Daily Miles: 18
Total Miles: 508
When we woke up this morning, everything was still damp. Even our hammocks and sleeping quilts feel damp without getting rained on…the air is just so humid that nothing feels dry. It is pretty funny that just the other week we were remarking on how dry it was in Colorado!
As we headed out this morning, we started to see folks who were going to climb Mount Elbert. There were so many people coming up the trail, that it slowed us down as we would step off the trail to let them pass. Luckily within a few miles we were able to get off the approach trail as we took a short-cut to Twin Lakes.
We had thought that the general store in Twin Lakes didn’t open until 9am, but when we got there at 8:45am, they were in full swing. The owner, Bob, was super friendly and welcoming. He even gave us each an ice cream sandwich! His friendliness is quite notable, as some proprietors of businesses along popular trails can sometimes be quite unwelcoming.
We picked up our resupply box, and Beardoh even bought a CDT baseball cap which he is in love with. We sorted through our boxes on the side of the road, as it was mostly shaded and it was quite warm out.
We decided to take an alternate back to the CDT that would eliminate a long hot walk around the Twin Lakes. We did the long walk when we hiked the CT in 2017, but now it seemed like a good idea to just go with the most common and direct route. That route had us going through some swampy wetlands, where our feet got wet and muddy. Luckily our final walk through water was a clear stream, so hopefully our feet and shoes got a bit cleaner.
Once we got back on the CDT, we were officially on the West Collegiate Route. This was SweetPea’s first time here, but Beardoh had done this section in 2017.
The route starts with a giant climb up Hope Pass. The climb was over 3,000 feet in about four miles. The grade was pretty challenging for that long of a climb. There were a lot of people on the trail, both going up and going down. At one point, a CT hiker commented that it looked like a train heading up the mountain.
We took a lunch break partway up. The break was good, but it was still a slow ascent afterward. There was a group of people we were hiking near, and it turned out they were doing the hike most of the way up the pass to then take wedding photos. The wedding actually happened yesterday, but they wanted pictures near the pass to commemorate the wedding.
The photographer decided to go all the way up to the pass for some reason and was taking a bunch of photos. He offered to take pictures of us as well, so hopefully we’ll get some really quality photos from Hope Pass.
It was super windy at the pass, so we didn’t stay too long. The descent was just as unrelenting as the climb up. Apparently, the Leadville 100 Ultra Marathon goes over Hope Pass not just once but twice! Brutal.
Our legs were pretty tired by the time we reached the valley. Luckily, we had pretty mild terrain for the rest of the day. We passed quite a few tents up along the trail in the afternoon. Probably the bulk of them are just out for a night or two and not actually doing the CT or CDT.
We stopped on the side of the trail around 5pm to make dinner. When we were hanging out, waiting for our food to cook, the craziest thing happened. Two squirrels (who seemed to be playing and chasing each other), came running out of the bottom of the tree across the trail. They just ran right at us, which was crazy, because they are so agile and should have changed course as soon as they saw us. But they just kept running at us, and one even ran across Ace’s legs. We all screamed and the squirrels were gone before we knew it. We couldn’t stop laughing because it was the weirdest thing.
We had originally planned to hike a few more miles today, but when we looked at our camping options for tomorrow, we decided to modify our plans. There is a long stretch (about 15 miles) above tree line, so we decided it would be best to coordinate our miles around places where we can hang our hammocks. That means that tomorrow will be a shorter day and so no need to push further today.