Pie On The Continental Divide Trail – Entering Colorado and hanging out with Big Agnes
(So for those of you that follow me on Social Media you’ll know that I successfully finished the CDT in early November. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to keep my posts consistent at the end end of the trail and now i’m travelling in Asia with intermittent internet access. I’m trying to play catch up over the next few weeks so enjoy the post and stay tuned for more.)
On day 62 Me and Michelle awoke on the side of the road all cozy in our borrowed two man tent. The rest of the hikers started turning up around 10:30, all of them looking sunblasted and drawn. We conducted interviews (with me working sound man) and then off they went. We spent the majority of the day filming the hikers at various different points along the trail. Trying to capture the brutality and heat of the basin. That evening Beans and Phantom turned up, they hadn’t stopped hiking and had hiked 89 miles in less than 35 hours without sleeping. Badass.
Day 63 we awoke in the beautiful desert of Wyoming, rested and awed by the desert colors. We filmed some more of the hikers and headed into Rawlins. The hikers started arriving in town around mid day looking beaten down but not broken. Some of us gorged on the excellent Thai buffet in town before going into hibernation at one of the many run down motels on offer.
Day 64 the hikers decided to zero and let their bodies recover from the punishment. This was also going to be mine and Michelle’s last day together before we went our separate ways. We both knew it was going to be around three months before we would see each other again. The previous few days together were so important for our relationship and I know I made the right decision. Aside from doing town chores and working on movie stuff some of us went out for Mexican food and went to see Dunkirk at the movie theater. I can honestly say it’s one of the best war movies I’ve ever seen.
The morning of day 65 was rough. Me and Michelle awoke and had coffee, not wanting to leave the bed. Eventually the time came that she had to leave for the airport. It was hard to say goodbye but tears were not shed this time. An amazing few days together had come to an end and it was time to get back on the trail. After packing up and grabbing a diner breakfast we hit the trail. Or the road to be exact. We opted to take an alternate and for a good while it was black asphalt that absorbed and radiated all the mid day sun as we hiked. It got to feel what the Basin was like and it sucked. Hot, exposed and very little water. We were all in pretty good spirits though and chatted through the road walk with some cool tunes playing from the Bluetooth speaker. We hiked into the darkness and cowboy camped by the side of the road.
Day 66 started with a deflated air mattress (again), it stayed inflated long enough for me to fall asleep but I woke up in the night on the cold ground. We packed up quickly as we had cowboy camped and hit the gravel road before it got fully light. We had no drinkable water for miles and everyone was running low. 15 miles of hot road walking got us to our first good water in almost 30 miles and a good spot to lunch in the small spot of shade under a bush. I felt sore and sluggish for the rest of the day but we managed to push through and do around 30 for the day. The last few miles we got up into the shade of some pine trees, a great break from the sun. The next day would be our last in Wyoming before crossing into Colorado, something everyone was excited for.
Day 67 started off weird. In the night I’d heard the others complain about an animal in camp but found out in the morning it was a horse. A couple were car camping near to us and apparently their horse had wandered in the night and nearly trampled the people cowboy camping. The morning started with a 2500 foot climb that thankfully was quite gradual. There were lots of people out hunting as it was now September and the sounds of gunshots rang out. The morning was fine but I felt rough in the afternoon, tired and lightheaded with an upset stomach. I would have stopped earlier but we were walking in the general direction of a forest fire and I didn’t feel like camping alone. We pushed on for another 30 mile day and found a terribly lumpy patch of ground to curl up on. I decided to forego the alarm the following morning and hopefully get some rest, planning to do no more than 25 miles.
