Is the trail half done, or is there half left ahead to be done?
We’re in Steamboat Springs, our last town stop in Colorado and we are “barrelling down” on Wyoming. We have been hiking for 4 1/2 weeks now with the same amount of time left (exactly half the time we allotted). And we have done about 400 miles, a little less than half the distance. But now we are getting picky. Back to the question. We both look back at the trail we have seen so far in Colorado with wonder and awe, and look ahead at the rest of the trail with…….well, wonder and awe.
Our walk turned west after leaving Grand Lake. On our first day out, in the Never Summer Mountains and Wilderness area we saw 3 moose. On the loose. At least the first two took off pretty quick once they spotted us. Both Bulls. Later, as we were making camp, in a high basin right at timberline, we saw off in the willows another Bull Moose. He was content to continue munching and only casting an occasional eye our way. Prime eating season is short at 12,000 ft elevation.
As we left the Never Summer range for the Rabbit Ears Range, we started walking on volcanic rock. (Mom’s don’t worry, these volcanoes haven’t been active for millenniums, at least). The change we did notice was that our next big climb, Parkview Mtn, was an isolated peak. And very steep. We camped in a basin on the south side and followed a route (not a trail) marked with cairns. We made our own switchbacks. We had to. If we had followed a straight line, we would have gained almost 1,500 feet in just a little over three fourths of a mile. It took a couple hours to summit. That was partly because our morning rains returned and we decided to wait out one storm beside some stunted trees. At the top, the views were incredible, as was the wind. Nothing nearby to stop either one. Such is the ways of old volcanoes.
The other “feature” about volcanic rock is that it does not hold water for long. So we had some long stretches with out any creeks or ponds. But these are small prices to pay for the views…….as we continued west, towards Rabbit Ears Pass (yes, there are rocks that look like a rabbit ears - old volcanic plugs) we followed a forest service road on a long ridge descending trip into the lowlands. The actual divide here is on private property, so the trail takes a detour down into bovine territory, where there is water, but not that you would want to drink. There is lots of Sage brush and wide open rolling hills. Eventually, the forest service road turned onto Colorado Highway 14 (the actual official CDT route) and we started to pound pavement again. Hot, new asphalt. Dry, hot, new asphalt. As darkness (and probably nocturnal bovine) were descending upon us, we scrambled to find a camp, behind some brush just tall enough to hide the tent from passing cars and trucks. It was flat, but lumpy with volcanic rocks. We’ve had worse campsites, but not in several years. And our “reserves” of water were low, about 1 1/4 quarts each.
Not much to do, but get up early and pound some pavement and get to town as soon as possible. We had 11.5 miles to go and wanted to get it over with. We bypassed breakfast and stopped only for the flagmen, to assure them we would not be “monkey-wrenching” and idle steamrollers. Actually, the lane closed for repairs gave at least some buffer between us and the vehicles passing by.
Turning onto Highway 40 (still the “official” CDT”) we walked as far as the “trail” turned north and then stopped to hitch into town. 11:15 am - should be enough time to get a ride, get a room, get showers and lunch. It was.
It’s all part of the journey. Glaciers and Glacier Lily’s are more interesting, but very little is as “exciting” as facing down a semi truck with a 2 foot shoulder. Don’t blink.
Tomorrow, we’ll take our first complete day off in almost two weeks. The back on the trail on Friday, Wyoming bound.