11. Colorado here I come! (& bringing my face masks)…June & July 2020

Day 71 8.17
Another night of not much sleep & a big hike today, but oh well. I always get a little nervous thinking my lack of sleep is going to make me crash on a hike, but my body must be so used to it after all these years, it’s holding up pretty great!  Thankful for that anyway.

I left super early this morning to drive out to Gothic road & hike the most popular West Maroon Pass trail.  So many people hike this over to Aspen & theres always a lot of hikers on the pass hiking the Four Pass Loop.  So, I was pretty sure I’d see people on this hike.  I made it over the shelf road without having to pass another car (always grateful for that!) & caught the early morning sun on the mountain behind Emerald Lake.

I parked at the trailhead & loaded my pack & put on my hikers.  This trail is known for it’s amazing amount & variety of wildflowers.  It’s also the part of the same trail that goes up to Hasley Pass, which Danny & I hiked when he was here.  The Fireweed was everywhere!

There weren’t too many on the trail this morning, I knew there was a big Texas group behind me, so I tried to hike a little fast to make sure there was so much distance between us I couldn’t hear them all talking.  They were slow so it was easy to do.  As I climbed up the valley, I could see fantastic views of North Pole Basin…those white stripes stand out!  And, there’s still a lot of snow up on top of those mountains!

Here’s looking over towards the basin before you climb up to Hasley Pass.

And, then you get to the final climb which is all scree.  It’s slow going up because it’s steep & the scree is slick, but it’s even slower when you have to climb back down!

This is the view from the top…looking down in the whole valley you just hiked through.  When I did 4 Pass Loop so many years ago, I remember asking Danny, "where does that lower trail go?”  Little did I know that a few years later, I’d discover Crested Butte.

From the top of the pass looking towards the Aspen side.

I posted the photo below on my IG account (@vik.hill) & this is what I wrote:

About 20 years ago, I hiked over this Pass for the first time, with Danny, Luke & Pete, as we backpacked the popular 4 Pass Loop. It felt like such a difficult hike. Since then I’ve backpacked over this Pass one other time & day hiked up here another 3 or 4 times, but the last time was 3 years ago. But my very first time on top of West Maroon Pass, I met an older woman sitting on one of the rocks who had day hiked up the mountain. ... her copper sun kissed skin was wrinkled, her short hair was messy, she wore shorts & a T-shirt (which covered a braless rather flat chest) but she had a huge smile on her face. And I so wanted to be her when I became that age. 

That memory has never left me. So today, my 62 year old self -with copper wrinkled skin, messy camp hair & my own saggy chest—climbed that 12,000’ mountain. At the top, I was overcome with joy & a few unexpected tears but mostly gratitude for a body that works so well & the opportunity to be here. 

And I realized... I am her, but I’m also me. And I’m who I want to be.

I hiked so happy on the way back…..I saw two hikers (the girl was from Blue Lake where the boys live!) & a group of 4….that’s not many people for this popular hike.  I felt like I had the whole valley to myself!

I was lucky again & made it by the shelf part of the road without meeting another car, then I stopped at a pullout by the East River & made a salad for lunch.  

I read back in camp & made dinner that night.  My time here this summer has been the longest yet, but I can feel it coming to an end.  Ummm….don’t like that feeling.

Day 72 8.18
I went to breakfast early this morning at ParadiseIm trying to hit all my fave restaurants & say goodbye to my friends before I leave.  As always, I enjoyed a yummy breakfast & then wished them all a good winter & hope to see them next yearhopefully a non-Covid year!

The East River trail is an easy hike, but thats where I was today.  Love the views of Teocalli & the river from here.

I sat down by the river for awhile & enjoyed the time.

It’s such beautiful crystal clear water!

After my hike I went to the Brick to meet up with Rick.  We had a beer, visited about the upcoming ski season & what it might mean for him & then said good bye.

When I first started coming to Crested Butte, I would camp out along Gothic Road…for about the first 5 years I came here.  After that I moved on to Slate & now mostly spend time camping along Washington Gulch road.  A few years ago, the Forest Service limited the camping time along Gothic to anytime except between June 15 & August 15.  I was never here around those dates, so haven’t camped out on Gothic since those rules have been in place.  

But today was the 18th & I wanted to camp here one night while I could.  So, I left my tent up along Washington Gulch, but Camper & I spent the night in my old site.  Wow…I’d forgotten how great it is to camp out here…the views are magnificent…even through the smoky hazy skies!

