August 9, 2010
Today’s Miles: 16.1 (+2)
Total Miles: 129.8
Breakfast Elevation: 11,640 ft
Dinner Elevation: 11,640 ft
High Point: 12,280 ft
I wake this morning to discover that a mouse (Or some other furry rodent) has chewed its way through the bite valve of my Camelbak hose. Fortunately I have a backup of this small light rubber piece, and feel clever for carrying something extra that I’ve actually come to need.
There were no storms overnight, and the morning is dry. Some early clouds suggest that it won’t stay clear for very long.
I’ve slept late, but I’m on my feet and moving relatively quickly. It’s only a few miles down the trail to a road and civilization, where I’m sure there’s some form of caffeine patiently awaiting my consumption.
I cross Tenmile Creek and walk a mile down the road toward Copper Mountain. The first thing I see is an inviting-looking gas station. I immediately procure some Cokes, hot dogs, and Reese’s Big Cups, and have a seat on a curb to enjoy this feast. It looks as though it could start raining at any minute.
The people-watching here is especially good, as everyone seems to be on a road trip or on some sort of vacation. After all, I’m along a scenic state highway in the Colorado mountains in the summertime. I chat it up for a while with a group of bikers (motorcycles) from Pittsburgh that are doing a big loop around the U.S.
I’m having a tough time gathering the motivation to get back on the trail, leaving behind this oasis of civilization – with its conveniences and people – even though I just left Frisco yesterday morning.
When I finally gather the gusto to get up and go, the increasing threat of foul weather makes itself apparent. The tell-tale sharp drop of temperature gives me a chill, ushered by a strengthening wind. Soon an all-out thunderstorm is underway, with a torrential downpour and hail. I duck into an adjacent Starbucks to wait it out.
Ah, Starbucks… the rough life of a backpacker.
The only other patron is a local Colorado cyclist, and we have a good conversation regarding the Colorado Trail, local races, and bicycling in general. He’s especially curious about my TransAm bicycle tour from a few years back.
I cradle my steaming cup and watch the rain come down in sheets. Coffee-house music plays in the background, and I feel buoyant and intelligent and Seattle-esque, whilst discussing travels and trails.
I’ve often mentioned that one of my favorite activities in the world is to sit in a dry lean-to shelter in the midst of a roaring thunderstorm…
This isn’t so bad either.
The weather clears just as quickly as it began, and I head back on the trail.
Yes this is a golf course, and yes that path to the left is The Colorado Trail.
The first miles of Segment 8 are interesting in this way. I enjoy the change of scenery, knowing that I’ll be deep in the woods again soon enough.
This only adds to the vacation-like character of the day. It makes me thankful to be on the Colorado Trail.
Moments after taking the above photo, I overtake two young men backpacking together. They’re the ones I encountered last night, tented above treeline on the Tenmile Range. They’re from Bavaria, Germany, and on their summer vacation. We hike together for some time, and I’m naturally full of curiosity because they’re from Europe.
First of all, I brag about how I was cozy and dry in the Starbucks, while they were getting drenched in the rain and hail. 🙂
They tell me they chose Colorado above any other destination in the world because they had been here before, and liked what they saw, apparently quite smitten. Beginning in Denver and hoping to walk to Durango, they’re finding the trail to be a tough trek. Making progress is going slower than they’d imagined, and now they’re unsure if they’ll complete the entire trail.
After about fifteen minutes, there’s a long pause in conversation. I can’t help but to move on ahead at a brisk pace, wanting to take full advantage of the fresh coffee and sugar in my veins. I hope to have made some interesting new friends that I’ll meet further on up the trail, but I never see them again.
The path opens into numerous meadows as I gain elevation, and I unexpectedly catch up with two more hikers ahead.
It’s Moondancer and Captain Jack, who I haven’t seen since Day 4!
After a period of only five days, we’re thrilled to see each other, like long lost friends.
“I thought you’d be on your way home already!”
“Well, we thought you’d be past Leadville by now!”
We catch up on the comings and goings of the Trail – the other hikers, the winds and the rains, and all we’ve experienced in those five days.
It’s almost mid-afternoon. The trail ahead leads up and over an exposed ridge with two passes, and the clouds appear to be building again. Moondancer and CJ will be staying low for the night, whereas I’ll be moving on. This is to be our last meeting. I take their photo, we exchange contact information, and that’s that.
The sun peaks in and out of the clouds as I approach Searle Pass.
Over the pass I’m smacked by a stiff wind.
It gains strength as I move forward, accompanied by intermittent, sideways rain. There’s no thunder or lightning.
When pulling out my pack cover and rain jacket I have to take care that the items don’t blow away off the mountain.
I don’t know what that structure is out there, but something tells me I’m supposed
to take note of it?
I descend the far side of the ridge this evening, excited that the cruising weather system shows signs of clearing.
Just look at this scene before me as I stomp down this massive hill to the west, alone in the mountains with a pack over my shoulders.
The sun comes out.
You may have noticed that I do a lot of these “stretch-the-arm-out-and-take-a-picture-of-my-own-face” sort of shots. A part of it is because I’m spending a lot of time alone, so I’m obviously rather self-involved, but most of the time the purpose is to remember a great moment.
(Editor’s note: I suppose this was written before I discovered the term “selfie,” or possibly even before the term “selfie” was established? Hmmm.)
I imagine that all solo backpackers have these moments, like here where you’re wet and dirty and isolated and the sun comes out, and things are just so danged beautiful and great and you’re smiling from ear to ear, and maybe even laughing out loud as you walk for no particular reason. This is part of what backpacking is all about, and often at these times I’ll turn the camera on myself as a way to remember “Hey, that was fun!”
I descend below treeline underneath a clearing sky, and find an ideal campsite near a babbling stream.
This is the sunset view from the campsite.
While sitting with my butt on a log and enjoying dinner in the ensuing darkness, I notice a bold rabbit investigating my camp in the twilight. Something about the creature’s vibe puts me off, and I repeatedly throw stones in it’s general direction to scare it off. I have to admit this gives me some entertainment as well. Hey, it’s lonely out here.
Now before you go accusing me of harassing the wildlife, my defense is that this rabbit was harassing me first, in its aggravated trespass of my camp while I was handling food. Besides, remember how Ed Abbey bragged about killing a small mammal with a stone just for the fun of it, just to prove to himself that he was some kind of an elemental hairy cave man, or something like that… and you know we all love ol’ Ed Abbey.
I guess I’m just bored, or vengeful about that Camelbak bite valve this morning.
A starry infinity sets the stage for an unseasonably cold night.