Before I get back to the 14er’s, I wanted to provide some highlights from a section hike of the Colorado Trail and reunions with Tramily members.
Here’s a quick summary of the hike:
July 18-21, 2020
CT Sections 4-7 (Bailey to Copper Mountain)
To start this hike, I got a ride from my cousin’s house in Denver to the beginning of CT segment 4 at Rolling Creek Trailhead, outside of Bailey, CO. I was meeting up with my friend YoYo on the Trail, who had come to Colorado to finish the CT. I’d first met him back in 2017, the very first day on the CT. We’d hiked together off and on all the way to Twin Lakes. I hadn’t seen him since then but we’d kept in touch. BTW, he does some great youtube videos…check out his channel!
YoYo had started the CT 2 days prior at the terminus in Waterton Canyon. I had some appointments that prevented me for joining him but we’d agreed to try to meet later. As planned, I found YoYo at the trailhead, where he’d spent a rough night. The evening before, he’d gone out to hang his bear bag and got turned around (which is very easy to do in the dark). He’d left his phone in his tent so he started doing small circles, trying to do an expanding circle search. He thinks he wondered around for an hour or so, getting pretty worried. But he didn’t panic, using logic and wits when he came across a road to find his way back. He was ok, he just didn’t sleep very well all night, distressed by the experience. It happens to the best of us and I tried to put him at ease, saying I was here now and nothing bad ever happens to me…uhm hrmmmm, well. There’s safety in numbers at least.
I had a similar experience, in daylight no less, on the PCT. I went out a ways to dig a cathole and got confused by the myriad of ski trails when trying to find my way back to the cabin. I had left me phone there. I figured things out pretty quickly but the experience surprised me a bit. Now, every time I take my phone out of my pocket at camp, I think about whether I may still need it. Even if I’m just going to get water, I put my phone back in my pocket. I’ve actually never needed it to navigate back to camp but it gives me some assurance.
Here’s YoYo, very happy after we found some Trail Magic. I gave him his trail name because he kept getting ahead of us, then behind again. He’s the only person I’ve ever given a trail name.
We started hiking and shortly were in one of my favorite stretches of the trail, Long Gulch. It’s a big meadow that goes on for miles and is just brilliant on a lovely summer day. We hiked all day, making it 25 miles to Johnson Gulch in Segment 5, just past Rock Creek Trailhead. We had planned to stop about a mile back at Rock Creek but word of Trail Magic at the trailhead made its way to our ears. Some other hikers, camped at the creek, were returning from the bounty. One of the hikers I recognized as Grizzle Gear…another prolific youtuber that I’d seen online. It was cool to run into him.
The TM was enough to propel us forward and so we were rewarded with some fruit, soda, beer, and candy from Trail Angel Fatty and her dad. I was surprised to encounter trail magic, given the whole COVID situation and especially since NOT ONCE did we encounter pre-meditated TM on the entire CT in 2017. Now here, in the middle of a pandemic, we found TM 3 times in Segments 5 and 6! It was a weekend, so I guess that had something to do with it. Also, everybody was just tired of being cooped up and wanting to get outside.
The view from our campsite, day 1. YoYo was the one who convinced me to get a Plexamid tent and here’s his in a nice clearing, overlooking the creek.
At home, on my very first long-distance trail. It’s good to be back.
We continued our fast pace the next morning, across Kenosha Pass and all the way over Georgia Pass. We stopped to reap more TM in the form of fruit, donuts, and candy. I should clarify, I ate all the junk food and YoYo, being the good hiker that he is, ate only fruit. The weather looked somewhat ominous heading over Georgia Pass but we squeaked by before the rain could catch us.
We stopped at the Middle Fork of the Swan River to camp, having hiked 23 miles on this day. I’ve hiked this stretch of trail from Denver to Breckenridge 3 times now, camping at the North Fork the previous 2 times, so it was nice to stay in a different spot. Plus, we meet some really cool hikers, who we hung out with until after 9 am the next morning. We weren’t in a hurry, since we only had about 8 miles to go to make it into Breck. In fact, we took the lazy route and just walked the road out. To our even greater surprise, a guy in a truck drove by and offered us a ride in the back. We didn’t even have thumbs out, figuring hitching wasn’t a possibility. The back of the truck seemed safe enough, so we jumped in, making it to Breck just in time for lunch.
And then, another surprise, Stellar T texted me that he and Sandy (his better half), were in the area, ready to meet up. They had driven all the way from Ohio to spend a few weeks exploring CO. We had planned to get together at some point, so the circumstances were perfect for another reunion in Breckenridge. Just a year prior, after finishing the CT, Stellar had surprised Relentless and me by bringing beer and food to us on the trail in this same section. We all spent the night in Frisco at the Snowshoe Motel. Once again, this was the cheapest option in the area, so we split a room for a second time.
Pro tip: this place has the cheapest rates in the area, even cheaper than the 2 Breckenridge hostels if you double up. Plus, the free buses that travel to both Breckenridge and Copper Mountain both have a stop right in front. Hikers could easily slack-pack Segment 7 Gold Hill to Copper Mt by leaving stuff here and taking the buses to and from the trailheads…which is what we did!
The next day, we set off for a day hike of CT/CDT segment 7. YoYo had decided to re-arrange his schedule by heading back to Denver and picking up the CT where it begins in the San Juans. So it was now Stellar, Sandy and me. Stellar and I have hiked nearly 2,000 miles together on the PCT and AZT but this was Sandy’s first trip trying to keep up with both us crazy thru-hikers…and she did great! Actually, Sandy hiked about half the AT well before either of us started thru-hiking, so she’s just as capable. We would soon become a great team knocking out 14er’s, but more on that later.
For today, they were still acclimating to the elevation, this being their introductory hike to their CO trip. Stellar and I had both hiked this segment the year before. In 2019, it was new to me since it was closed due to a fire when I did the CT in 2017. Sandy hopes to hike the CT maybe next year, so now one segment will already be under her belt.
CT segment 7 is a pretty good one. It’s about 13 miles in length, gaining 3600′ to climb over the spectacular ten-mile range. It starts/ends along busy HWY 9, where there is conveniently a bus stop via the free Summit Country bus service. The free bus also services Copper Mountain Resort, which is at the other end. Hikers might be wise to start at that end and work backwards, since the elevation gain is only 3,000′. Either way, it makes for a convenient day hike given the excellent, frequent, and on-time buses.
A few miles into the hike, we were surprise to see a sign pointing to Frisco. Had we done our research, we would have discovered that several trails lead right from town, bisecting the CT. This would have added quite a few miles to the day but is something to keep in mind for next time. We continued up up up and were soon hiking for several miles above tree-line. The views are epic on this stretch.
As you can see, this could also be a terrible stretch to do in a thunderstorm. On this day, there was a bit of rain around but not much thunder, thank goodness. We had a pretty easy time of it and were shortly back in town, heading towards our next adventure.
Up next: my completion of the “Red Line” of the CDT through CO.