Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Day 76: The Copper Mountain Storm

July 5: It didn't rain during the night, but I did notice a lot of condensation started to form. Even before I went to sleep, there was a bit of condensation forming, so I threw a tarp over myself like a blanket, but it was absolutely soaked through by morning and I was feeling pretty wet. I needed to dry out a bit!

But that, I figured, could wait until later in the day. For now, I woke up and got ready, hitting the trail at 6:20am. The morning was had plenty of blue skies and sun to enjoy!

For the first hour of the day, I saw absolutely nobody. It was too early in the day and people weren't up and about yet, but after passing over Searle Pass, I started passing masses of people. In the second hour of the day, I probably passed no less than 30 people on foot and on bike. I couldn't go for 5 minutes without running into someone. It was simply astonishing--the number of the people on the trail. Everyone seemed to be heading up from Copper Mountain, though. It seemed like I was the only person heading down to it.

The trail headed steeply downhill after Searle Pass, toward the Copper Mountain ski resort. At this time of year, there wasn't much skiing going on, but I knew there would be restaurants and other services and I was anxious to enjoy them and hiked nearly non-stop until I arrived at around 10:30am. I used the restrooms, threw out my trash and toured the area to checked out the facilities.

There were all sorts of activities for tourists going on. They had those carts one could ride down bobsled-like courses, an American Ninja Warrior-type of contraption one could navigate, and a roller-coaster type of contraption that the trail actually passed under on my way to the resort. Some of the ski lifts were running allowing people to get up the mountain without the effort of a hike, and the place was full of visitors!

I eventually stopped at Downhill Duke’s to eat. They had an outside patio and allowed me to enjoy the views while I dined. They opened just as I arrived and I was the first customer to be seated. I ordered a burger and a Pepsi, which were very good but seemed a little pricey for what I got.

I'd end up spending most of the day at the Copper Mountain ski resort.

At the resort, I had phone service and I texted Pez who, as it turned out, was only a couple of hours behind me. I knew he was behind me on the trail, but I hadn't realized he was so close behind me, so I decided to wait around at the restaurant for him to show up. I read my Kindle and relaxed to kill the time.

During the couple of hours of waiting, dark and menacing clouds drifted in. I wondered if Pez would make it before the thunderstorm struck. I wasn't too worried about myself. I'd just move somewhere inside or under cover if rain started. No big deal for me! Not while I was in civilization, at least! =)

Pez did beat the storm, and he joined me on the patio ordering a drink but no food to save money.

We chatted for a bit, but then the rain finally arrived and we moved to a covered area on the patio and continued our chat. Later, during a lull in the rain, we moved to the patio of a closed restaurant (many of the businesses weren't open during the summer season) that was covered and get a bit more space from the crowds at the restaurant that was open.

It was there that the storm really let loose! Thunder! Lightning! And rain of biblical proportions!

"It sure is nice not to be hiking in that crap," I told Pez. He agreed. =)

The afternoon thunderstorms tended to pass relatively quickly, and I decided that I was going to hang around Copper Mountain until it had passed. Pez decided that it wouldn't be a bad idea to wait a bit either, so we wound up chatting for a few hours in all. It was a lot of fun catching up. Except for a brief chat when we saw each other at Walmart in Salida, we hadn't really connected since way back in Grants, New Mexico.

Pez checks out information on his phone while service is good. Just look at all the hair on his face! Hardly looks like the same person I met my first day on the trail! =)

Pez tried to wait out the rain, but eventually decided to keep going when it softened a bit. He had miles to do! I mean, I had miles to do as well, but I was already rethinking my original plan. The main CDT route goes up and over a big mountain pass which I remembered well from my Colorado Trail thru-hike 4 years earlier. It was a pain-in-the-ass climb, but it did have wonderful views at the top. The problem was that with this storm, there were absolutely no views from the top. It seemed like a waste of a time.

