CDT Day 139 (CO – W. Park to Frisco)

To I-70 And Beyond!

  • CDT Miles: 1,281.5-1,261 (20.5)
  • Total Hiked: 2,345.3 miles
  • Elevation Range: 9,790-13,225

Quite the morning going from my awesome dried-up-pond spot (turns out the moisture in the soil will be drawn to the surface if you set up a tent in such a place, my Tyvek ground cover was rather wet. Maybe it’s the pressure or the warmth?) up to spot labeled “Summit” on my app at 12,650 feet. Those birds in the video were awesome. I think they’re ptarmigan and their underside was pure white and even their feet had the white feathers.

At the top of the first climb, looking out across the other side, there was another cool bird. This one up high soaring around and seemed to have white underside too. I’m guessing either a osprey or peregrine falcon, although I have no basis for those guesses. Something about it stood out as particularly majestic.

For the next 4.5 miles the trail would hover between 12,500-12,700 or so and then climb up to another “Summit,” which would be my highest point of the day above 13,000 again. Pretty awesome walking, hanging up high near the ridge line.

The far one off towards the right in the next pic is the 13’er I’m heading to…

This pyramid shaped one is Pettingell Peak.

Looking back at the ridge line I’d just hiked along/up…

Pretty stellar. Took second breakfast up there behind a bit of a wind block and then it was down about 5 miles-ish to Interstate 70. It was nice to see some trees again…

I think this is Herman Gulch and about 3 miles out from the highway, I joined another trail that seemed to lead further up to a lake. Lots and lots of day hikers.

Back in February of this year, I had made an epic voyage across the country from Arizona to Utah to Michigan in my van, Ronnie. Many a song have been sung about the tale. One of the stops on this journey was right here at the trailhead nearest to where the CDT crosses the Interstate. I got there late and fast walked up the trail until I found a CDT blaze. See…

It’s kind of wild. At the time my CDT trek was only plans, I was heading home to get ready for it, in fact. And now I’m hiking through southbound. If all goes well, a few weeks out from finishing. Wowsers. There isn’t much at this parking lot and during the present sunny day, there were a good amount of people and noise, so I ended up scooting down the road, under the Interstate, and on my way.

On the other side, the trail turns into a bike path for about 3 miles going parallel to the interstate…

Then, it was about 3 miles (I’m sort of guessing with these mileages) on a county road up to the Grays Peak Trailhead. There were lots of cars coming down, I assumed having summited or finished their hike and now heading home. Most of the time with these tells peaks, you want to get up and down early.

After filling up some water at the stream underneath this bridge, I set out. Quite the trail going up here, wide enough for three people to walk side by side I’d say, at least at the beginning.

Definitely thought this was a goat.

It was for sure a rock. But, I did end up seeing some goats higher up actually. As I got later into the hiking day and had a feel for the mileage, my plan became to set myself up for an early assault on Grays Peak tomorrow morning. Grays is the highest point on the Continental Divide Trail at 14, 270! And if all goes well, I’ll be up and over it tomorrow morning.

Torreys Peak is also up here and a lot of hikers do both in the same hike. It’s tempting for me and honestly, as I was walking today, I was getting all sorts of ideas in my head. At one point, I thought I was going to camp at the junction, set up my tent, then go do Torreys today. Bahaha, once I saw them I knew that wasn’t happening and also that I was just sticking to Grays. I like getting atop of these 14’ers, but having a full backpack this time is going to be a whole different challenge.

How to know how close I can camp to the top though? There weren’t many comments about potential flat spots along the approach, so as I got closer to the towering Grays and Torreys above, I had that in mind. There was a pretty clear spot where the trail went up and got rocky, so I set up just before all that around 12,650 feet. That means, I’ve got about 1,500 feet to gain tomorrow over about 1.5 miles. Plus, I had to fill up with water since it’s dry for the next 10 miles or so. I filled 3.5 liters and I could feel it! If I haven’t made it clear via this blog on day 139, that waters heavy, well, I’ve failed you all.

It was only around 4:30pm when I stopped. A group of guys were coming down and I waited to set up before talking to them. I wanted to see if they thought there were any spots to tent up higher. At first it seemed like yes, but then there was some disagreement among the group. I figured, best to play it safe and tackle this beast in the morning. So another early night, which I’m ok with!

Grays is on the left (don’t think you see the top from this angle) and Torreys to the right of the saddle.

The story line of the evening Ilin camp, even overshadowing the excitement and fears of tomorrows big day, was that I seemed to have lost my lighter. I must have left it at my camp last night unfortunately. Not sure what to do, I thought I’d see if my Pasta Roni could work by cold soaking it. Works for ramen noodles and couscous, right?

It was a disaster! I mean, I ate it all, but oye. Might’ve been my worst dinner on trail. I soaked it for almost an hour before the noodles got somewhat soft. Still some crunch there. And then the flavor packet didn’t dissolve, it was like it was oily or something and just didn’t mix. I also had way too much water in order to cover all the noodles. Towards the end I was using M&M’s as chasers to get the food down. You may ask, why’d I eat it? Well, I need the calories and what else do you do with it? “LNT bro!” (Leave no trace). If I didn’t eat it, I’d have to carry it.

Was happy for my tent. Being up high and in the shadows of big mountains, it’s been getting cold while I’m eating dinner. And even being bundled up, I’ve been very ready to jump in the sleeping bag!

Super excited for tomorrow! Should be a really tough day, but could be one of the highlights of this Colorado stretch.

Album of the Day

“The Sign” by Ace of Base (1993)

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