Steamboat Springs, CO to Leadville, CO – Learning to Embrace the Adventurous Charm of the CDT

Day 78

Paula and John gave us a ride back up to the trail. We ran into cow pie, field trip, goose, and one track today. We climbed up for most the day getting back up to elevation. We hiked over a series of steep short ups and downs allowing us to enjoy beautiful views. Just as it was getting too dark to see without a headlight we got to a super flat spot with plenty of camping spots.

I’m feeling good today. I can feel the extra town food calories helping me out on these climbs. I’m feeling a bit of the mid trail blues. It’s a mixture of I’m ready to be done but I’m not ready to be done at the same time.

Day 79

The stars last night were amazing. I saw the most stars visible in the night sky, more than ever before. I didn’t sleep good because there were some vehicles that pulled in late to a parking area near where we camped and I could hear them and see their lights throughout the night. We had a very challenging day probably the hardest day in a while. At one point, we did 1100 feet of elevation gain over 1 mile.

Day 80

We decided to take a more direct route into Grand Lake today. We had a steep climb and no trail to follow but we knew we needed to climb back up and over the divide. There was a faint goat trail we were somewhat following but were quickly reminded, that we aren’t goats. It was one of those “don’t look down, don’t look down” moments. Once we got up there it was smooth sailing into town. The trail goes right through town!! We slept at a super cool hostel and made dinner with hammer, scoot, garbanzo and true grits.

Day 81

We hiked out of Grand Lake today. We ended up at a camp ground by the lake at dark with Danger Dave. Of course on a beautiful Colorado Friday night in September there were no available campsites. We had to get a little stealthy… I’ll never tell where we camped 😉

KD added hunter orange (kinda) to his outfit
Danger Dave accompanied us on our walk out of Grand Lake

Day 82

There was frost on some of our stuff this morning. We are reminded that colder weather is coming. The mornings and nights are chilly without the suns warmth.

We saw a bull moose in the early evening eating vegetation. We continued our ascent until we got to the top of the ridge at close to 12,000 feet. The sky was threatening with weather and we could see lightning very far in the distance. I started power walking/jogging to try to get to the pass where there was a dirt road we could take to get lower and find trees. It never stormed on us thankfully but it was an eye opening experience. Especially after a lady in Grand Lake introduced herself to us as a lightening strike survivor and gave us an informational packet. We must now be more aware of weather and hiking high on exposed ridges.

Last bit of setting sun before the weather turned

Day 83

This morning we woke up and the sun was shining. We thought maybe we over reacted to the lightning and forecasted storms yesterday. But by the time we packed up, the sky turned an ugly cloudy grey again. We decided to walk the road to town instead of following the exposed ridge line to the pass where we could hitch into town.

I’m feeling very discouraged. I feel I should be pushing myself to hike the red line (official trail) and guilty when something comes up I decide to go a different way. The weather and temps are very unpredictable and alarming to me. I’m trying to find the balance between challenging myself and being safe. All the while, the Colorado weather window is dwindling so I don’t have a lot of time to wait for perfect sunny days. It’s frustrating and beating down my morale.

Once in town, we got a ride to the grocery store. We had 2 wonderful encounters with strangers while shopping.

Peacock, a Continental Divide Trail Coalition employee chatted with us about trail. This trail is unique, young, rugged, unpredictable, hard and has so much potential. He encouraged us to embrace the adventurous charm of this trail, that other trails lack. I interpret that as the adversities we encounter are adding to the adventure, not taking away from the thru hike.

Jodi and her 4 year old chatted with us and offered us a place to sleep tonight at her house. We didn’t have a plan or a place to stay so her offer was a true blessing.

I have a tendency to try to control everything, but on trail there is often very little you can control. When things just work out without planning, it’s a huge boost to my spirit.

We avoided the rain by eating frostys at Wendy’s and met Lars, a biker doing a trail from Oregon to Virginia. We talked for a long while and he peaked our interest in the bike world. My imagination is running wild with our future adventures on bike. And the craziest thing we discovered was his route would be taking him straight through Ketchup Daddy’s home town! We connected him with family so that he may have some help if he needs it in that area. We are constantly reminded of how small the hiking/biking community is! How lovely.


Around dinner time we went over to Jodi’s house. She and her husband Micheal cooked us a home made meal of broccoli, grilled chicken, baked potato, and a roll! We provided dessert, a box of donuts and their 2 kids, Bodie and Jane, were thrilled! We got to watch a football game on tv, take a shower, and sleep in a soft bed. None of this was part of the plan, but I’m so thankful with how it all played

I’m at that midway point in the hike where I’m just tired. Colorado has been difficult and I feel like I’m hitting a wall. I don’t feel strong. My backpack feels heavy. I’m disheartened by the forecast predicting rain just about everyday for the next several days. The temps are steadily dropping and I don’t feel prepared.

I hope this rest and act of kindness will help get me through Colorado, or at least to the next town. Thank you Brack Family for pouring into my heart and spirit when I felt so empty.

Day 84

We got a ride back up to the pass and both felt overwhelming sick. We sat in the warming hut at the top of the pass waiting out the rain, nausea, and a headache. I’m not sure if it’s altitude sickness from driving up the pass or car sickness from the winding roads. I don’t know how I will make it through Colorado constantly feeling so ill. One day at a time.

Day 85

We met Sam today giving us a hitch into town and we became fast friends. We enjoyed his company and conversation so much. He even treated us to lunch before parting ways and exchanging contact information. Again, when I needed it most, complete strangers are filling up my emotional, spiritual, and physical cup. This is so special. Thank you, Sam!

We took a low route following a bike path out of town. A short cut, lower altitude, and little elevation gain/loss.

Day 86

We finally got onto the Colorado trail today and the difference was noticed immediately. The trail had switch backs and was graded nicely as we climbed over a pass. We made great time today and hiked back at our normal pace.

I’m not feeling nauseous or dealing with a headache today, but I do have a cough and when I’m hiking uphill it feels like I’m breathing through a straw.

I’m confused and frustrated that the altitude is having such a great effect on me. I never dealt with these issues when hiking through the Sierra on the PCT. I just keep hoping my body will adjust soon.

It snowed on us as we neared the top of the pass on the north side. As soon as we crossed over to the south side and started dropping in elevation, it was blue skies and no more snow. I saw lots of marmots and 2 weasel looking animals. We got to Tennessee Pass and hitched into Leadville with a local.

We ate dinner at a pizza place and they said we could come back after close and camp in the back. We went to a bar to hang out that was filled with other thru hikers. I’ve been avoiding alcohol because I read it can make symptoms of altitude sick was worse. I dealt with a stomach ache and headache again.

Day 87 and 88

Woke up with a terrible headache. We took a double zero here. I felt sick for most of the days and needed rest. There was also weather moving through both days. It rained all day and we were happy to not be on the trail.

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