Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Day 73: Tragedy on the Trail!

July 2: The day's adventures started early--at precisely 12:00am, in fact. That was when an alarm clock in the hostel went off waking everyone in the room. Ugh! Seriously? What the hell? At first I thought it was someone's phone, but it turned out to be the clock on a counter next to my bed. The guy in the bunk bed above mine wound up turning it off a minute later and we all went back to sleep.

But that lasted for about 8 minutes when the alarm went off yet again! In the dark, the guy who turned it off must have just hit the snooze button. Down on the bottom bunk, I took matters into my own hands and just unplugged the plug for the clock. Problem solved. What jerk set it in the first place? It hadn't gone off last night.

Then everyone in the room went back to sleep.

Zach (a.k.a. Jack Rabbit) and Jacob, who offered me a ride back to the trail. They were a couple of guys I met the evening before who were staying at the same hostel.

After that, the rest of the morning I slept fine. I had to linger around the hostel a bit, however, waiting until the post office opened at which point Zach and Jacob first drove me to to the post office. My package, unsurprisingly, still had not arrived, so I asked them to forward it on to Breckenridge if and when it ever did arrive.

With that business taken care of, Zach and Jacob drove me out to the trail, dropping me off in the precise same parking lot where I got off the trail to get into Leadville two days earlier. Sweet! I thanked them profusely for the ride and started my day's hike. They drove off to hike to the top of a nearby 14,000-foot peak.

The day started beautiful. It was partly cloudy with lots of blue skies, but as the morning and afternoon progressed, the clouds turned darker and more menacing. That seemed to be a common occurrence in Colorado.

Crossing over the dam that forms Twin Lakes.

The trail immediately crossed a dam forming Twin Lakes, then followed near the north shore for miles before curving sharply away from the lake and gaining altitude rapidly. Near the bend, the trail passed under a highway through a tunnel just as a storm cloud passed by. Looking at the sky, it appeared that only the one cloud was causing the storm, so I stopped for several minutes in the tunnel to wait it out. Almost immediately, a few mountain bikers coming from the other direction stopped in the tunnel as well to wait out the storm cloud.

The rain turned to hail, and we watched the hail bouncing off the ground to kill the time. The storm cloud passed, and we all continued in our respective directions.

I took protection from a storm cloud in this underpass, along with a few mountain hikers who were heading in the opposite direction.

A few miles later, I reached a creek crossing where I stopped to fill up with water. My pack was heavy, loaded down with enough food to get me to Breckenridge which would take several days, so I carried very little water out of Leadville knowing that there would be plenty of good water sources along the trail. So I stopped at this first creek to fill up with water when tragedy struck.

It came in an instant! Nobody could have predicted it, and I was completely blindsided. It all happened so fast. I set down my pack on the trail, pulled out a water bottle. The creek was frothy and fast, but the trail crossed on a small bridge and a small trail led down to the water--I obviously wasn't the first person to get water here.

I took the small trail down to the water's edge and leaned over. I hadn't even got my bottle into the creek when the sunglasses hanging from my shirt collar slipped off and into the frothy water. They were gone in an instant! I cried out, "Noooo!" but in a fraction of a second, in the blink of an eye, they were gone!

I frantically scanned the water, hoping against all hope that I would spot them. That somehow, they managed to get caught on a rock and didn't get washed downstream, never to be seen again. I couldn't see anything through the frothy waters, though, and plunged my hand into the cold water to feel around. The sunglasses, however, were gone. I scanned down creek for any hint of them. I went up on the bridge and looked down the other side, but I saw nothing.

I cursed the gods that caused this tragedy. What should I do? I can't hike without sunglasses!

In this photo, I show where the sunglasses had been hanging from my shirt collar, and how sad I was about losing them. *nodding* =(

I pondered my options for a bit. I really liked those sunglasses. I bought them back in Silver City, so I hadn't really had them very long, but they were comfortable. Addie even helped me pick them out. The idea of backtracking and hitch a ride back to Leadville seemed a little extreme, but the idea of hiking without sunglasses for the next several days didn't much appeal to me either. At high altitudes above tree line, the sun can be harsh. I actually had a spare set of sunglasses in my bounce box, ready to replace lost or broken ones when I got into town--but that was stuck in Denver. Maybe I could find some sunglasses on the trail? I couldn't count the number of times I've found sunglasses over the years. It's probably one of the most common items that people lose. I've just never had to depend on finding lost sunglasses before.

