Updated: Jun 23, 2019
Day 58: June 20, 2019
Destination: CDT Mile 1164.9 (Mt. Elbert Trailhead)
Today’s Miles: 15.2
Start Location: Colorado Trail Mile 295.3
Trip Miles: 955.4
I didn’t get started hiking until almost 8 today. I knew I would have a shorter day, and I was kind of tired.
My quads were sore yesterday from the fun I had in the snow on the Colorado Trail. It was good to take it easy in the morning.
It was a beautiful day when I did get hiking. I climbed up over a ridge and then descended down on the south side of Twin Lakes. This was an exciting moment. At this juncture the Colorado Trail joined backup to the CDT. I was finally back on the official CDT!
I took the trail all the way around the lakes. The backdrop of snow-capped mountains was stunning. Colorado might have a lot of snow and crazy thunderstorms, but it also has postcard-like beauty. I took pictures as I hiked, every now and then seeing a runner or biker on trail.
When the trail crossed the main road, I veered off and walked the road into the little village of Twin Lakes. I didn’t really have to go there, but I did want to see it. It was only 1.2 miles off trail. I was hoping they would have hot food and that I might also get some information on Mt. Elbert trail conditions. As I walked in I saw a police car parked on the side of the road. It looked like the car was waiting for people to speed through, but when I walked past, I looked inside and there was a mannequin in the car! It was pretty funny. I will have to ask my friend Homebound if they learn that at the academy. Honestly, it’s probably super effective in getting people to slow down!
Twin Lakes is a blip on the map. It has a general store, a visitor center, a lodge and restaurant that is open on certain days, and a food truck. The lodge restaurant wasn’t serving lunch today and the food truck was more my speed, so I got a burger there. They had a CDT Burger, which was pulled pork in between two beef patties. I got the Barnyard, which was the same thing but only one patty. A guy’s gotta watch his figure, after all. I also had potato salad and a Dr. Pepper.
I walked across the street to the Visitor Center to ask about Mt. Elbert. The mountain is 14,433 feet tall and a side trail off of the CDT. It’s about 3.8 miles to the top. The guy there didn’t really know about the snow conditions, but I did discern that there were multiple routes. There was a south trail and a north trail. I would definitely be trying the south trail! I don’t know if it will be possible to summit. It will depend on snow conditions and weather tomorrow morning. I’d like to try though.
I ran over to the general store and grabbed an ice cream cookie sandwich and a cup of coffee. The owner gave me the coffee for free (not sure why). He was freaking out because his internet kept going down and he couldn’t take credit payments from his customers. I feel for him - technology problems are so frustrating when you’ve come to rely on the technology that malfunctions.
There was a trail down from the food truck that connected back to the CDT, so rather than walking the road back, I took that. It was probably a little longer, but I’ve had enough roads.... It started out as a forest road, but then became a proper trail. I saw a bunch of trail runners. One lady stopped when she saw me and asked, “did I see you on the road in Buena Vista yesterday?” I winced and nodded. You know you’re walking a lot of roads when the locals recognize you. There also haven’t been a lot of hikers coming through though. The owner at the general store told me I was only the 11th hiker he had seen this year. Usually he’s up to a hundred by now.
I continued on until the trail rejoined the CDT/Colorado Trail. I grabbed some water and then made it to the Mt. Elbert trail junction. It was starting to sprinkle, but there was no immediate camping, so I started the climb up. I passed a few people coming down with snowshoes. It was a good sign - they were alive! I climbed up until I was almost above treeline. It was really windy and storms were moving in, but I found a nice meadow with forest tree cover. I went back into a small clearing in the forest and pitched my tent there. I got inside just in time to weather a rain and hail storm while eating my chili ramen with salmon.
The views today walking into Twin Lakes and climbing part way up Elbert were stunningly picturesque. I enjoyed being on trail again. Tomorrow morning is going to be a cold one. Apparently it is going to dip even colder this weekend. I am not sure yet if I will make Leadville tomorrow evening or Saturday morning. It kind of depends on Elbert. I will have a lot to figure out in Leadville and will probably spend a ton of that time looking at my maps and seeing whether I can cobble together a lower route north through the Rockies. It’s going to be a challenge to come up with something.