CDT Day 133 (CO – Steamboat to G. lake)

RMNP: A Permit For July

  • CDT Miles:
    • 1,375-1,366.8 (8.2 sobo)
    • 1,343.6-1,352.7 (9.1 nobo)
  • Total Hiked: 2,248.6 miles
  • Elevation Range: 8,435-10.975

6:12am start this morning. Needed the headlamp for a bit. All my scheming and pushing for my Rocky Mountain National Park hiking was to either come to fruition today or be all for naught.

To kick things off, I had about a 6-ish mile walk down to cross into the park and then make my way to Highway 34, aka Trail Ridge Road, the road that goes up and up and winds through the Tundra that some of you might be familiar with. Would be cool if the trail went up there, but instead I get to try and explore new parts of the park!

Didn’t take many pics in the morning since a lot of the trail was rocky and my head was down just trying not to fall. Here’s a nice stretch though…

I entered into the park from the west. If any of you have entered from the Grand Lake side, I popped out in the area of big meadows near the entrance station. The Colorado River runs along there. Here’s leaving the Never Summer Wilderness, which neighbors RMNP…

And just for kicks, a zoomed in map pic I took…

The meadows and views of RMNP!

I crossed the road and had a few miles in the forest before returning back to it. Heard an elk bugling across a valley from me and saw these lit up beauties…

Once I made it there, I split from the trail. You see, a lot of the trails in the park are closed to day hiking due to the East Troublesome Fire of 2020 (apparently second largest in Colorado history… I think the top 3 we’re all in 2020!). So even if I thought I could hike the 23 miles or so and get all the way into Grand Lake, I couldn’t. I needed to get an overnight backcountry permit.

The CDT does a brief road walk to the Green Mountain Trailhead.

I don’t fully understand it all, but a few awesome southbound hikers ahead of me figured out all the details of how to make it possible and so I was taking their advice here. Thanks “lilian” (the best!) and Gretsky too. Essentially, I had to get to a Wilderness Office and then also rent a bear can in town before I could set out to hike this section.

Rather than walk the 3 miles down the road to the Visitor Center/Wilderness Office, I thought I’d see if I could get a ride. After putting up my thumb, maybe my quickest hitch yet. Jim with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy was headed right where I wanted to go, the Kawuneeche Visitor Center.

Once there, Jolene the ranger hooked me up with a permit at the July campsite, which was one of the ones I’d been eyeing seeing as it was up high and made sense mileage-wise for me plans.

Awesome! Everything seemed to be falling into place. I even got some cell service and the weather I had been pushing to beat, seemed like it wouldn’t hit til 7pm or later. So I’d hopefully get at least one nice day in the park. Before that, I still had to get into the town of Grand Lake and see about renting a bear can (bear proof plastic container to keep food and smelly items in). Down the road again. This time I walked, although I tried hitching for a bit.

Might’ve been 2 miles altogether to get to Never Summer Mountain Products. Unfortunately, it was locked and a sign said they were undergoing construction and would open later on the day. Could this be my downfall? Stevie Wonder wondered. Nay, not today. After a quick phone call, the store worker let me in and she got me a nice Backpackers ‘ Cache thingamabob. Different than mine at home. Looked like a mini barrel or keg or something.

Things were happening today! Across the road is the town library and a pavilion where I moved to and started reorganizing my pack to now fit this mini barrel inside. It was maybe 10:45-11am ish at this point. And because of that, I found myself in a pickle….

This section of the CDT through RMNP is a bit strange in that it’s a big loop sort of. A lot of hikers just skip it altogether, but I didn’t want to do that. I love this park and have visited several times, but never really gone into the backcountry. Anyways, the conundrum I faced was which direction to go. North from Grand Lake, where I currently was or get back to the Green Mountain Trailhead and hike south, which is what I wanted to do because then I’d end right in town.

So, I set out to try and hitch into the park to the trailhead. The only problem was that this option required more hiking today, going up and overtop the high point. So, I wanted to get started asap. After trying for maybe 45 minutes I gave up and went to plan B, the other direction, which was shorter for today. It’d leave more miles tomorrow (likely in the rain), but whatevs. The trail shall provide.

After trousing across town again (stopped for a Mountain Dew premium soda/hiker fuel on the way), I made it to the North Inlet Trailhead and sat down for a little lunch. My head was spinning a bit with all this and with stuff up ahead on trail as well. While sitting there, I seemed to come to an understanding with myself and after lunch was pretty pumped about all of it. Things were indeed going good, just had to roll with it a bit, and I was ecstatic to be setting out to stay a night in another National Park.

Here’s the general plan. The blue line/arrows (so artistically drawn) is my route today with the dot being the July campsite (where I was inside my tent when I marked the map up). Purple is the next day, and then Green is when I leave town to hike onward, if all goes to plan.

Started out with some lovely gentle trail through a burned area. Most of the stuff is burned actually.

Found North Inlet…

More.od the early on hike…

And then after a few miles, Cascade Falls. Up to this point I saw some day hikers (not sure if they were supposed to be?) and two other backpacking groups. I wouldn’t see anybody else after leaving the falls though. There were actually quite a few waterfalls along this stretch…

And some meadows.

And colorful Aspens.

And just pretty nice trail.

Before camp there was a section of switchbacks. Nicely graded. A few viewage points too saying goodbye to the valley I’d been walking in.

I got to my campsite at 4:50pm. Woohoo! Haven’t been in this early in a while and I loved it. The ranger lady had told me the one tenting area goes far back and has a view. That sounded good to me so I trekked up even higher to find it. Was happy I did!

I got my tent set up right away in case it started to rain (it had gotten overcast throughout the day) and then went to organizing my food stuff. Found a nice rock for a backrest and sat down to hang and peruse on my phone. No cell service, but the apps I use for the trail map and the one for this blog don’t require it.

Eventually I started cooking and not long afterwards, had a curious visitor. Too curious really.

A bit overfly friendly I’d say, so I tried to scare it off so it doesn’t come back tonight right up to my tent scrounging around.

It was so wonderfully nice to be getting into my tent at the same time I’ve been just getting into camp. Pumped to get up “above” tomorrow and just a tad nervous about the weather. Should be fine and either way, I’ve got a spot reserved in town at the hostel tomorrow night! Woohoo.

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