Leaving town is always bitter sweet. Running water, electricity, a bed, food that doesn’t come in bar or dehydrated form. We packed our things and headed out of the hostel around 9am, we were off to find coffee, breakfast or something vegan, and a small bit of food for the next two days. We took care of our chores and managed to get a hitch from a girl headed to work. We ended up getting back on trail at about 11am and kept a steady pace for most of the day. Today we were walking towards and then along the front edges of Mount Massive. The views were beautiful when we were about treeline, especially while we were walking through the Mount Holy Cross Wilderness. The goal for the day was to get in enough miles to ensure that we make it to the tiny town of Twin Lakes tomorrow and still have the chance to hike out if we want to. We managed to get in almost 17 miles with our late start and have 16 miles to go tomorrow. Snakebite plans on getting up very early to make sure gets in around lunch time. I will likely leave later then her and just try to knock out the 16 miles in a fast paced morning push. We have very different hiking styles. She enjoys long steady days of hiking, while I like to leave camp late, hike fast, and take very few breaks. Both methods work for us respectively. Tomorrow should be a fun day to see if I can push myself a lot of miles in a short period of time.
The race to get to Twin Lakes never materialized this morning. Snakebite didn’t get up at some ridiculous hour, and I didn’t sleep till 8am. Instead Snakebite left camp at 7am and I departed at 7:30. She set a brisk pace and it took everything I had to catch up to her. However me catching up to her was while she enjoyed breakfast at a creek. We spent the morning walking across the front edge of Mount Massive and then Mount Elbert, the two highest points in Colorado and the 2nd and 3rd highest points in the lower 48. We saw a few thru hikers and many peak baggers around this area. The morning went fast even though I was struggling with my energy levels. I was continuously eating all morning to try to get some sort of energy. After eating 4 bars, some peanut butter, a packet of ramen, a bag of sour patch kids, and many hand fulls of trail mix I finally had some energy. Next thing I knew we had made it to the tiny town of Twin Lakes after doing 17.5 miles. It was 2:30 when we arrived at the small store we were to resupply at. Upon arriving to the store I saw a CDT hiker I knew from many conversations on Facebook. It was Spontaneous, who hiked with my friends Crunchmaster and Shepard for all of New Mexico. We sat and chatted for alittle while and then it was time to resupply. Resupplying in Twin lakes was a challenge, and for a vegan it’s a huge challenge. Needless to say I’ll be eating a lot of bars, peanut butter, and chips until I get to Salida in 3-4 days. Anyone who said on Facebook or other websites that it was a decent resupply was full of shit. After buying our meager rations for a huge mark up we joined a fellow hiker named Pacemaker for something to eat at the cafe. They had a veggie burger on the menu!!!! This was so exciting that I probably should have and certainly could have eaten two. I showed restraint and only ordered one, which lasted about 2 minutes on my plate. It was delicious, or maybe I was just starving. Either way it was just what I needed and wanted. After eating our meals we said good bye to Pacemaker, he was headed into Leadville for some rest and a resupply. We were determined to get some more miles in today. We’re taking the Collegiate West route which follows the CDT. It is supposed to be more challenging but also more beautiful. The challenging bit showed its self right away. Our first challenge was to find the trail. Rather then backtracking up the spur trail we took to get into town or walking all the way around the lakes that give the town it’s name we decided to bushwhack and cut some time off the hike. After a river crossing and some bushwacking we made it to the trail. Now it was time to climb up Hope Pass. Spontaneous had warned us that Hope Pass was a bit like hiking in the Himalayas. It is a 3,200 foot climb over 3.8 miles. Yikes!!! We were hoping to do just alittle bit of this climb and find a flat spot to camp. That didn’t happen. Not a flat piece of ground anywhere until we had done 1.8 miles of the climb. Thank god I finally found a flat area to camp. In total it was a 25 mile day, and for me it felt every bit of it. Tomorrow we will finish Hope Pass and then have Lake Ann Pass later in the day. Should be another leg burning day. Hopefully the sunny and rain free weather continues for us.
