CDT Day 84 — September 17
Radial Mountain to Rocky Mountain National Park (Grand Lake, CO)
Up and Over Again Camp to Kiosk Camp
Miles hiked: 20.4
Total miles: 1518.4
Up and over one pass today, some interesting weather, a wrong turn, and a moose. National Park regulations gave our brains a workout and resulted in SpiceRack and me getting to town a little earlier than expected, but with a solid plan for the next day that will make it all work out. But plans have little value out here. We’ll see…
We allowed ourselves to sleep in a little without an alarm of any sort. I needed the extra rest after hiking late last night. We were on the trail again around 7am, collecting icy water shortly after, then cutting a switchback to dodge a moose on trail. A cold stroll through an intimate valley followed. Shades of fall touched the meadow and trail. Yellow grass, red leaves.
I sweated up a steep dirt road under a rare patch of blazing sun. Up and over a small hump. I was confused to find Spice coming the other way as I dodged a large mud puddle. Turns out we both missed our turn back onto trail a half mile back. Kind of fortunate if you think about it. Better for us both to be wrong and in the same place and we were equipped with the tools necessary to fix this with as little effort as possible. An alternate route followed the road we were on, linking with the trail again in a few miles. We may have actually saved a little bit of distance.
The weather got choppy on the trail to Bowen Pass. Dark clouds blew with great haste across the sky as we emerged from the treeline. Parkview Mountain came and went behind unfurling curtains of rain, though somehow we seemed to miss all of this but an errant drop or two. That is until the hail came. I saw the swirling patch of white haze blowing up the valley towards us. I looked around. Not a tree within running distance. Tiny, but intense needles of ice lashed at us for about thirty seconds. And it was over. Blazing sun followed.
Warm sun and sweet views from the pass at 11,470ft. I followed Spice on switchbacks down into another basin, red and green hills in the midst of their seasonal transitions all around. It was beautiful, but I have to admit that it looked better through my sunglasses for some reason.
We left the Never Summer Wilderness and entered Rocky Mountain National Park all in the same step. A little more down through trees, then across the humble beginnings of the Colorado River to a highway. Dayhikers were out in force looking for moose in the wide meadow and we let them know when asked that we’d seen one only 19 miles away.
We needed a permit and bear can that we didn’t have to camp legally in the park, so instead we hitched to Grand Lake for the evening. We pieced together an almost affordable dinner out of sides at the Mexican restaurant, then moved to the gazebo in the center of town to hang out and charge things. A warm night in a touristy, yet undeniably beautiful part of Colorado.