Day 68 I intentionally slept in late and it worked wonders, I woke up feeling refreshed and rested. I also woke up to the smell of smoke. After packing up we hiked the 3 or so miles to the Wyoming/Colorado border, a great milestone. Colorado was somewhere I’d looked forward to hiking in for a long time. After our border photos and a snack we pushed on. We saw the fire in the distance but had no real information on it until we walked up onto a trail closure sign. The fire was directly on the CDT and we had no choice but to turn around and hitch around the fire. It was a super frustrating situation but there was nothing to be done, we did manage to bushwhack down and shave some miles to the road. We got a ride forward and luckily only had to skip a few miles of trail. We setup for the night with 43 miles to Steamboat Springs, 30 the next day and 13 into town.
I awoke on the morning of day 69 cold and with condensation on my tent and quilt. Welcome to Colorado. I ate breakfast and packed up quickly, wanting to get warm as quickly as possible. We had a huge climb of 3600 feet at the start of the day. Welcome to Colorado. The smoke from the fire was blowing into the area we were hiking, the sky was really thick with smoke and we could taste it. It also put a strange filter over the light from the sun, making it feel like we were hiking through an end of the world movie. Welcome to Colorado. The terrain after the climb became quite easy and we did 24 for the day before setting up camp. Having less than fifteen miles to town the next day meant everyone was in good spirits, socialable and chatty before settling down for sleep.
Day 70 we awoke early and did the remaining miles down into Steamboat Springs. What a cool little town. We found a great spot for a diner breakfast and got showered and did laundry. Steamboat is definitely a little touristy but still retains a lot of character. That afternoon we met up with some of the folks at Big Agnes and exchanged stories from the trail. They told us of their history in Steamboat Springs and we got an insight into the company. They offered to give us the tour of their headquarters and facilities the following day and we gladly accepted. That evening we enjoyed a few beers and some good food at a local burrito place before crashing out hard.
The morning of day 71 started off with breakfast cooked by Cheesebeard. A behemoth of a breakfast sandwich with Guatemalan coffee. We took care of our ressuply before heading over for a tour of Big Agnes’ facilities. It was a great opportunity to meet the passionate people behind such a well loved brand and here some of the interesting things they have planned. We spent the rest of the day enjoying the comforts of town and each other’s company. Steamboat was a great town to zero and I’d loved to have spent another day there. However, winter was coming.
Day 72 and it was time for us to leave Steamboat although I think all of us could have spent a few more days in town. Me and Doug hit the diner for breakfast before returning to pack up all our gear and head out. The smoke of the previous few days had cleared up but there were some rain clouds in the sky. We had 14 miles of highway walking before turning off onto a gravel road which we would stay on for the remaining 6 miles to camp. Fortunately we didn’t get hit with the rain but we were definitely came close a few times. I felt rested and relaxed after town and I think a lot of the guys did. We all chatted along the way and Click came out to film us on the long highway walk. All in all the day went well and we settled in for the night. Checking the map for the next day I saw we had a good amount of climbing to do and settled down to sleep.
Warm and toasty in my sleeping bag I awoke at 5:30, hitting snooze three or four times. I had a tasty breakfast of protein granola and coffee before packing up and starting day 73’s immediate 3000 foot climb. It was a fairly gradual climb that Eventually came to an end giving us some fogged over but rewarding view of Colorado mountains. We stayed up high the rest of the day, hopping up and down the ridge of the continental divide. We saw many hunters out as it was a Saturday, all of whom were friendly. The fog parted and we were treated to some great views although storm clouds threatened. We made it 27 miles before the storm clouds persuaded us to set up camp, still a few miles from our intended spot. We decided to camp at the bottom of Parkview Lookout and do a sunrise hike to the summit the next morning. We setup just as the rain began and retreated to our small personal abodes, rain tapping the silnylon as I fell asleep.
Day 74 we made the big climb up and over Parkview, the views making it all worth while. We had a solid day of hiking to do to get us to Grand Lake so we hiked consistently all day, stopping briefly to eat and fill up on water. This was the first day I felt myself feeling easily winded when going up hill. I assumed this was Colorados higher altitude and would get easier as time went on. Before the rain really started to fall we got to the road and hitched the few miles into town. I found myself a cold beer and booked a night at the towns hostel. With supplies from the convenience store myself and Cheesebeard headed up to the hostel. A welcoming atmosphere and a log fire awaited us and it wasn’t long after hot showers and microwave burritos that the two of us fell asleep in our bunk beds.
