97: Cirque of the Towers

Miles Hiked: 22.2

Total Milage: 1580.2

Location: Cirque of the Towers

Today I woke up at 5am at my parents campground. I started getting ready to hike and said goodbye to them. It was hard of course. I might potentially see them in my next town because they will still be on vacation but I’m not sure if I will be able to hike there fast enough or not yet. 12 pack and I left together around 5:30am. We road walked from the campground up to a trailhead where we got on a trail again. The day started out with an uphill climb. My pack felt crazy heavy. This is one of our longest food carries mile wide. We had a 120 mile food carry in New Mexico that took an equal number of days as I plan this to take.

There were lots of blown down trees on the trail. The increased the further we climbed. Eventually the trail did flatten out after we stopped for breakfast. The blow downs ended up getting so bad it was suggested that we bushwhack down to a lake, cross a dam, and bushwhack back to the trail. The bushwhack ended up being intense. There were just so many trees that we were having to constantly clamber over even though we were going downhill. I kept having to make big jumps that were a little rough on the knee joints. We took a break at the lake before skirting around it over lots of boulders to the dam.

When we crossed the dam 12 pack broke a trekking pole which was absolutely tragic. This was such a difficult section and we were carrying the heaviest packs of the whole trip. Almost immediately after I realized he was missing a croc. What a bad day, especially on a hard day. When we finally finished the crazy bushwhack through blown down trees back to the trail, it wasn’t much better. It took over a mile before we could see a trail regularly again. We walked along a beautiful valley with lots of colorful wildflowers and flowing water before going up our first pass.

When going up the pass, I couldn’t find a trail at all and it was extremely steep. I was practically using all fours to go upwards. It was so exhausting. The top of the pass was incredibly beautiful and remind me why the climb was worth it. I hung out at the top for a little bit before descending. The descent was very steep so I took my time. Steep stuff going downhill hurts my knees. Once I got to the bottom of the pass, I walked along some massive lakes. The rock walls towered all around me and occasionally I would look to see if I could find anyone rock climbing on them. There was a sea of purple lupine flowers I walked by that smelled so good I had to stop and get a photo of them. I continued going downhill until I took a break at a lake where 12 pack caught up to me. He got ahead of me on the descent and went to talk to a large group of boy scouts with horses. I was a little overwhelmed to see so many people in the back country at once so I just kept walking by them.

To end the day, we climbed up Jackass pass where we had dinner at the top. From there I had an amazing view of the mountains we just walked through and the cirque of towers for the first time. I think Jackass pass is my favorite place on the entire CDT so far. After the pass we went about 2 more miles to camp near lonesome lake. We hung our ursacks up and crawled in our tents to get away from the mosquitoes. It was 8pm and I was incredibly exhausted. My arms, back, abs, and every else hurt. If my upper body hurts I know i had a tough day. I think today was the hardest day we have had on the entire trail this far. I fell asleep so quickly because I was so tired.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 96: Sweet Water Guard

Miles Hiked: 19.7

Total Milage: 1558

Location: Sweet Water Guard Camping

Today we slept in at the hotel in Lander Wyoming and I was so happy. I did not want to get out of bed at all. I took a sleeping aid pill last night and it knocked me out. I feel like I hardly got any sleep at all the past few days have been so busy. I had enough time to take a shower while my parents were gone getting coffee. I almost never get to take a shower the day I actually get back on the trail. It was a great way to wake up.

After we got everything packed up, we went to Taco John’s. I got a sausage breakfast burrito for lunch. On the half hour drive to the trail head, I had a banana and granola for breakfast. Around 10am 12 pack and I were dropped off at the trailhead. We only hiked with day packs. Today my parents slack packed us and we met them to camp together later and pick up our packs.

The trail started out as flat sage brush and slowly transitioned to a dry hilly and sage brushy forest. The trail today honestly sucked. 12 pack and I were constantly going cross country because it was so easy to lose the trail. There were blown down trees and debris all over the trail. Things kept constantly getting in my shoe including sand. I forgot how dry it was up here. The blown down trees were exhausting. It looked like it was going to rain but luckily it never did.

