Out on the Ouachita trail again. The woman at Queen Wilhelmina could not believe me when I said I was parking the truck for a few days by the locomotive to go hiking. “Have you SEEN the forecast?” Just hiked in a few miles from Big Brushy to Brushy Creek Mountain shelter to wait out the rain. The next few days should be 19 at night but be clear during the day.
I spent the night with my parents in South Fork, Co. After a tasty breakfast I headed a couple hours away to Monarch to drop off my food box. From there I headed up to Avalanche trailhead and Cottonwood Pass to drop off food caches. The newly paved road was fantastic up there. I got to Twin Lakes and headed off hiking right at 12 noon.
A little over a half an hour later I made it to the start of the loop. The next hour was uphill and tiring. I finally stopped to grab some calories and bounced back. I crested the top and hiked downhill for a few miles to a stream about 3pm where I went to make some Gatorade.. and found my bottle had gotten mold in it in just the last few days. I filled it with river pebbles and shook it to scrub it out. I rinsed it and put a purification tab in there to kill any residue. I found some trail magic, though it wasn’t for me. Someone had left a beer by the creek. I left it for the next hikers. I busted out my chair.. the Helinox Zero.. new for this trip and sat back in the shade. I’m certainly not lightweight this time.. but I may be out here for two weeks so I choose to bring some comfort items.
I headed up another mile of uphill that wasn’t as bad ask thought, then on down 2 more into the valley. The trail snaked right through a camp ground with some boondocking campers. At the creek, I tried out another gadget I made… using a usb powered mini Aquarium pump and my sawyer squeeze filter all plumbed up with some other filter fittings I had, I can filter water without having to do anything but let it run. Definitely worth the weight thus far. This lets me eat or do other things while water filters.
I hiked just up the hill and setup camp. I have almost no cell signal but I was able to make a couple phone calls including one to my son who told me all about his day and how they used my pickup truck to go get lots of mulch. He was excited.
I’ve got dinner soaking and I’m kicked back in my chair. Life is good.
I got started about 645 this morning and headed uphill. It was slow going, I averaged just over a mile and hour till I hit the pass at 11,600. Shortly before the top I saw what looked like a moose, and a little time later a huge buck elk. I laid out the solar panel and had lunch. I had a couple miles downhill. I filtered water, and I must have been confused when I packed my pack, because I’m pretty sure I lost my usb battery pack there. I didn’t discover it till I was most of the way up another pass at 11,800. Oh well, I wasn’t going to go back for it. I can survive with the solar panel till I get to one of my food caches where I have another battery. I grabbed water on the far side of the second pass and cruised for several miles to Frenchman creek. I grabbed some water and hiked just up the hill to camp right at 11,000 feet. Someone had built a fire ring here. I set out the solar panel for some lingering light and setup the tent. I made a fire as I cooked dinner and really relaxed. I washed my feet and stuck them up on the fire warmed rocks. Ah…
My dad messaged my sat communicator from his and said they care camped about 13.5 miles further down the trail. That’s my goal for tomorrow… a 12k pass stands in the way between me and a home cooked meal. Seeing as my parents live out of their camper we will call it home for a night.
As I type this I saw a headlamp flash on my tent. Two people were still out hiking after dark. We called salutations through the tent and they passed on by.
It felt colder than it was at 11,000 feet. My thermometer said 42 as I had breakfast. I hit the trail at 6:12 and had to gain a couple hundred feet before one long cruise mostly downhill for the morning. A lot of the trail was well maintained and I could step out. I hit silver creek trailhead about 930 and setup beside the stream creek to charge devices and eat a big meal before the day’s climb. I had tuna in sunflower oil and tortillas and peanut butter with tortillas, Thai lime almonds, and some electrolyte mix.
The climb was a beast. The average was 20 percent grade.. but if I ever got a flat spot.. I made to make up with a 40 percent. I finally made the top at just under 12k at 2:20. As I neared the top I saw a sign prohibiting hang gliding. It felt appropriate.