Then I had a new idea--what if someone just gave me sunglasses?! I knew for a fact that the trailhead for Mount Elbert was only a few miles away. Mount Elbert happens to be the highest peak in Colorado, which makes it a very popular destination for day hikers wanting to visit the highest point in Colorado. I remembered passing the area during my Colorado Trail thru-hike and there were tons of day hikers around. Even better, there were tons of vehicles at the trailhead! And if just one of those people were anything like everyone else I knew that seemed to stockpile a dozen pairs of sunglasses in their cars, there might be spare ones someone would be willing to part with. Yes, I thought. That would be my best chance of getting new sunglasses relatively quickly.

This was the frothy creek that ate my sunglasses.

I filled up with water then continued my hike. The trail, fortunately, led mostly through forest so the sun wasn't particularly problematic, but every time the trail led through a break in the tree cover, the sun was blinding. I squinted until hitting the protective cover of more trees on the other side of the clearing.

About an hour after losing my sunglasses, I arrived at a trailhead for Mount Elbert. Several vehicles were parked there, and numerous people were coming and going and I approached a family and asked, no--begged for help. Did any of them have a spare set of sunglasses I could use? I would even pay for it! I was desperate!

One of them said they might have something and looked through their vehicle, finally pulling out a greenish pair that had Southwest written on one side. They were free sunglasses that they had picked up at some event somewhere, but said I was welcome to keep them. At no charge, even.

"Sweet! Thank you so much! You saved me! I will carry these all the way to Canada!"

Well, unless I lost or broke them along the way. Always a possibility. It was still a long way to Canada and a lot could happen before then.

I was a lot happier once I got my new shades! =)

I continued onward. I picked up more water at another creek near the trailhead. Knowing there were all sorts of small creeks and streams running off of Mount Elbert, I never carried more than one liter of water. But I'll tell you--I was definitely a lot more careful about not losing the sunglasses while bending over the water to get some!

I pushed onward and higher up the slopes of Mount Elbert. The trail didn't go to the top, and it was much too late in the day for me to reach the top even if I wanted tag the highest peak in Colorado, but it does run along the slopes of the mountain and follows the trail from the trailhead for several miles. There are actually a couple of trailheads for the mountain, and the CDT goes past two of them.

I was between the two trailheads when a horrendous storm came crashing in. Rain! Thunder! Lightning! Hail! It was bad, and the lightning sounded close. I found a small clearing and quickly set up my tarp at the edge of it, and dived under it while still mostly dry. I'm not sure I ever set up my tarp so quickly before. The rain came down so heavily, however, there was a bit of a problem with water intruding under my tarp. The ground couldn't soak up the water as fast as it was coming down, and I carved a couple of small canals in the ground with a stake to direct the excess water around my tarp instead of under it which took care of the problem.

The storm eventually passed after an hour. I was a bit tempted to pack up and keep hiking a bit more, but now it was getting late enough in the day that I didn't feel like walking for only another hour or so before making camp again, so I decided to stay put.

Another half hour later, a group of three people joined my camp, heading in the opposite direction as me. It was a father with this son and daughter, and they asked if it had rained really hard here. "Oh, yeah!" I replied. "Lightning! Thunder! Hail! And buckets and buckets of rain!"

They were stunned at my description. "We just had a light rain, and that was it, but the ground looked so wet here!"

That's the mountains for you. One person's storm of the century was just a light sprinkle a mile or two away.

And thus ended another exciting day on the CDT..... What adventures would tomorrow hold?!

The trail along the edge of Twin Lakes.

Looking back toward Twin Lakes.

I just love these flowers! I took so many photos of them....

Mount Elbert trailhead

It's a beaver home!

Beavers clear-cut this forest to make their home!

Definitely a beaver's work. This was no chainsaw!

Monday, March 28, 2022

Day 72: The Leadville Zero

July 1: Having secured a bed at the hostel for two nights in Leadville at a relatively reasonable price (by Colorado standards, at least), I had the pleasure of taking a zero day. And to celebrate my day off, I wanted to ride the Leadville scenic train! I missed the train in Chama, but I wasn't going to let this one get away too. Not if I could help it!

