The Colorado Trail: Day 3

Joe woke us up at 6:00 so we could get a head start on hiking while the temperatures were cooler and, as it turned out, the mosquitoes were still asleep.  The stove was definitely acting up and just barely got our water warm enough to have some luke warm coffee and cocoa.  We stuck with cold poptarts instead of trying to eat luke warm oatmeal.  We packed up and said goodbye to Bear Lake as we began a long steady ascent through forest and around a couple of ponds.
At a pond

We kept a real steady pace climbing the ridge and as we summited, Mount Massive came into view.  It was an amazing view looking over Turquoise Lake toward that massive peak!  We studied the map a bit and then began our descent toward the lake which brought us to the end of the Holy Cross Wilderness and also the end of section 9 of the Colorado Trail.  After a few brief pats on the backs we started section 10 which begins with another long steady climb.

As we climbed Joe presented us with our next homework assignment.  Again we would take 5 minutes to collect our thoughts but this time we would think about our 5 year goals and then present these to the rest of the team.  This was a bit more difficult than the 1 year goals we did yesterday and I honestly don’t remember all I said but I think it goes something like this.

Spiritual – GP Erie will be going full steam ahead and we will have transferred to and be fully plugged into a church in Longmont.  Steph and I will find a ministry that we can serve in together.

Home – We’ll have our back yard all gussied up so that it is a great outdoor living space and we’ll have a few other projects around the house completed so that we can more easily host small groups, youth groups and neighborhood get togethers.

Work/Professional – I’ll have a small revenue stream from something like Bibulizer or the water monitor.

Physical – I’ll be able to do 200 push-ups with 2 minute breaks between sets and I will ride the Triple Bypass again (perhaps even do the Double Triple Bypass)

Once again it was really great to share these with the others and hear what their goals were on the more distant horizon.

The climb was long and we passed, or were passed by, 5 thru hikers.  There was a guy and gal team that had done the PCT and the AT, there was a fellow from Indiana (originally from the UK), a guy from Santa Cruz who was on his second attempt at the CT because he wrenched his back in Salida during last year’s attempt and then there was Fat Camp.  We had passed by this lady yesterday at the very beginning of the day.  She was unmistakable as she carried a very used silver umbrella over her head for shade (not uncommon to see thru hikers with umbrellas, but she was the only one we had seen actively using hers).  I felt very blessed that we live in such beautiful state.  While people come to Colorado from all over the country (and the world) to enjoy its offerings, we live in it.  So if you too live in Colorado, be sure to get out there and enjoy it’s world class outdoors!

We finally made the top of the ridge and began our descent where we expected to find a spot to camp after about 1/2 mile.  But as I looked at the maps which I had become slightly more adept in interpreting I realized that (a) there didn’t seem to be much water and (b) there didn’t seem to be any sizable flat areas to pitch a tent let alone two.  We finally came to a small stream with an area that had obviously been camped at before despite a reasonably uncomfortable slope and we decided to rest for awhile.  And guess who else was there?  Fat Camp lounging on the ground under her umbrella.  She had a book (I’m guessing it was the Colorado Trail Data Book) that she used to help us figure out where the next best camp spot was.  There was dry camping at the Twin Mounds saddle just a 1/2 mile up the trail, then another dry camping spot in a meadow about a mile further.  We’d have to go about 2 miles to get to the next camping area with descent water.  Dacen, who was on fire today, made it clear he easily had 2 more miles in him.  Caden’s arches hurt but he was game to go further.  Joe’s and my vote made it unanimous, we’d push on another 2 miles for a total of about 9 miles for the day.  But first we took a minute to rest, hydrate and eat some snacks while we talked with Fat Camp.

Thru hikers come in all shapes, sizes and ages.  More often than not though they do not have the body of an ultra marathoner or a serial peak bagging mountaineer like you might expect.  Instead they are pretty ordinary looking.  Such was the case with Fat Camp.  But this lady (I’m guessing she was about 50 or so) was quite extraordinary because last summer she had hiked the 2,663 mile Pacific Crest Trail from the US-Mexico border to the the US-Canada border…by herself…fully self supported.  And unlike many descriptions from hikers about the brutality of the trail she kept calling it “just a really pleasant walk”.  Most people curse the heat and lack of water in the first 700 miles in the desert but she raved about the beautiful flowers, Joshua trees and blooming cacti.  Other hikers speak of nearly giving up their hike in the last stretch across Washington because of the coming winter, cold temperatures and snow covered trails.  Fat Camp called it the most spectacular section of the trail….her favorite.  I would have loved to hear all of her stories but we needed to get moving.  Apparently she chose the name Fat Camp for her CT trail name because she felt she was out of shape compared to when she did the PCT.

Up and over twin mounds then down to Rock Creek where we set up camp for the night.  It seemed like the mosquitoes were particularly vicious here so the boys hung out in the tent while Joe studied the map for the rest of section 10 and I did a little field repair on the stove in hope of improving its dwindling performance.  During our rest with Fat Camp we realized that our higher than anticipated pace and extra mileage today may mean we finish our hike a day early and this might give us a chance to bag Mount Massive, one of the Colorado 14ers.  See how the words may and  might are in italics to stress their importance?  Well, Dacen heard that we would absolutely be climbing Mount Massive during this trip.  Joe corrected my very poor mileage estimate and pinned the number to do the peak at 14 miles round trip and 4000 ft of vertical to gain.  I knew my body wasn’t going to enjoy doing that followed by a 6.5 mile hike out the next day.  Caden’s arches were hurting and Joe didn’t feel like it was a good option to climb Massive.  Dacen was quite upset that the rest of the team was not up for climbing the mountain.  As he sulked in the tent the rest of us went to the creek to freshen up a bit, soak sore feet in the cool water and collect water for both dinner and breakfast.
Soaking their piggies
For dinner we were having the famous Skurka dish, Beans and Rice with Fritos and Cheese.  Who or what is Skurka?  Andrew Skurka is an ultra adventurer: an ultra light backpacker who does ultra long distance hikes in ultra short amounts of time.  But he also has a passion for teaching others the fine art of traveling safely and comfortably in the wilderness.  For example, he did a multi part series on pooping in the woods complete with a backcountry bidet!.  I admit I’m a bit of a Skurka fan boy and numerous times on the trip found myself saying, “well, Skurka says….” or “the way Skurka does that is…”.  I got a lot of grief from the other guys about my constant Skurka references.  Anyway we fired up the stove for dinner.  The hiss of the fuel jet and the nice blue flame confirmed my field repair had done the trick and before long our water was boiling like crazy.  This meal was indeed VERY tasty…probably my favorite so far!  For dessert we had the Wach’s famous LBPDD (liquid butterscotch pudding dessert drink).

We brushed our teeth and then gathered in the game tent for a few rounds of Hearts while the light allowed.  Dacen and I continued to fall behind Joe and Caden who leap frogged between 1st and 2nd places.  The last hand of the night I got dealt The Lady….the Queen of Spades.  Getting stuck with this card is BAD but I played the best I could.  It didn’t take long for the other 3 to realize I had it in my hand and they began to worry that I would shoot the moon (that is, lose so bad that the loser gets rewarded and all other players suffer).  Now, I am not nearly a good enough player to pull this off knowingly…but wouldn’t ya know, I did it!!  I shot the moon!!  This put me clearly in the lead with no more time to play any more hands.

The day had been a long one but everyone did really great and I was proud of our progress of the day.  Be sure to check out our pictures from the day here.

At a pond

At a pond


Through the woods

Up we go

Map reading

Taking in the view

Me, boys and Mt Massive







Curvy tree

Soaking their piggies


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