Around 5pm 12 pack and I got to my parents campsite at Sweet Water Gaurd. We spent the evening hanging out and eating dinner. My dad cooked us hot dogs and hum burgers and my mom made us a salad. I have been dreaming about having hot dogs at camp for so long. This is the second time I’ve got them on trail!

Happy Trails

-Early Bird

Day 93-95: Type 1 Fun

Miles Hiked: ZERO

Over the past three days I got to spend some awesome quality time hanging out with my family. We went to Telluride to meet up with my sister and spend two nights there before driving to Wyoming where 12 pack and I will get dropped off at the trail where we started walking south. It was the first time my immediate family has been together in a very long time. I was happy we were all together and that they got to meet 12 pack and Luke as well. Two highlights of the days off were going up Imogene Pass in a 6 person ATV and eating dinner at Allred’s which Luke ended up treating us to. During that time I also got the ball rolling with some potential winter employment opportunities. I’m so thankful for the quality time I got to spend hanging out with my family and all the ways they have taken care of us the past few days.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 97: Cirque of the Towers

Miles Hiked: 22.2

Total Milage: 1580.2

Location: Cirque of the Towers

Today I woke up at 5am at my parents campground. I started getting ready to hike and said goodbye to them. It was hard of course. I might potentially see them in my next town because they will still be on vacation but I’m not sure if I will be able to hike there fast enough or not yet. 12 pack and I left together around 5:30am. We road walked from the campground up to a trailhead where we got on a trail again. The day started out with an uphill climb. My pack felt crazy heavy. This is one of our longest food carries mile wide. We had a 120 mile food carry in New Mexico that took an equal number of days as I plan this to take.

There were lots of blown down trees on the trail. The increased the further we climbed. Eventually the trail did flatten out after we stopped for breakfast. The blow downs ended up getting so bad it was suggested that we bushwhack down to a lake, cross a dam, and bushwhack back to the trail. The bushwhack ended up being intense. There were just so many trees that we were having to constantly clamber over even though we were going downhill. I kept having to make big jumps that were a little rough on the knee joints. We took a break at the lake before skirting around it over lots of boulders to the dam.

When we crossed the dam 12 pack broke a trekking pole which was absolutely tragic. This was such a difficult section and we were carrying the heaviest packs of the whole trip. Almost immediately after I realized he was missing a croc. What a bad day, especially on a hard day. When we finally finished the crazy bushwhack through blown down trees back to the trail, it wasn’t much better. It took over a mile before we could see a trail regularly again. We walked along a beautiful valley with lots of colorful wildflowers and flowing water before going up our first pass.

When going up the pass, I couldn’t find a trail at all and it was extremely steep. I was practically using all fours to go upwards. It was so exhausting. The top of the pass was incredibly beautiful and remind me why the climb was worth it. I hung out at the top for a little bit before descending. The descent was very steep so I took my time. Steep stuff going downhill hurts my knees. Once I got to the bottom of the pass, I walked along some massive lakes. The rock walls towered all around me and occasionally I would look to see if I could find anyone rock climbing on them. There was a sea of purple lupine flowers I walked by that smelled so good I had to stop and get a photo of them. I continued going downhill until I took a break at a lake where 12 pack caught up to me. He got ahead of me on the descent and went to talk to a large group of boy scouts with horses. I was a little overwhelmed to see so many people in the back country at once so I just kept walking by them.

To end the day, we climbed up Jackass pass where we had dinner at the top. From there I had an amazing view of the mountains we just walked through and the cirque of towers for the first time. I think Jackass pass is my favorite place on the entire CDT so far. After the pass we went about 2 more miles to camp near lonesome lake. We hung our ursacks up and crawled in our tents to get away from the mosquitoes. It was 8pm and I was incredibly exhausted. My arms, back, abs, and every else hurt. If my upper body hurts I know i had a tough day. I think today was the hardest day we have had on the entire trail this far. I fell asleep so quickly because I was so tired.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 92: Chama Round 2

Miles Hiked: 21.2

Total Milage: 1538.3

Location: Chama, New Mexico

This morning the three of us woke up around 5:30am and started hiking around 6:15. The sunrise was so pretty. The day started off with a gentle climb up a plateau. After that we walked through some green alpine meadows with lots of rocks and lakes dispersed intermittently. The sky was hazy with some smoke but we did know where it was coming from. It seemed like the smoke obstructed all the UV rays from warming us up for a while. We all hiked together for most of the day and took breaks together as well.