The morning started clear and crisp. There was no delaying the inevitable which was completing the climb up Hope Pass. We still had little under 2 mile to climb before reaching the summit. It was slow going to start off with, as is sometime the case when you wake up and have to immediately start climbing. The views from the top of the pass were amazing, Hope Mountain was right next to us and you could turn one way and see the town of Twin Lakes and the lakes themselves and the other way you could see a vast swath of mountains that make up the Sawatch range and Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. At the top of the pass was a large cairn with prayer flags attached to it. You almost felt like you were in Tibet. The winds were whipping at the pass so we only stayed a couple minutes before descending steeply. The rest of the morning was filled with the very sharp descent and then a slow build up so our second pass of the day which was Lake Ann Pass. The climb to Lake Ann Pass took us around the side of Huron Peak, another beautiful 14er, and through many areas of beautiful wild flowers. The basin headed up to the pass was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in Colorado. Lake Ann Pass was gorgeous and challenging. Not as steep as Hope Pass, and more beautiful. Lake Ann which was a small alpine lake sat just below the pass and was a gem of a small lake. If not for darkening clouds around us and the desire to get more mile in we may have stayed to enjoy the lake for awhile. When we reached the top of the pass it began to very very lightly snow on us, thankfully that was the worst of the weather that we saw. We descended the back side of the pass sharply and saw a carpet of wildflowers on our way down. We haven’t seen much wildlife except for a lot of marmots, pikas, a few deer, and a couple mountain goats. However the wildflowers have been amazing thus far. Hopefully the flowers continue and we begin to see some more wildlife. We ended up stopping earlier and shorter then we had hoped, 18.5 miles for the day. But with a couple bigger days the next couple days we should be able to hike a small day to Monarch Pass and then hitch to the town of Salida. Time for some sleep, if the mosquitos that are buzzing everywhere outside the tent finally go away. The mosquitos have been really bad the past few days.
I awoke at 6:15 and laid in the tent till almost 7. It was a chilly morning, most mornings are above 11k. I departed camp at 7:45, alittle while after Snakebite. It was to be another day filled with climbing over passes and exposed ridge lines. The first big obstacle was to be Cottonwood Pass. This pass is a sparsely used pass that leads to the town of Buena Vista. It’s a beautiful town and area that is more heavily traveled from the north or the south, rather then the west. We hiked at a good pace most of the morning, taking breaks to feed our ever growing hunger. It seems like most days we could eat a house. The climb up Cottonwood was fairly steep and became alittle more gradual towards the top, of course where the air became thinner and the hiker harder anyways. I took off in front and kept a good pace until I saw the skies darkening around me. I stopped listening to my music and started listening to alittle rumbling thunder. Not a lot but enough to make me cautious. I decided to stop and dig my rain gear out from the bottom of my pack where it was buried since I haven’t needed it the entire hike thus far. I decided to wait for Snakebite to make sure she had hers handy and that we both made good decisions when we got above treeline. The winds blew alittle, and the sky remained ominous the entire time over the pass. No rain and no lightning transpired though. We reached the road and the parking area and decided to take a break to see what the weather was going to do. One moment it looked like it may clear, the next like it may dump rain and lightning any second. I’m very leery of lightning above treeline, it scares me more then Grizzly Bears do. The skies continued to darken and after looking at the rest of the day’s exposed hike along ridge lines for the next 14 miles we decided it was no place to be in a potential storm. We made the call to head into Buena Vista with a couple other hikers and share a room. We were able to clean up, do laundry, and eat a bunch of actual nutritious food. Did it end up storming up top? Did we make too quick a decision? I don’t know the answer to the first of the questions but I do know that we made the best decision we could with the information we had at that time. I’m sure we will have plenty more days of exposed ridge walks with storms in our future. I’m also sure that we won’t be able to head to town most of those days and have to deal with the weather head on. But for tonight were warm, dry, and comfortable in a motel room.