Day 10 started clear and cool, staying sunny all day. The next section of trail also climbed well over to well over 12,000 feet, so it was going to be another day with snow. The Colorado Trail website had listed the previous 2 sections as passable. Today’s section was listed as heavy snow; not a word about passable. Climbing out of the Copper Mountain ski resort, I spotted snow at an elevation of 10,400; not a good sign. However, some grouse and deer gave me something else to think about.
Soon there was a repeat of the last two hikes with ridges of snow that had to be climbed over or plowed through. It was looking like a long day until I hit tree line, where there was a surprising absence of heavy snow. The occasional snow field was crusted over enough, that, at least for the moment, I could walk over rather than post hole. A couple snowfields did get the heart rate up in that large creeks disappeared into them. I knew if the snow gave way and dropped me into the creek, it would not be pretty.
By the time I reached the first pass at nearly 12,000 feet, I was ready for an early lunch. Sitting on some rubble enjoying yet another jaw dropping landscape I had the feeling I was not alone. One by one, marmots began popping out of the rocks all around me. Startle one and you’ll know why they have the endearing nickname of “whistle pig.”
Afternoon brought more snowfields to cross. It is amazing to me how quickly the tundra Wildflowers follow the melting snow. There were often blooming flowers when there had to be snow just a day or two before. After over three miles above 12,000 feet, the trail finally headed down to a more reasonable 10,000 feet where I set up my tent alongside a rushing stream.
A couple hours later, who shows up but Golden and Wildflower. The had started their day about 2 miles behind me and I didn’t expect them to catch up. They are some serious hikers.
For dinner, Golden told me she had a bunch of scrambled eggs from the hostel they stayed in two nights ago and offered me some. “They’re green!” I replied when I spotted her offering. “That’s the avocado,” she stated. “It also has some vegetarian ham in it too.”
From somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind I remembered that I should not and could not eat green eggs and ham so I declined the offer.
Day 11 is clear all day. I thought I heard a bear in camp during the night, but apparently it was Golden finding out that green eggs and ham wasn’t a good idea for her either. She and Wildflower are planning on hitching a ride into Leadville for food of a different color. I’m planning on a 20 mile day and so pack up and head out early.
Much of the trail is on old Forest Service roads, so it’s a tad boring, but the miles are easy. Along the way, an older couple walk towards me and ask about so side trails. I am not much help, but show them my maps. After a short “domestic” they turn around and start hiking with me, back the way they came. They were pretty interesting to talk to and were the stereotypical couple that had been together so long they began to resemble each other. They talked alike, dressed somewhat the same and even had matching sideburns.
The easy miles ended abruptly when I got to the Holy Cross Wilderness Area. In a mile I climbed close to 1,000 feet and was back over 11,000. I had hoped because I remained a bit lower than yesterday, that there’d be no snow to contend with. Man was I ever wrong. It was back to plowing through drifts and post holing. Despite having waterproof shoes, there was no way to avoid wet feet for 3 of the last 4 days, and it was starting to take a toll. I stopped a couple times to attempt to dry my socks in the sun, but eventually ended up taping over some blisters with duct tape. That actually helped quite a bit. After 20 miles for the day though, I was pretty much worn out. I set up camp near a small pond, but still at an elevation of 11,000 feet. Sky’s still clear. There’s snow by the campsite. It’s going to be a cold night.