There was hardly any elevation gain at all today. Knowing that I had to climb less than 3k feet over 21 mile felt so relaxing. In fact it was so relaxing that I didn’t want to do any climbing at all just because I knew we were so close to being done hiking for a while. We dropped down in to a valley by Dipping Lake and then climbed another plateau. Once we got to the edge of the Plateau there was a beautiful view of the San Juan’s. I could see a waterfall gushing down a cliff side in the distance. There was a rock bicycle with a sign for the San Juan Wilderness so we all took turn getting pictures with it and hung out for a break. There were some cute marmots hanging out around us as well. The clouds started to collect and turn dark. I could tell it was going to storm and I wanted to get off the exposed part before that happened. I walked across a field and hail started to slowly fall from the sky here and there. It was probably the biggest hail I have ever seen. I stopped to pick a piece up and it was the size of a paint ball. Luckily none was hitting me yet but I could tell this storm was going to be a particularly bad one so I picked up my pace. I still hopped I’m the storm would end up blowing to the east of me but that’s not what happened.

The hail continued to increase, luckily most of the pieces ended up getting smaller than the initial ones. 12 pack was right behind me as we went over our final mountain pass in Colorado, Jenga was not in sight. Right when we got to the spot where 12 pack and I turned around about a month and a half ago, the storm started to let loose. Of course Colorado saved the worst storm for our last ten miles of the whole state. Luckily I had already put on my rain pants and jacket so I could just keep walking until it was unsafe to do so. As we were crossing some exposed scree section on the side of the mountain, a giant crack of lightning flashed directly in front of 12 pack. It was so bright and blinding. We both screamed and his trekking poles flew in the air as we turned around and ran as fast as we could back to a small patch of a couple trees we had seen about 0.1 south of us.

The storm continued to get worse and worse but luckily we were slightly under shelter. 12 pack and I stood in the trees watching the lightning hit the ridges all around us. The view we could see in the distance slowly disappeared as the storm continued. It did not look like it would stop any time soon. Because we were on a very angled slope, we could not set up a tent. The only thing we could do was stand under the trees and watch. Eventually we both started to get really cold. 12 pack was shivering because he didn’t have rain pants like I did. The storm was still going on but it seemed like we might be endangering ourselves by letting our body temperature drop so low while we were waiting for it to pass. When it let up the slightest bit we decided to continue walking. Even if we could only make it to the next patch of trees, at least we could generate some body heat momentarily to buy us more time to wait. Luckily we were able to continue walking all the way to the highway as the storm moved a little but further away but it was still raging nearby. We just got really lucky with the weather window we had and the location we were walking in.

Eventually we reached the spot where we spent two nights camping in the snow. This time everything was incredibly green and there were flowers everywhere. It was a bizarre to be back at such a pivotal point in our hike. We noticed that the hail had accumulated very dramatically in the area. It felt like I was stepping on two inch layers of dip and dot ice cream balls at some points, and other points the hail was floating in puddles of water.

The sun came out as we started to descend a little bit more towards Cumbres Pass. I saw cows and cow poop for what I think is the first time in Colorado. We could hear the train blowing it’s whistle all the way to the highway. We fantasized about getting to ride it to town. When we got to the highway we took some pictures by the Cumbres Pass sign and started hitching to town. My parents were supposed to meet us there today and I was so excited! We had this planned out for a month now and I couldn’t wait to see them. They got us all a Cabin to share for the night. Before they got there I grabbed a drink from the store, showered, and got a lot of my town chores done. About three hours later they arrived with Jenga in tow who they picked up from the pass. I was so happy to see them.

