Daily Miles: 20
Total Miles: 373
It seemed that we camped in an especially cold spot last night. We were all so cold this morning that we started with wind pants and down jackets. But within just a few minutes, it was like we walked into a different weather pattern and the air was suddenly a lot warmer.
We had a few miles of downhill at the beginning of the day, and then we started in on the first of two big climbs for the day. We climbed over 2,000 feet in about three miles. It was tiring, but we were thankful that the trail remained in the morning shade.
The climb brought us up over 12,000 feet, where we stayed above the tree line for almost the rest of the day. It was incredibly scenic with snow capped mountains all around us. The trail along the ridge was mostly just a route, with cairns and posts guiding us instead of an actual trail. The ridge was very windy and it only increased in intensity through early afternoon…at times it was hard to keep our balance. At least the temperature today was warm, so the cool wind didn’t freeze us today.
At lunch time, we found a giant boulder that we could hide behind and escape most of the wind for a bit. When we finished lunch and headed back out, it was almost a shock to the system to feel how strong the wind still was.
In the mid-afternoon we started our second big climb of the day to over 13,300 feet (James Peak). The climb started out very reasonable, but in the last half mile before the peak, the trail gained 900 feet of elevation…insanely steep! It was pretty slow going for the final stretch, but eventually we all made it to the top and took a break.
We were very lucky with the weather today. Aside from very strong winds, we were grateful that there was no rain, or even the typical afternoon passing thunderstorm. Since we were completely exposed for so long today, we were happy with the weather we had.
When we left James Peak, we knew the rest of the day was just a big descent. We had to go down a long way to get into trees for camping. We found the first spot where it looked like we could all hang our hammocks. It turns out that it is an established campsite (our first of the hike) and it is on a dirt road.
We didn’t give the dirt road much thought, but as we were setting up, almost ten cars, a quad and an ATV drove by. It seems like the traffic has died down in the past half hour, so hopefully we won’t end up regretting out campsite choice.