Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Day 5: The air is getting thin at Georgia Pass!

August 29: By 7:00, I was on the trail and hiking again. I slept well and the clouds and rain stayed away. It seemed like just a few minutes before the ridge I was on led to a wonderful view of the valley far below with Highway 285 over Kenosha Pass in view where I suddenly learned that Highway 285 was a very busy, very noisy road and I was glad I stopped where I did for the night. Had I continued much further, I'd have been listening to that traffic all night. Okay, the noise probably died down deep in the night--I doubt the road had much traffic at 2:00 in the morning, for instance--but it was barely after 7:00 and already loud and noisy. So I was immensely satisfied that I stopped when I did and hadn't continued further along like I'd been planning.

It was a beautiful morning! But the noise from Highway 285 was surprisingly loud from up here!

The day's hike was largely uneventful except for one particularly long and sustained climb over Georgia Pass peaking at 11,800' (3600 m) above sea level. Not quite 12K, but close to it! And it would include a 2,000' climb from the low point to the top of the pass, followed immediately by a 2,000' drop.

Two thousand feet, in the grand scheme of things, isn't that bad, and I found myself psyching myself out over it. It's gonna be hard! The air will be thin! My pack is too heavy! I'm going to DIE out here! Well, okay, I didn't think I was going to die, but my head was playing games with me, building up a mountain out of a molehill.

But the climb turned out not to be a big deal in any way, shape or form. The trail was well graded with lots of switchbacks at steeper locations, designed to support mountain bikes and horses. It was a steady, gradual climb over several miles. My pace slowed down a bit as would be expected on any uphill sections, but not by much.

And the views from the top were the best so far of the trail! Well above tree line at the top, the views were commanding and Mt Gugot (13,376' above sea level) towered over the pass dramatically. The wind was brutal at the top, but just walking down over the crest a short ways was enough to get out of it.
Mt Gugot towers above Georgia Pass (which is just to the right of that high peak, but slightly out of view from this vantage point.)

A short way past the crest the trail linked up with the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), one of those long-distance trails I have not actually hiked. Not yet, at least! I could imagine that day might happen, though. If I took the turn here, I could follow the CDT all the way to Canada. If I continued to follow it south, I'd end up at the Mexican border.

And for the time being, I'd follow the trail south toward Mexico because the Colorado Trail and CDT overlapped for a few hundred miles at this point. If I ever did the CDT, I'd be repeating a lot of the Colorado Trail.

Late in the day, my feet were tired and I stopped for camp at the Middle Fork of the Swan River after completing 18.8 miles. The campsite sprawled across the surprisingly vast area--you could fit a hundred people here if you had to. Fortunately, there was nobody else around when I arrived so I picked my favorite spot near a couple of trees from which I could hang my tarp if it became necessary. It did sprinkle again early in the evening at which point I set up my tarp, and when the rain stopped, I configured it into the half-tarp setting like I did the night before.

Nobody else showed up to the campsite, though, so once again I camped by myself. Twice in the evening I heard vehicles driving on the nearby dirt road, but neither of them stopped.

For the most part, it was a pretty uneventful day.

Trail magic at Kenosha Pass!
But there was nothing in it that I really wanted, so I took nothing and left nothing.
Kenosha Pass. It's not obvious in the photo, but this road was loud and pretty busy!
Why am I not surprised?

There's a little bit of fall colors starting to show up already! And it's still August!

Gray Jay

I can fly too! Fly, Ryan! Fly!

These crickets couldn't help themselves after finding themselves in such a beautiful and romantic location!
View from Georgia Pass (with Mt. Gugot in the background)
Yep, we're still on the Colorado Trail... but did you notice that other waymarker?
It's the Continental Divide Trail! We're on the CDT now! A 3,200-mile trail from Mexico to Canada! (Or from Canada to Mexico depending on your perspective.)

It's the Middle Fork of the Swan River.

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