CDT Day 57- 60: The Mountains are Calling
CDT Day 57
I wake up early to the sound of traffic on the highway. I toss and turn for a bit before finally giving up and getting up. I’m not in a rush because the shoes I ordered to be delivered to town won’t show up til later today. So after coffee and updating the blog, I pack up and catch the free bus downtown. First stop, food, duh. McDonalds it is. Can’t beat this many calories for $4.
McDonalds app comes in clutch for deals. I swear I only eat here when I’m thru-hiking. Then I head over to the gear store for fuel and to exchange my socks for new ones since mine now have holes in them. I love when I find a gear store that honors the Darn Tough exchange policy. Then I pick up some probiotics from Walmart. I try to take one daily while thru-hiking since my body doesn’t get many natural probiotics and since I am drinking from a lot of questionable water sources. As I wait for the bus, I enjoy just being still for once and people watching and enjoying the town.
Steamboat is a great place to people watch. A perfect mix of tourists and locals, especially this time of year, the shoulder season, although everyone tells me there really is no true shoulder season here anymore after everyone moved here to work remotely during the pandemic and also with all the great hiking and mountain biking nearby that you can access well into the fall and spring. I meet tons of workers from out of the area, even other countries. Makes sense, that people would move here to work, what a great place to live. Then I indulge and get a Thai massage. Omg it’s amazing. Have you ever had a Thai massage? It’s like pleasure and pain all in one. Kinda like thru-hiking. I became obsessed with Thai massages when I lived in Thailand. I would get one once a week. Of course they cost less than $10 over there. A little pricier in Steamboat, but my body needed it so bad. I didn’t realize how tight every single part of my body was. I breathed through the pain as the little Thai lady pulled me this way and that and walked all over me, releasing tons of pressure points and tension. She kept giggling and saying, “You so tight,” as I nodded and tried to smile through the wincing. That’s what backpacking every day for two months will do to a person I suppose. I felt like a million bucks afterwards. My new shoes finally showed up so I grabbed those and took the bus as far out of town as it went and then hitched back up to the trail. A nice old cowboy gave me a ride and even a beer too! Then I had a nice long road walk. I ended up on a forest service road and was surprized to see tons of RVs and big tents camped out alongside it. And then I remember archery season opens tomorrow. Looks like I’ll have some company on the trail for a bit! Hopefully my stealthy gate doesn’t look like that of a young buck. Maybe I should have picked up some reflective flagging to wrap around me in town. I’m rocking my new Wings of Angels hat that is super comfy. Thank you, Donna!
At one point in the evening, the mosquitos started attacking me. What the heck! I haven’t seen mosquitos for weeks! Not cool Colorado! It’s always somethin’ out here! I guess that’s the exchange for hot September weather. I get into thickets of cottonwood trees.
Mmmm, I love these trees, especially the sound they make in the breeze. I find a rare spring and set up camp nearby. I kick off my new shoes and toast myself with a Coors Banquet. Can’t get better than that in Colorado!
CDT Day 58
I wake up early to the sounds of trucks and razors passing by. Hunters. I try to sleep, but they are loud. It’s really cold when I get out of my tent, but hot coffee and a steep climb warm me up. Today is sooooo much climbing. And it’s all at high elevation.
I am destroyed by mid-morning. Not good. But just gotta keep pushing.
I sneak up on some hunters because it looks like they’re trying to be quiet and I’m assuming they’re tracking a deer. But I scare them instead. Maybe not the best idea. I pass through a burned area in the afternoon.
I take the chance to dry out my gear during lunch that’s been wet from multiple days of dew and is starting to smell a little mildewy.
And then I start the climb from hell. Straight up two major peaks.
I’m usually pretty good at high altitude, but for some reason it is kicking my butt today. Headache and all. The first climb I try and hike normally, but have to stop so often to try and catch my breath and not die. The second climb I take it slow, lots of little steps. I reach the top just as a fellow hiker from the other side does. Turns out I know her husband who is hiking the trail and she is supporting him along the way and hiking parts of the trail. We marvel at the view.