On day 75 we hiked the 5 mile alternate that connected up to the previous days hitchhiking point. We had the option to do a 25 mile loop into and back out of Rocky Mountain National Park but decided to rest for the day and avoid the predicted afternoon thunderstorms. The rest of the day was spent exploring the cute town of Grand Lake and doing laundry etc. That evening a bunch of us ate food together in the Hostels cozy common room and enjoyed a little red wine. It really made me feel like fall, the aspen’s changing color all around us and sitting around a log fire drinking red wine. A pretty awesome nearo.
I awoke on the morning of day 76 feeling rested and ready to get out in the woods. We made awesome breakfast sandwiches in the hostel kitchen and enjoyed hot coffee and the conveniences of town. It felt good to get out on the trail and within minutes a large bull moose came striding down the trail toward us. I stepped off trail and behind a large tree before grabbing my camera, he noticed us but didn’t seem to care. He ate right next to us before continuing on. We got threatened with rain but it never came and we made twenty miles fairly easy by 8pm. We had walked along the Colorado river at the start of the day before climbing up and away. A tasty dinner and that was all that she wrote.
Myself and Doug awoke early on day 77, it was chilly and didn’t take us long to pack up. The day started well and before long we were climbing, eventually 12,000 feet up on the ridge. We were treated to blue sky’s and white puffy clouds, the mountains stretching off to the Horizon in every direction. This was the Continental Divide in Colorado. We ran the ridge the rest of the day with gusting winds and the threat of rain. The film crew met us just after lunchtime to film some shots up on the ridge. Eventually we got hit with a hail storm that fortunately didnt last long. The end of the day was punctuated by a steep 1800 foot climb that took us well over 13,000 feet. I was glad to finish the day with a steady decent down to hot ramen and a warm sleeping bag. We’d done 25 for the day but it felt like more.
Day 78 was meant to be the day we just did a quick “in and out” to Fraser/Winter Park, we never made it out of town though. I got into town and had a great breakfast before ressuplying at the Safeway. As I sat outside organizing my gear with the others we watched the rain roll in, the forecast predicted rain all afternoon. Sitting out of the rain at the entrance to the supermarket a local guy approached us and started chatting. He owned a motel in town and offered a room that could fit all seven of us for $55. We all looked at each other and unanimously decided to stay in town. We relished the hot showers and junk food of town, happy with our decision. In the evening myself and Cheesebeard decided to go catch a showing of the new “IT” movie and weren’t disappointed. It was really well done and super creepy, it was also just really nice to mentally escape off somewhere else for a couple of hours and mindlessly shove popcorn into my face.
Day 79 we left the friendly town of Winter Park. We got great coffees in a place opposite the motel and eventually hitched back up to the pass. None of us were super excited to immediately climb a few thousand feet from the trailhead but it turned out to not be too bad. Bright blue sky’s greeted us up on the ridge but so did Colorado’s cold, relentless wind. We managed to do a really solid days hiking and pushed on into the cold of the evening. It started to rain so we found a decent spot off on the side of the trail and cooked dinner inside our tents.
Day 80 was probably the hardest day we’d had on the CDT. We awoke to the rain still hitting our tents, we were mistaken though. It was actually slushy rain/snow as the temperatures were below zero. I looked out of the tent to see a dusting of snow on the surrounding mountain tops. We decided to wait out the precipitation as we were about to hike to the highest point on the CDT and didn’t want to be soaked through whilst doing it. This proved to be a wise decision because it continued to get colder and colder as we made the 4600 foot climb. Snow on the trail didn’t stop a bunch of Coloradoan’s hiking up to the summit of Grays peak on there Saturday off from work. We got to the top exhausted and then realized we had an exposed and sketchy ridge to traverse on the other side. Looking back the actual risk wasn’t that high but with sheer drop offs on either side and strong winds, the traverse felt pretty hair raising. Eventually we got down off the ridge and everyone was physically and mentally tired, we decided to call it a day after going just 15 miles.
