Note: This Landscape Isn’t Real

Note: this is a very late update from my thru hike of the CT, June 18 to July 18, 2023. This is not intended to reflect current conditions for the 2024 season.

I woke up to the sounds of marmots outside my tent…

Springing out of my tent door, I ran them off and found my bear bag, a little gnawed on but otherwise undamaged. Time to go, I guess. An hour or so later, the new sunlight found me standing on top of a saddle below Carson Peak. As I topped the saddle, the beginnings of the best section of the Colorado Trail opened up in front of me.

The trail swings around a massive view of Cataract Lake, with craggy Sunshine Peak further down and across the valley.

Sunshine Peak!

Cataract Lake

The next ten miles or so to Stony Pass contained otherworldly terrain. As I write and rewrite this paragraph, I’ve realized that there just isn’t any appropriate way to describe this area, just that when I revisit the CT, this will be the first section I want to redo. Here’s some pictures to make up for the lack of commentary:


I’m pretty sure this place isn’t real

Into the Weminuche!

The Weminuche Wilderness is the largest wilderness area in Colorado, clocking in at over ¾ the size of the state of Rhode Island (499,771 acres). This area is remote, special, and contains many unique subranges such as the Needle, Grenadier, West Needle, Mountain View Crest, and Mesa Mountains. As I approached the Weminuche at Stony Pass, the landscape changed, and there was so much snow still on the mountains to contend with. Me and Phoenix camped a little ways into the wilderness, with eager plans to finish out the Weminuche tomorrow and hike into Silverton (for pizza, of course).


Elk Creek, and the Animas River

The morning light softly lit up the remains of my tent as I woke up from a very fitful night’s sleep. Sleeping at nearly 13K feet is always difficult, made worse by extreme wind collapsing my tent body all night. Eventually, I just pulled my fallen tent over myself and tucked it around my sleeping pad to avoid the incessant flapping noises in the wind. Not the greatest way to start the day. 

As I walked along the high crest approaching Elk Creek Canyon, the Grenadier Range came into view, with its high cliffy pediments. This range is freshly carved out by glaciers, and was one of the last areas to be successfully climbed by mountaineers in the San Juans and wider Colorado.

I love some good shadow pictures 🙂

Suddenly, I was at Elk Creek Canyon, probably my favorite spot on the entire trail. The views are simply indescribable:

Descending into the canyon

400 miles!!!

The Grenadier Range. There were so many biting flies here.

The trail descended into the canyon via some very impressively built switchbacks, and then I was in a wonderland of austere rock, whitewater, and waterfalls. Who knew the Colorado Trail had some canyoneering involved? From there, it was just a simple hike down to the Animas River (which I didn’t drink from because of massive mining chemical spills that contaminated the area some years back), and then a climb up to Molas Lake, a thru-hiker friendly camp area. While I had sent a package here and was planning not to go into town, the siren song of Silverton below in the valley was too strong to resist– plus, I was far ahead of schedule and in no hurry. It was ridiculously easy to get a hitch from the Million Dollar Hwy into Silverton, but once we arrived on the main street, we ran into a problem.

Hard Rock 100: a blessing and a curse

When we walked into The Avon, Silverton’s main hostel, the place was packed. There were no openings, because of a race that had filled the town: the Hardrock 100. The Hardrock 100, as we would learn, is an elite race through the rugged terrain we’d been walking through, linking Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride. The town was completely full, but we found a car camping site at an RV park on the edge of town, and were able to book bunks at the hostel the next night.

The main drag

Silverton was my least favorite town on the entire CT. The setting is beautiful, and the compactness of the town is nice, but it feels like such a tourist trap. The town didn’t feel like it had much personality outside of its tourist facade, but the food was good, and the race festivities brought a cool flavor to the town, so what did I have to complain about? As I watched the first through fourth place runners come in, I felt so excited to get back into the mountains.


After two days of food, phone conversations, and town exploration, it was time to get back on trail. As I stepped out at the trailhead, for the first time, I actually could believe I would finish the CT. Filled with a new determination and excitement, I took my first steps on my final chapter of my journey.

My hitching spot. Wouldn’t it be faster to just walk the highway?

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