I'd spend two nights at the Inn the Clouds hostel in Leadville

In fact, I had gone out of my way to check out Leadville. I missed the town during my Colorado Trail thru-hike and regretted never making a stop. It wasn't directly on the trail and I hate hitchhiking, and I was in a rush to finish the CT before the first winter storms hit, so I skipped it--but I always wanted to see this storied town and made a definite decision to not pass by it this time around. Nope, I was gonna visit Leadville, and I wanted a quality zero day to explore the legendary town.

So I woke up and headed a few blocks away to the train station, arriving at 9:00am to see if there was space available on the 10:00am ride--and there was! I bought my ticket, then hung around admiring the locomotive parked outside and checking out the gift shop, and eventually boarded at the designated time.

It's my ticket to ride! Woo-who!

The train ride would take me about a dozen miles down the line, then turn around and come back. Also, it was a regular diesel-electric train--nothing quite as exciting as the steam-powered train in Chama. But still... it was a train! And I could ride it! Through some beautiful areas! =)

It was a beautiful day, partly cloudy and--at least for the time-being--little threat of rain, so I took a seat in one of the open-air cars. Everyone else boarding the train turned right into the closed car, and I mean everyone was doing this. It made me wonder if they had closed off the open-air car that led to the left, so I asked the guy collecting my ticket if it was okay to go that way. "Yeah, sure!"

As soon as I set the standard, numerous others behind me followed suit. I was a trend-setter! =)

As the train started moving, the conductor provided a narration of the history of Leadville and the area. He told the stories with the air of a man who had memorized the lines of a long poem, having recited them hundreds if not thousands of times. But still, it was interesting and educational, and he threw out some facts--and I'm assuming they're facts but I never bothered to fact-check anything he said.

For instance, Leadville once boasted a population of 50,000 people (it's less than 3000 now), making it one of the largest cities in Colorado and a contender for becoming Colorado's state capital, missing out to Denver by just 2 votes. The town is also the highest incorporated city in America at 10,152 feet (3,094 m) above sea level, although the locals never seem to make the distinction that it's the highest "incorporated" town in the America. All the local merchandise also likes to round off the elevation to an even 10,200 feet, because hey, 10,200 sounds better than 10,152. But who knows? Maybe there is one side of the town that does rise those extra 48 feet? The town certainly isn't flat.

At this sharp turn in the tracks, I could see pretty much the entire train at once.

Anyway... it was a great deal of fun and I enjoyed the ride immensely. =)

After returning to town, I trekked down to the post office to retrieve my package with the laptop, but--annoyingly--it still had not arrived! The expected arrival date had been June 26th--five days ago! Where the hell was it?! I was planning to leave town tomorrow, but I really wanted to get some work down with my laptop before leaving town. Argh! The last time I used this laptop was in New Mexico almost three weeks earlier! I asked the clerk at the front desk if they at least knew where it was located, and she left the counter for a seemingly long period of time before returning to tell me that it was at the post office in Denver and maybe it would arrive tomorrow. *shaking head* I was literally hiking faster than the post office could deliver my laptop!

My laptop was now 5 days overdue. *frowning* Just as dark clouds started rolling into town... coincidence? Hmm....

Then I grabbed some lunch at a restaurant whose name I failed to note, but I ordered a tasty Cuban sandwich with a Coke.

My next task was to find a new umbrella to replace the one I lost in the blowdowns a couple of days back. It seemed like it would be an easy thing to find, but it gave me a lot more difficulty than I thought possible. I toured the city searching for one, checking the outfitters, convenience stores, stores with touristy junk and even tried the Safeway in town because sometimes I've seen umbrellas available at grocery stores--but nobody in town had umbrellas! It was very frustrating! 

While I did not find an umbrella at the outfitters, I did find a pair of Darn Tough socks with the CDT logo on them, which I couldn't help but purchase. They called out me. "Tortuga! Buy me! Buy me now! Let's explore the CDT together!" Although I didn't need a new pair of socks right away, I knew the ones I used wouldn't last much longer. Now I had replacements already prepared. =)

I spent a couple of hours searching for a store--any store!--with umbrellas. I had finally given up when I checked out the Safeway, but I needed to buy groceries anyhow so why not? But then I realized there was a hardware store attached next door and figured I may as well check them out as well and finally! I found an umbrella! It was the only one there, plain black, but relatively small and lightweight and only about $10. Yes! Finding an umbrella in this town was definitely way harder than it should have been, though. Doesn't it ever rain out here?!

