Monarch Pass to Hancock Lake: 16 miles
Total miles: 942
Spending three nights in a comfortable bed can really do wonders for sore muscles and joints! When we came into town I felt tired and a bit run down, my ankle had been bothering me, and my pack had been putting some stress between my shoulder blades. Leaving town, all of those troubles seemed far away, and I felt back to 100%.
We met Liv (the thru-hiker from last year we met st the CDTC benefit) about 8am for a ride back to the Monarch Pass. Liv hiked the trail the year before, so it was interesting to talk to her on the way back to the CDT. After we were dropped off, we made one last stop at the snack shop at the pass. Despite all the food in my pack, I all the sudden was hungry for something not in my pack. I settled on a chocolate milk, and soon enough we were back to the trail.
The morning was spent climbing through Monarch Ski Area. It’s always funny to me to see the signs labeling ski slopes in the summer. Most of the walking was on a dirt access road, which we initially turned the wrong way on and walked nearly a half mile before we realized we didn’t see any footsteps in the dust in front of us. A quick check of our GPS confirmed we went left when we should have gone right, and we started back the way we came which was uphill.
Back to the trail we kept climbing, and a steady wind picked up. We pressed on, and just when I thought I had had enough of being blown around and started looking for a windbreak to eat lunch behind, I checked to see where we were. Turns out we were only a tenth of a mile from the top, and then a steep eight tenths of a mile descent down to some lakes: a perfect place for lunch. The eight miles from the pass had come easier than expected, and I again was reminded how helpful it is to take an extra day in town if need be!
After lunch, it was downhill for a bit. We took a couple breaks, partially because it was unusually hot for being in the mountains and a minute or two in the shade to cool off helped. Sometimes I have a tendency to have tunnel vision when it comes to taking breaks, thinking we can only stop if we’ve gone five miles or hiked two hours since the last time we stopped. Not surprisingly, I may not be the most fun hiking partner to have at times. Today I decided to stop just because I felt like it, and it really made hiking more enjoyable- go figure.
By the time we started climbing up to Chalk Pass I was ready for it, and it was a beautiful hike up through a scree filled bowl. We didn’t see any other CDT or Colorado Trail hikers all day, but we did see some backpackers and day hikers, the last of which we met coming down from the pass. We chatted with him for a bit, then parted ways and made it to the pass soon after.
It’s always exciting for me to make it to a pass, because it’s always a surprise to see what’s on the other side. Mountains appear out of nowhere, or sometimes there is a lake filled valley. Today as we made it to the pass I saw a white spot 15ft in front of me that didn’t quite register as snow. I tried to make sense of it, and then the spot moved and a mountain goat poked its head up. I’ve never seen a mountain goat before, and I pointed animatedly at the animal without words to direct Garrett’s attention. Another one appeared, and we watched them for awhile.
As we descended down toward Hancock Lakes, we could still the goats feeding near the pass. We found a comfortable spot near the lower lake around 6:30, and decided to stop for the day. 16 miles for starting about three hours later than usual was a promising start to this section, hopefully we can get over twenty miles each of the next few days to make it to Twin Lakes by lunch.