August 19, 2010
Today’s Miles: 15.9
Total Miles: 271
Breakfast Elevation: 8,550 ft
Dinner Elevation: 9,760 ft
High Point: 9,760 ft
I may have been dreaming, but I think it rained for about five minutes last night.
The morning is cloudy.
I quickly pack my tent, before anybody spies my position near a road in the daylight. Because of my stealth location, it’s easy to find the motivation to get up and start walking. It’s also a simple, predominately downhill road walk of only a mile to the general store at Princeton Hot Springs.
Princeton Hot Springs appears to be an interesting sort of Colorado Mountain resort, named for the nearby 14,000 foot Mount Princeton. The hot springs themselves don’t especially interest me today. I’m just passing through.
I rest at their general store and enjoy some snacks – caffeine and sugar.
A light, cold rain begins, and I find myself sitting under the shelter of their front porch for longer than I’d expected. The woman inside the store allows me to fill my water containers with the garden hose on the side of the building. The water retains the taste of a rubber garden hose, but at least I don’t have to treat and purify it.
Hose water. Yum.
There’s apparently a nearby restaurant, but amazingly I don’t even bother to investigate it. A truck full of large bags of ice arrives, and watching the drivers go about their work of stocking an outdoor freezer provides a little entertainment.
The skies begin to clear, and I continue to walk along the roads near the Chalk Cliffs. I love the color of these rocks, and it makes me feel as though I’m in the Sierras.
The trail leaves the main road and turns down a picturesque country lane. It’s lined with quaint, unique homes and rental cabins. I wave at a guy standing on his front porch.
A small neighborhood like this (And the whole world in general) always seems more peaceful when on foot… quiet, without distractions or the barrier that exists from within a vehicle.
I meet some day-hikers at the trailhead, and step onto a footpath for the first time since yesterday afternoon. There’s some horse droppings on this stretch of trail. Judging by the comments in the forest service registers, quite a few hikers take issue with this.
The views to the north are excellent as I hike up a short, steep climb.
The scene constantly changes.
The path levels out, sparsely forested with Ponderosa Pine. It looks dry and reminds me of northern Arizona.
The day feels warm. I’d expected to be cruising through these miles – at a relatively low elevation of 9,000 feet – but I feel slow and bored.
I have a nice lunch at a jeep road crossing, among these sunny aspen trees.
The only person I meet this afternoon is a solo backpacker, going in the opposite direction. He’s just done a hike from Denver to Durango, and is now back to patch up some sections of the trail that he’d missed. As I’ve heard from all the others, he says that I have some spectacular terrain to look forward to in the final segments.
I cross a number of creeks as the skies darken, and soon an all-out, cold rain begins.
Again I set up my tent at dusk in the rain. After a moment of debate, I decide to cook my dinner at the foot of a tree, under its shelter. A chattering red squirrel keeps me company… these guys should be the mascots of the Colorado Trail!
Later I hear strange sounds when I’m lying in my tent, and realize it must be the calls of cattle. Moo.