I went back to the Safeway to purchase the groceries I would need. I have to admit.... I love walking through the chip aisle in Leadville. At this high altitude, all of the bags looked like they were about to burst. Row after row of puffy packaging. I loved it. =) If one of the packages had a small hole and was leaking air, you would know it! Don't pass through Leadville without going down the chip aisle at the grocery store!

I never had so much fun walking through the chips aisle! =)

By the time I finally finished my shopping, a colossal rain storm started dropping buckets of water from the sky. It was a huge torrent of water! Fortunately, I had my new, trusty umbrella to help me get back to the hostel. I was still wet--the umbrella mostly keeps my torso dry, not my legs! Back at the hostel, I changed into dry clothing and put out my wet ones to dry during the night.

Late in the evening, I sat around the lobby chatting with others staying at the hostel. A few were other thru-hikers, but most were in town for other reasons. One couple I met were training for the infamous Leadville 100 race--an absolute insane race that only truly crazy people would even contemplate. Most of the race track actually follows the CDT, right over places like Hope Pass which I had passed over just the day before.

I overheard the woman made a comment about being from Poland. "What?!" My turned my head in her direction. I hadn't a clue that she was Polish. Her English was absolutely flawless without even the tiniest trace of a Polish accent. "Czy mówisz po polsku?" (Do you speak Polish?!) And yes... she did! We chatted some more--mostly in English since my Polish isn't super great--but she was stunned to run into someone who was actually knew some Polish and was even learning it. "But why?!" "Because I'm crazy too." *nodding*

I asked her boyfriend if he had learned any Polish, but he said that he only knew a few bad words like "kurwa"--which he butchered so badly that both his girlfriend and I bust up laughing. I turned to her, and joked--in English so he could appreciate how amused we were: "He can't even say kurwa correctly!" and she replied, laughing loudly, "I know! He's terrible!" The guy didn't really laugh, but he didn't seem upset about us laughing at his pronunciation either. He knew he wasn't speaking it very well, but I think the humor is lost when you can't really tell how badly a word is being pronounced. =)

"That's okay, though," I told him, "I still knew what you were saying! So it's good enough!" =)

The woman said something about them visiting Poland and seeing her grandmother who only spoke Polish. "Well, that should be an interesting conversation," I joked with the boyfriend. "The only Polish words you know you can't use around her!" We all all laughed. It was a lot of fun and I'm not sure anyone else in the hostel were as amused as we were. =)

Indeed, I loved my visit to Leadville. *nodding* =)

Eventually, they headed out for the night, and I continued chatting with others at the hostel, including a couple of guys doing some 14,000-feet peaks the next day. They were Zach (a.k.a. "Jack Rabbit") and Jacob, and after chatting for the better part of an hour, I had told them that my plan tomorrow was to hitch a ride back to the trail and keep hiking and they immediately offered to give me a ride. Sweet! Sure! I was thrilled that I wouldn't have to hitch a ride back to the trail.

By around 11:00pm, I was getting tired and called it a night, and headed back to my bed for the night. I had thoroughly enjoyed my day off and was tempted to stay in town for another day. I had even checked if there might be availability for another night, but there wasn't so that was decided for me. I would be getting back on the trail tomorrow whether I liked it or not!

The train that I would be riding!

I choose to hang out in the open-air car.




I took an embarrassingly large number of photos of chips at the supermarket! =)

Friday, March 25, 2022

Day 71: Living it up at the Interlocken Resort

June 30: I woke up to discover my trekking pole had been ravaged by rodents! During the night, I had no idea they had made an appearance. It didn't hurt my ability to use the trekking pole, but it annoyed my sense of order--and that's never a good way to start the day!

Attacked by stupid, salt-loving rodents during the night!

Looking through my pack, I also realized that my gloves, buff and sunscreen were missing from the side pocket where I usually stored them. What happened them? Argh! First I lost my umbrella yesterday, and now this?! I suspected that I also lost them in the blowdowns where I likely lost my umbrella and just hadn't noticed since I didn't need anything of those things until now. It was the gloves and buff I was looking for. The morning was a bit chilly! I only noticed the sunscreen was missing because it was in the same pocket as the gloves and buff.

