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

Day 57 8.3
I slept great last night but at 8am the camper across from me started up his generator.  I left a few minutes after that.  I wanted to check out another FS campground on the other side of the lake, thinking I might pay up for another night. But when I got there, it looked crowded, not as forested but more in the open with the hot sun & everyone crammed in next to one another.  But, there was a trailhead right down the road, so I drove there to check out the hike.  There wasn’t much info on the signboard.  I knew the CO trail crossed here, but no info.  But, there was a sign for the Timberline Lake trail.  I asked a guy who was getting ready to hike it if he any info & he did.  It was a lollipop hike…straight out, the around a lake, then back.  So, I loaded up my pack, put on my hikers & started walking.

There were a couple of nice waterfalls at the beginning of the hike.

I finally made it up to the lake & it was very pretty!  I sat down on one of the big rocks out in the water & ate a snack.  Then I found a trail around the lake.

However….as I was jumping over a big muddy area, which I cleared with a rather forceful jump, but because I was being faithful to my dermatologist & wearing a stupid hat, I went head into a big thick tree branch.  Boom!  The crash almost landed me on my butt. I felt dazed…I sure didn’t see that coming (understatement of the year!  I got my bearings & finished my hike around the lake.  However….once on the other side, I couldn’t find the trail back down.  I walked back & forth about three times.  There were quite a few intersecting trails, but none that went down the way I’d come up.  How could I not find this trail?  I thought I’d started at the towards the center edge of the lake.   But, that wasn’t the case.  I saw a group of 4 young girls hiking towards me & asked them where the trail was.  I felt stupid & I had a big red bump on my head, but I found the trail and, learned a lesson:   Don’t just walk back & forth in same area…I should have walked the entire length of the lake, then I would have found it.  I always feel like an idiot when this happens, but I seriously believe nature is trying to teach me something before I get into a critical situation.  That’s what the voice in my heads tells me anyway!

I hiked back down to my car & finished the drive around Turquoise Lake.  I drove into Leadville & popped into the grocery store for a couple of things & of course, a bag of ice.  Then I started the drive to & part way up Independence Pass.  I’ve been here a lot in the past, but it’s been quite a few years…way before I discovered Crested Butte.  I went to an old camping spot Danny & I have had before, backed in above the river & ate some leftovers.  

Soon it began to rain, so I tucked into the back of Camper (referred to as the ‘lounge', using the hatch as a roof, & worked on my website.  Then I spent a chilly evening reading.

Day 58 8.4
I made coffee this morning trying to make a plan.  It had been years since I’d been to the top of Independence Pass & I still wasn’t sure what trail I would hike today.  So, with coffee in hand, I took the winding road to the top.  I was greeted by some early morning sheep along the road!  Love this! 

Then there were a whole bunch of them having breakfast!

The weather was supposed to be cloudy today & it was still early, so I was hoping these dark skies would brighten up soon.

As I walked out the path towards some informational signs, I noticed a trail going up along that ridge.  I asked a guy that standing there if he knew anything about it.  He said it went up about 3 miles.  I’d just found my trail for the day!

I went back to Camper, changed out of my camp clothes & boots & put on my hiking stuff & packed up my pack.  There weren’t many cars up here yet.

This is looking over the trail down into a basin below.

There was a mama & baby Ptarmigan walking up the trail too.

The trail goes way up along the ridge, very exposed & most of the time a decent width from the edgejust a couple of super narrow parts with drops.

The mountains that surround this trail were all so rugged & stark.  There was a group of 6 way behind me & a group super far in front of me…otherwise it was just me.

Then the trail ended into these huge rocks.  I first started climbing over them, then I turned around.  I tried going down below them but that wasn’t any good either.  I knew the group in front of me must have made it through these rocks.  But I had no idea how far it was or what was on the other side or how exposed climbing these rocks really were.  Truthfully, while trying to climb these rocks, I just didn’t feel comfortable…I felt way way way out of my comfort zone.  And, I was keeping one eye on the sky.  So, my GPS had said 3 miles, & even though I really didn’t think I’d reached the end, I turned around to go back.  I did wonder where the group in front of me had gone though…I never saw them again.

As I hiked back down, I zoomed in on the rocks that caused me to turn around.  From down here, they didn’t look like you would have had to climb through them for very long….but hindsight is always a gift…maybe.

Another long shot.  

This was taking the trail back down & view of the mountains going back.

Once back at the car & ate a snack, finished my coffee, then headed back down the pass.  I drove down to Twin Lakes & went to find a camping spot.  I found a great place…no view of the lake, but within walking distance.  There were other campers around, but no one very close.  I had service so I looked up the name of the trail I’d just hiked.  It was called Mountain Boy Ridge.  I would so do that again…& hopefully feel brave enough to tackle the rock part & see where the rest of the trail took me.

I worked like a fiend on my website stopping long enough to cook dinner.  But it was a great campsite & really good hike this morning!

