just like.. irritated that I had to hike. I just wanted to get to camp. Or, better yet, town. I even called Mitch to vent my grievances when I had service, and plugged into music to make the hike go by faster for the first time all trail.

It sure was beautiful, though.

There are some sections of taluses, which are basically just piles of rocks. A lot of people I've been hiking with call these sections ankle-breakers. I call them The Whites but less steep.

About halfway through my day, I met two gentlemen called One-Eye and Greski, and they let me hunker down with them as we waited for a storm to either come or pass. We could see dark clouds rolling in, and we didn't want to continue over the next few mountain passes if it was going to storm. Fortunately, the storm never came, even though the sky was dark all the rest of the day.

The guide didn't name a single one, but we crossed at least 5 different mountain passes today.

When we got to camp, like every hiker I knew was either there already or rolled in after. This is the only decent camping spot for awhile in either direction, so it makes sense, and it was so fun to hang out with everyone!

Several people noted the same feelings I had today - down for no reason, frustrated at hiking, and guilty for feeling that way on such a gorgeous day. Makes me feel better that I'm not alone in any of this.

Oh, and on an unrelated note, today is the anniversary of the day I summitted Katahdin!

Day 14 - July 14th

Daily miles: 18.6

Official distance covered on trail: CW 69.8

Segments witnessed: CW 4, CW 5

I don't know why today was better, even though it was worse.

I woke up at 5:45 after the best night of sleep and got going by 6:20. Lots of uphill to  go over a pass first thing in the morning, and 6 of us stayed up there in the sun to let our tents and stuff dry out.

Much of the day today was still above tree line, so still a lot of good views, but not nearly as interesting as yesterday.

A definite highlight for me was checking off a bucket list item - skinny dipping in an alpine lake! It was absolutely frigid, but a great way to break up the day! It started raining not too long after we got out, and then we had the steep incline to get over the next pass.

By the time we started our descent, it wasn't quite 1:00, and all of us wanted to go about 7 more miles to a lake that has a lot of good tent spots. If there's one thing I've learned today, it's that, while hiking, if it starts to rain and you try to outsmart it by keeping your rain jacket off and waiting it out, it'll only rain harder, but if you put your rain jacket on, it'll stop raining in minutes.

I arrived here around 4:10, and good thing I did, because it started raining hard around 4:15. Even had my rain jacket on... Anyway, it's now 6:30 as I'm writing this, and everyone's been holed up in their tents trying to avoid the cold rain. There have been a few intermittent lulls, but not enough that anyone feels confident in getting out and cooking dinner. I'm starving, but right now, I value my warmth over my tummy.

It's now almost 9:00 - hiker midnight. People just went to bed because the storm forced us to have a late dinner. Usually by now, everyone's been in their tents for at least half an hour, but people are still out talking. Those few hours of being huddled alone in our tents deprived  us of those social non-hiking hours, so we needed them on the back end.

Tomorrow, we get into Salida, so all of us have been thinking about what town food we want. I'm dreaming of hot dogs, Sprite, ice cream, and salads with fruit in them.

Day 15 - July 15th

Daily miles: 8.5

Official distance covered on trail: CW 78.4

Segments witnessed: CW 5

I decided last night to let myself sleep in this morning, since I only had 8.5 miles to get to Monarch Pass, and I'm taking tomorrow off, too. Woke up at 6:15 or so, and got out of camp pretty quickly after that.

The first mile and a half was a continuation of the brutal uphill that rounded out yesterday. On uphills as steep as that, I find that it's best to go up as slowly as possible and just let myself get up when I do, instead of exerting tons of energy. The top of the climb was the Continental Divide itself. Not the trail, which we've been following for awhile, but the actual ridge that separates the watersheds into Pacific on one side and Atlantic on the other. And holy wow, was the climb worth it!

Most of the hike went along the ridge, and it was just views on views for miles.

A group of us stopped at the top of a ski resort to look at some surrounding mountains. We all got into Monarch Pass by 10:30 and wreaked havoc on the visitor center store. Is 10:30am too early for Sprite and hot dogs? Not for hikers, it's not!

Day 16 - July 16th

Daily miles - 0.0

Official distance covered on trail: CW 78.4

Segments witnessed: none

I'm so grateful to have friends all over Colorado. My friend Hannah lives in Salida, so I've been able to stay with her, and it's been so fun! Mitch and I are particularly enamored with this mountain town.

My friend Sarah also came down from Denver to join us while we did trail magic at a trailhead that I passed through on Wednesday. I was nervous that people wouldn't come by at that time, but we got a ton of people! It's so fun to watch hikers get so excited by simple acts of kindness. I know I get the same way when I get trail magic, but it's just fun being on the other side. Saw a few hikers I already knew, so it was good catching up! As an extra reward, we saw 4 moose in a nearby field! Hadn't seen any up 'til this point.

Not mentally prepared to get started again. It's just.. so nice, being around friends and being inside when it's raining.

Over halfway done, though!


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