CDT Day 85

CDT Day 85 — September 18
Grand Lake
to Grand Lake
Kiosk Camp
to Shadowcliff Lodge

Miles hiked: 6.3
Total miles: 1524.7

SpiceRack and I split up for the day to hike different routes through the Rocky Mountain National Park back to Grand Lake. She took the much longer and more scenic loop up and over Flattop Mountain while I stuck low through a valley. I am definitely jealous of the cool stuff she got to see, but I had a productive day in town, which is really what I needed. It’s confusing, but we’re back in the same place we started this morning, a day richer with the treasures of the trail.

Tough hitching on a quiet morning in Grand Lake.

We got moving out of our stealth camping spot at sunrise around 6:30am. I made coffee using the hot water from the public restroom and instant coffee packets. Spice wasn’t having any of that and went to the bakery when it opened for the real stuff. We walked down the main street out of town with our thumbs out, but couldn’t catch a ride until we made it to Hwy 34. I guess we just looked a little too ragged for the touristy folk. Our ride was from a cool local SUP instructor and he dropped us off at the Green Mountain trailhead. I said goodbye to Spice so she could get moving on her 25 mile day, then ran a quarter mile up the highway to the spot we caught a ride yesterday in order to link my footsteps. By 9am I was headed up the trail, past numerous dayhikers looking for morning moose.

Two miles in, I took a right down a valley on the shortcut to town. It bummed me out, not taking the cool route, but I knew it was for the best. I needed to clear some of the lame chores off of my plate and this was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

A moose!

I got lucky too, walking within 20 yards of a moose and encountering a creature even rarer, an Andrew Skurka. For those of you not familiar with this person, he is a legend in the hiking community and one of my heroes for the life he leads. I recognized him instantly as he ran up the trail towards me. I stepped to one side to let him pass, exchanging the briefest of greetings, not wanting to sound like the lame fanboy that I am. The sighting left me giddy and I laughed at myself for getting so excited. Just another human. Not like a grizzly or something.

A Skurka!

I cruised downhill through forest following a river. Near the outskirts of Grand Lake I stopped to gape at the fall colors in the aspen, in full swing now. Skurka came blazing past me again, and I caught a picture this time as I was already snapping shots of the yellow and green foliage. Nice! A hundred yards further, and I was done for the day at Shadowcliff Lodge, perched on a cliff above Grand Lake with the best views in town. 10:45 am. I checked in to my room, showered, then got moving to the library to get some work done.

Shadowcliff Lodge, a pretty cool spot.

I sat in the library for most of the day until closing with exception of a trip to the post office to collect a box. When I made it back to Shadowcliff around 7pm, Spice was there, tired from her hike, but full of life from her day in the mountains. Her pictures looked fantastic and the extra effort sounded totally worth it. I’ll have to come back and hike it some other time.

We used the hostel kitchen to whip up a bunch of spaghetti and tacos for dinner. Spice understandably faded fast from there, only making it until 8:30pm before calling it a night. I had the top floor lounge to myself for the rest of the evening to write and chill. Shadowcliff is one of the coolest spots I’ve ever visited. I wish I had more time to spend here, with so many buildings and couches to explore. Fireplaces, map rooms, telescopes, and instruments. This place has it all except for a way to stop time or delay the onset of winter. I will need to return.

7 thoughts on “CDT Day 85

  1. Hi dear Owen !
    I know you probably have covered this topic earlier in your blogs but let me go forward and ask how is condition as far as snow-pack goes up there in Colorado mountains in October, at least this year, which I assume we could safely extrapolate into the upcoming years, at least to some extent. Is there snow storms and bone chilling wind up on the ridge lines? The idea of proceeding SOBO seems to be more appealing as long as you dont need to trail-run up till the finish line, unless Im wrong you just need luck to get past Colorado then it is all a home stretch downhill. Has it been hard to get through the snow in the Montana?… You see.. if it is NOBO then it is constant lightnings and thunderstorms plus early winter in Montana. If it is SOBO it is late snow in Montana and early winter in CO. =D Aside from that… do you carry snowshoes or hiking boots or low cut hiking shoes or anything aside from trail runners for all those high elevations where feet are freezing up and prevent the bottom of your feet from getting bruised on granite rock trails. Thank you for reading this and any feedback you are able to offer. Be safe,

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    1. Hi Vlad, thanks for the good questions! Snowpack hasn’t been an issue at all in the mountains for us. All melted. It has snowed on us a few times, but not more than a couple of inches. I definitely think that we’re cutting it close though. I wouldn’t count on the mountains being this clear in the future this time of year. And while we haven’t had much snow, it has been super cold. When the sun is out, it’s not a problem, but our coldest night has been around 4°F. And when the wind is howling, it has been dangerous. That being said, the weather overall has been great for us, but I wouldn’t want it to be any colder for sure.

      I think that SOBO is the way to go, definitely. Sure, one needs to get through Colorado before the snow hits, but the same is true of Montana for the NOBOs. In Colorado at least, there are lower alternate routes to take if the weather gets super bad. Not sure what NOBOs do when it snows up north. And I think fires are more of an issue for NOBOs too. That is probably the biggest danger to a thru-hike in the American West.

      Snow in Montana was not an issue this year for us. We were worried about it, but actually could have started two weeks earlier from the sound of it. SOBO or NOBO is kind of luck of the draw though. This has been a great year SOBO, but an aweful year NOBO.