Day 59 8.5
Happy Birthday Danny!  We always seem to be apart on birthdays & anniversaries.  I do wish he was here with me!

I read in camp this morning & took my time drinking a cup of coffee.

There was a mysterious (to me anyway) trail going up right behind my campsite.  I knew that the Colorado Trail & the Continental Divide trail both came by Twin Lakesbut I didn’t know until later I was camping right beneath these two popular trails.  

So late this morning, I went to investigate & go for a hike.  

Sure enough, before too long, I came up on the markers for both trails.

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The trail had great views of one of the lakes & went right by an old resort called the Interlaken.

The resort was built in 1879 & was a popular stop on the way to Aspen & Leadville.  There was horseback riding, fishing, hunting & cruising along the lake in a steam powered boat.  There was the hotel, a tavern & a pool hall.  Once the dam was built, it sort of ruined the lake & the water quality & levels which eventually forced the resort to close.  It has been restored & you can have a tour with one of the volunteers that hang out.

The detail in the woodwork, doorknobs & hinges was incredible.

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The stairways were steep!

Especially this little narrow one that went up to a tiny crows-nest type room.

Going up….

And down!

There was a 6 door outhouse…evidently each room had it’s own door into the bathroom.  Pretty funny.

I finished my self-guided tour then hiked on to the second lake.

Once back at my car, to goofed off for a bit, then packed up & left.  I took the back roads into Buena Vista & by a place I’ve camped near the river quite a few times.  It’s a great road & has this series of tunnels you drive through…a great place to camp, but it was still too early in the day for me to settle down.

I checked out Buena Vista, bought more fuel for my backpacking stove, the stopped at the Brown Dog Coffee house for a sandwich & enjoyed sitting outside on their porch to eat.

I headed up Cottonwood Pass to find camping for the night.  It’s on the FS road past Cottonwood Lake.  There’s a ton of camping back there.  This place looks quiet doesn’t it?  It was nice….for awhile.  Check out my post in Random about this campsite (a new & very funny first for me).  But, after that experience, it started a quiet rain & the temps dropped.  As I was tucking in about 10pm, two cars drove up & popped up a tent right next to me…pretty much in my campsite!  I didn’t say anything & neither did they.  It always kind of rattles you a bit when that happens, which isn’t very often.  I could tell they were trying to be quiet, which I appreciated it, but I’d rather them have set up in their own site.  But it was dark & maybe they just couldn’t tell it was all one site, or maybe they were just too tired to look for something else, or maybe they were just rude or stupid.  I was only staying for one night, so after my initial surprise, I didn’t really care.  It was time to tuck in, hope the skies cleared & check out the stars!

Day 60 8.6
I had service where I was camping & I knew I wouldn’t much farther up the pass & on the trail I was hiking today.  So I texted Talie & asked her what the camping situation looked liked out on Washington Gulch where I knew she was still camped.  She said it was empty on our ‘ridge’ except for her.  She graciously put up a tent for me on the other end & saved me a spot for later today.

I snapped this photo of Cottonwood lake as I drove by it on my way back to the pass. 

Danny & I hiked Ptarmigan trail once before, but like so many trails I’ve hiked once in my long ago past, I couldn’t remember much about it.  But it was a super nice hike!

This was not the Ptarmigan lake, it’s the 3rd lake & I almost didn’t continue hiking to the right one.  My mileage said I was there, but evidently the final lake was another 1/2 mile. 

Here was the final (3rd) lake & wow it was gorgeous!!!!

I noticed a couple dressed up standing off to one side of the trail. When I reached the top, there was a group of 5 in front of me, at the top there was a group of 8 Llama packing & some random onesies & twosies around.  A popular hike for sure.  But it seems we all noticed this couple & their dog.  There were getting married…having their own quiet ceremony along this trail.  I was pretty far away but snapped this photo of them & later sent it to their email address.  I’ve seen about 3 or 4 proposals as I’ve hiked up to places, but this is the first (that I can remember) wedding I’ve witnessed.  I think the dog officiated.

Another lake sitting below Ptarmigan Lake…the colors were amazing!

Sitting there by the lake, I could see a trail coming along the mountain from the other side.  Then I finally remembered Danny & I had hiked that trail & there was a great view from the top.  The trail also looked like it continued down to a 4WD road.  And I remembered, looking at a map, all those years ago, trying to figure out how to hike this trail from this other side.  So, I hiked up the ‘extra’ trail to the top & took in the wonderful view!

The view from the top of the ‘extra’ trail.

The view on the way back from the extra' trail.

After my hike, I enjoyed another drive over Cottonwood Pass & then into my favorite little mountain town.  I stopped for ice & water & then a beer at the Brick.  They still didn’t have a big stout on tap that I liked, but they did still have the Ska Face & I really like it!  

Then I headed back out to camp & visited with Talie as she took her little backpacking tent down in the space she’d saved for me.  And I put up the Castle in it’s place, parked Camper & tucked in….so happy to be back ‘home’!!

