Daily Miles: 21
Total Miles: 1147
It had stopped raining before we fell asleep last night, but it started back up around 4:00am. Luckily it didn’t last long, and by the time our alarm went off at 5:30am, the rain had stopped. We had decided to get up early today, since we had a lot of miles to hike in what we had heard was difficult terrain.
As we were starting out, it was just light enough to turn off our headlamps. It was quite warm this morning and it was probably the first time in a long time that we didn’t start with any extra clothes.
Luckily, as the sky lightened up, we could tell that the sky was clearing…it looked like we were going to have a beautiful day. We startled a small group of elk and we could just see their silhouettes as they ran across the trail, with the sunrise illuminating the mountain peaks behind them. It was quite a special moment.
We had four miles this morning before we got to a junction with one of the CDT’s most notable alternates. The Cirque of Towers gets a lot of air time, because it is seen by many as possibly the most beautiful stretch of the whole trail. The alternate is about 21 miles long…it goes over several passes and along many pristine alpine lakes. We have been looking forward to it for awhile, so we were especially glad for the clear skies.
When we think of the four hardest and steepest climbs of the CDT so far, we would have to say that two of the hardest climbs would have to be from today. For both climbs, as we approached the climb and looked at it, there was no obvious way to get up the pass. But, in both cases, there was a “trail” of some sort that we could follow as we inched our way up. In both instances, we were grateful to have climbed the steep slope instead of having to descend it. Our descents were still steep (just not as steep as the ascent), and made our knees and feet very sore. These passes were pretty slow going, but we always had amazing views from high above.
We hiked 17 of the 21+ miles of the alternate today. This has been one of, if not the most, stunning and spectacular day so far on the trail. Everything that we had been told of this area has been true…one of America’s wild gems. This has also been one of the most difficult and demanding days we have had in awhile.
In the middle of the afternoon, we could see the grey clouds rolling in and could hear the thunder. As we stopped to have a snack, we felt some raindrops, so we decided to put up our hammock tarp. We were glad we did, because just as we were settling ourselves under the tarp, it started to hammer rain and hail. Within thirty minutes we were back to blue skies and we continued on.
Because of the difficulty and our slower pace, we decided not to stop for dinner in the early evening. We wanted to make sure we made it to camp before it got dark. We basically walked until we were back in trees for hanging (there had been a five mile treeless stretch at the end of the day). We made it to camp by 7:45pm and we were exhausted and starved.
We are camped along a creek and we can tell that it is going to be a pretty cold night. It feels good to be laying down and all snuggled in our sleeping bags. This has definitely been a memorable day.