Day 19, 8/4, 24mi (M-426): Cascade Creek

The 9 miles to the Molas Lake Campground was fairly easy trail with one moderate climb out of the Animas River valley.

The weather cleared out overnight and the morning was clear skies.

The Durango-Silverton scenic train follows the Animas River. At just under 9000’ in elevation, this is the lowest point on the trail since around Mile 40.

The San Juan mountains are quite dramatic.

After stopping at the Molas Lake Campgrounds I decided to hitch the 6 miles down the mountain into Silverton for some breakfast. Then, around 12:30 I hitched back up to the trail.

A spectacular patch of wildflowers above Molas Pass.

Even with my 3.5hr detour into town I was able to make camp by 6:30 with the sounds of Cascade Creek to lull me to sleep.

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Day 17, 8/2, 19mi (M-376): Near Carson Saddle

It was nice sleeping in a bit today…6:15 🙂
I strolled down to the Lake City Bakery and figured it must be good based on the line…then I realized to they could only fit three people in the store at a time (it was still good!).

Around 9:15 I hitched a ride back up the mountain to Spring creek Pass. Janet and Mike were a nice older couple who have lived in Lake City for 40yrs., although their little Honda Civic wasn’t breaking any speed records going up Slumgullion Pass they got me to the trailhead safe and sound!

The right side of the V-notch in the background is San Luis Peak that we climbed a couple days ago.

I Hiked past a bunch of sheep today. Between the landscape and the bleating it kind of felt like Ireland.

This was the only water source of the day until I got to camp.

Most of the day the trail was at elevations over 12,500’…a treeless barren tundra. Thankfully, the weather held out.

This is peak is called Redcloud.

You’d think it would be all downhill from here :-/

I got to a great campsite around 6:00 and I had enough time to eat and relax before the rain came around 8pm. At 7:30 Albert rolled in (he hitched out of town an hour after me)… unfortunately, he didn’t get his tent setup before the rain.

Day 14, 7/30, 29mi (M-327): Cochetopa Creek

It was a beautiful blue sky day.

An hour into the morning the 300 mile mark was celebrated 🙂

There weren’t many water sources today and the few there were looked like this…plus lots of cow poop in the vicinity! Luckily, the creek was still running and I was able to fill up just before the mud puddle.

The rest of the day (15+ miles) followed dirt roads through ranch land. Mild temps and a breeze made this section bearable.

Followed this fence line for a while too.

Lots of cows to keep hikers company.

Albert is having a standoff with one of the braver ones..he thought it was a black moose.

Just before the end of the day we forded Cochetopa Creek on some sketchy logs. It would not have been a big deal to just walk through the ankle deep water.

We found a beautiful campsite on a bluff just above the creek…only spoiled by the fact we were surrounded by cow pies.

Day 10, 7/26, 27mi (M-253): Hunt Lake

Today was another tough day…6000’ of climbing and 90% was over 11,000’ of elevation. I did get lucky again with the weather: thunder and dark clouds danced around me but somehow I stayed dry.

This morning’s sunrise.

Surprisingly, the first Columbine of the trip (the Colorado state flower).

Mid-day siesta selfie.

Some of the climbs today were steeper than I’ve come to expect you n the CT, but at least the views are worth the effort.

This was an impressive scree field going up the mountain. The trail was skillfully constructed across the middle.

Home for the night is Hunt Lake. 30 mins after this picture the clouds rolled in and completely obscured the mountains.

Since I’m a bit ahead of schedule, tomorrow will be a short (~9 mile) day to Monarch Pass where I can hitch a ride into Salida for some R&R as well as a shower and laundry.

Day 9, 7/25, 26mi (M-226): Creek by Divide

The climbing started pretty much right out of camp. There was a lot of climbing today but the weather held out even with all of the storm clouds in the vicinity.

Lake Ann just before creating the Pass.

The final approach of Lake Ann Pass with my shadow in foreground. Some years the snowfield can have a tricky cornice to navigate well into late July. This year it was a non factor as the trail skirted just above it.

The view to the West with Taylor Park reservoir in the distance.

The normally elusive Pika held still just long enough for this pic. Not sure why this one obliged …typically they are darting around diving into the rocks.

Storm clouds to the North were getting kind of close.

There are actually two moose in this lake… a couple hundred feet below the trail.

The trail spent a good portion of the afternoon above tree line following the ridge (the Continental Divide).

