From Copper Mountain Back to California

Colorado Trail

[July 4 – 13, CT Sections 9-3 Copper Mountain]

After a night of distant rumbling died down we scuttled down Copper Mountain to the resort below. 100 feet off trail an unassuming hiker can stumble into a mini-golf course, Starbucks, and even a roller coaster. As we walked through the desolate winter town that morning I could feel the thousands of people hustling and bustling, the residue of this resorts winter presence.

After buying some snacks I left Esther at the Copper Mountain Resort as I took resupply for the next week.  In the nearby town of Frisco, my hearts desires were fulfilled in three fell swoops at Safeway, Whole Foods, and Walmart. When I arrived back at the Copper Mountain Resort I was surprised to find a healthy level of traffic. People eating at restaurants, shopping, and yes playing mini golf.

After loading up all our food and charging our devices we set out and up one of the toughest climbs of our trip. We camped a mile up trail, narrowly dodging spurts of rain. We woke up early the next morning and began the accents. Near the end of the tree line, we had a change of heart. While we have faced many high points on this hike we got word from other hikers the few miles to come would be exposed and scary. We stopped for breakfast and decided to head back down to the resort before catching a ride to our next stop, Tiger Road.

Instead of hiking up the beautiful valley road, like last time, we hitched a ride. We arrived at Whites River National Forest within an hour. Four miles in we camped once more near the Swan River. This time we were headed south, up to Georgias Pass.

That night we camped with a group of Colorado Trail hikers on there first week out. I was happy to share my experience backpacking and it was also exciting hearing about their experience so far and their aspirations to complete the whole trail. The next day we hiked up and over Georgia’s Pass with the hope of seeing mountain goats, alas we found nothing.

The next few days passed in mild scenic bliss only punctuated with the occasional ominous cloud. At last, we arrived at Kenosha pass, the bustling highway 285 that we have hitched up and down over the past month. Later that day we arrived at a landmark Esther has been excited about since she spotted it in the guidebook, “Unusually long 6-mile meadow.” With a small ravine at its center the need to shlep liters of water was eliminated. However, the meadow was open and the hiking exposed. We settled on a steeped hillside for the night.

Since Kenosha Pass, and even earlier, many hikers warned us about the miserable, exposed, and waterless bit of trail known as section 2. We got an early start that morning to try and beat the heat. A few hours into our hike the trail devolved into an abandoned fire road littered with rocks and branches. Despite it being one of the first parts of the trail it SUCKED. That day we began to feel the despair described by the other hikers. We decided to skip the infamous section 2 in favor of a day by the lake. This precursor was enough to let us know we wouldn’t enjoy it, and we had already hiked section 1 a few weeks ago. That night we made our way to the junction of Wellington Lake, a short hitch to the town of Bailey. At mile 45 we spent our last night on trail, for a while anyway.

I woke up early that morning with the intention to have one final walk on trail before hitching to Wellington Lake for a much-needed dunk. As I made my way to the nearest water source I found a gaggle of other hikers. They were all also hiking the Colorado Trail, but most where on there 3rd or 4th day. Speaking to them was like walking through a retrospective, it was day 33 for me. I shared everything I could and soaked in their first impressions, that beginners attitude that never ceases to interest me. After a quick conversation, I passed them in the other direction, no pack, no destination, no phone, I just walked. I didn’t even try to think about something, just soak in the trail, the dirt, the serenity. As I got back to camp I felt like it had taken me a month to build up to that walk, it was well worth the wait if you ask me. We had our last trail meal of quinoa and hitched hiked to Wellington Lake.

Having a huge body of water was refreshing, the past week reminded me of the desert section of the PCT; not much water to drink let alone to bath in. After a day of relaxation at the lake, we hitched all the way back to Conifer, a town along the 285 and our first resupply point of this trip. We gorged ourselves at the Safeway and loaded up for our flight back to California, leaving at 5am the next day from Denver International.Colorado Trail Marker

Getting out of Conifer proved tricky, monsoon season finally decided to arrive in full force. Our odds of getting a hitch, for the last stretch of road to Denver, sunk as the rain started coming down. I can’t imagine what about wet and smelly hikers isn’t appealing.

Car after car passed us and our packs started getting heavier, we debated going back to Safeway, trying to wait it out. Finally, a tan colored Ford pickup truck swung by and opened its doors, our ride had arrived.

The two guys were working on a construction job in Bailey, but the weather was too erratic for them to get anything done, so they called it an early day at 2pm. They were headed to Arvada, a suburb of Denver, and were happy to drop us off in downtown. After a stop at the Post Office to ship home my trekking poles and pocket knife we spent some time wandering around the Tattered Cover, one of my favorite bookstores.

We got to the airport that evening and found a quite terminal to sleep for a few hours before our flight. Just like every night in the past month, we unrolled our sleeping pads and took out our sleeping bags. This time we were not surrounded by trees but concrete, glass, and lots of plastic. We caught our flight that morning and landed in San Francisco within hours. The trip was over as I spotted my ‘welcome home’ landmarks, the Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Tam, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Civic Center.

My time on trail mostly stands out as being deeply different from my time on the Pacific Crest Trail. It wasn’t the scenery or the terrain but the company that made it so different. I appreciate the autonomy of going solo but having the presence of another loving human being was an antidote for the loneliness and ennui of being by myself.

After a few days at home I will be hitting the road again, this time to take part in a Jewish Boy Scout camp. Over the next month, we will be living out of a yellow school bus making our way through Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Happy Trails and sorry for the delayed post,

SlugCopper Mountain

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