Snowstorms in June?? (plus street tacos)
It’s time for the first real challenge of the trail.
With a stomach full of yummy bread, I left Kenosha. As I walked ever closer to Georgia Pass, I was feeling hopeful. The snow couldn’t really be as bad as everyone had been describing it, I told myself. And besides, fear mongering had been the theme of my trail research up to this point— surely the snow reports were overblown. How bad could it really be?
As the trail steepened, the air thinned but little snow was visible. But as I climbed higher and higher, I began to see scattered snow drifts. Then more and more drifts, eventually forming numerous and deep snowfields. But still I could walk around the snow for the most part, and soon I crested to the top of Georgia Pass.
Here’s where things went downhill… literally and figuratively.
Georgia Pass is relatively low elevation, just a little bit above treeline at 11,875 feet. But it has notoriously bad weather (something I hadn’t accounted for). As I descended, the skies clouded and grew dark. The snowbanks became large and unavoidable, deep and soft— I began to posthole with every. single. step, often deeply.
After a few snowbanks, I found myself buried up to my hips in snow, and a snowstorm brewing overhead. Forbidding thunder cracked through the sky, and snow fell thickly. When I pulled myself out, my shoes and socks were left trapped in the snow. What a crazy situation I’d found myself in!
I dug my shoes from the snowbank barefoot, while snow continued to fall from the sky. The postholing continued, but mercifully began to grow shallower and easier after an hour or two.
I flew down the mountain and rested in the river valley until the storms passed. I had expected to see other hikers here, but it was quiet and lonely. Hoping to find others, I continued on, not realizing the distance to a wet campsite. I ended up hiking 28 long miles that day, and didn’t roll into camp until nearly 9:30! My tired mind must have been playing tricks on me, because my “flat campsite” the night before turned out to be a very sloped hill with waist-high grass in the morning.
Meet Breckenridge, the ideal zero town.
The next morning, I packed up camp and hiked the last four miles into Breckenridge, pizza on my mind. I’m still such a beginner thru-hiker– showcased this time by me wearing my Melly instead of my smelly sun hoodie into town. I didn’t want to smell bad… a naïve thought considering I’d been sweating in the woods for a week.
Breckenridge was an amazing town. I decided to zero the next day after my nero (oh wait, hiker lingo). Breck is amazing, let me count the ways:
- An amazing food scene and funky town vibe
- FREE buses that bring you to practically every street corner in town (no walking!)
- A wonderful hiker-friendly hostel, The Bivvi, with a freakin’ hot tub (need I really say more?)
- The best best best street tacos I’ve ever had (yes, this was the highlight of the entire town)
It’s true that Breck is an expensive and touristy town (but what Colorado mountain town isn’t, let’s be honest…), but the free buses made it all worth it to me. And who doesn’t like street tacos??
As I walked through the streets, the Tenmile Range was always there, looming above me. I don’t think I could ever fully relax, because in the back of my mind the question “am I really cut out for this?” was always stewing. The next section would be the most physically challenging on the trail, and it would really push me mentally too.
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