Salida was a blast. Pretty neat little town. Unfortunately the hostel was all booked up so we had to stay on the outskirts of town. That didn’t stop us from hitting up the Vick (local bar) to play some intense ping pong, darts, and shuffleboard. It was also fun befriending a few locals. Good times, good people.
The next day, Charlie came up to visit me from Colorado Springs. We go way way back, and haven’t seen each other in a while, so it was awesome seeing him. He brought a couple fly rods, so we drove down the Arkansas River and found a few fishing holes. We tied on a few hopper-droppers, and I happened to hook into a huge rainbow trout with a purple nymph. I was standing above the river on a small cliff/jumping rock. The rainbow jumped a few times as I hooted. “Keep him on! I’m getting my waders on and the net to land him!” Charlie yelled from the car. 20 seconds later, as Charlie was getting in the water, my rainbow dove deep under the cliff overhang and snapped off my line. Shucks. Still, I had a huge adrenaline rush and was reminded of why I love fly fishing so much.
After that, we picked up Cowboy, RightOn, and Titan and headed for Walmart. We resupplied (I got way too much food), bought a ton of Magic the gathering cards, a wiffle ball golf set, and stocked up for a little barbecue. That evening we camped at a BLM campground for free and cooked brats, corn, and burgers over the fire. Yum. We then headed into town in the back of the pickup truck of Titan’s friend from the AT, Solitude. Awesome guy! The Vick had a band from Fort Collins playing, Von Stomper. They were pretty good. The banjo player didn’t have shoes. Later on in the evening a few women dressed in robotic silver were on the street dancing to electronic music. Everyone ran out to dance with them. The morning afterwards, Titan, a bit groggy, said, “I can’t believe I danced with shiny women in the street.” I don’t know why, but that’s been one of my favorite quotes from the trail (as in my adventure as a whole including town stops) so far. After we returned to our campsite after midnight, we started the fire up again and had some late night burgers. Mmmmmm…
During our barbecue, all of my hiker friends named Charlie “Cheese Sauce” because he insisted on putting queso sauce on everything. What a great name, Cheese Sauce Charlie. Has a nice ring to it.
The next morning we shuttled Solitude’s car up the trail about 28 miles so he could join us for two days. We then crammed into Cheese Sauce’s car and drove up to Monarch Pass. There we said goodbye to Cheese Sauce and got ready to hike the afternoon. I can’t thank Charlie enough for coming out to visit me. It was so fun seeing him and also introducing him to some of my hikertrash buddies.
Hiking out was tough. I was pretty tired from two nights of partying and little sleep. Eating a disgusting chili dog at the pass didn’t help either. After about 8 miles or so, I stopped for a break along a ridge overlooking the gorgeous divide and read Lord of the Rings for an hour or so. All of a sudden I heard some hooting and hollering. About a quarter mile away on a mountain saddle, my friends were playing the first round of mini golf. The hole was a cairn. If you take a look at my Facebook page I shared some of Solitude’s videos of us playing.
After that we dropped down to a beautiful lake and had an excellent camp site. We played Magic the whole morning after that and didn’t get hiking until 1! We still were able to do the 18 miles to Solitude’s truck. We had another great fire that night and enjoyed our last night with Solitude. I said good bye before I went to bed because he had to get up early to drive back to work.
The next couple of days to Twin Lakes were stunningly beautiful and also difficult. For some reason (obviously all of the partying in Salida, magic, and golf) it was tough for me to get back into my hiking rhythm. Steep climbs up and over passes took it out of me as I struggled to get 20 miles a day finished. It was also tough waking up early, and I often didn’t get started until after 8, which is pretty late.
As we approached Twin Lakes we started seeing southbound Colorado Trail hikers. It’s really fun seeing non-thru hikers on trail, or as Titan calls them, muggles. They are often very confused by the size of our packs and our walking from Mexico to Canada, but my favorite thing is seeing them react to Cowboy Stripper’s jorts which are extremely short now. It’s tough walking behind him, you look up and catch a huge glimpse of pale-hairy-upper-man-thigh, but seeing people walk past him with horrified expressions on their faces or doing confused double takes is well worth it.
Twin Lakes was cool. We sort of had to take a road walk out of the way in order to cross a river over a bridge that was simply unfordable at the time. Wading through raging, chest-deep snowmelt sounds fun, but you know what’s not lame? Safety.
We hung out at the general store for a while and played a few rounds of mini golf. We hiked out that night to camp underneath Mt. Elbert. The next morning we got an early start and summited Elbert (tallest peak in Colorado at 14,439′). We started going down the mountain just as the rain moved in. Since then it’s been on and off raining constantly. The other guys were saying it reminded them of wet, rainy Washington on the PCT.
We made it to a trailhead about 13 miles from Tennessee Pass where we would hitch into Leadville, so we camped, pitched tarps and slept through some heavy rain at night. I pitched my tarp kind of high, so I got a little bit of splashing into my groundsheet and toe box of my sleeping bag, but it wasn’t bad at all.
The next day we walked the rest of the way and arrived at the pass. I didn’t even have to break stride to get a ride because another hiker ahead of us had flagged down a pickup, so four of us jumped in the back. That was easy!
Unfortunately it looks pretty rainy and stormy for the next few days, but we’ve been lucky on weather so far. I’ve been carrying rain gear and my tarp this whole way so it’s good to put it to some use! Off to Breckenridge!
By the way, I’m picking up my guitar in Grand Lake! Which should be another week or so…