Day 18 – Wrong Way and a Detour

Since John and I hiked the section with the side trails to Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert apart, we wanted to come back and climb Mt. Elbert together.

Heading North

First, this means heading the wrong way on the Colorado Trail. From just above our camp in Twin Lakes we had to hike about 2.5 miles north on the Colorado Trail.

The hike was up, not my favorite, but the morning was still nice and cool. The aspen forest was very cool. We passed the tallest monk’s hood flowers I’ve seen yet.

It was made significantly more difficult by the 30 some trail runners I crossed paths with. The trail was very narrow with steep sides. Technically I had the right of way going uphill, but they all seem to except me and my big pack to move out of their way. I would make it 20 steps down the trail and have to step off again. I was frustrated by the end and probably not so nice to the last few.

Heading Off Trail

Then we took a side trail up to Mt. Elbert. The south one to be exact. As you can imagine it’s all uphill. Our plan was to hike about 2 miles up to a campsite just before the tree line.

Heading Up Up Up

Not going to lie, it took us over 2 hours to hike those 2 miles. Three things slowed us (me) down. One, we were carrying all of our water for tonight and tomorrow until lunch. I had 4 liters and John had almost 6 liters. Water is heavy. Very heavy. I swear I will drink all that water before we get back to the stream just so the effort isn’t wasted.

Two, by 11:00 am we were hungry. My stomach has not gotten the message I’m not doing big miles and seems to want to eat earlier each day.

Three, our first storm of the day. As lunch was ending we could hear the thunder start to echo in the valley below. Luckily we still had enough service to pull up radar. The storms were building behind us then splitting on Mt. Elbert. There was a few minutes of (very cold!!) rain made better by finding my chocolate bar. Then we were back to blue skies. The storm poofed away just as fast as it had made itself up. Maybe 10 minutes of hiking and our rain gear was dry.

Camping at 11,700 feet

The campsite materialized just as promised. I was a little worried that we would climb all the way up and have no where to sleep. John is not a big fan of above tree line and I’m a bit of a perfectly flat spot princess. We are still in trees and not on fragile alpine meadow plants. There are awesome sitting logs and a perfectly flat spot.

The only downside? More mosquitoes, flies and small bees then I’ve seen yet. John even broke out his head net and I’ve never been so thankful my clothing and hat was treated with Permethrin.

I have such a hard time with the temperature here. If a cold wind blows through I’m shivering in my tent. Step into the sun and I’m sweating in 10 minutes. A cool afternoon meant my very first hot coffee of the trip. Most days I’m excited for cold soaked food and ice cold (instant) coffee.

It will definitely be an early night to escape the bugs and get ready for our 3 am wake-up call tomorrow morning. The air literally hums with bugs, like a ringing in your ears.

What we have left to hike in the wee hours of the morning

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