From Twin Lakes, Colorado, I hitchhiked to Leadville and then back up to Copper Mountain where my family picked me up and we all went to Vail. I was able to spend some time with them, explore areas away from the trail, eat LOTS of food and recuperate a bit before returning to the CDT. It was a wonderful vacation from hiking and filled my heart for the rest of this trip.
The aspens were in full fall foliage, shimmering gold in the breeze. One night, I got to a cabin and there were a lot of hikers already there, and I happened to know every one of them. We all had a great time catching up and were happy to have a roof over our heads and a warm place to sleep. I ended up hiking out with one of them, Biz from Denmark, the next morning. We had hiked into Colorado together and teamed up from the Silverthorne alternate until I took my family vacation, so we were happy to be hiking together again!
The trail climbed and descended frequently and steeply, with lots of rock and occasional bad weather. Water sources became more sparse and the days are constantly getting shorter. We followed a long valley, climbing up toward San Luis pass, and learned that it can be sunny and hailing at the same time. That hail eventually turned into a thunderstorm that drove us to take cover and camp before the pass. The temperature plummeted overnight and the wind ripped my tent stakes from the ground and rain and hail battered me while I tried to re-secure them in the dark.
The morning was frigid and the wind so strong that it pushed me backward as I put all my energy into climbing the pass. Dark clouds swirled menacingly and the wind continued to whip painfully around me. We made the decision to take a side trail down to a mining town and were so happy that we did. As we dropped in elevation, the wind calmed. We we able to think clearly again and talk about our plan as we took in the golden meadows and shimmering aspens. The trail turned to dirt road, which took us past historical mining buildings and through an incredible canyon. This walk down to town was one of my favorite parts of the trail so far and I would love to come back and explore it more!
When Biz and I got to town, we got lunch (all you can eat taco bar!) and then headed to the hostel. Just on the edge of town, the little hostel felt incredibly homey and we met up with some of the other hikers from the cabin there. We caught up, made big family-style meals and had a great time while we all waited out the weather system that had driven us down into town in the first place. Next up: the southern San Juan mountains!
When I resupply, I look at how many miles I need to hike until my next stop and what the terrain is like to determine how many days' worth of food I will need. The more I hike, the better I get at this calculus, but sometimes I still get it wrong. On this last stretch through the Gila River Wilderness, I definitely got it wrong and my hiking partner and I ended up a bit at odds, having some severe food anxiety for days and being VERY hungry. How did it go so wrong?
Usually I make my food before I leave home, dehydrating and measuring and preparing every meal with nutrition, calorie content and weight in mind. I sort all of my food into resupply boxes and label them for post office drops along the way. Sometimes, however, things get messy. A box gets lost in the mail. I arrive on a holiday weekend and would have to wait 3 days for...
Honestly though, this hike has been worlds apart from my thru hike of the PCT. The trail itself has a very different feel, the people are different, and I am a different hiker than I was on my last journey. This hike has been such a unique experience from any of my other hikes and I am so grateful for it.