We spent some quality time together for the rest of the night and got some pizza at “Local”. I’m so happy to be with my family and spend a few days off with them.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 91: NO RAIN

Miles Hiked: 25.1

Total Milage: 1517.1

This morning we all woke up around 5:30am and started hiking around 6:20am. We were completely exposed almost the entire day. I made sure to keep reapplying sunscreen to my nose because I tend to forget after noon. We got SO LUCKY today! It was the first day I can remember in a really long time where it didn’t storm or rain and it didn’t threaten to storm or rain either! It was a perfect day and we were so lucky because of how much we were not around trees or any sort of cover at all.

We started the morning by contouring around some mountains through beautiful and slightly rocky alpine meadow terrain. There was one small patch of snow we had to cross that was slightly sketchy but it was only about 15-30 feet across so it wasn’t bad. We passed a couple other CDT hikers going Northbound including an older lady named Force Ninja, a couple called the Noodle Heads, and Pro. For most of the day we would do a big climb up to the top of a pass, contour down and around a valley before going up another pass on repeat. The mountains were absolutely incredible and it’s hard to capture their beauty in words, photographs, or video.

Near the end of the day we took a break at Blue Lake. It was a large alpine lake that was truly very blue. We could see brook trout swimming around the lake clear as day. 12 pack is a fly fisherman but he didn’t have a rod with him. He attempted to catch a fish with his trekking pole, a line made out of dental floss and a fly he picked up in Pagosa springs. The fish came up to bite the fly but realized it was attached to a line because the dental floss was so white. It quickly swam away. After an hour or so of enjoying the lake, we did a gentle climb up to camp. We passed by many more much smaller alpine lakes along the way. We arrived at camp around 7:30pm. I enjoyed a great sunset and company from my hiking companions. I am glad to almost be done with Colorado but I’m enjoying this one last night in the San Juans!

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 88: Wolf Creek Pass

Miles Hiked: 21.1

Total Milage: 1470.7

Location: Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Today I was really tired so I slept in until around 6am. 12 pack and I left camp together around 7am. We started the day by climbing to the top of a beautiful mountain and then descending it and walking along a ridge. When we were going over the mountain, I kept thinking about what it would have been like to be out on it with several feet of snow and our ice axes and spikes. I’m so glad that we are here in the summer without all the snow! Not only would it have been exhausting and slowed us down but I would have been absolutely terrified to do some of the traverses!

The ridge walk today was incredibly beautiful it felt like something out of a dream. 12 pack and I stopped to take some little breaks here and there but we ultimately were trying to get to town at a reasonable time. At the top of one of the ridges, we saw two people backpacking with some massive goats. They were so big I thought they were mules. I had no idea that goats could even get that large! For lunch we stopped on the side of the mountain above a lake. From there we only had ten mile to town and we covered the distance relatively fast. We walked by lots of alpine lakes and through some beautiful forests with lots of flowers and blown down trees.

I couldn’t believe that the clouds stayed away all day! I felt so lucky to get to hike a whole day without getting rained on or being really nervous about the clouds while being on an exposed ridge. About one mile from Wolf Creek Pass, Jenga surprised us! He was hiding in the bushes with his camera at the ready. I was so happy to see him! He is going to take a zero day with us tomorrow and hike back to Cumbres pass over the next three days with us. When we got down to the highway at the pass, we waited for Revolt who came to pick us up! We enjoyed looking at a sign about the CDT and visualizing how far we walked. It’s crazy to think that we are over halfway done. When Revolt came to get us I was so happy to see him. The last time I saw him was right before we flipped up to Wyoming and 12 pack and I have been talking about coming back to see him ever since. It felt like the family was back together again, although I wish Free Fall was there. We all had a beer that revolt brought for us before driving back to his house in town.

The first stop we made was the post office where I picked up a box from Sarah M. Who reads my blog regularly. I thought it was so sweet for her to send me something ☺️ I had the perfect amount of food for the next stretch to Cumbres Pass! I was so happy I didn’t even have to resupply which is a big chore in town! Back at Revolt’s I immediately got in the shower and put my clothes in the laundry. For the rest of the night we hung out with him and his wife Julie and some of their friends from Pagosa. Revolt made us some delicious cocktails and Julie made us an awesome snack platter!

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I haven’t really slept at all in over a week. Tonight Jenga gave me a generic over the counter sleeping aid and it worked so well. I ended up falling asleep on the floor without even blowing up my sleeping pad I was SO tired. It was AMAZING. After so long without sleep I was so desperate and feeling really crappy. The night of sleep I got was rejuvenating.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 90: Onwards to Cumbres

Miles Hiked: 21.4

Total Milage: 1492.1

Today I woke up around 6:30am. Revolt drove us back to the trail around 7am. When he dropped us off I was so sad to say goodbye. I wish he was coming with us! Thank you so much Revolt and Julie for all your hospitality and hanging out with us! It was so nice to visit and have a day of rest.

We started hiking south from Wolf Creek pass around 8am. The climb up to the top of the ski resort wasn’t bad at all. It was graded very gently so the climb was long but not steep! At the top I broke out some root beers that I carried for everyone to share. It’s Jenga’s favorite beverage and I wanted to surprise him. After the top of the ski resort, we started to descend in a beautiful forest. I absolutely love seeing everything in bloom and walking through the tall green grass. Around noon it started to rain a little bit and it looked like it was going to storm really bad. When we got water about 10 miles in and found a flat spot to set up our tents we took a break while waiting for the storm to pass. I ate a lot of snacks in my tent and tried to take a nap. As much as the thunderstorms really suck, I don’t mind taking a two hour break in the middle of the day all cozied up in my sleeping bag. It’s really nice!

We were sitting in our tents for two hours and the storm did not sound like it was letting up. We weren’t getting rained on anymore but I could here the thunderclouds booming in the distance. I got out of my tent and looked around, so did Jenga. We all felt safe to continue hiking even though the storm could easily come back. We kept hiking and made it about two more miles before all hell broke loose. Lightning flashed right beside 12 pack and I when we were on an exposed part with no where to hide. We both started sprinting as hard as we could to the nearest patch of trees where we assumed lightning position as it started to hail. It continued to flash all around us and no where felt safe. Jenga was casually strolling by as I yelled to him from our hiding spot in the trees. He told us he was going to continue hiking in the dangerous conditions and meet us at camp later. I thought he was absolutely crazy. The lightning was continuing to flash around us as we had this conversation. 12 pack and I set up our tents for the second time that that day and relaxed for about 1-2 hours. The storm did clear up but it looked like it was moving in the direction that we were headed. We waited until the sky was very clear before continuing on the last 8-9 miles to catch up with Jenga at camp.

12 pack and I continued hiking at 5pm. I absolutely love the way everything looks after it storms. I keep waiting to see a rainbow appear after all the crazy storms we have seen but it hasn’t happened yet. The rest of the hiking was incredibly beautiful. We went through a lot of grassy green alpine meadows. Around golden hour I thought I finally saw a person that looked like it could be Jenga in the distance. About 3 miles later it was confirmed to be him! Right before camp 12 pack I witnessed a herd of about 50-70 elk being chased around the valley floor by two coyotes. It was so interesting to watch such a large group of giant animals be hunted by two smaller predators. We were far enough away that they looked like small dots but it was such a cool event to get to see. I’m not sure if the coyotes were successful in killing any elk or not.

We camped on a saddle at 12,400 feet and it was a chilly night. The sunset was incredible and I was up well after dark making dinner.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 89: Pagosa Springs

Miles Hiked: Zero

Total Milage: 1470.7

Location: Pagosa Springs

This morning I woke up at 6am feeling amazing because I slept for the first time in over a week I believe! The first thing I did was try and get some phone calls out of the way. I haven’t been able to call anyone in so long because I haven’t had service and it’s been two weeks since I have had a full day off with time to call anyone. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to catch up with people after not being in service for so long and it can take up a lot of my town time that seems to fly by so fast every time. I got to talk to my best friend from college, my friend Pop Rocks, and Luke! For a late breakfast, Julie and Revolt took us all out to Colorado Cafe. I was so happy to be eating my favorite meal of the day in a town with my favorite people! They drove us all over town after to help us run errands including to Walmart and a store that carries my favorite brand of sunglasses so I could replace the ones I broke a few days ago. I was so thankful for the rides around town.

Afterwards, we went back to their house and relaxed for the rest of the day which is exactly what I needed. I ended up taking a nap and just hanging out with everyone for the rest of the night. I ate as much food as I possibly could and it was great. For dinner Revolt made us some burgers and Julie made a delicious salad. The perfect dinner! I love being able to eat homemade food when I’m in town because eating out can get old after a while. I really appreciated it SO MUCH. Before bed I took a bath in their giant bathtub. I realized my feet hurt way worse than I expected but I’m sure the zero day will do them a lot of good. I am incredibly thankful for the day of rest at Julie and Revolts house and that I got to spend time hanging out with them! I plan to go back this winter and hopefully ski with Revolt!

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

Day 87: Butter Knife Edge

Miles Hiked: 21

Total Milage: 1449.6

Location: San Juan Mountains

This morning I started to get ready around 5:15am. I did not sleep last night AGAIN. I am feeling so exhausted from all this not sleeping. I left camp before 12 pack. I was happy to hike by myself for a little bit this morning and take my time. For breakfast I drank a protein shake that I put 24 g of protein in, carnation breakfast, collagen, and a packet of chai tea to give it some spice. This is my normal breakfast for this trail. It’s an easy way to get in calories fast in the morning when I don’t want to take time to eat anything. At the top of the first climb, I knew I would get some cell service so I took the time to make an Instagram post and send some texts. If it wasn’t so early I’d give someone a call. 12 pack caught up to me here and we pretty much hiked the rest of the day together. There was a waypoint on the map marked “knife edge” and it made me so nervous. I definitely do not like very sketchy hiking and the words “knife edge” give me visions of horribly exposed hiking with drop offs on both sides of me. Lucky for me, I thought the waypoint was poorly described and there was no snow on the trail! Other hikers comments made it sound extremely dangerous. It ended up just being a contour around a bowl with very steep walls, a narrow trail, and a drop off on one side but not both. The part where there could potentially be a drop off on both sides was a very wide and flat trail with enough room to make me feel comfortable. I made a hairpin turn and contoured around the other side of the mountain. I was so relieved! 12 pack was in front of me and I saw a deer practically jump off a cliff between us and run above him on the extremely steep slope. I yelled at him to look at the deer so he could pay attention to possible rock fall if it ran above him. It didn’t and all was fine. When we took a break for lunch 12 pack didn’t even realize that we already did the Knife Edge. I thought it was funny that it was that anticlimactic.

After lunch, we walked along the coolest ridge. There were hardly any trees on top and the views were amazing. Eventually we descended into some trees and I was very glad because the once clear blue sky was filled with clouds that were getting increasingly dark and thundering louder and louder. When it finally looked bad enough, 12 pack and I set our tents up in perfect timing for it to start raining. The thunder boomed and I was so happy to be curled up in my sleeping bag trying to get any sort of sleep. After 2 hours the storm had passed, the sky was blue again and we were hiking on! We only had about 8 more miles to camp.

I hiked pretty slow the rest of the day and took my time. My left knee has been hurting pretty badly. Yesterday I took a bad fall and banged it up and bent it very hard. This morning I took another bad fall where I landed directly on my knee cap and broke my sunglasses when my face softly hit the ground. I’m really hoping I just bruised it very badly. It’s the knee I had surgery on last spring. The views got even better and I stopped to take so many pictures. As I got closer to camp the sky started to get dark and stormy looking again. I ran into 12 pack at a water source and he let me know that it was the last water before our best camping option. I filled up before we hiked down to a meadow and set up our tents as it started to rain again.

It rained for quite a while this evening but I didn’t mind because I made it in to my tent before I started. I made some mashed potatoes for dinner and looked through all my pictures. When the rain finally let up around sun set I got out of my tent and walked around. I got some great pictures of the sunset and I was able to talk to Luke for a tiny bit because I found a little bit of cell service on a hill! It was great to hear his voice.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird