CDT Day 89 — September 22
Fourth of July Trailhead to Rollins Pass
Friends Place to Windbreak Camp
Miles hiked: 11.5
Total miles: 1566
It was tough, but we made it out of Eldora and back to the CDT today. First, just leaving the cabin took a mental effort. So comfortable, so many hash browns. Then it took three hitches to make it the five miles back to the trailhead. From there it was nine steep miles back to the Divide, just as beautiful as we left it. Good to be back, but, man, it sure is cold.
A late night of watching a Japanese culture lesson resulted in a late morning. I think both SpiceRack and I hoped that if we slept in long enough, then we would have no choice but to take another zero day. That didn’t end up being the case though. We both knew that the weather looked good and that it was up to us to take advantage of that. We cooked up a final meal of hash browns and french toast sticks before saying farewell to our gracious and amazing hosts as they left for work. We lounged a little bit longer, then left as well, stepping out into the bright and windy world.
As I said, it took us three rides to make it the five miles back to Fourth of July trailhead. A truck, a bus, and a car. Hiking at 1:20pm. It was packed with hikers out for the day, which made peeing difficult and saying hello a chore. But before long we turned off of the main trail to Arapaho Pass, instead heading to Devil’s Thumb Pass via Diamond Lake. The trail was still good, but the crowd was gone.
We stayed in the trees for some pleasant walking. My legs felt strong and my movements smooth after the time off, despite the heavy load of food on my back. The trail diminished in quality while improving in views above Diamond Lake. The fin of Arapaho Peak was fantastic, rising across the valley, above the trailhead. We climbed up and over a grassy lump. More views. It was also cold and windy despite the bright sun. A distinctly autumny feel disturbed my peace. Cold air, diminishing sun power. Hmm.
I caught a chill while filtering water and having a late lunch at Devil’s Thumb Lake. Whitecaps whipped across the surface. I didn’t like that one bit. Spice gave me a peanut butter and brown sugar taco though. I did like that. Just after the sun dipped behind the sharp cliff of the Divide, we got going for the final climb to the CDT.
The switchbacks were relentless and numerous, but I still could have used some sun for warmth. Upon cresting the ridge above 12,000ft, I was blasted by a fierce wind straight from the arctic. I threw on my rain jacket and hunkered behind a short stone wall to wait for Spice. And she took a little while to get there. Something wasn’t feeling right. Bouts of dizzying vertigo, no power in her legs. Could it just be the altitude?
There wasn’t much time to consider the symptoms. It was cold despite the bright sun and we needed to find a sheltered place to camp along this endless ridge before it got dark, so we pushed on. The trail was easy to follow across the wide grassy slope, yellow and red with the colors of the season. Tremendous views encircled us on three sides. Numerous peaks with names that I didn’t know, and just a couple that I did. Parkview, Longs, James, and maybe Grays. Wind buffeted us relentlessly, making us look like a pair of drunkards after a long night.
Down to the junction to King Lake. I had been here before, during a road trip to explore Colorado, almost exactly four years ago after completing the PCT. I remembered this spot well. On a day hike from a front range trailhead, this was the spot that I first made contact with the CDT. There was a trail crest nailed to a post that had a profound effect on me. I was too trail weary at that time to seriously consider hiking this trail, but the experience left a strong impression. That hike, this ridge became the image that I associated with the CDT. Such a beautiful ridge. Such an intriguing trail. The trail crest was missing now, but the post remained. It had taken four years, but now I had come full circle.
Sunset was brilliant, and then it was even colder. We made it a short distance further to Rollins Pass where numerous flat spots and scrubby bushes gave us hope for a good night of sleep. I was tired, but I wondered about Spice. A night of sleep can change everything. Let’s see tomorrow. A cold night and cold beans for dinner. How long until more hash browns?