Daily Miles: 15
Total Miles: 303
Sometimes when we get to a certain point on the trail, the reality of restrictions are finally understood. Case in point: before our next town stop, the CDT does a big horse shoe loop out into the Rocky Mountain National Park. There is a more direct alternate available as well. We had planned to do the loop, thinking it was just a 21 mile stretch. We knew we had to enter and exit the RMNP in one day since we don’t have the required bear canisters for camping. We had originally thought that the loop was the only part of the trail in the park, but it turns out that the park boundary starts five miles before the loop and ends a few miles after the loop. So, what we had thought was just a 21 mile day would end up being at least 28 miles.
At this point, we are thinking that we won’t be doing the loop, since it would create such a big day. Instead, we will take the more direct alternate which knocks about 16 miles off this stretch. That’s a lot! It also means that we have a point where we need to camp tomorrow night so that we don’t camp within the RMNP boundary. That hard stop means that we get two pretty low-mile days (a bonus as our bodies get a chance to acclimate to the elevation).
Luckily SweetPea was feeling better today. The nausea was gone, thank goodness, while the low energy remained. At least it was an improvement over yesterday. And it was a good thing she was feeling better, as we had a beast of a climb today.
The morning started off very mild, with a bit of downhill to our one water source for the day. There were a lot of downed trees across the trail which slowed our progress. Some of the downed trees seemed fairly new, but some looked like they had been there for awhile, as the work around seemed well-worn.
After laundry and a snack at the creek, we started a climb that looked rather menacing on the elevation profile. It started out fine, with switchbacks and reasonable inclines. The views we really nice as we got above the trees and had clear views across the mountains and valleys.
We could see the small hut, which was our high point, for miles as we climbed. The trail eventually petered out and it basically turned into a free for all up the mountain. We tried to create our own switchbacks as we climbed to make it a bit easier, but it was still a really difficult climb. We had about 1,000 feet of elevation gain in the last mile, as we climbed to about 12,300 feet. We did the last mile of climb in about an hour, which felt like it took forever. We couldn’t really think of a harder climb that we have had.
Once we got to the top, we took an extended break. After about a hour, as the rain clouds were coming in and the thunder was starting to rumble, we started our descent down. We met our first CDT thru-hiker as we started down. His trail name is Montucky and we chatted with him for a few minutes.
Then it felt a little like a race to get down to tree line before the storm started. The thunder was an almost constant rumble as we tried to walk quickly down the mountain. Luckily the rain never really materialized in our area. But, it was good to get back down in the trees.
We crossed a big paved road near the end of our day. The trail after the road really changed, as mountain bikers were now allowed and the trail showed a lot of erosion from the bikes…pretty rutted and dusty.
Even though we didn’t do a lot of miles today, we are all pretty tired and ready for a good night of sleep.