So my morning wasn't going well, and I hadn't even left camp yet!

But I did manage to get myself on my feet and hiking by my usual 6:30am start time. I was in a rush to get up and over Hope Pass, yet another 12,000-foot pass, before any foul weather blew in. Also, I planned to hitch into the small town of Leadville today, and the earlier I reached Twin Lakes, the earlier I could hitch into town. =)

The trail followed along the bottom of a valley for much of the morning, then turned sharply upwards climbing 2,500 feet in just 2.5 miles towards Hope Pass. I wondered idly if the pass got its name because people hoped to reach the top. I certainly felt like the steep slope was kicking my ass!

But I did reach the top, then the trail descended rapidly down towards Twin Lakes.

Views from near Hope Pass

The main red-line route does a long 10-mile (or so) detour around the east side of the lakes, making a large U-shape, and most hikers commenting on Guthook talked about cutting out most of it with a bit of bushwhacking and fording a creek feeding into the lakes. I had absolutely no desire to take a shortcut just for the sake of making a shortcut, though. The 10-mile loop around the lakes were largely flat and easy, and the scenery was lovely! Why would I want to skip it? Bah! So I decided to stay on the main trail.

Heading down the trail along the south shore, I reached a sign saying something about an old Interlocken resort on a slight detour from the main route. I had absolutely no idea what this was, but I was curious enough to follow it and find out... which led to my "discovery" of an old ghost town of sorts. Calling it a ghost town might be a bit generous. Perhaps a ghost resort. It used to be an old resort where wealthy people could relax and recreate. Many of the buildings were still there but closed and off limits, although the old Dexter house was open for tourists to poke their heads into and check out.

The old Dexter House was open for visitors to explore.

Inside, I found a register, so I dropped my pack and signed that, then explored the rest of the house. The house was largely unfurnished except for the table with the register and a couple of chairs. It consisted of a couple of floors, plus a cupola at the top. I got stuck in the cupola for several minutes when a gang of children decided to visit it while I was up there. The only way into or out of it was a small, narrow wooden staircase and I couldn't get around the half-dozen kids going up and down it. At least the views were nice while I was stuck up there. =)

If you're ever in the Twin Lakes area, it's an easy location to hike out to: a relatively flat and easy trail from the parking lot near the dam that creates the lake. If the gang of kids could make it, you probably could too!

I was almost a little disappointed the weather was so nice outside. In a pouring rainstorm, this would have been an awesome place to get out of the rain! It somehow felt under-utilized when the weather was nice, though.

Anyhow, I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the building, and checking out the exterior of the other buildings still around it and reading the informational signs scattered around the area about the old resort. What a pleasant find! And I had absolutely no idea any of that was there before stumbling onto it. =)

The view from the cupola was nice! Just make sure not to get stuck up there with a gaggle of kids. =)

Anyhow, I eventually picked up my pack and continued onward. To Leadville!

A bit later, I passed the junction where the east and west sides of the Collegiate Loop joins. I was back on familiar terrain once again. When I thru-hiked the Colorado Trail 4 years earlier, I had taken the eastern side of the loop. This time, I took the western route, so for the last several days, I had been on completely unfamiliar terrain, but this junction marked the point where I was back on familiar terrain again. I had hiked this section of trail once before.

Between the old resort and the trailhead, I passed by an increasing number of day hikers. It was never crowded with people, but I definitely wasn't alone out here anymore! It also gave me hope that maybe it wouldn't take me long to hitch a ride into Leadville.

Initially, my plan had been to walk out toward Highway 28 and try hitching a ride from there, getting both the traffic along Highway 28 and the road from Twin Lakes to Highway 28 as possible options for people to bring me into town. The highway itself was a short distance off the trail, but not so far that it was a hardship. If I were really lucky, someone would pick me up on that road walk.

As it turned out, I never even reached the road. I wound up meeting a guy named Dave at the trailhead parking lot for the Interlocken resort hiking in the other direction and we stopped to chat for a couple of minutes. He was section hiking the Colorado Trail and his wife had left his car at the parking lot for him, and he asked if I needed a ride into town. Well, sure!

