Day 66: June 28, 2019
Destination: Stealth Camp off Route 40
Today’s Miles: 34
Start Location: Cow Creek South Campground, Green Mountain Reservoir
Trip Miles: 1078.1
I got up early and it was about 40 degrees outside. As I started hiking though, a few mosquitos were also braving the chill and nipped at me.
The road shoulder was narrow this morning, which is never super great. It’s usually comprised of rock and sandy dirt, so while the rock looks like scree, it behaves like a “mushy”scree, with a soft slipperiness as it caves beneath the feet rather than a hard slipperiness. There’s usually a thin strip of that and then just calf-height grass, or mosquito condos, as I like to call them. Blasphemy might call them snake ticklers, since he walked up on a rattlesnake on our road walk to Saguache. As an aside, I listened to season 2 of the podcast Up and Vanished walking this stretch, and it takes place in Crestone, CO, which is in Saguache County!
I rolled into Kremmling around 11 and went to a coffee house called The Big Shooter. Kremmling is just a one-strip town and it definitely has a bit of a Wild West feel to it, not so much because of the architectural style but just the way it is laid out and the restaurants there. It isn’t too hard to use the imagination to picture its wide street no longer paved, and the motorcycles parked in rows outside the saloon replaced by horses.
I had a nice meal, some coffee, and a milkshake and did some planning. I got reports from a few other hikers that the stretch of trail between Steamboat and Encampment had a lot of deep snow and was “post holing hell.” Great.... I decided to spare myself and take another route other hikers had been talking about. It would mean I would have to walk over the CDT junction with highway 40 and into Steamboat Springs (another 20 miles) rather than hitching from the trailhead. I’d walk (another) road out of Steamboat to connect with a forest road that would take me into Wyoming. It’s a fitting way to leave Colorado at this point. I‘d really like to cross over On the CDT to see the border sign for Wyoming, but 80+ miles of post-holing in deep snow doesn’t sound fun at all.
After lunch I made it a quarter mile down the road and stopped at the Mercantile store to have a Barq’s and an ice cream sandwich. That’s right - I only made it a quarter mile.... After that I hustled out of town.
It was hot outside - close to 80. There are two tough aspects to improvised road walks, aside from traffic. The first is that getting water can be tough. Either water is scarce, or what is there is on private property that is fenced. The water situation can be compounded by sun exposure. There is often no shade to stop in. The second is camping - where to camp and how to stealth camp around private property while not being exposed to any crazy wahoos on the road. I’m getting pretty good at the latter. I often cut myself a little close on my water supply though, mostly because I’m trying to lessen my pack weight (I’m still carrying my ice axe and spikes) to cover more road miles. Road miles can be strangely tough on the feet as well, and I really don’t know why - it seems counter-intuitive.
Around 5ish a state trooper pulled his cruiser up in front of me. I thought, “uh-oh, he’s going to tell me I can’t walk this road.” Quite the opposite, he asked where I was headed and I explained what I was doing. He offered me a ride to Steamboat! It was sooooo hard for me to turn that down. I wanted nothing more than to have this section of road to be over. I wasn’t looking forward to my nightly job as a professional hobo - trying to find a place to stealth camp around private property.I also kind of wanted to ride in the patrol car - those highway patrol vehicles are jacked with gadgets and horsepower! But I had to turn him down because I need my continuous footsteps. I just thought it was really cool that he stopped to check on me. He didn’t have to do it, and I’m sure I seemed weird to him, walking with a cat hat on and my bandanna under it like the child of an oil sheik who had been exiled from Saudi Arabia for being too weird. He could have just driven home and called it a day, but he stopped to make sure I wasn’t crazy, in trouble, wanting a ride or needing water. Score one for the Colorado Highway Patrol! I wish I had gotten a photo with him to add. To my law enforcement photo collection for this trip (border patrol was the first), but I didn’t think to.
I ended up climbing up a sharp mesa-ish hill to camp for the night. On roads, I like to go up to camp if I can. I don’t like people to be able to see or access me easily, so up is perfect. I scrambled up onto this hill because I could see that the barbed wire property fence was set back from the edge quite a bit. There was a great spot up there for me! My mosquito friends were happy that I was crashing their condo for the evening. I’m tired from the miles but ready to make the push to Steamboat tomorrow.