A family of Marmots.

This was today’s elevation profile. The 7000’ of climb was extra tough since most of it was above 11,000’ (the dark black line) and there were a lot of stretches over 12,000’.

Home for the night at 11,900’.

Day 8, 7/24, 21mi (M-200): S. Fork Clear Creek

I slept in today…5:55am! As it was only 5mi to the Twin Lakes General Store and they don’t open til 8:00 (so I thought…actually 9am). I didn’t set my alarm for my normal 5:15 wake up call. Temp were mild in the mid-50’s and it was easy hiking to the store.

Twin Lakes in the background.

A much better view of the lakes.

I think this is Mt Hope.

The free for all of resupply boxes in the storage shed at the general store…luckily mine was still in there! At least they don’t charge anything for the service.

After a couple hours of relaxing at the store, charging batteries and eating ice cream and coke it was time to start climbing up to Hope Pass…definitely the steepest climb so far (4 miles and 3200’ of elevation to an altitude of 12,500’).

My favorite switchback of the hike 🙂

The last view back toward Leadville.

The menacing clouds and sounds of thunder dissipated and the views on the south side of the pass toward the Collegiate Peaks were fantastic.

I finished my day around 6:45 at a great campsite next to a creek.

First thing tomorrow I will make my way up 12,500’ Lake Ann Pass and then the end of the day will keep me above treeline for quite a few miles into the next day. Hopefully the weather holds out again!

Day 7, 7/23, 27mi (M-173): Herringbone Creek

It was an overcast morning but relatively mild for 11,000’ The clouds were hanging low obscuring the upper peaks.

Most of the day was spent hiking 1-2mi climbs through pine forests. This was the view to the East back toward Leadville.

A bit to chilly for a dip…at least for my taste.

The weather forecast had called for afternoon thunderstorms and there was fair amount of thunder but only an occasional drizzle before the sun popped back out. This is the view of Mt. Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak and the 2nd highest (~14,450’) in the contiguous US after Mt. Whitney. There is a 3.5mi side trail that will get you there…I skipped it as I’ve done it before, plus an extra 4000’ of climbing didn’t sound terribly appealing at the time.

Today’s miles weren’t easy with the constant up and down but they did seem to tick by without too much extra effort. I managed to roll into camp at the reasonable hour of 6:15 and listened to more thunder roll by from my tent.

Day 6, 7/22, 25mi (M-146): Tennessee Creek

Today was a fantastic stretch of trail. Quite a bit of it I’ve done before both in the winter (Janet’s Cabin and the Mitchell Creek ski tour) as well as summer excursions up Guller Creek from copper.

This was last nights sunset over Frisco. The sun was a ball of fire as it burned through the smoky sky.

After taking the 6:30am bus to Copper to pick up where I left the trail yesterday, I made my way under the ski lifts before re-entering the forest.

Working my way up Guller Creek above tree line.

The wildflowers on the way to Searle Pass were phenomenal!

Looking back toward Frisco and the Gore Range.

The trail is incredibly well maintained…so smooth and well graded.

A field of dreams

I finished the day just beyond Tennessee Pass near Leadville, CO. After only see three other thru hikers all day there were four other tents set up by the creek I planned to stay at…fortunately there was plenty of room 🙂

Day 3, 7/19, 26mi, M-81: East side of Georgia Pass

Waking up at 5am is always worth it when you have a sunrise like this…

A mile down trail I got a different view. Plus, I had good phone reception to upload the last two blog posts.

One odd part to my morning was finding my trekking poles scattered about the campsite (they had been stashed next to my tent). Looks like a deer found them and decided to gnaw off the straps and the foam grips (salty?). The straps are fairly important for how I use the poles. Luckily, I’ll be arriving in Frisco tomorrow and I have an extra pair stashed in my garage.

Saying goodbye to the Lost Creek Wilderness.

I couldn’t figure out why some of these aspen leaves were changing colors about 6 weeks earlier than normal.

Greats views into South Park.

The wildflowers have been making an appearance now that the trail is above 10,000’.

Some snow covered peaks on the horizon that the trail crests tomorrow.
Home sweet home is about 2mi below the top of Georgia Pass (~12,000)

Even with 26 miles on the day I had time to hitch 5mi down the highway to the nothing town of Jefferson to get some fries and a milkshake. Can’t believe I forgot to take a pic!