Day 22 – Go West Young Man

The Colorado Trail has you make a choice right in the middle- East or West. The trail splits for 80 some miles in the Collegiate Peaks.

Collegiate East

We have been hiking on the East side. It’s closer to towns and easier camping. Much of it is below tree line and near creeks. This is a big consideration when the thunderstorms have been rolling in at 2 pm and sometimes hitting us multiple times until 7 pm.

Will it hit us is always the question

Collegiate West

The West is mostly above tree line often with less water (most years- everything is flowing this year) and much further from towns. But the views are spectacular. Because you are above tree line for so much, you can see so much.

Not So Lost Lake

Our goal was to hike from Cottonwood Pass to a side trail down to Lost Lake. The comments listed the side trail as “steep but do-able”. The lake had a cute little island in the middle and was a short 3 miles. What could be more perfect?

Photo credit John

It turns out a lot of other people agree with me. There is a much shorter side trail from the road to this very Instagramable lake. As we sat on the cliff overlooking the lake for lunch, we watched as the people and their dogs explored the lake below. At any given moment there were a dozen people running around.

Lunch with a view- easy to do on the West

Plan B

Since I didn’t want to camp in what felt like a tourist attraction- we went to plan B. Hike until the next water and find a place to camp. Along the way we saw another (even cooler?) lake that looked like it had a tree in the middle of it.

Speaking of one tree in the middle- that’s all I had as cover from the eyes of other hikers. It can be difficult enough to have your period on trail (which is why there was no Mt. Yale attempt 2), but then toss in a fully exposed trail? You hide behind the one tree you find.

We had to balance stopping to look at the marmots, flowers and the view with getting over the ridge before the storms rolled in. And hike up the ridge. It was amazing to see where the trail went for miles, but they were some very steep drop offs with nothing to stop you from rolling all the way down.

We made it up and over the ridge by 2 pm as dark clouds swirled around us – they never seem to actually move anywhere. And to camp by 4 pm, just as the first sprinkles started. The rain cleared off enough for us to make dinner- and for the mosquitoes to come out. They weren’t the most aggressive or smartest (one landed on my thumbnail), but they were so thick they swarmed like gnats in the air. John donned his headnet while I went with the hood-hat-hood option.

It’s very different when you are tucked into your tent at night listening to the coyotes, knowing you are the only person, than when you are in the woods with the illusion that others could be camped just down the trail. Here you know you are alone because you can see the whole mountain.

Photo credit John

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Comments 1

  • Ruth Morley : Aug 5th

    I enjoyed your post about the Collegiates. I had plans to thru-hike the CT this summer, but knee surgery moved that to 2023. I’ll keep your points about the storms, etc in mind next year when deciding between east and west. By the way, I’m also alcohol free, no added salt, oil and sugar, and am now in my third year of eating plant-exclusive (no dairy or eggs). I dehydrated all my food for the AT for 4 summers (unfortunately Paleo for 3 of them). I love my tasty, healthy food on the trail! Happy trails!


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