Talie is still recovering from her surgery, but nothing keeps her down long.  We walked the road up to the gravel pits, visiting & listening to the wind blow through the Aspens & looking at the flowers still blooming.  This would become a nightly ritual & one I ended up treasuring!  There are some people who come into your life that you know are so special, have so much wisdom & knowledge, are fun & adventurous & very very giving of all of that.  That’s Talie.

Day 61 8.7
Ummm….so happy to be back here but didn’t sleep much last night…it was a really bad night of laying awake most of the night until almost daylight.

I enjoyed visiting with Talie in camp this morning while we both slowly drank our coffee.  Then I was able to FT with the girls…I hadn’t talked to them in over a week!  Miss them so much!

I had asked Talie about a road I’d seen off Kebler Pass called Splains Gulch.  She said it was a drivable 4WD road that lead to some camping & the backside of Lily Lake. So, I thought I’d try that hike today.

However….I didn’t like the road at all.  I drove up it & it got skinnier & there was a big drop off on one side.  When I got to a point where I could finally turn around, I did.  I just never know what’s up ahead…what a road-chicken I am!  I passed this dilapidated mine crap right next to the road…gee….it looks like trash to me!

So, I drove back into town.  I bought a fast lunch at the 4way from Logan the hot-dog-stand guy.  Then Claire FT me for a bit, before we got cut off.  I drove all over town trying to find better WiFi….no luck.  I drove south of town to the short trail called Whetstone Vista….definitely a town trail not a wilderness trail, but it was a nice, quiet trail I hadn’t done this year & only saw one other person on it.  I really took my time…listening to the wind blow through the aspens & a chipmunk going bonkers being soooo loud…I even video taped him & sent it to Claire & Emma!

Whetstone Mountain

I drove back to camp & did a big cleaning & rearranging in Camper….including shaking out all my bedding.  I’m kind of a nut when it comes to keeping my tiny home clean & orderly (I’m not the only one…I know there’s other travelers on the road for long periods of time that are just as fussy as I am about our space!)

Talie had invited me to dinner outside of her camper to meet two of her very good friends that I’ve heard so much about over the years.  She was trying out a new propane grill she’d just bought.  We all sat away from each other, but it was a super enjoyable evening.  I’m such a social person & ‘social distancing’ & wearing masks goes sooooo against my outgoing self.  But I’m always trying to do the right thing & so many people are.  Camping & traveling the way I do is easy to follow these rules…but I really miss people.  So, the conversation with these two friends of Talie’s was just wonderful….& dinner was delicious too!

Later in the evening, we went for our talk/walk.  What a nice way to end a good day!

Day 62 8.8
Id confessed to Talie on last nights walk, I didnt make it up the Splains Gulch road.  She offered to drive today & wed hike togetherYES!  I always learn from watching others drive on these gnarly roads.its just that its rare when someone else is around to drive.  But, it was fun being the passenger & Talie has a super cool Limited Edition 4th gen V8 (Ive always wanted a V8) 4Runner.

Shes done this hike a bunch of times, so I just followed & probably asked her too many questions along the way.  We followed a trail, then bushwhacked to a nice spot with a really great view & had a snack.  

Then we hit the trail again to Lilly Lake.

Ive never hiked around the whole lake, so we followed a trail until it was no more, then bushwhacked more until we had made a loop & found our trail back down to the car.

We pulled our lunches out wed left in the car, walked up the road to where it crosses a small stream, soaked our feet & ate lunch.   The hike was not only filled with awesome scenery, but Talie (who is a expert on wildflowers) would tell me about the flowers, other trails & backpacking stories & memories of some of her world wide travels.  Wow.  It was a wonderful day! 

Back at camp, I made dinner then waited for the Alpenglow that comes each clear night…it’s mesmerizing & magnificent & it never, ever gets old.

Day 63 8.9
I had my morning in camp with coffee the left for Gunnison to run a couple of errands & get gassadly, the Rec Centers are still not selling showers, so thats one errand I wont be doing (& probably the one I need the most!)

I bought my groceries & then sat in the parking lot & visited with my sister-in-law for over an hourwe miss each other!

Coming out of Gunnison, you can catch a road (part paved then goes to dirt) that will take you all the up to Kebler Pass call Ohio Pass road.  But, before you get up to the pass, theres a trail you can hike called Mill Castle trail with an up close view of the rocky Castles.

That was my hike today! 

Sadly, this area would catch on fire about a week later.  I don’t think a ton of it burned, but it was on fire along with what seemed like a huge part of Colorado & a ton of really bad fires happening in California.  It’s been really dry here…no rain.  They took the burn ban off, but I wasn’t comfortable with building a fire….it’s just way way too dry.

More views.

I drove back to camp & spent the rest of the day there & cooked dinner.

See what I mean about the Alpenglow?  It’s spectacular!  Like a wonderful light show almost every night!

I ended another good day with a walk with Talie up the road & back.  I love this place!

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