CDT Day 30: Rainbow Saddle to Pintler Pass – Naked ‘Shwhack Alpenglow Camp to First NOBO Camp
Miles hiked: 24
Total miles: 480.2
The night on Rainbow Saddle was surprisingly warm and peaceful, exposed as we were. I woke up, not on my own time, but with the sunrise at 5:50am. I faced the classic dilemma, snooze or watch an awesome sunrise. I couldn’t decide before my tiredness chose for me and I drifted in and out as SpiceRack began to rustle around. She was out of camp a little after 6am, me about 20 minutes later after eating a bunch and rubbing the crud from my eyes.
My legs felt a little stiff and crunchy on the cold descent from the saddle. I definitely hiked yesterday. I was feeling a little bit off, unsettled. No idea why, some hidden stress twisting a knot inside. Maybe it would loosen when the day warmed up. But it was around 40F in the trees, dipping colder near the few creeks. There was even a little bit of ice in one spot. Good hiking temperature, though. I passed Rooster who was packing up, then found Crunchberry loading up a little bit further after waiting as long as he could for Rooster.
I finally caught up to Spice lounging in the shade on top of Cutaway Pass (9,032ft), brewing a hot mocha. Crunch and Roost soon joined us and we had a social time as those two nommed on fat blocks of cheese. I was jealous.
Our big mountain views diminished down the other side, though the hiking was easy and relaxing in the shade. It was neither of those going up after finishing the down, but at the top this time was Warren Lake, big and beautiful. My right shoulder started hurting intermittently on the way up so I began using just my left pole, which left my right glute to fend for itself.
The lake was made for lunch, so that’s what all of us did. The skeeters were more forward than I like, but I needed the sit and swim. I was last out of there after writing a little too much. For the first time on this trip so far, I decided to listen to music to get me moving fast so I could catch up. I chose Linkin Park’s latest album (don’t hate unless you’ve heard it *cough* SpiceRack *cough cough*) and literally ran down the trail, feeding off the jolt of energy that favorite beats can bring. I only face planted once, gently.
At the bottom I found the others and the start of the next big climb to Rainbow Pass. I was still feeling hopped up on endorphins, but slowed down to chug a bunch of water in anticipation of a hot trail up. It was hot, and I took my time, listening to the chillest music I could find to keep things slow. After going so long without music, if found the isolation from the sounds of nature and my own walking suffocating. That feeling will fade, I’m sure, but the disconnect made me uncomfortable for now. I’ll need to ease back into it.
Spice and I took a pack-on break to wait out the heat before the exposed switchbacks to the pass. The slope was in deep shade by the time we made it to the hard part. Nailed it. Twelve flower-filled turns later, we were back up high on Rainbow Pass, looking around at another amazing mountain panorama. The low evening sun blasted my face as I gazed west at a sharp black ridge of mystery peaks. Wind rippled sparkles of light across the surface of Johnson Lake far below.
We soon joined the lake far below. It was a nice spot for sure, but it was buggy and we wanted to be up high for sunrise tomorrow. Hungry for dinner, we turned left and banged out yet another climb to a pass. Pintler Pass this time.
It was buggy up there too and we’ve had better views, but it was flat. Home. While we were eating dinner, a true NOBO hiker, the first we’ve met, stopped for a chat. It sounds like he had an incredible trip through Colorado on skis and I wish I had had more energy to pick his brain. As it was, I could barely finish my couscous in the dark before falling asleep, staring at Spice and feeling my aches. This is living.