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.
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.
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.
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.
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.