      No special gear or footwear. We carried ice axes and microspikes to begin with for spring snow, but didn’t need them. And it hasn’t snowed nearly enough to need snowshoes this fall. Trail runners have been just fine. My toes get a little cold if it’s super cold out and I’m not moving, but I haven’t been concerned with my footwear at all. Boots or anything heavier are unnecessary. This trail is pretty good and surprisingly not too rocky for going through the Rocky Mountains 🙂

      Does that answer all of them? I could write so much more, but I hope I said enough for now.

      Gotta hike…
      All the best

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      1. hmmm… I highly appreciate you took the time to deal with my concerns. I am still a bit leery about wearing runners as I am extremely intolerant to cold but at the same time… if it is too heavy and not breathable your feet are f**ed for the lack of a better word. I dont know I wish this trail was accessible all year round without these snowpacks =D And yes… I feel sorry for you going through lashing and whipping cold wind, as it is imho the worst offender. If it blows it penetrates to the bones =D My fingers dont like it. Id need 3 pairs of gloves and hand warmers. Have you tried hand warmers? Some hikers swear by the efficacy. I’d use wool and then plastic gloves on top and then some thin waterproof on top of everything else. Sounds too much.
        Would you mind telling how you dry out your footwear including socks if it is wet and cold outside? I know some people put it in a bag and then in a sleeping bag to prevent them freezing but they still will be wet and cold =D I just dont get it how people survive there with these huge vacillation of climate zones having only 30 lb on the back.
        Right… thank you for getting back with the reply, it is very comforting to know that there are people who are willing to share their knowledge and first hand experience.
        As a sidenote, have you heard anyone on cdt dealing with ticks? =) It might be a silly twist, normally people care about grizzlies but in my view at least you can see bears or cougars for that matter, meanwhile these small critters we cannot see unless it is already attached so to say. It seems to be more hazardous. Lightining strikes and ticks, two forms of hazards which are totally unpredictable.
        Im glad you have a dry autumn without having to take extra risks or bailing out all the time due to snowstorms. Stay warm there!
        Have a wonderful blue sky over your head.

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      2. Hi Vlad, some more great questions!

        I really don’t think that temperature is a huge factor in choosing footwear for a trail like the CDT. The vast majority of the trail has been completed at a comfortable temperature. Even nights well below freezing have been just fine for me. I do tend to run hot though for sure, and everyone is different. It’s impossible to know for sure without trying, but I feel like feet are pretty resilient, especially when dry. Waterproof trail runners might be a good option too. They would cut down on the wind chill hitting your toes probably, but I’ve never tried a pair so can only guess. In the end, footwear is so personal and so vital that the only person I would trust is yourself. Try things out and do what you feel is right. I backpacked for years in boots without problems and only changed to runners for higher daily mileage thru-hiking. I’ve even dusted off the old boots for a trip to Nepal two years ago.

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      3. For wind I use my rain jacket and wind pants as my outer layers. They work great and almost eliminate the wind chill factor, which I agree is the worst offender in the struggle to stay warm. Honestly, I wish that I had better gloves out here now, but I’m getting by with a lightweight pair. Beefier ski gloves would be nice. On the coldest days I need to keep my hands in my jacket pockets when I would like to be using my trekking poles. Spice uses a super light mitten, fleece inner and windproof shell, that work great and weigh nothing. This makes me think that again, windproofing is key.

        Drying footwear? I don’t really do anything for my shoes. I take out the insoles at night and try to keep the shoes close to my body so that they don’t freeze. I also learned that loosening the laces a bunch is important so that if they do freeze, I can still get my foot in there. Then they warm up pretty quickly. The trail has been really dry recently so the only moisture is coming from sweat. I sweat a lot, but not enough to turn my shoes to ice blocks. They just get a little stiff.
        For my socks, I keep them under my sleeping pad. I find that this prevents freezing and dries them out a little. If they need to dry out a lot, then I sleep with them in my quilt, but that’s kinda wet and nasty.

        Ticks, haha! That’s a great question. There are a ton of ticks along the CDT, but not much discussion about them. The season has passed now, but we were definitely concerned about them in Montana and Wyoming. We even found a few on us, and heard stories from other hikers of a lot more. Fortunately, deer ticks and Lyme’s disease aren’t prevalent in the part of the country that the CDT traverses. That’s a big Appalachian Trail problem. I didn’t take any special precautions, but took solace in the fact that the tick needs to be on you for 24 hours to transfer a nasty disease (I think). With a very very very friendly partner, I figured that we’d find the tick long before then.

        And I agree, lightning scared me the most out here. Ticks too, and getting sick from drinking bad water or poor hygiene. Those are the less famous hike-enders.

        Thanks again for the good questions and for the well wishes. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

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      4. I cannot resist saying that I truly hope you are Ok since Ive just discovered that there is a Winter Storm Warning in the Northeastern Colorado. Obviously you know it but I cant help sharing it =D WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT (Monday/Tuesday) TO NOON MDT WEDNESDAY. Affected areas : Rabbit Ears Pass, Rocky Mountain National Park and the
        Medicine Bow Range and The Mountains of Summit County, the
        Mosquito Range, and the Indian Peaks.
        Im sorry for sending two messages in a row. It so fell out ; )

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thanks for the heads up, Vlad. Don’t worry, we’re far south and totally safe from that. Blue skies ahead for these sobos 🙂

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