Sunday, August 9th, 2020
Frisbee and I got up well before the sun. We were stoked to jot another state high point off of the list. Today we were climbing to the summit of Mount Elbert. Yesterday, we gained a new member of our trail family, Filter. We met him at the trailhead where Dr. Thunder was giving out trail magic. He would catch up to us shortly after.
The climb was brutal! We passed a good number of day hikers on the way up, but I was still struggling to breathe. The air was thin! The process of reaching the summit went like this: hike 10-20 steps, stop, take a few deep breaths, repeat. A vicious cycle, but not without benefits. When I was catching my breath, I made sure to enjoy the beauty of the sun rise and my surroundings. There were a few false summits on the way, and the people ahead of me and on the other side of the mountain looked like ants. I was fatigued, but it was all worth it in the end!
I was glad we took the north trail to the summit. The ascent was much easier than the descent! It would have been a steep and dangerous hike down. After taking it all in and having “second breakfast,” we took the south trail down to return to the Colorado Trail (CT). As a so called “purist,” I was feeling a little bad about missing a couple miles of the CT to take this side trip. However, I justified it by the fact that it was about the same mileage, if not more, and it was most definitely more challenging to hike.
The three of us ran down the steep stretch to get to the base of the mountain. Running feels better on the knees. We could see lakes in the distance as the rocky terrain turned green. Town was near! We bumped along a dry stretch to reach Highway 82, the road to hitch into Twin Lakes. We caught a hitch with a small group of boy scouts who were scoping out sections of the trail while planning for a future trip. They were hesitant to pick us up as first, but eventually let us squeeze in the back with all of their equipment.
Twin Lakes was adorable! It was a tiny pit stop for hikers and travelers alike. We ate ribbon fries and massive burgers covered in pulled pork, which we got at a little food truck called “Punky’s.” The portion sizes were more than generous and the food was delicious!
We also met Filter’s trail buddy, AJ. Like Filter, he was trying to ditch his trail name that he received on the Pacific Crest Trail. Also like Filter, he failed. I will refer to him as Bang from now on. Bang skipped out on Mount Elbert due to a mild leg injury.
We lingered around Twin Lakes a while, charging electronics, trying to stay out of the burning sun, and scoping out the resupply. We ran back into Dr. Thunder again, who happened to drive through while we were there. He offered us a ride to Leadville to resupply. It would be much cheaper and there would be more options. We didn’t know it yet, but Dr. Thunder would become much more than a trail angel by the end of our journey.
We returned to Twin Lakes after stocking up at Safeway and met some other hikers, Malone, Minnow, Jafar, and Rainbow. Jafar was absolutely blown away by how tiny Frisbee’s pack was.
“That’s so adorable! I think it’s smaller than my food bag!”
Rainbow was an older hiker who was more than a few beers deep. He was working on a section of the Continental Divide Trail. Shortly after meeting him, He would return from ordering food at Punky’s with a very bloody foot. Apparently, when he took off his heavy pack, he dropped it on his foot. The knife he was carrying in his pack cut through it in the process. Since Rainbow had been drinking, he was bleeding quite a bit. It looked way worse than it actually was. When he rinse off his foot in water, it went from looking like a massive gash that required a lot of stitches to a much smaller cut. Throw a very drunk, weathered hiker with a bloody foot in front of some first time hikers, and you’ll witness some very hysterical facial expressions. After hiking the Appalachian Trail, I’ve seen my share of trail hippies and town clowns. I was actually kind of bummed I wouldn’t be seeing Rainbow after that.
When we were finally able to escape the vortex, Frisbee, Filter, Bang and I caught a ride back to where we left off thanks to Dr. Thunder, and we were bumping along the mellow path ahead. It was a gentle hike around the lakes and along dirt roads. We could see some very awesome houses up on the hill and even passed a yurt on the way.
We shortly reached our junction. We could take the Collegiate East alternate which was the less scenic, more mellow, low route. OR we could go where all the epic views were located along the Collegiate West alternate. It was a no brainer! We wanted those views.
We left mile marker 183.5 and only hiked about a mile along the alternate before we decided to call it. Bang and Filter were trying to see ultramarathon runner, Courtney Dauwalter pass by while she was attempting to accomplish the FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the CT. They were following her GPS coordinates and wanted to cheer her on as she passed through. Our camp site was pretty sweet as well. We discovered the ruins of the Inter-Laken resort, a historic resort that was being renovated and preserved. We set up our tarps in the surrounding area. It was getting dark and still, no Courtney. I reminded the guys it would look awfully creepy to be sitting in the dark forest with our red lights shining from our headlamps while she passed through. They agreed. Time for bed. We’ll just have to miss her.
16.2 mi on CT + ~2 mi of Mount Elbert trail + ~1 mi on Collegiate West alternate
= ~ 19.2 miles (~31 km) total
Jump Ahead to The Colorado Trail: Part 10
Jump Back to The Colorado Trail: Part 8
Start from the Beginning: The Colorado Trail: Part 1