Cruising through Central Colorado on the CDT

The trail through the middle portion of Colorado was awesome. After the tough terrain of the San Juans, the Colorado Trail seemed almost easy in comparison. We remained high up with plenty of ups and downs, but the trail was so well graded and maintained we made much better time.

Lake City

Lake City was a great town for a zero day. Everything was within walking distance and the locals were super friendly. As we were trying to get a hitch out of town, it was a local who saw us and offered us a ride back up to the pass.

We expected the terrain to get easier as we entered the La Garita Mountains, but our first day out of town still involved quite a lot of ups and downs at high altitude. We remained above treeline most of the time and had great views. We got a few sprinkles but nothing lasting.

Over the next few days we spent a lot more time below the treeline as the terrain eased up a bit. We dropped below 10,000 feet for the first time in Colorado. We got intermittent rain over the next few days, and even a little bit of hail. These might have been the coldest days on trail thus far, as the light rain eventually made everything damp.

Mountaintop Trail Magic

On top of a climb in the middle of this section we ran into an AT Class of 2016 thru-hiker, out for a weekend backpacking trip. He packed out a 12-pack to give out to hikers for trail magic. We didn’t meet him on the AT, but we shared a few trail stories while we enjoyed a beer with him. He even packed out the empty cans for us. A great little bit of trail magic and awesome morale booster for a cold day.

On our final day headed to Monarch Pass, it rained consistently all day. There were many mountain bikers and dirt bikers out on the trail despite the rain. I think it was the busiest day on trail we’ve had. The bikers were all very nice and courteous, but their tracks really made the trail quite muddy and slippery.

Our original plan was to camp near Monarch Pass, then hitch into Salida in the morning to resupply and get back to the trail. By the time we made it to the pass, though, we were thoroughly soggy and wanted nothing more than to dry off indoors. We decided to split a hotel room for the night with Jupiter and another hiker we’d met coming out of Lake City. We begged some tourists for a ride down to town and checked into a hotel room that felt a little too nice for a bunch of hiker trash. We showered, did laundry, and dried out gear out before sleeping in some really comfortable beds.

Monarch Pass to Twin Lakes

Leaving Monarch Pass, the trail followed the divide quite closely, before turning onto an old railroad route, then entering the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. This was one of my favorite  sections of trail so far. We had great views, beautiful weather, and well-maintained trail. The going was easy and we were able to make more miles each day.  During this section we passed our 1,000-mile mark.  There were lots of weekend backpackers out doing the Collegiate Peaks loop for the weekend.

We had two significant passes during this segment. The first was Lake Ann Pass. There was a large snow cornice at the top we had to climb down, which was a little sketchy, but the view down to the lake and the valley were awesome.

Next came Hope Pass, which Piñata deemed “Hope it’s Over Pass” because it was crazy steep. From the top of the pass we could see Twin Lakes below and nearly to Leadville. We learned that the pass is part of the Leadville 100 race, and decided those people are nuts.

Twin Lakes to Leadville

The best part about Twin Lakes was the cop car parked in the middle of town with a dummy cop inside. We walked up for a closer look to discover that the fake cop had a package of real doughnuts in the car. Resupply was expensive at the store in town, so we just grabbed two days of food to get us to Leadville.

There trail remained well-graded and well-maintained to Leadville. It was smooth sailing and lovely weather all the way into Leadville. We hitched into town, where we were promptly picked up by Pinata’s friend from Basalt. He took us back to his place for two days where we did laundry and cleaned up, then ate for two days straight before he took us back to the trail. It won’t be long now until we are finished with Colorado.

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