The trail around Twin Lakes was quite easy and pleasant. I was actually quite surprised so many other thru-hikers chose to take a shortcut and miss all this.

I hadn't even reached the paved road that led to Highway 28 yet, still on the other side of the dam, but I didn't care. While hitching a ride back, I'd backtrack to this point to connect my steps if my ride didn't take me to this precise parking lot. Walking across the dam twice wasn't a big deal!

So I got whisked into Leadville without even trying to hitchhike. Awesome!!!!

Dave asked where in Leadville I wanted to be dropped off. I had a reservation at a hostel in town, but the first stop I wanted to make was to the post office to pick up my laptop--a device I hadn't used since I was in Chama in New Mexico! I had so much work to get caught up on. *sigh* Well, technically, I had used my other laptop while in Salida because Amanda brought it out from Seattle, but she had left before I had a zero day to use it to its full potential. And this one I had been bouncing from post office to post office since Chama, unable to get my hands on it! From Pagosa Springs, to Creede, to Salida, and now--finally! In Leadville, I'll get my hands on it!

And, somewhat miraculously, I made it to the post office before 3:00pm. I didn't really think I'd get into town so early and figured I wouldn't be able to pick up my laptop until tomorrow, so I was really pleased with how things turned out. Except.... they didn't have my package. It hadn't arrived yet. Argh!!!

Dave had offered to wait for me while I was at the post office, so I went back to his car and he gave me a ride the rest of the way to the hostel where he dropped me off, wished me good luck, and drove off into the proverbial sunset.

Leadville, with Mount Massive (the second-tallest peak in Colorado) looming in the background.

I checked in, took a shower, washed my clothes, then in the evening headed out for dinner to a burger joint and got some grocery shopping done at Safeway. The rain had held off all day, until I finished with the grocery shopping at which point it rained on me while returning to the hostel.

And the rest of the evening, I tried to catch up with email and messages as much as possible using my phone. Tomorrow, hopefully my laptop would arrive. *fingers crossed*

The main building for the Interlaken resort was boarded up and off-limits, but we could still admire its exterior.

Twin Lakes

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Day 70: More blowdowns!

June 29: It rained on-and-off during the night, but it never gave me any trouble. I stayed warm and dry under my tarp, and got a decent 6:30am start on the trail.

I figured there was a good chance I'd see Skunkbear who I knew camped somewhere not far ahead, but I never saw her. I'm not sure if she left even earlier in the day than I did or if she camped so far off trail that I didn't see her, but the result was the same either way.

Blowdowns were my biggest problem in the morning, but this section at the edge of a meadow wasn't super bad. Aspen trees were a lot easier to climb over than the pine trees!

Within a mile or two, I hit another set of severe blowdowns. I knew it was coming. The Guthook comments had all sorts of comments about them, so it wasn't a surprise, but it was still disappointing. The section of trail with the blowdowns didn't just have a lot of blowdowns, but it was as if a logging company came through and clearcut the area leaving behind a massive jumbled pile of logs. Some sections, quite literally, had no trees left standing at all! Often piled as high as my chest.

The Guthook comments from earlier hikers suggested heading off trail to a meadow a bit to the east, then following the meadow to its end since the meadow would largely be clear of blowdowns. Can't blow down trees that were never there, after all! From the trail, I could see even see the meadow over the blowdowns, and I scrambled over to it. It was an excellent idea!

The meadow wasn't entirely clear of trees, however, since many aspens along its edge had fallen into the meadow. It was, however, significantly easier to get through than the staying on the main trail would have been.

At the end of the meadow, I dived back into the thick blowdowns and struggled to get through. At times, it felt a bit dangerous, climbing up onto a big log and jumping from one to the other. I was a little disappointed that I hadn't found Skunkbear and could go through with her in case I misjudged my footing or something. Or even to help look for a better route through this mess. Sometimes, four eyes were better two. Actually, for all I knew, she could be in this mess at this exact moment, but we had taken different routes through it. Oh, well.

There's a trail somewhere on the other side of these blowdowns....

I continued onward, going under and over trees. I couldn't go around them, though--that was never an option. There were always more blowdowns no matter how far I tried to swing around them.

