Day 12: July 24th, Twin Lakes to Clear Creek, 12 miles, Segment 11.
After a leisurely breakfast, we decided to accept a ride from Matt to travel around the lakes. It’s mostly a long, hot road-walk. Yes, it was cheating but I wasn’t yet into the continuous footpath tradition of thru-hiking…it became my style later on.
Mt Elbert and Mt Massive can be seen in the background.
PBR, Sofie and I picked up the trail on the south-eastern shore, quickly coming to the intersection of the Collegiate West and East routes. We decided to take a side-trip of about a mile to visit the Interlaken Resort. A historic point along the trail, this was a ritzy resort in the late 1800’s. Parts of it have been restored and relocated. It was really cool to visit as we could even go inside some of the buildings. I was impressed by the lack of graffiti and vandalism, given that the area is open to anyone that can walk in.
Back on the trail, we settled into a groove and the afternoon passed quickly. We hiked up to a ridge and came down through an open field of sagebrush. A thunderstorm came up behind us and I got nervous about being so exposed. We made it safely down to a campground near the reservoir and a nice creek, calling it a day.
Day 13: July 25th, Clear Creek to Silver Creek, 18 miles, Segment 12.
As we traveled along the East side of the Collegiate Peaks, we passed many famous names…Mt Harvard, Mt Yale, and Mt Princeton. Eight of Colorado’s 54 14ers reside in close proximity here. It’s possible to take side trails to the tops, but we already got our fill with Mt. Elbert.
This day was pretty uneventful. There were a few climbs and descents as we passed across the shoulders of these big mountains. But we stayed mostly in the trees, so there weren’t many views. We encountered a few mountain bikers that were doing the CT race from Durango to Denver. We also found a trail magic cooler with some sodas. That was about it for the day.
I’ll fill in a slow day by saying a few things about my trail companions. PBR==a rockstar and record-setter on the trail. She loves bridge crossings, bull-riding (Pro-Bull-Riding==PBR), and is IOWA-strong. I met her while leading a beginner backpacker trip in Big Cypress National Preserve, FL. She was already talking about baseweight and sporting a 15 lb backpack. There was little I could even improve on for such a “beginner.” She had since section hiked the FT, AT and GET and had more thru-hiking experience than me at the time.
Sofie lives near Franklin, NC (mm 100 on the AT) and this was her first thru-hike, as well. She was always in a good mood. Here, she was demonstrating her skills and abilities at being and outdoors spokeswoman for Smartwater, the bottle of choice for thru-hikers. We’d gotten to know Sofie very well and she was a great addition to our team. She’s a vibrant, young, talented woman with a promising future. She was working towards her Master’s in education and is also a master at ceramics. We wanted to call her Twix for her favorite trail candy but I’m not sure the name ever stuck.
Day 14: July 26th, Silver Creek to Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, 20 miles, Segment 13.
This day began with a steep climb to the shoulder of Mt. Yale and an even steeper descent. It was enough our get our knees a bit messed up. We pulled a really long day to be able to stay near Mt Princeton. This included a 5 mile road walk. A nice local, Wade, gave us a ride for the final 2 miles to the Trailhead of Segment 14, where we easily found quiet tent sites along Chalk Creek.
The cliffs are not actually chalk but granite that has been affected by the minerals in the hot springs.
Then some mad trail magic struck when a couple in a van recognized PBR. They were Gutsy and Odometer, 2 friends that she had section hiked the AT with. She knew they were hiking the CT but didn’t know they were in the same area. The timing was perfect for a ride back to Mt Princeton Resort & Hot Springs for a very nice (perhaps a bit overpriced) dinner. I had shrimp linguini. At least we felt like we could splurge a little on dinner since we were saving a TON not paying for a room at the resort. It was good to get to chat with Gutsy and Odometer over dinner, as well. They employ a strategy of hiking opposite directions along sections of the trail and switching the van key along the way. This way they can travel around with just one vehicle.
We all returned to the TH after dinner and went to bed. What a fun day!
Day 15: July 27th, Chalk Cliffs Trailhead to Sand Creek, 10 miles, Segment 14.
We were treated to more trail magic in the morning. We had wanted to re-visit the resort so that we could spend some time in the hot springs. But that meant a long walk back. To our surprise, Gutsy and Odometer left us the keys to their van so that we could just drive back! They were going to start hiking in the morning and just instructed us to give the keys back when we caught up. What a generous and trusting gesture!
We paid $20 each for a day-pass and spent the morning soaking our soar muscles. I had stayed at the resort several times before but only ever visited the hot springs at night. While it’s a bit too hot during the day, the views of the area are spectacular, so I really enjoyed the change. There’s a swimming pool and also several smaller, private pools that are naturally built into the river side…those are my favorites.
Being hikertrash, we of course had to wear our hiking clothing as swimwear. This way we were also able to wash it!
We soaked in the hot springs until noon, deciding we better put some miles on the day. We were all in a great mood after this. Plus, we knew we only had 1 more day/20 miles to go before taking 2 days off at my parents house. The mood changed a little when it began to hail and rain late in the afternoon. But we managed to make it to a creek and campsite, where we found our Trail Angels and gave them back their keys. Another great day.
Day 16: July 28th, Sand Creek to HWY 50, 10.5 miles, Segment 14.
We had a short day planned before we were treated to some home cooking and rest for a few days. We were also going to be halfway done with the trail! My parents had offered to drive up to get us and host us at their home in Florence, CO. The drive is a little less than an hour on HWY 50. We used to make it nearly every weekend in the winter to ski at Monarch Resort.
Monarch Pass is in the background.
The remainder of the trail went through some nice strands of aspen and meadows. It was all very quiet. Then, before we knew it, we could hear the highway. My parents easily found us at the trailhead and whisked us away. We stopped in Salida for pizza and a little bit of shopping at the outdoor gear stores. We also took a side trip to drive over Skyline Drive…an infamous road that goes over the spine of a hogback near Canon City. The road is very narrow and exposed…not a good one for those afraid of heights! We stopped to admire the dinosaur tracks at the top. Then we were back in Florence for the next few days.
See the dinosaur tracks at the very top of the picture? They are not indented, instead they are the bubbly bulges coming out of the rock.
Day 17 & 18: July 29-30, 2 zeros at home Sat/Sun
Not much to say about these two days except …R&R. It was the perfect 2 days to take off since the weather was really unsettled. In fact, it rained pretty hard and steady both days, which is very unusual for such an arid region of Colorado. We were all very happy not to be hiking the the high mountains during this time!