The morning of day 14, sunny and warm of course, I was back on my own. Dan and Bob drove me back to where we had stopped the day before, helped me on with my pack and left me with words of encouragement. Even though I’ve always known it, it’s nice to be reminded how much they care.
Walking along Twin Lakes first thing in the morning I got some tremendous views of the mountains reflected in the water. Soon however, it’s time to start climbing, which is getting less fun each time.
Part of the route was along Forest Service Roads and through their camping areas, which are pretty basic. Due to the holiday, they were fairly crowded though. As I was walking through, a guy ran up and asked if I were a thru-hiker. When I said yes, he told me I was off the trail. He stated I probably missed the turn about 100 feet back because, “those assholes are camped right on the trail.”
I walked back with the guy and sure enough, there was the trail, right between an mountain bike outfitter’s big wall tent and some bike trailers. As I thanked him and turned to leave, his wife/girlfriend came up offering me a banana, some juice and to take my trash. Now that’s pretty friendly.
After walking a few more miles of FS roads, I began to drop into the Clear Creek Valley. In stark contrast to the forests I’d been walking through, this hillside, with a full southern exposure, only supported scrub growth and even some small cacti. Of course, to be consistent with everywhere else I’d been on the trail, the cacti were in bloom.
As I ate lunch by the creek, another guy walked by and asked about my hike. After a few minutes he offered me some bottled water. Not sure he believed me when I pointed at the creek and said I had plenty.
After lunch I started on the first of several major climbs to be “conquered.” Climbing close to 3,000 feet over 4 miles slowed progress to a crawl. Worse yet, short rain showers were hitting about every half hour, forcing me to put on and take off rainwear regularly as well.
As I finally arrived where I had planned to camp for the night, it began to sprinkle. Rather than rush to put up the tent, I thought I’d wait out another “short” shower, then set up. A half hour later, I was still standing under a pine tree watching the pouring rain turn my chosen spot into a quagmire. After an hour an a half, a short break in to rain lasted just long enough to throw up the tent and pile everything, including myself, inside to wait out the next downpour. The weather finally cleared at dark. It made for a late dinner, but freeze dried sweet and sour pork is worth the wait.