- July 6, 2013
- Start - 7:47am
- End - 7:15pm
- Distance - 26.5 mi.
- Segments - 8 (20 mi.) 9 (6.5 mi.)
- Lunch break - 15 min.
This day (aside from the storm) started out great and ended a little bit like a nightmare. I had only 15-20 miles on tap, so I slept later and enjoyed a leisurely morning around the campsite. This morning after the storm was all about drying out. Everything was drenched. The biggest bummer by far was realizing I had not packed enough coffee! I was two packets of instant coffee short. This meant only 1 cup each of the last two mornings. And if there was ever a morning I really needed two cups, today was it.
Once I hit the trail, my pace was half of what it had been the days before. Maybe building fatigue? Maybe still emotionally drained from the storms the night before? Maybe knowing I had less miles to cover? Maybe sad to see the trip almost over? Maybe one less cup of java than what I'm used to? Whatever it was, after many hours I had only covered 7-8 miles and realized I need to pick it up if I was going to hit 20.
|After enduring a crazy thunder storm - I tried to find the silver lining of the rain.|
|Incredible beauty found in the Guller Creek drainage.|
Oh but those first few miles were amazing! The climb to Searles Pass, and above treeline traverse to Kokomo Pass - was simply stunning scenery that I never knew existed back there. I passed one hiker all morning and was completely alone until almost Camp Hale.
|The first view of Searle Pass (center).|
|What a fun playground can be found up there! So much to explore.|
|Janet's Cabin. That thing looks posh!|
|There were some sweet views of the Gore Range from up here.|
Once I crested Searle Pass, the view to the east was phenomenal….the road to Leadville, Mayflower Gulch, and the whole Ten Mile Range. A highlight was the elk herd seen high, high up on the very steep and green slope of Jacque Peak. I continued to putter along over to Kokomo Pass which is a couple miles all above treeline. Breathtaking.
|With Clinton Reservoir in the background.|
|The herd of elk grazing on this steep mountainside. They're to the right of center.|
|Had a few of these to cross.|
|Looking back at Searle Pass with the Gores behind.|
|Still traversing to Kokomo Pass. No one else up here.|
|Can't really see it, but there were about 7 different colors of Indian Paintbrush in this meadow.|
|Cataract Falls near Camp Hale.|
|I can't say this was my favorite stretch of trail.|
|Who knew Camp Hale was home to a thousand free ranging sheep?|
I came to the river crossing that marks the beginning of the Tennessee Pass climb and greeted two hikers, Cruise & Shiloh, who I passed back on segment 7. They were just starting up again after a break so we chatted for awhile as we hiked. So as to not have that awkward leapfrogging as we continued hiking, I said farewell and turned on the jets to create some distance between us. As I climbed, I formulated my plan to stop and camp at Tennessee Pass. About five miles before the pass, I crossed Highway 24 and entered a long meadow. Not much relief from the hot sun found here.
|Just out of view is some "hikers" that let this and two other horses carry all their gear. Smart folks!|
|Remnants of coking ovens.|
Following that was a couple miles on a jeep road. I was fading fast. The sun and fatigue had me hiking on fumes and I wanted to stop. I noticed though that the terrain didn’t look like there would be great camping options. So the decision was made to find a bench (and shade) at the pass parking lot and make dinner. Then I’d hike a bit more to find a sweet campsite.
|I had passed several of these without partaking. My silliness would stop here.|
|Nutty Bars. Oh yeah!|
Despite the setting sun, the heat and mosquitoes remained in the dry, thick forest. Two more miles and no campsites. I finally had to stop and put pants and a long sleeve shirt on. My skin-friendly bug spray did not work at all. I was getting desperate for relief, so I stopped at a creek to fill my bottles so I could stop at the next campsite regardless of water. At any point in time during the fill up, I had 10-20 mosquitoes on me with their needles poking through my shirt and into my skin. My panic to fill fast was intense. I bolted out of there when finished and continued my campsite pursuit. Nothing for miles. Finally I dropped into a gulch just before the Holy Cross Wilderness and setup camp here next to a marsh. Go figure - more mosquitoes, but I realized there was nowhere I could go to get away from them. I hung out in my tent for awhile giving myself a wet wipe bath before hanging my food and crashing. I had hiked over six more miles than the 20 I thought would be my max, I'm toast. Despite all the adversity, I'm still loving this experience.
|Taken at sunrise the next morning.|
|It's a little frosty out there.|