Date- September 18, 2019
Elevation- 7,051 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 21.1 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1,731.1 miles
Weather/Temp- partly cloudy, rain, hail, wind
Pain level- zero
Wildlife encounters- marmots
Days without shower- 0
Days without laundry- 11
I was awake fairly early and just laid under my tree watching the world grow brighter. At around 7:30 am I heard the gunshot of a muzzle loader come from somewhere up on the mountain I was slated to climb.
The shot came just as Twigsy was hiking out. He turned to me and said, “I’m gonna go find that elk before the hunter and cut a back strap off it!” We both laughed.
I wasn’t hiking until 8:15 am and was immediately tackling a 1,000+ ft climb. At the very base of the climb I ran into a late middle aged hunter and asked him if he’d taken the shot. He said, “no,” but that it was probably his brother Bill up on the mountain. He also told me his name was Wayne, and that if I ran into Bill up there, to tell him that he was down here and going to the truck. I told him I would; however, I never saw his brother.
It was cloudy and windy across the open ridge-line atop the pass of the first climb – but breathtakingly beautiful. I was moving fast enough that I could get away with just my t-shirt. The wind was a nice complement to even out my body temperature.
I moved fast down the trail as it descended the first pass and traversed an old railroad bed for several miles. Some of my favorite stretches of trail anywhere are on old railroad beds. The grade is always so gentle, and you typically can find cool artifacts… like really old railroad spikes.
I was coming across a vast, flat, open space next to a small lake (just before the next steep climb up to the next pass)… when I happened to glance over my shoulder and saw another hiker behind me about 100 yards back. This person was running after me. I thought this was strange and quickly turned back and picked up my pace. Then I heard a voice carry faintly over the wind… “Mayoorrr!” I glanced back again and took a longer— harder look. It was Smiles! I hadn’t seen her since Steamboat Springs, nearly 3 weeks ago.
I waited until she caught up and we hugged each other. She’d been ahead up until Grand Lake. At that point she took three days off to spend time with her boyfriend, who came out to visit. She had been trying to catch up to me, Toast, Twigsy, and Jetpack ever since.
We stopped and chatted for a few minutes. I learned that she had camped with Swift about 7 miles back from Tincup Pass last night. It was good to know that Swift was safe. I still wasn’t sure if she’d have the legs to get all the way to town today.
Smiles and I hiked together for the rest of the day. We caught up to Twigsy going up the second pass and hiked with him for a good 4 miles.
The end goal was Monarch Pass – a heavily trafficked area where we could hitch into the town of Salida. There was a small snack bar restaurant and souvenir shop at Monarch Pass where you could mail or receive packages. Smiles had a package she needed to pick up today, but the place closed at 6 pm. She needed it before she got into town, but we still had 11 miles left at a little after 3 pm. So I joined her on a side trail that came out on the highway several miles below Monarch Pass and walked up 1,600 feet from there. It ended up cutting a little less than 4 miles and added more uphill terrain – but we got there 30 minutes before it closed and she got her package! We soon learned afterwards that part of the trail had been closed and detoured to add a couple miles before the pass; so we’d made a fortuitous decision!
From there we hitched into Salida and got picked up by a British expat named Joe. He dropped us off on the edge of town and we walked a mile to a hostel called “The Simple Lodge and Hostel.” It was basically just a guy’s house that he’d turned into a hostel. It was cool, cozy, and there were about eight other CT and CDT hikers there (along with some other random guests).
Smiles, Jetpack, Woodchuck, and myself all went out to dinner at this joint called “Currents.” They had a very eclectic menu, but the food was superb. I overdosed on poutine.
‘Lo and Behold‘
If you’re thinking it’s extremely random to hear Woodchuck’s name again, you’re right. We hadn’t seen her since Yellowstone. She’d been hiking with a torn meniscus for pretty much the entire trail. She finally had to stop hiking, but didn’t want to end the adventure. So she bought a bicycle and has been biking the Divide which goes by many of the same towns as the trail. Hopefully we’ll see more of her!
I’m thinking tomorrow will be a zero day. I have a lot of blog work to do and we’re enjoying being around all these kindred spirits. We’re also waiting for Swift and Toast to get in – which should be tomorrow afternoon…
*******FYI!!! I didn’t have enough service to upload photos to the previous few days before they posted. I just added photos to them today, so you can go back and look at them now if you want! ********
You can read my current and past posts, and see my photos by clicking this link and going to Boundlessroamad.com