CDT CO Section 7 Off-trail

Day 30: Lake City

It wasn’t the most comfortable campsite. It was tilted enough for everything to slide to the foot of the tent, and there was a hump right where my lower back would go. I could sleep on either side, but my hip abductors would get sore from the way my legs sagged over the hump, so I had to keep switching.

It was briefly not raining when I woke at sunrise, but it started again, and it was raining on the rainfly on and off the whole time I was getting ready. My shirt, shorts, and towel had slid off my mattress and into a corner where they could apparently peek outside the rainfly, and were wetter than they had been the night before. The towel had inflated like a balloon. I wrung them out and changed into them. I even put my wet socks back on to put in my wet shoes. I crawled out of my tent into a cloud during a brief moment when the rain stopped and got started about 8:30.

With the cold wind blowing the rain, my fingertips would quickly become painfully cold of I walked the usual way, so I pulled my fists inside my raincoat and balanced my poles across my arms the whole morning.

Most of the four miles to the pass were on a wide muddy road that was impossible to walk in without slipping. I walked on the grass on the edge where possible, but I had to keep switching sides to avoid trees and bushes, and often risked sliding in the deep, squishy mud of the road.

I hadn’t even bothered to make my breakfast shake or drink anything I was so eager to be done. The water in the air and in my clothes was plenty enough for me.

A couple of hours later, I rolled into the pass and was immediately accosted by a man with a pickup truck asking if I needed a ride to town. Of course I agreed, and I was rolling down the highway with him and his two dogs no more than two minutes later.

He said his trail name was Knucklehead and he had been a long distance hiker himself, which led him to move to Lake City where he used to go to resupply. After the 17 mile trip to town, he drove me around to orient me, stopped to pick up his wife who was painting sets for a play while I got some cash from an ATM, then left me at the end of town where the grocery store was.

I spent the next couple of hours in the laundromat around the corner until I could finally leave with clean, dry, warm clothes. I went ahead and got my resupply and packed it outside the grocery store. I also bought a bag with pancake mix, syrup, and breakfast sausage because I had reserved a cabin with a full kitchen. While I was packing, I encountered more hikers: Machine, SendIt, and Spurs were staying in the recently reopened hostel that Knucklehead had told me was closed, and they told me Waldo and Boomerang were there too. I could have saved 150 bucks if I had known, but the cabin was not refundable. Anyway, they probably had the place full.

I walked into town and had a late lunch/early dinner at the Packer Saloon and Cannibal Grill. It was mostly staffed by Eastern Europeans, which I thought was strange for a bar dedicated to the Green Bay Packers in the middle of nowhere in Colorado. Who would have thought to hear the bar staff speaking Bulgarian and the servers speaking Turkish in a place like that? I mean, sure, there are Packers fans in Bulgaria, but who knows that? It turns out the owners are from Slovakia and bring in workers on J1 visas for the busy summers.

Just as I finished, a man sat next to me at the bar and we started chatting. His name was Justin, and he had just purchased and started brewing at the Lake City Brewing Company. He told me he was very proud of the Baltic Porter he had just finished. Since it was pouring again, I didn’t feel like walking the 20 minutes out to the cabin yet, so I went one block up to the brewery and tried the porter, and it was as good as promised. The old owner was working and let me stash my pack in the brewery so it would be out of the rain, but when I finished my one beer and paid, the rain had already stopped, so I started walking out of town with my hands full.

I realized I had no butter for pancake making. I popped into a barbecue restaurant, but they had no butter to spare. They just used a spray in their kitchen. So I dropped my stuff and walked back a few blocks to the hostel. Everyone was there, and they let me take a stick of butter from the fridge. After a brief chat, I set out again to pick up my stuff and find my cabin.

I found the property of the Texan easily enough, and I counted down the cabin numbers to find mine. The door was unlocked, so I just went inside, threw a bag in the fridge, and went in the bathroom. After spending all day working my way across town, I finally got to take a hot shower.

I spent the rest of the evening chilling in the cabin and making long phone calls. The bed wasn’t the cushiest, but it didn’t have a lump right at my lower back. All my wet stuff was spread out and hung up, and the heater was cranked up near 80. And yet, it was kind of hard to get to sleep. I managed.

Trail miles: 4.2

CDT CO Section 7

Day 29: Jarosa Mesa

I woke up at 5ish and it wasn’t raining. There was condensation on the ceiling, but mostly everything was dry. With mopping up the ceiling and general slow moving, I didn’t start climbing back up to the trail until 7:20.

The first hiking to be done was climbing up the canyon under Carson Peak. Near the beginning, I scared an elk cow in the trail that immediately ran down to the bottom of the canyon and started running up the other side. As I climbed, I kept looking over and she was always there, walking up at about the same height.

It was a brutally cold wind to be walking in, especially when there was so little sun to be had. Once I came over the pass at the back of the canyon and started descending, I wanted a place out of the wind for a break. There were some tall, thin rock walls above the trail and I thought I might be protected behind one. It was a little better, but the wind would come from the other direction every now and then also, so eventually I just put on my jacket.

CDT CO Section 7

Day 28: Cataract Lake

I woke up once in the middle of the night to some light sprinkling, and I double-checked that everything was under cover, then went back to sleep. I woke again at 4 with the moon at its brightest. Then again around 6, but was feeling too groggy to keep from putting my head back down. Even when I committed to starting to get ready, it was slow, sleepy going, and it was kind of like that all day. I didn’t hike out until 8:30.

CDT CO Section 7

Day 27: Near Verde Lake

The beds at the Avon are honestly very comfortable. My bottom bunk was a little close to the ground, but I had no desire to leave it when the light started coming in.

But there was ice water and a k-cup maker in the lobby that would clear my brain fuzz and wet my dry mouth. I went down to have some coffee and water.

I decided to take advantage of the open kitchen offer instead of paying for breakfast, and spent the next hour or so making a couple of spicy bacon breakfast burritos from ingredients in the walk-in fridge and open shelves, along with a heaping bowl of microwave cheese grits and a banana. I was pretty full and didn’t spend a dime, which is 20 dollars less than I would have had to spend to be less full at one of the breakfast restaurants in town.