I had messaged my dad that I would be down to avalanche trailhead by 430.. so I hustled on down the 3.4 miles to the bottom, even though it was a rough enough and steep enough trail it was hard to step out. I ran out of water on the way down and didn’t stop for more. I got to the trailhead about 415 and my dad was waiting for me. He had read my post and had me a battery pack ready. Thanks Kenny. We ran back to his camp a couple miles away and I grabbed a shower. I visited with my mom and but and then I took my dad up to cottonwood pass for a little drive just to enjoy the views. When we got back my mother had a feast of a hearty salad, potatoes and hamburgers. It was fantastic. My dad loaned me his day pack, and I loaded it up with enough water and snacks to slack pack for a day. I’m going to have him drop me off at avalanche and do about 13.6 miles across to mount Princeton hot springs, where he can pick me up again tonight and we can all spend one more night together before I head on. Slack packing is almost as good as a day off!
I peeled potatoes at breakfast and we had another feast before I hit the trail at 8:12. I had the daypack on so walking was easy. The grade was pretty gentle to 10,000 feet then I had a long afternoon of mostly downhill. I stopped for lunch shortly before noon and called my work buddy Charles back in Texas to rub in the good fun I am having. About 1pm I hit a Jeep road and started my road walking section. It was downhill and my load was light so I rocketed on down to MT Princeton hotsprings. I FaceTimed the kids when I saw a huge water slide there. I popped into the store for a Gatorade and a potty and headed on down the road. I made a short wrong turn but grabbed a picture of a deer before heading down the right dirt road all the way to Chalk Creek trailhead. I felt good today.. on that runners high where I could go and go. But this is my pickup point, it’s 330 and pouring down rain. I’m taking shelter under a forest service sign and figure my mom and dad should be here in an hour or so.
We had a nice breakfast and my parents dropped me off and Chalk Creek about 745. I got hiking up 1000 feet in 1.4 miles. My lungs are finally getting used to it, didn’t need to pause to rest. I just took it slow and moderate. I passed down into the high desert and then back up another climb. I ran into an older couple who were hiking from Monarch to Leadville. They were not in particularly good shape but were really hiking well. I stopped to splash water on my arms and hat and some horses joined from a side trail. I kept up till they passed off to their trail again. I guess the horses weren’t as acclimated as me. That’s saying something. I ran into a few other day hikers on cross trails. About noon stopped for my tortillas and Gatorade. Around 1 I crossed paths with a young trail runner who said she was running from Durango to Denver. She could go light because she had a support team picking her up at trailheads. What the life!
There were a lot of climbs today. If I would dip down, I’d go right back up. Steep steep ups out of creeks and such. A mountain biker that came by was dragging his bike up. I ate a snack again about two since food had been only lasting me about two hours. From then on out I was dragging. I made my mileage quota for the day about 300 and found a great camp spot about 315. I would have liked to go on down the hill but I just wasn’t feeling it. As I type this a storm is coming, I have the tent up, and cell signal, a creek nearby and water filtered. Couldn’t ask for much more.
As I cooked dinner a bikepacker came by I saw yesterday in the hot springs store. He is only gonna camp a couple miles down the trail tonight so I might see him again.
I saw lights on my tent at 430. I called out a Howdy and the hiker said she was trying to beat the weather. Another hiker went by at 445. I got up and got going before the sun, about 545. The first three miles were mostly downhill. I didn’t see my biking buddy who said he was going to camp at the river. I headed uphill and under the legs of a power tower before getting down to highway 50 at about 9 miles for the day. I tried to hitch to the top of monarch so I could hike the next section downhill. But I had no luck at all. Next time I need to hike with someone pretty! I headed on, frustrated.. a 3 mile road walk and ran into a fisherman who told me storms were coming in. As we parted ways he offered me a Gatorade. This helped restore my faith in humanity. Since storms were coming I hustled. But they came early. About 1pm the sky opened up. Hail, pouring rain and nearby lightning. I scrambled under some trees and hid below the tree line during the worst of the lightning. While it was still pouring I headed on up. The top of South Fooses creek was very very steep and totally washed away would the storm. I had a goal to hit the Continental Divide Trail by 3pm. I popped up top at 2:57 and met a hiker on the CDT who had the same goal. We visited a bit and I headed north on the CDT. I met several thru hikers and dirt bikers and visited along the ridge. I got down to Monarch at 5pm and got my resupply box. I got a big bowl of ice cream and before long my dad had come to pick me up.