And the Alpenglow on Avery was breathtaking!

We were back in our original spot & it was great!

Day 73 8.19
I seriously debated leaving my chair & table here, running out & breaking camp on WG, & setting up here for the rest of time in CB. I made coffee & just sat enjoying the view, watching the deer & some crazy chipmunks play.  But, in the end, theres no cell service, so those FT calls with Emma a couple of times a week in the morning or late afternoon with Claire wouldn’t be happening or any calls to Danny.  It’s twice a far from town to get here & there’s currently road construction along Gothic.  So, I decided I’d enjoy this morning, then head back to Washington Gulch.

I was glad I did, because I got to FT with both girls over Claires lunch break including playing a game with them outside!

Later in the afternoon, I drove back out on Kebler Pass to hike the trail to Beckwith Pass…I wanted to see if any colors in the Aspens were changing yet.

They weren’t…or at least not very much.  I love this hike though & I knew it was my last time out on Kebler this summer.

This area has so many sheep herders so I’m always looking for old tree carvings.  I’m sure some of the ones I see, aren’t very old, sadly, but the Basque herders are known for their old tree carvings in the Aspens.  These were just along the trail….kind of interesting.

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Made dinner in camp & boy was it windy tonight!  Wind & smoke…the elements!

Day 74 8.20
I was hiking a new trail today I just heard about.  I left early & stopped by Camp 4 Coffee for a free Americano (you get a free one when you buy a bag of coffee, which I’d done earlier this summer).

To get to the trail, you have to hike two other trails…or you can get to it by dirt bike.  It’s also a popular mountain bike trail.  So, I climbed up the switchbacks on the Caves trail (which I’ve done a lot), then cut off to the 409 trail (which I’ve never done) & kept climbing up…then down….then onto the Point Lookout trail (which is the new one I’d just heard about).

It just keeps going up & up & some really long switchbacks.

But the views from the top is really great!  It’s too bad it’s still so smoky out….washes out the colors, but you can’t complain about it.  At least our forests here in CB are being destroyed as they are where the fires are burning.

Thats the backside of Mt. Crested Butte in the right corner (the dark colored mountain), Whetstone to the left & Mt. Emmons in the center.

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The hike felt hard & very very slow.  It’s 5 miles to the top with 2,532’ elevation gain….ugh!  

One of the staff at Paradise also works at Ryce…a restaurant I’d never eaten at before in CB.  She was telling me how good it was & I asked her for a suggestion of what to eat.  So, after I finally made it back to the 4Runner, I went into town & ordered the Tropical Fried Rice & it was so yummy!  I was able to bring about 2/3 of it back to camp & eat it for a late dinner!

Before going back to camp, I stopped to do one load of laundry before I left town.  I love the new laundry machines!  Last year it was closed for remodeling & I’m glad it’s open & so nice this year.  I wish they would have added showers.

Day 75 8.21
Today I hiked Teddys Trailits short but I love the views!

I popped down into Gothic thinking I could say good bye to Greta, but she’d just left for her run to Gunnison.  But, I got to visit with the ‘other Rick’ & ask him a question I’d been wondering about all summer.  Rick Revis is the wildflower expert for RMBL & he knew who I was since I’m friends with Greta & (the other) Rick.  So, we chatted about flowers, camping, tourists & he answered my question.  So much stuff I don’t know!

Then I went to the Brick.  Tracy, one of my friends that bartends there, had asked me to come by today & have a beer during her shift so we could visit before I left town.  And so I did…she is such an awesome woman!  (And I have body envy…she’s muscular & very thin!)  But she’s a sweet, nice, fun & interesting woman.  So, I enjoyed my last Ska Face but more I enjoyed visiting with Tracy.  Then Angela came to work (another one of my faves) & so the afternoon got even better!  Saying goodbye is always hard…but I’m so grateful I have made good friends to miss when I’m not here!

Each night at camp gets a little more mellow.  The Alpenglow gets a little more precious.  I can’t wait to look at the night stars, knowing soon I’ll be back to living indoors & missing the sky & lying awake is now no big deal….I can take in every twinkle above me as a precious moment.

Day 76 8.22
I had an easy morning in campthey are precious too. Sitting in between Gothic & Mt. Crested Butte & listening to the birdsespecially the humming bird thats been buzzing me all summer long.  I drove down Gothic road taking one last long look at my mountains, then I stopped back by the RMBL Visitors Center & chatted with Rick & Greta & then said good bye.  

