Location- Winter Park
Distance Traveled Today- 16 miles
Distance Traveled Total-
Weather/Temp- partly cloudy 60s 50s
Pain level- zero
Spirits/Morale- stressed, frustrated
Wildlife encounters- deer, 3 moose
Days without shower- 0
Days without laundry- 7
Walking out of Grand Lake today I was exhausted. The day was gorgeous, and the terrain laughably easy, but the wind was completely out of my sails. The body felt fine and was performing well, but my mind was not with it, and would have preferred to be sleeping.
A good chunk of this short day was spent walking along the Colorado River beneath the Aspens and evergreens; gently rising and falling with the shoreline hillsides.
Eventually the trail climbed higher and cut away from the Colorado River, leaving me perched high above the massive Lake Granby. At the culmination of this climb I sat on a rocky outcropping overlooking the lake for around half an hour, watching the wind lines play over the surface of the water.
While walking around the rim of Lake Granby, shrouded in a tunnel of conifers and Aspens; I heard a loud grunt. I didn’t immediately stop, but my senses did instantly tune in to my surroundings all the more. Several seconds later I caught the movement of something massive and dark through the trees. I froze for a moment, deduced it was most likely a bull moose (the antlers), then crept forward. As I began to creep, totally focused on the obscured beast, I completely missed two other massive cow moose just beyond the Bull, but in plain sight. This was a first; three big moose, almost right on the trail.
Pulling out my phone/camera I began to record the encounter. The Bull was the closest to the trail (and myself), so against my better judgment, I stalked closer. Although he wasn’t looking in my direction and seemed unaware of my presence, I’m almost certain that he must have known I was there. Moving slowly, I got a little more than 20 ft from the big bull with mostly his back facing me while he looked at the cows. Every so often he would let out a low grunt/grumble. My adrenaline was surging with excitement and fear; I could feel my knees shaking from the chemicals being released into my bloodstream, making them ready to take flight at any moment. I crouched low to get a clearer shot through the vegetation. Several moments later the Bull suddenly yet calmly turned his head to look directly at me. This was the first time he’d made me aware that he was in fact aware of me, since I’d found him. Realizing that I probably looked like a crouching predator, I slowly stood up, ready to take evasive maneuvers if he charged. He didn’t, but he kept his eyes on me as I slowly backed away behind a thicket of vegetation and tree trunks, obscuring the both of us from each other’s vision once again. I gave them a wide berth and moved along…
At around 4 pm I arrived in a lakeside community and campground which I walked through for close to a mile. It was here that I began a dialogue through text with my hiking buddies who were ahead. There was bad weather rolling in for the next 3 days and the next stretch of trail was completely exposed and covered in snow; it had taken them hours to post hole several miles through the fresh snow. They encouraged me not to head back onto the ridge from the lake, but to instead lay low, or try to find a ride to them in the town of Winter Park. I heeded their advice and began trying to hitch.
In the end an older woman who’d been maintaining trails in the local area for more than 30 years picked me up. She was active enough on the trails to have her own trail name, “Bushwhacker.” So Bushwhacker and I had a long and constructive conversation over current trail conditions during the 35 miles into Winter Park.
So here I am, reunited with everyone at a ski bum lodge in a room with a loft. The forecast is calling for snow and rain. The surrounding mountains are completely whited out, and it’s looking like any snow that’s here or is about to come…may be here to stay. I’m feeling the pinch.