Fortunately, the really bad area didn't last long, and I soon descended a steep slope that reached the trail. And, even better, the trail had been cleared of blowdowns already! A trail crew had been up here to work on the blowdowns. They had probably been out several times given the sheer volume of blowdowns that needed to be dealt with, but they hadn't finished clearing the entire length of the trail. They had, however, finished clearing it up to this point, so once I got back on the trail again, it was clear sailing!

Love trail workers! They make these hikes possible. *nodding*

Another mile or so down the trail, I heard voices. They were faint and sounded off trail. I stopped momentarily to hear them better and found a couple of people crossing a creek off to my right, complaining bitterly about the blowdowns and having lost the trail.

I called out to them. "The trail is over here!" I shouted.

"You're on the trail?" they asked.


They bushwhacked over to me, excited to be on real trail again. They too had taken the meadow through the blowdown but never managed to find the trail, bushwhacking a whole mile down to this point where I found and "rescued" them. They were a couple of locals who had gone out for a couple of days, but one of them had to be at school or work or something later that morning and was afraid that he wouldn't make it back home in time. Now that they were back on a real trail, they had a chance!

I just love these flowers! So pretty....

We soon reached the trailhead, and they asked if I needed a ride into town. It was possible to hitch into Buena Vista, and some hikers certainly did do that. (Evenstar, I would later find out, did precisely this.) I had carried enough food to get me to Leadville, however, and wasn't looking for a ride into town. A bit of a shame, though, to not take a ride offered to me right there at the trailhead.

Once I passed the highway, the trail headed steeply downhill toward Texas Lakes, where it started sprinkling ever-so-lightly. When I went to pull out my umbrella, I was shocked and horrified to discover that it was missing! It must have fallen out of my pack while scrambling through all those blowdowns in the morning. Noooo! I can't live on the trail without an umbrella! That's practically one of the 10 essentials!

I definitely wasn't going to go back to look for it. Even if I did, the chances of finding it among all those blowdowns would have been almost zero. I couldn't have retraced my route through that mess to save my life. The umbrella was gone forever. *sigh*

With a heavy heart, I pushed onward. But I did text Evenstar, who was behind me, to look for my umbrella among the blowdowns if she went that way. =) (She never found it, though.)

One of a string of lakes known as the Texas Lakes.

At the Texas Creek trailhead, I was at the end of the Mirror Lake Alternate and back on the main red-line CDT. I wondered if Reality Check, Cramps, and Outlaw had already passed by this point or if I somehow got ahead of them. The distance between the alternate and red-line CDT were about the same, so it's not like I took a shortcut. But at the same time, if they had severe weather on the mountain ridge or slept in later than I did, it could have slowed them down. I figured they were probably ahead of me since they all hiked faster than I did and likely didn't stop to camp as early as I did last night, but I couldn't know for certain.

Without a doubt, however, they were nearby. Maybe ahead of me, maybe behind me, but there was no way to be sure. Just like Skunkbear. It was a little weird knowing that there were all sorts of hikers nearby but not knowing if they were ahead or behind me!

From the Texas Creek trailhead, the trail climbed steeply uphill to a pass before another long downhill. Nobody ever accused Colorado of being flat!

At the top of the pass, I noticed a solitary hiker behind me on the trail. I couldn't identify who it was, however. Just a speck on the trail in the distance. It might not have even been one of the hikers who I knew was somewhere nearby on the trail, but it could have been someone else entirely. Nope, I'd just have to find out who it was when they got closer. 

Looking back toward Texas Lakes

Along the way, a total of 8 motorbikes passed me, tearing up the trail. Literally tearing up the trail. I could see the dirt flying off their tires like shovels, and the loud noise was a huge annoyance. I think it was probably legal for them to be there, but I still didn't like it. It definitely detracted from the otherwise wilderness experience. 

Late in the day, I set up camp near a creek. Nice and quiet. No real rain had materialized during the day--and thank goodness for that since I no longer had an umbrella!--but it was forecasted for the night so I set up my tarp.

The mysterious hiker behind me never caught up, so I never found out who that was. Perhaps it wasn't even a CDT hiker and they had turned off onto another trail before reaching me? No idea! And perhaps I'll never find out....

It's always a great feeling to reach the top of a pass. The exhausting uphill is done! Time for a little downhill now! =)