August 8, 2010
Today’s Miles: 9.3
Total Miles: 113.7
Breakfast Elevation: 9,400 ft
Dinner Elevation: 11,640 ft
High Point: 12,440 ft
Checking out of the motel this morning, who do I see in the lobby but Ole and Meadow Bruiser!
“We thought you’d be in Leadville by now!” they say, underestimating my vast capacity for hiker-slackerdom. I hadn’t seen them for five days, and they won’t be leaving Frisco until tomorrow.
I wander around for a bit before hiking out of town. I browse more art, stuff my face with food, and get thoroughly caffeinated. I don’t begin hiking until mid-afternoon.
Rather than riding a bus back to the Colorado Trail, I discovered a trail that leaves downtown Frisco called the Peaks Trail. It connects with the official Colorado Trail after about 3 miles, an equal distance as the CT, so I simply walk out of town. After a few years and a few thousand miles, I’ve realized “purist” hiking is often just plain silly.
It’s a good choice – the Peaks Trail begins in a spectacular grove of aspen trees and visits the shore of the picturesque Rainbow Lake.
It also follows a lively stream, riddled with wildflowers.
This day will bring me along the Ten Mile Range, pictured here… and up and over it.
It’s not long before the trail begins flirting with treeline.
Late in the day on a Sunday, and I have the mountains all to myself.
I approach the crest of the range and a seemingly unnamed pass, fueled on coffee. The views are inspiring.
A glance back toward Frisco showcases the Dillon Reservoir, a major body of water that supports the Denver area.
I come to the first view on the far side of the ridge, and see another range illuminated in the evening light. It’s capped with a stream of threatening clouds.
Rather than dip below the trees on the far side, the trail stays high and contours along the shaded side of the ridge.
This mountainous grassy slope is what I’d always imagined when thinking of The Colorado Trail.
Sunset closes in, and I’m happy to be still be on the move, high along the ridge-crest.
This is what hiking is all about – the scenery is distant and amazing, the clouds are dramatic, the wind is invigorating, and it’s all mine as darkness descends on the mountains, my temporary home.
The trail curves back to the other side of the ridge, a moment too late for sunset.
The world goes about its business at the Copper Mountain ski area. Headlights follow a state highway as it winds away toward both horizons, disappearing among folds in the landscape.
Night hiking is as good as ever, and I encounter a tent high on the ridge in the twilight.
“Hello there!” I call out, keeping a distance. A head emerges from the tent for some conversation. It’s another pair of Denver-to-Durango hikers, with a European accent.
I warn them about flashes of lightning I’d seen on the distant horizon, but they seem content and oblivious to the danger of camping exposed at this elevation.
Or maybe I’m a bit too careful myself.
The brief talk has a cheerful tone, vibrant with the beauty of the mountain evening. We’ve shared this place and time tonight, despite experiencing it separately.
I continue on into the night, and find a flat site just on the edge of treeline.
I prepare dinner in the dark and call it a day.