Daily Miles: 14
Total Miles: 481
So, when we finally got to Durango, we weren’t really done. We had skipped Segment 7 when we were originally hiking through, because it was closed due to a fire near Breckenridge. Since we had our car parked in the Denver area, we figured it would be easy to drive over and hike our final segment just as a day hike. With the free shuttle bus in the area, it make such a one-way day hike super easy.
We parked our car in the Copper Mountain parking lot and headed out north-bound on the trail. There were quite a few people in the shopping/restaurant area of the resort, but no one seemed to be making their way to the trail, so it was pretty quiet. We were trying to get the segment hiked pretty quickly, since we still had a shuttle ride and drive back to Denver and wanted to get back to our friends’ place in time for dinner.
The beginning of the hike was really gradual and easy, so we could make good time. Beardoh was carrying the one pack, so that SweetPea could hike as quickly as possible without being weighed down by a backpack. We saw a few hikers, but didn’t do our usual long “stop and chat” routine with them. We just wished them luck on the trail and kept moving.
The trail started to get pretty steep and we were quickly reminded of the steep trails in the northern half of the trail. We had gotten so used to the gradual trails of the southern half of the trail, so it felt like a shock to our systems. But, we both commented in the morning, how nice it was to be out hiking in the woods, hiking in big mountains again. We know that this was our last chance for this kind of hiking for at least 6 or 8 months…possibly longer (we haven’t figured out our hiking schedule for next year). But, even though the trail was challenging, we just enjoyed being back out on it.
When we had about one mile left to the high point, we were surprised to see five hikers we had been leap-frogging with for the last week of the CT from Lake City to Durango. Ana, Ariel, Tim, Jen and Anthony. We had even camped with them the final night before arriving in Durango. We couldn’t believe that they were out hiking the same segment on the same day (only hiking in the opposite direction from us). It was great to see them all and to chat for a bit. The place were we met was above tree line and pretty windy and cold, so we didn’t stop for too long. But, it was really fun to run into them.
The high point was around 12,500 feet and it felt great to be up that high again. There is a feeling of exhilaration hiking that high. The views were vast and beautiful. The wind was strong and the sky was grey. Luckily, we didn’t get any rain. There were mountain bikers and other hikers that we passed near the high point. As we started downhill, we could see the road we were heading towards, and it looked so very far away.
The descent was quite good. It was mostly gradual, even though there were stretches where it was rocky and a bit root-y. Partway done, we came upon the area of the recent fire. It still smelled like a campfire and the area was pretty blackened. It appeared that the trail maintainers or forest service had cut down the burned trees near the trail…presumably so that there was no safety issues in the future. We could see that they had already brought up planks for rebuilding small “bridges” that had been weakened by the fire. We were impressed by how quickly they seemed to be addressing the maintenance concerns for the trail.
We made it down to the shuttle stop about five minutes before the shuttle arrived. We were pretty tired from trying to keep up a fast pace for the whole hike. The timing of shuttles worked out well and in just over an hour, we were back at our car and heading to Denver for an evening of great food and company with our friends, Brian and Pam.