Another hike recommendation for you all: the Bowen Pass loop trail. Get on it. It's beautiful, and currently bursting with wildflowers. 10/10 would recommend.
Saw a few moose, dodged another thunderstorm, and only got rained on a little. Generally kicked butt on the 6th July. Sadly, it is now definitely mosquito season, so we are forever on guard from the blood sucking marauders. Our camp that night was the worst spot by far, and we weren't even near any water!
We pushed pretty hard to get up and through Rollins pass and then down off the ridgeline before the storms on the way down from James Peak towards Grand Lake. We also didn't have any way of getting a permit to camp in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, so we had to be careful where we stopped. The views were great, but the impending storm didn't give me much time for photos. The trail was pretty decent for once and we camped late (around 8pm) up on a random hill top in the national Forest 21.5 miles south of Gran Lake. July the 5th had epic thunderstorms forecast all day, so we got up at the crack of dawn and pushed as hard as we could to get into Grand Lake by 2:30pm.
There are two things I want to tell you about this day. One, despite the thunderstorm it was HOT. And Two, the climb up the knights ridge and the walk around the lake epitomised classic CDT pointless climbing and poor trail maintenance. Knights ridge, despite being cleared, still had a fairly large amount of blowdowns (trees that had fallen across the path) and the trail past there around the lake was literally eroding into the lake, which felt neither safe nor enjoyable to walk on. We had hoped that since it was in the Rocky Mountain National Park maybe the last section the trail would be clear and we'll graded but no. We had a bare 10 inches of trail, actively slipping into the lake, to walk on. Not my favourite day of hiking if I'm honest. But we made it into town before the storm hit, and a shower and a sleep in a bed does wonders for a person's view of the world.
One of my favourite things about this trail is how clueless most people are about its existence. We climbed James Peak first thing in the morning from Loch Lomand (the trail starts right at the end of the loch wall closest to James Peak). On our way down the far side we passed a LOT of day hikers. Amusingly, several of them thought we were simply very over prepared day hikers. When we explained we had walked from the Mexico border, a few people assumed that was a Colorado town they had never heard of. Hilarious. One guy tried to tell us we weren't actually on the CDT (despite not knowing what the CDT even is) and one family spent 10 minutes explaining to us there was no way we could possibly make it to Grand Lake by the next day. Man people love to have opinions about things they have no idea about! Here is Bourbon at the summit of James Peak doing a bang up job of pointing at Mt Bancroft (we have a friend who has this as his last name- hey Row!)
We camped at Loch Lomand on July the 4th. Seriously, you need to go camping there. You can drive up, and camp in one of the prettiest spots I have camped on this trail. It is partway up the south side of James Peak, and it is so stunning.
It is one of the few spots on the trail I'd go back and camp at without any hesitation. So, so pretty. The climb up James Peak from that side is actually a pretty nice climb too, so go and stay there and day hike your way up James Peak. You can thank me later.
A decent climb, but with a frustrating false summit on the way up, Mt Flora is the mountain immediately East of Berthoud Pass. It was actually pretty well graded climb for the CDT (much better than the abysmal Hope Pass just south of Twin Lakes). The descent down the far side of Mt Flora was a nightmare. We had big grey thunderstorm clouds rolling in, and the trail was built almost entirely on a scree slope. Honestly, one of the most frustrating things on this trail is the lack of switchbacks/trail grading, but someone got seriously switchback happy on that climb down Mt Flora. I lost count but if felt like we did 1000 switchbacks to descend the first 1000 feet. Which when you are hurrying to get off a ridge in front of an impending thunderstorm is not much fun. Further down, as we came around into the valley, there had also been some rock slides that had wiped out the trail as well, so we were scrambling/climbing over unstable boulders the size of my torso/head, in the rain, above tree line. Eventually we have up and went straight down to tree line and walked up along the road. As we climbed around the next shoulder, the thunderstorm hit and we spent a fair amount of time hiding out amongst the trees waiting for the lightning to abate. Colorado had finally delivered the afternoon monsoons we had heard so much about.