My hike for today was Baxters Gulch.  Last time I got hailed on, but today, the weather was fine, it was just super smoky.  It was a nice view of the town & a good last hike.  It wasnt a day for hiking a trail with big viewsthe smoke was just too thick.  But a town hike that over looks this special place, was good.

and…there were still a few wildflowers along the trail.

After the hike, I bought ice & water & topped off my tank.

Cheryl’s daughter Cara was in town & had texted me earlier wanting to know if I wanted to meet for a drink before either of us headed back to Kansas.  Of course!  Cara & I met at Bonez & had such a delightful time visiting & catching up.  We’re hoping to bike together once we’re both back.

I talked to Danny as he is on vacation for a couple of days next week, but is spending his 4 day weekend at the Lake.

Then I went back to camp for my last night.  

Day 77 8.23
The next morning I didnt put off what I needed to do.  I emptied the Castle, then broke it down & stuffed it in its bag.  I had to empty the Thule before I could reload it, but I managed to stuff everything I needed to inside of it, vowing to bring less stuff next time.

Then I said bye to my camp ‘home’ & left town. Always bittersweet, but I knew it was time to leave & head back to Danny, my cats all in state I dislike living in so much.

I thought I might hike today on part of the Colorado trail that goes through Maysville just on the east side of Monarch Pass.  But, as I drove up the road, the sky turned dark & it started to lightly rain.  I didn’t feel like hiking then, so I turned around & headed toward Poncha Springs to Elevation Brewery.

I called Danny to see if he wanted any beer from here since I usually bring him home a case of their Kolsch.  He reminded me I had about a case of it already in the car (I found a way to bury all the beer in my car so I haven’t seen it since the day he left!)  But, I hadn’t eaten anything yet today, so I had a small pour of a beer & ordered from their food truck….it was really good.

I was heading home, but not my usual route or my usual time frame.  Most of the time I can leave CB & exactly 12 hours later, be home.  But, Danny was at the lake & I was in no hurry to be back in Kansas.  I wanted to explore a little bit.  I wanted to take Highway 50 back through Big Sheep Canyon for a start.  So, that was my drive for today.

It’s so pretty…huge rocks along both sides of the highway & next to the road is the river.  If you’re a passenger, you can look for the bighorn sheep up in the rocks…but not the driver.  This road is twisty & winding & curvy.

Id read some info about a place outside of Canon City called Temple Canyon Park.  Theres a 4WD road that goes through the whole park & some dispersed camping & a trail.  Id read both horror stories about the road & that it wasnt too bad.  I made the turn off right before you get to Royal Gorge.  I kept driving on the road as long as I knew I had a spot to turn around.  It was narrow in some spots, but nothing freaked me out.  I came to a wide spot in the road, with a pullout on one side, two trucks parked on the other side of the road & a trailhead sign.  I put on my shoes & pack & went to check it out.  There was no trailhead name or any info except that motorized vehicles weren’t allowed.  

The area around me was really pretty, so I thought I’d hike for awhile.  I don’t like hiking on trails I know nothing about, but I do it sometimes anyway.

The farther I got down the trail, the creepier I felt.  With no visible reason why.  It’s sometimes a hard call to make when that happens…you question yourself…why are you being chicken?  The circus in my head all chimed in with their opinions & name calling, but the loudest voice of all said turn around.  And so I did.  This isn’t the first time this has happened to me & I just do it, then go onto Plan B.

I got back in the car & kept driving the road.  I found the free camping, passed a big truck on the road & asked him how the driving was & he said no problems.  The camping areas were kind of cool…kind of buggy (with gnats) but I still had that odd feeling.  I found the trail I was looking for with one lone car in the lot.  About the time I was getting out the guy came off the trail & said it was a disappointing hike to the Temple.  Then he tells me a story of how his friend broke her leg on this trail & had to taken out by ambulance after they rescued her on the trail.  None of this was helping.  I was a little bit melancholy anyway, so it doesn’t take much to get me to pass when I hear things like this. 

But, I still needed to find camping for the night.  I finished the drive on the road, which wasn’t bad at all & passed a ton of dispersed sights…but that weird feeling never left me.  

I looked on my apps & found directions to another option with just about 10 miles of backtracking up the highway.  Theres a free campground just a couple of miles before you get to the Royal Gorge.  It was super nice with picnic tables & a really nice fire pit (but there’s a statewide burn ban on now).  So, I found a place, grabbed my book & was set for the night.  No creepy feeling here.

The sky cleared of smoke long enough to watch the setting sun!

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