Friday, April 22, 2022

Day 83: Oh, the humanity!!!!

July 12: I woke up today expecting an easy day. According to my topo maps, there would be a couple of thousand feet up, then a 3000-foot drop before leveling out the rest of the day. Easy, peasy! No problem! My biggest concern were mosquitoes. I didn't want another long night dealing with those guys.


As a result, my plan was to arrive in camp as late as possible while it was still light enough to hike. Somewhere around sunset, I figured, would be a good arrival time for camp. And I'd cook dinner in the middle of the day when the mosquitoes likely wouldn't be so bad. Yep, that was my plan.

And my first step of the plan was to linger in camp a bit longer than I normally would--which meant I didn't get on the trail and hiking until about 7:00am which just so happened to be when the mosquitoes started coming out again. Perfect! =)

The trail was littered with numerous blowdowns, but they were nothing compared to the massive piles of blowdowns I got through yesterday. Most of these were relatively quick and easy to get over, under or around. They were a nuisance, but not an issue.

The smoke in the skies from previous days seemed thicker today. I didn't know if that meant the fire was larger or closer or if the winds just happened be blowing in another direction, but it left very smokey skies all day and the sunlight had that tinge of an alpine glow all day long, not just at sunrise or sunset. I imagined that breathing the air probably wasn't healthy, but the alternative of not breathing air was even worse! I hoped my lungs weren't looking like a smoker's lungs, though.

At the first trailhead I reached, there was a trash can so I was able to throw out my trash. I love throwing away my trash! =) Nothing feels more pointless to carry than trash while hiking down a trail!

I also stopped for a break because... well, I wasn't in a rush. I only planned to cover about 20 miles today. There was a limit in how far I could hike today since I'd be entering Rocky Mountain NP and permits were required to camp within the park boundaries, and I had no permits. My plan was to camp pretty much on the boundary, or at least a stone's throw away from it and the last legal place to camp for quite a number of miles.

Blowdowns were a nuisance today, but it was clear some areas had also suffered a "severe wind event" which had already been cleared up. So the trees that were still left on the trail weren't a huge issue.

The trailhead had numerous cars, but was largely empty of people. At least it was when I arrived. About 5 minutes later, a few cars arrived and 8 people piled out. They were clearly one large group of people, and somewhat loud and seemed like they needed forever to figure out who was going to carry what and change their shoes and get themselves ready. I could have cooked several meals in the time it finally took them to get themselves ready and moseying down the trail.

Then I was off once again, heading into the Indian Peaks Wilderness where I didn't see a single person the entire way.

It wasn't until the trail left the wilderness area just before Monarch Lake when it flattened out and I started seeing masses of people, moving and shifting. Within minutes, I had passed over a dozen people, and the crowds continued to grow the closer to Monarch Lake I approached.

I didn't try counting the people, but there must have been hundreds! It certainly felt like hundreds! Oh, the humanity! I just couldn't get away from them fast enough. Way, way too many people....

The trail followed near the edge of the lake for miles before reaching the trailhead and began following gravel roads.

The gravel roads were busy with vehicles, but at least it didn't feel so crowded as the trail did.

The parking lot was packed with vehicles!

The trail followed roads, passing a few different campgrounds along the way, all of which had signs up saying that they were booked full, but that didn't matter to me. I had no intention of paying to stay at a crowded campground! 

Just past the last campground, along the shore of Granby Lake, the CDT left the roads and returned to a relatively quiet and peaceful trail. I was making really good time on the easy terrain, and discouraged by the hoards of people, not taking my time or many breaks. Now that I was in a place without a lot of people, I threw out my groundsheet under the shade of a tree and took a good, long break.

And I mean a long break. I wound up hanging out there for about 4 hours! During that time, three people from the nearby campground strolled down the trail to see where it led. I cooked dinner and read my book. Napped a bit because... why not? I had to move my groundsheet when the shade I was under wandered off with the moving sun, but otherwise I just made myself comfortable by the side of the trail with most of the contents of my pack spilled out as I needed to dig into it deep to get all the food I wanted to cook. Anyone who saw me on the side of the trail probably assumed I was camping there!

With just two or three hours left before sunset, I finally packed up again and pushed on the last 5.5 miles to the RMNP border and the last legal place for me to camp before Grand Lake.

I had expected the hike to largely follow the shoreline and be more-or-less flat, but I was badly disappointed when it climbed hundreds and hundreds of feet to cross over a ridge before descending again. It seemed so unnecessary! The views, however, were awesome despite the lingering smoke in the air. It was a hot, muggy afternoon, however, and the climb up was pretty miserable. Hot and sweaty, I was glad when I reached the top and could finally descend again.

I finally reached the border of the national park about a half hour before sunset. Not bad... I could live with that. =)

The shoreline immediately before the border was along the Colorado River, and it was a gorgeous place for a campsite overlooking the river. I was a little in awe that this was the Colorado River as well. The exact same river I saw while crossing through the Grand Canyon on the Arizona Trail. Although the river was significantly smaller here than near the headwaters. And much less muddy-looking as well. If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought they were two entirely different rivers. 

I quickly set up camp. There were mosquitoes, but it they weren't anything as bad as last night--thank goodness! The mosquitoes seemed really unpredictable nowadays. One night they could be absolutely horrendous, and the following night not a big deal. There seemed no rhyme or reason to it either. I could never guess where or when they might be bad or not.

This evening, my biggest annoyance were the motor boats on the Colorado River, but they finally left at around sunset and I could enjoy the campsite to myself since nobody else had camped nearby. The setting sun was particularly orange given the smoke in the sky, and I enjoyed the evening to myself. =)

A lovely campsite where the Colorado River flows into Granby Lake.

It was also the last legal campsite where I could camp before reaching the town of Grand Lake. Past this sign, I'd need a permit, and I didn't have one! (I am allowed to hike through the park--just not allowed to camp in the park without a permit.)

All day long, the smoke in the sky was pretty bad!

Evidence of logging from the olden days, abandoned on the side of the trail.

Monarch Lake is pretty, but it was so incredibly busy with people! (Getting photos without people in them was often difficult!)

Lake Granby

At least the trail near Lake Granby wasn't crowded with people, and the views were awesome! (Despite the smoke in the sky.)

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