But there was also an alternate route, the Silverthorne Alternate, that I had wanted to take instead. It covered areas that I had never seen before--always a plus!--but it also got me off the main route which was annoyingly packed with way too many hikers for my taste. The Silverthorne Alternate would lead through the town of Silverthorne--thus the name--and reconnect with the main CDT a few days later. And by that point, the Colorado Trail would have split off toward Denver so the huge hoards of people on the trail should be much diminished. So I had my eyes set on the Silverthorne Alternate. Distance-wise, it was marginally shorter, but not enough to really matter. Pez wanted to stay on the main route, though, so we planned to part ways out of Copper Mountain.

However.... my plan was needing some rethinking. I had spent so much time at Copper Mountain, there was no hope I'd reach my original goal along the alternate route. And in huge a thunderstorm no less? Over a 12,000' pass? That's a hard no, but thanks. =)

The rain came down in buckets! It was a hard rain that lasted for hours!

But looking through Guthook, I noticed someone had left a comment that there was a bike path that lead directly from Copper Mountain to Frisco, through the same valley that Interstate 70 passed. It definitely wouldn't be as scenic as the official CDT or the Silverthorne Alternate, but it had several advantages. It was basically flat the entire way and well-protected from high winds and thunderstorms. And it was quite a bit shorter than either of the other two routes. In fact, it was so short, I could probably hike the last bit in the dark and make it to town in time to find lodging. I wouldn't even have to spend the night outdoors tonight!

I called the hostel in Breckenridge to ask if it was possible to move my reservation up a night. The 4th of July weekend was over. It was Monday and I hoped there might be a free bed for the night, but alas, it was not meant to be. They were booked full. I checked lodging options in the area but most places were full and the ones that weren't were way outside of my budget. Nope, I'd definitely have to sleep outside tonight.

But it meant I could get into town pretty early in the day tomorrow, and now I didn't have do any more miles today. I wondered if I could just camp out on this patio under the overhang? I'd probably be bothered by the authorities, though. Naw, I'd just go to the edge of town and find somewhere to stealth camp in the woods.

So Pez hit the road, and I continued to wait out the storm. The rain finally did stop at nearly 6:00pm. This was definitely more than the usual afternoon thunderstorm--it had rained for hours and hours and hours. And a heavy rain it was for most of that time. The clouds never went away, but at one point I could see a brief view of the ridge that the main CDT followed and I hoped it would stay clear long enough for Pez to enjoy it. It would be a shame to do that ass-kicking climb and not have any views to enjoy.

After the rain finally stopped, I continued on to the edge of town to set up camp in the woods at the base of these mountains which (at the time) I thought Pez was currently climbing up.

After the rain finally stopped, I headed out, passing through the rest of the Copper Mountain resort and connecting with the bike path heading out of town, then found a flat place to camp a few minutes walk away from the Conoco station at the edge of town. It occurred to me that I could drop by the convenience store there in the morning and buy something for breakfast in the next morning. I didn't really need anything, but I could splurge anyhow. =)

It was close enough to I-70 that I could hear the traffic from the highway all night--my only complaint about the site--but I knew that would be the case pretty much anywhere I stopped to camp along this bike path since it basically paralleled the highway all the way into Frisco.

Although the rain had stopped, the trees were still dripping with water and the clouds looked like they could resume the storm at any time, so I set up my tarp. I'd covered a measly 13.9 miles according to my GPS. It was a pathetic showing, but I didn't have to actually hike in any rain at all which was a major accomplishment for the day! Poor Pez, though. He left in the thick of it.

After setting up camp and the sun had set, I pulled out my phone and texted Pez about my location. (We hoped to meet up in town tomorrow.) He soon replied that he had reached the bike path and decided to change his own plans and would take the bike path into town as well. What?!

As it turned out, he was camped maybe an hour up the bike path from where I camped. Well shoot! If I had realized that, I'd have made the extra effort of walking a couple of miles further and camping with him. He tended to sleep in late in the morning, though. I'd likely catch up with him as he was packing up camp. We could still hike into town together. In hindsight, he could have waited out the rain too.

And with that.... another day was done. Most of the day was pretty rotten for hiking, but I was thrilled to death to have avoided all the bad weather. I felt very fortunate in that respect. =)

Home, sweet home! At least for the night. =)

1 comment:

ArtGekko said...

I love the blue flax flowers!