Day 59: 32 Miles
Today was a roller coaster, both literally and figuratively. We got up early to climb over James Peak (13,310). The entire climb we were relentlessly blasted with strong winds.
Once over the peak, the trail remained on the ridge and above treeline for more than ten miles, with consistently strong winds that never let up. We were able to drop down a side trail onto a dirt road that paralleled the trail below treeline for about four of those miles, so we at least got a little reprieve. Both of us were pretty over Colorado this morning. Fortunately, once we finally did get below the trees we had shelter from the wind and the trail was much more pleasant.
As we neared roads and trailheads, the trail was well maintained and we were able to cruise along at our normal hiking speed. It felt so good to be moving again! There were many day hikers out enjoying the trails today, and nearly as many dogs. I think having a dog might be required for living in Colorado, because literally every group or person we saw had one. I met at least 10 dogs today. We dropped down to 8,300 feet by the end of the day. It’s nice and warm down here, we’re next to a huge lake, and only 12 miles from town tomorrow.
Day 60: 12 Miles
We got up early this morning and headed along the trail toward Grand Lake. Our morning was filled with wildlife. Aside from all the hummingbirds (and geese and pelicans), we saw a grouse in its mating display, 3 male deer, then 3 bull moose, followed by an osprey with a fish in its talons. What a morning!
Our friend from the Appalachian Trail, Chef Ducky, lives near Denver now and drove to meet us in town. She actually got there early and hiked out on the trail to meet us. She brought us some dehydrated meals she prepared, fresh fruit and juice, Ziploc bags, toilet paper and other hiker necessities only another thru-hiker could think of. Plus, she shuttled us all around town to do laundry, resupply, and of course eat some real food. (She hooked up some other hikers as well). We had so much fun reminiscing and sharing trail tales.
We spent most of the day in town, then hiked out literally to the edge of town. We are camping just outside the border to Rocky Mountain National Park. We’ll hike through the park tomorrow, but can’t camp within the borders because we don’t have a permit, so we are literally camped right over the boundary in true hikertrash style.