We hang out at the emergency shelter for a sec before we both bail in opposite directions.
Gotta get down low and find water before it gets dark. I take an alternate trail down that might have water because I know the CDT doesn’t have any for miles. I get a cool view of where I came from as I start to descend.
It’s a super sketchy rock scramble down, but I hit a logging road eventually and find great water! A few more miles and I finally stop and call it a night as the sun is sinking behind the mountains. What a long and hard day. Stoked to have a rare Mountain House meal for dinner! Thanks Donna!
CDT Day 59
I wake up before the sun and am happy to see it’s too early to get up and go back to sleep. When I wake up again, it’s nearly 7. I can’t believe I slept that late. My body must need it.
I spend the morning mostly walking through a burn. The bugs are bad. The grasshoppers launch themselves at me like cannon balls. I don’t know how they can jump so high.
At one point I miss a turn and by the time I realize I’m on the wrong trail, I’m pretty far off. But after inspecting my map I think I can see a way to link a few other trails together to reconnect to the CDT up ahead. It works out and ends up being a breathtaking trail.
And an actual good hiking trail, compared to all the crappy ones I’ve been on recently. Why this isn’t the official route of the CDT is beyond me.
But I can’t say I’m surprised at this point. Whoever designed the CDT must have had a grudge against the world. I zoom through some pretty forests. And end up in Rocky Mountain National Park. There was a massive fire a couple years ago here and a 20ish mile section of the trail is closed to hikers… unless you pay $36 for a permit and another $5 to rent a bear can which you are required to have to go through that area. To walk through a burn? Hell no. Sorry feds, I’m not that dumb. Why we are not allowed to day hike it, I don’t know. I guess they assume too many tourists will kill themselves trying to climb dead trees or something.
So pretty much everyone is skipping the expensive burn and walking the highway.
It cuts off like 15 miles and is flat and most important free, so hell yea. I make it down to the town of Grand Lake in the late afternoon and grab a small resupply at the extremely expensive grocery store and a $14 overpriced deli sandwich and enjoy walking through town.
I love these National Park towns. It’s always the same mix of the extremely wealthy and the workers. I walk by mansions and crappy apartments within a block. It’s funny to see newly renovated houses next to the old 70s style. Honestly, I like the old 70s style better.
The trail takes me along the lake which is where I had been planning to camp, but the lake is not exactly the lush beach I imagined. Between the millions of down trees and the thick four foot tall grass and rocky dropoff to the lake, there is literally nowhere to camp. But at least I have a nice sunset view to walk through.
I push on until after sunset and eventually just walk off the trail up a random hill to find somewhere without a million blowdowns to camp. Not the best place, but definitely not the worst place I’ve camped. And at least I have a pretty sunset. This is not at all what I expected Rocky Mountain National Park to look like. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
CDT Day 60
Wake to a freezing cold morning, especially since my tent and sleeping bag are wet from dew from sleeping in the grass. But I’m glad I climbed up out of the meadow because there’s a fog hanging in it and when I head back down to hike, it is even colder. I hike fast trying to warm up. Eventually the sun pops out and then I’m sweating in all my layers. I walk along a massive lake for miles.
And then enter tourist mecca. Omg so many people. Especially since it’s labor day weekend. Trying to dodge cars on the road and pass so many families on the trail. Eventually I make it back to the CDT and then there is noone.
Until I pop out at another lake you can drive to and same thing, people everywhere. And then it’s back to just me and a couple hunters. In the afternoon I have a massive climb that I have to carry water up. 1000 feet per mile is never a fun grade. But the views on top are amazing.
The marmots are chirping and the sky is turning the fields the most beautiful colors.
And I get a glorious sunset and a view of a beautiful lake.
I’m camping up high, totally exposed, but the air is calm and the sky is mostly clear so I might just luck out with a nice night.
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