Leadville, CO to South Fork, CO – the Toughest State with the Kindest People
The mountain tops that were clear when we arrived to town are now snow capped. This morning I had mixed feelings about getting back on trail. I don’t want to go back to KY. I don’t even want to stay in town. I just don’t feel like hiking. I want to set up camp and not move. But that’s not going to get me to Mexico. So I started hiking. I was shocked at how effortlessly good I felt. Other than the restricted breathing on the uphills, mentally and physically I felt better today than I have since entering CO. I hiked past dark, but I was in good spirits arriving to camp.
At this point in the hike, it’s 100% a mental game. Physically we can do it and we know we can do it. When the hard days come along, it’s not our bodies giving out, it’s our attitude, mindset and mood taking the hit. I have to be able to keep talking myself into continuing to hike when there’s a little voice in my head telling me it would be so much more easier and comfortable to quit. This is why I am here.
I can’t even imagine how much harder trail would be without KD. I’m so lucky to have a trail partner I know will have my back. I love getting to experience this with him and being in his company. We also have Beerrun hiking with us now. The company you keep on trail is a critical piece in maintaining a positive mindset.
This morning was cold, we had some frost on our quilt. Everyday we hope it’s sunny for many reasons, one being we need it to dry out our quilt. We hiked on and eventually made it to Twin Lakes around lunch. We took a trail that lead us basically right into town. We picked up a resupply box and ate pizza. We hiked out on road, then trail, which eventually led us back to the cdt.
We had a major climb today to get over a pass and back into the mountains. Once at the top of the pass, the view of the landscape on the other side opened up like an enchanted secret land. It was spectacular and it didn’t storm. I hiked until dark and saw 2 sets of white glowing eyes reflecting at me. I immediately assumed mountain lions and I was going to be eaten. I got so spooked but after googling it I believe it only to be deer.
We climbed up and over a pass this morning. The clouds started rolling in as we made our way back down to tree line.
As we got to the exposed collegiate junction, it started pouring and thundering. So we opted to take the low route. Even the low route had an exposed field we had to walk through so we waited in the tree line for it to stop thundering. We got so cold as we sat there. I was so tempted to just set up camp there but we were planning to camp with beerrun in about 7 more miles. It stopped thundering but kept raining so we hiked on. We eventually made it back to tree line and it eventually stopped raining, but at that point we were so cold and wet. It actually cleared up and the setting sun came out for a bit but all we wanted to do was be warm and dry in our quilt. We ended up setting up camp earlier than expected.
Started out as a sunny day and we were so thrilled about that. That only lasted a couple hours. The sky turned grey and it hailed on us, on and off, for a few hours. As we were coming down from a pass, it started thundering and lightening. The thunder sounded like dropping a coin down a metal tube. It was the strangest thunder I have ever heard.
We got to a privy with a covered porch just as the sky started dropping some serious sized hail. Our next stretch of trail was exposed so we decided to wait under there until it stopped. An off road vehicle pulled up to use the privy and offered us a ride over the pass. We accepted. I always wanted to get a hitch in one of those.
Zero in Salida, CO
Our hostel, Hayduke’s Hideout, was pretty cool. It was in a garage and very basic, but it had everything we needed to rest and make big family style meals with the other hikers there – Beerrun, Still, and John.
2 part hitch out of Salida. It was sunny and we hoped it would stay that way, although realistically we expected rain at some point in the day. At monarch pass gift shop I bought a can of oxygen boost. I think it is actually helping me on the inclines when I get short of breath and coughing. The trail was pretty cruisy today. We cut into the side of the ridge so once we got up there we didn’t have to do a lot of ups and downs. We mostly stayed flat. And for an unexpected surprise, it stayed sunny all day. We walked in the dark to our camp spot. We do that mostly every night now bc the sun sets early around 7 pm.
Today was the first day it smelled like fall. Like dry grass and leaves. Lots of bright yellow aspens dot the mountain side.
Very cruisy hiking day. We were planning to push for bigger miles today, but ran into trail magic!!! We hung out there for a couple hours eating hotdogs and sandwiches with other hikers and bikers. It was much appreciated.
As we hiked on, the snow capped San Juan mountains loomed in the distance. Since leaving Salida we’ve gotten so lucky with beautiful sunny days. The sun warms me up tremendously. I can’t imagine how cold I’d be without it. There’s a bit of a crisp chill in the wind but it feels pleasant.
We’re constantly taking layers on and off depending on if we’re going uphill or downhill, hiking in the shade or sun, hiking in the wind or protected from the wind, etc. I’ve actually enjoyed hiking this stretch. It’s been a little while since my morale has been this high.
We hiked through the dark again tonight. As soon as that sun sets the temperature difference is immediate. I try to hike fast to camp but sometimes I’m forced to stop and layer up.
A beaver smacked its tail at me as I hiked by its dam. My left knee is bothering me again so I’m back to taping it and taking ibuprofen regularly. I usually pack out olive oil to add to our dinners, but I’ve started packing out butter to add to our dinners as well. I figured our bodies are burning even more calories trying to stay warm.
We were harassed all night last night by mice getting into our stuff. The Colorado Trail has been pretty bad about mice at the campsites. Finally I just put in my ear buds because good sleep is my priority right now.
Today we got to a fork in the road. A decision had to be made that we had been going back and forth on for the past few days. We could either continue straight down the red line and hike through the San Juan mountains or we could veer to the left and take an alternate avoiding the San Juan mountains.
Many factors had to be considered, but ultimately it came down to the winter season that felt like it was quickly approaching. We don’t have winter gear, we don’t feel like buying the necessary items and I wouldn’t be comfortable heading into those mountains without it. Part of me is bummed to miss out on such a highly anticipated section. But part of me is relieved to be avoiding the cold.
That’s the beauty of this hike. The freedom to make these decisions. Every hiker is out here making the best decisions they can with the information and resources they have. I feel pretty good about our decision and we hope to return to the San Juan’s in the future to check this section out in a more enjoyable weather window!
After hiking down a road littered with cool old mining buildings and structures, we got into Creed, CO at 7:20 pm on a Sunday. Everything was closed except one restaurant/bar. We walked in on taco bar Buffett night ending at 8:00pm. We stuffed our faces for 40 minutes. The bartender was so cool and let us sleep on the floor.
Took a zero at another cool hostel.
We had a giant amazing breakfast before hiking out. The route we’re taking is on road. It was actually a very scenic walk. The only down side, there was no shoulder areas to walk on in some spots but we made it work. We even walked by a cabin resort and got an ice cream cone. We walked into South Fork, CO after dark and split a hotel. Our last CO town!!
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