Day 81 we walked into the ski resort of Keystone and took the free bus up to Breckenridge. Everybody felt drained from the previous day so town felt especially luxurious. We found a reasonably priced room and made use of the hot tub and on site games room. Table tennis never seemed so fun. I think motivation in the group was generally pretty low at this point. The difficult terrain of Colorado and the colder, harsher weather had people questioning their reasons for being out here. At least I was questioning mine. Such a huge part of Thru hiking is accepting that it’s going to suck a lot of the time but remembering that bad times pass. One mile a time, one day at a time, one ressuply at a time. Just keep on keeping on.
Day 82 I made myself a big plate of eggs with spinach and some tortillas. I packed up all of my gear and headed into the center of Breckenridge to check out the town and eventually sit myself down in a coffee shop. I happily spent some time working on blog posts and taking care of a bunch of internet based chores. It was nice walking round Breck and looking in stores, acting like a regular tourist. Even if I did stick out like a sore thumb with my unkept facial hair and threadbare clothes. All of the crew eventually made it back to the trail but motivation was low. We sat down at the trailhead and it took all my willlpower not to pick up my pack and head back to town on the free bus. We made it just seven or so miles that evening before we started losing light and set up camp. It was going to be a cold evening and I went to bed feeling somewhat down.
I awoke on the morning of day 83 in a much improved mood, a good nights sleep working its wonders. However I had ANOTHER air mattress deflate on me during the night. Not my year for sleeping pads. I hit the trail and had an immediate 1200 foot climb that saw me on top of the ridge with freezing cold winds blasting me from all directions. I hiked as fast as I could and eventually got down off the ridge shivering. I came down into a ski resort and ran into Doug, before long we walked through an area with shops and restaurants, we spotted a Starbucks and ran towards it like small children. The rest of the crew caught up and we headed out, me being extremely caffeinated. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had a very gradual climb for the rest of the afternoon. A few of us, myself included we’re heading into Leadville the following day for packages and ressuply so we camped out a few miles from the hitchhiking point. It’s amazing how different two days can be. Another example of the crazy emotional roller coaster a Thru hike can be.
I awoke early as planned on the morning of the 84th, Inhaled some breakfast and got going as the sun came up. We only had 5 miles to do before Tennessee pass, our hitch point to Leadville. We stood at the side of the road with our thumbs out and a two seater Porsche pulls over. He laughingly jokes “sorry guys I can only
take one”. I immediately raised my hand and walked to the car. It was a friendly older gentleman that was vacationing and visiting family. He asks me questions about the CDT as he drives 90 in a 45 zone and expertly handles the curving mountain roads. With a smile on my face I arrive in town and eat a good breakfast and wander around the old mining town. After some deliberation, the bunch of us hitch to nearby Vail. A friend has arranged a large two bedroom condo for us all to spend the night. We grab some excellent BBQ and enjoy some beers and conversations before dozing off to sleep.
Day 85 we sleep in late and pack up slowly before getting a ride back to trail via the supermarket. The day is a beauty, the colorful fall Aspens shining in the sun. For the past few days we were walking through stands of Aspen and ooing and aaing at the vibrant oranges, reds and yellows. Fall truly upon us. By this point the majority of the PCT hikers and AT hikers are finished and yet we have 1300 miles remaining, an interesting thought. Feeling in better spirits than the previous few days we stride on about 18 miles. Deciding to stop early and make a fire, enjoy time together.
For more of my photography from the CDT, check me out on Instagram @pieonthetrail
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.