I’m taking a Saturday zero day to visit with family then I’ll start back north on the CDT Sunday.
We got up early and had a good breakfast before they ran me down to monarch. I had dropped my inreach in the parking lot there when I was picked up on Friday night and someone was nice enough to turn it into the store. Since this was my starting point anyways it all worked out. God watches over sparrows and idiots.
I headed up to a nice ridge before getting rerouted 3 miles for helicopter logging. Had to loose 600 foot of elevation and gain it back. Added about 1.6 miles to my trip.
I stopped for a snack back on the ridge and visited with some mountain bikers. About the time I passed out of the monarch area it started raining and lightly hailing. But it didn’t last long. I saw some ancient stone walls hunters use to use to herd game. I met a few hikers going the other direction. From a CDT thru hiker to a dayhiker out with her dog. Some young guys out on a camping trip, etc. I took it slow and reached 12,552, the high point in the loop about 1:00. I slipped over to the other side of the continental divide and headed down hill on the trail. I got to a small lake and the clouds were rolling over the mountain so I put on my rain gear. A couple with two dogs went by going the opposite direction. I was still about 12k a few minutes later when the sky opened up with hail. Pounding extremely hard. Most of it was sonic ice size but traveling at 50 mph sideways not to mention down. The occasional piece was lots bigger so I crawled as much into a 18 inch high bush and pulled my backpack over me like a turtle. Some of the pieces were big enough I thought I might get knocked out. It kept coming. In the next 20 minutes the ground was several inches deep in ice. As soon as the hail slowed to a slightly less pace I booked it downhill. Often Sliding down the ice balancing myself with my poles. All of a sudden I hear a loud rumble.. the mountain was sliding down. Many inches of hail and flash flooding started a rock/mud/ice slide down the hill. I scrambled to a high point as soon as I heard it and it missed me by several hundred feet. I got down far enough in the trees and guessed at where the trail was going. It was so covered in ice. It was a long time before I dared slow down to take a picture, and at lower elevation it wasn’t as bad. But it turned the trail and mountain into a creek. I sloshed down to Boss Lake and filtered some water that wasn’t as muddy. Then came on down to Boss Lake trailhead and setup my tent. I have lots of things out drying now that the sun is out and most of the hail down here has melted. I’m camping about as low as I can get on this side of the trail, 10,436.
Just as I finished dinner who showed up but my dad and mike! So I’m off to the camper for the night.
My dad and Mike took the rough road towards tin cup pass and we saw a moose before they dropped me off on the CDT about 9 am. I headed uphill and did okay for the first hour. Then I wasn’t feeling so great. It took me a couple hours of slow waking to be okay.
I enjoyed a 3 mile old railroad bed walk with some neat historical signs. On the way down I was singing the Pathfinder song as it was the perfect pace. A met a few couples out for the day. Then I turned uphill again on some very rough Jeep trails. I pushed down food down and finally made some decent time. I got up by Hancock lake and saw a hiker way up on the pass. Soon I was up there. On my way down I saw two ptarmigan waking along the trail with me.
I stopped about 4pm and fueled up with calories for the last couple of hours. I had said I would be to the trailhead at 6pm. I showed up at 5:37 and they guys showed up at 5:42.
Looks like I’ll slackpack in reverse again tomorrow, starting at cottonwood and going back towards tin cup.
Mike and Terri dropped me off at Cottonwood pass about 745 and I headed uphill. I did 5 or so 12,700+ passes today. It was God’s country. The most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in North America. I stopped every 2 hours for food. I pushed hard to try and get to the other trailhead by 5. I only ran into one other soul hiking today. She was a northbounder. I may run into her again tomorrow when I go the other way from cottonwood. I was listening to old country songs to pace myself today. Uphill was “You never even call me by my name” downhill was “Family Tradition”. One slow uphill was “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain”
Pictures or stories do not do today justice. I walked up to the trailhead right as the truck pulled up. I asked some hikers at the trailhead if they needed anything before we took off.