We took the Dillon/Silverthorn alternate (kind of!) And the climb up out of Dillon was pretty hard work. Also, the trail kept disappearing on us (it was poorly trodden and poorly marked) and was pretty poorly graded. I can't say I enjoyed this section very much. As we climbed the switchbacks to rejoin the official trail, the Sugarloaf fire did it's "afternoon kick off" and we watched as the thin wisp of smoke turned into a billowing cloud. We had little choice but to keep climbing so we could get a better sense of the scale and risk, since from where we were on the switchbacks the fire looked as if it could have been just one valley over. Luckily we were already above treeline, so the risk was smaller for us to stay up high/keep climbing. It turned out the fire was two valleys over (past several high passes and treeless expanses Mum, don't freak out!) So we kept going. After we made it into Grand Lake we found out they had actually closed this section of trail while we were in there, so we were lucky to get through!
Well, my fellow travelers and hikers-- I am still trying to keep moving and getting into the forest to preserve my sanity! Today, I hiked for about three miles on the Art Loeb Trail starting from the trailhead along the Davidson River. Naturally, every day I miss my time on the AT. And boy, have I lost my trail legs!!
This was a real gem to find along the trail today--it's past the blooming season for most of the rhododendrons. So I stopped for a few moments to enjoy its perfection. There is a saying that flowers don't compete with other flowers--they just bloom when they are ready. Be like the flowers.
The most important part of the trail for me was the forest healing, the therapy of being out there. Finding a way to replace that therapy while off the trail is taking some effort. I'm blessed to live in North Carolina where there are such beautiful mountains and trails. So getting out there even for day hikes is a priority. In addition, I have been working on mindfulness meditation to help me adjust. There are two audiobooks that you simply must listen to--these were real game changers for me-- "Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics" and "10% Happier" read by the author Dan Harris. It's not my habit to recommend books but these are so relevant to our modern life, on and off the trail.
Right now, practicing loving compassion for all is my mindfulness exercise, even for the most difficult in my life. I experience deep gratitude for those who hike with me in life and have been a positive influence and I will work on mentally developing compassion for some people who have done some seriously ugly stuff. You gotta know that people who hurt other people intentionally aren't feeling good themselves. No matter what you do to hurt me, my internal happiness is not yours to take!
Hope you have enjoyed today's trail beauty. Happy Trails, Deb
One of the conflict areas where I worked was Liberia-a country largely modeled after the USA. Rural areas suffer from a lack of clean water. As hikers we know how much work it is to collect our liter bottles of water—but imagine that you have to provide water for all uses for your extended family, elders, littles, the disabled and all. This arduous task usually falls to the women of the family. So I am supporting this project in Liberia. I know the groups involved and have met them personally in Liberia. Please read about the project for its interest when you have time. Donating is appreciated but not required. None of the funds go to my hike. Only to help the project get on its feet with an ultimate goal of self-suffficiency. GoFundMe.com/cleanwaterforliberia
Kokodama pass had wildflowers for days.
The climb, although it was just over 3000ft, was well paced and manageable, and there were many spots to enjoy the view. We all climbed it much faster than we thought, just because it was so nice and steady. The valleys just below Searle pass in both directions really took my breath away in particular (and not because of the altitude!!).
There was a cabin near the top of the valley there that left me pining for a rainy winters day next to a log fire, but when I get to come out and hike everyday I really don't have too many legitimate complaints!
I turned 28 on the trail last week, just after we left Twin Lakes. It was a pretty uneventful day, but a good one nonetheless. Th climb (although not high) really aggravated my Achilles tendon, which has been extra grumpy since our monster day on the west Collegiate route. I also missed home a bit, as we all do sometimes.
It's funny, but it was good that it was an average day in some ways. The views were spectacular, the climb a little hard. It made me remind myself that you climb every mountain just one step at a time and that at any given moment, all you need is the willpower to take just one more step. I've been finding myself getting overwhelmed at the thought of getting to Canada lately (we definitely aren't winning any speed records) but really all I need to remember is that on any given day I need the willpower to get on the trail for just one more day. I love it out here, but it's hard. For every climb you get done, there is another one looming just over the ridgeline (this is especially true in Colorado!). For every meal you cook, there is another one coming that needs to be done. For every cathole you dig, there will be another one tomorrow, and the next day, and maybe tomorrow afternoon. It's easy to get bogged down in the hard stuff and forget that every step is moving us North towards Canada.
We are getting there. One step at a time.
Trip post morem thoughts: