Day 77: No Breaks

Miles Hiked: 23.7

Total Milage: 1239.9

Location: Butterfly House

This morning I woke up to my alarm at 4am. I laid in my sleeping bag until 4:15 and then I got ready as quickly as I could because it was so cold. I got an early start on the day because I knew that there would be some bad thunderstorms starting around 11am. My goal was to get over at least 5 passes before taking a break. I knew that I could get to a hostel by hiking 24 miles but I thought that maybe if I was feeling good I’d hike 34 miles to the next highway crossing that would also bring me to the hostel. I was sad that 12 pack never showed up last night. I know he doesn’t get up crazy early so today would set him even further behind me but I was really hoping that he would still catch me by the end of today! I was just so motivated to get to town and avoid some really bad weather.

It was dark when I started hiking by headlamp. It didn’t rain all night and it still wasn’t raining now but the clouds did not look good. I got to the top of the first pass around 5:30 am just as the sun was coming up. I dipped down into a valley before climbing a very steep second pass that I got to the top of by 6:30am. Both passes were above 12k feet. When I descended the second pass, clouds were rolling through the valley. I took off my hoodie dress and put on my rain gear because it was getting cold and wet. I passed two NOBO CDT hikers one of which was Ohm who I met in New Mexico. The descent went over a lot of rocks until I hit tree line where I switch backed almost 2k feet down to the tin cup pass forest service road where the low route meets up. I passed about 3 more CDT hikers who were heading up the passes as I got snowed on a tiny bit on the way down. I was not envious of them heading into the bad weather.

I crossed the forest service road and started heading up the next pass. It was a big climb but the switch backs were graded very nicely. The weather looked worse the higher I climbed but the precipitation held off. I went over one pass in a very green meadow, dipped slightly into a small valley and then went up a second pass. The descent was really nice. I knew I only had to climb one more pass and it was only 9am at the top of the fourth one. I was making great timing. I descended down a trail until it turned into a nicely graded dirt road on the alpine tunnel trail. At the bottom I saw a sign for the CDT and followed it up some switchbacks. One of the switch backs was so incredibly long and going in the wrong direction that I questioned if it was leading me the right way. I ended up turning around because the trail I was on wasn’t on any maps and it didn’t make me feel great about trusting that it was going the right way. When I got back to the road that the red line on my map follows I ended up hiking an extra mile total. I was frustrated because I couldn’t afford to lose time today. When I was walking down the rocky dirt road, I passed so many hikers going the other direction. Some looked like CDT hikers, others were definitely day hikers going to see the Alpine tunnel. The sky cleared up a little bit and the sun came out. It was so nice and I wanted to stop and take a break so bad but when I could see the next pass I was supposed to go over, bad weather was settling in around it so I knew that I didn’t have time for a break.

As I hiked around Hancock Lake and went up Chalk Creek Pass it started raining on me. Luckily I didn’t see any lightning but I was very cold. The clouds were all around me and everything was very foggy and wet for the rest of the day. I descended down a rocky trail past some alpine lakes I could hardly see until the trail turned in to a forest service road. When I got to the boss lake trailhead it was 1pm. I decided to hike 2 miles down to the butterfly house hostel because I was super exhausted and soaking wet. There was no need for me to keep going for a 35 mile day. I wanted to get the miles done but I was hurting and knew I needed to listen to my body. When I got to the butterfly house the owner wasn’t on site. I met two CT hikers named Max and Maddie who got there just before me. We read all the directions posted on the signs and made ourselves at home. We all immediately started laundry and took showers. I claimed a bed upstairs in the bunk room and they got a private room downstairs. I got a call from 12 pack about 1.5 hours after I arrived. I let him know I was at the butterfly house and where I got off trail. When he showed up at the hostel we traded stories about our crazy stretch we both hiked solo. 12 pack had to bail off the ridge in a thunderstorm when he was trying to catch me. He ended up on the other side of the mountain range as me the night I was waiting for him.

At 4pm the four of us hitched a ride to the town of Salida to meet our friend Free Fall for dinner at Moonlight Pizza. Free Fall has been in town since he bailed off yesterday trying to find a new tent. He let us know at dinner that this was the end of the road for him. Meaning he won’t be hiking the CDT with us anymore this summer. I was so sad and surprised. He told me he felt like this may be the case before he met back up with us but I was so hopeful he would have a change of heart and make it to Canada with us! I was so sad I ended up crying about it later. It’s always sad to see people leave but now it feels so wild that it’s literally just me and 12 pack out here because everyone else is going the opposite way or on the CT. 12 pack and I are planning on making it to Canada together!

After dinner we went to the gear shop, ice cream, and Walmart to resupply. Free Fall hung out with us until we had to start hitching back. I gave him a hug and said goodbye. Hopefully I’ll see him back in Telluride this winter! 12 Pack and I ended up hitching out with just the two of us because we finished our resupply a little faster. It started to rain as we were standing on the corned with our Walmart bags and thumbs out. We looked totally homeless. I was so cold and dying for someone to pick us up. It was 7pm and the sky was very dark. A nice lady ended up turning around for us and driving us all the way back to the hostel about 15 miles up the road! She wouldn’t even take gas money even though it was out of her way.

Back at the butterfly house, there were so many people when we got back! I was excited to see other hikers but also very overwhelmed. Everyone was so full of energy and the exhaustion from the day hit me all at once and I could hardly keep my eyes open. I socialized for a while with the other hikers and the hostel owner. 12 pack and I made a plan to hike out at 6am tomorrow to beat the storms. I honestly wasn’t excited about it because I was feeling so exhausted. I went to bed around 9pm but everyone was listening to loud music and hanging out downstairs so it was hard to sleep. I told 12 Pack to wake me up because I was so dead.

Hummingbird never ended up showing up tonight and none of us have heard from her in the last 3 days. I know she is probably fine out there but if I don’t get a message from her or see her tomorrow I’m going to be a little concerned. The storms were pretty bad and I know we all only had 4 days of food maximum.

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

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