Day 84: mile 1403.6 to mile 1423.4, 22 miles
Day 85: mile 1423.4 to 1447.9, 24.5 miles
Total miles: 1234
For the first time in four days we didn’t see a moose. We did see plenty of mosquitoes and chipmunks though, so not all was lost.
The day began with a walk along Willow Creek for a few miles. The ravine the creek flowed through was blanketed in frost, and it took awhile for the sun to break over the hill to warm us up. From there we slowly meandered up to the continental divide, which was lined with rock formations.
After nine miles, we had a decision to make. Did we want to continue hiking uphill to Parkview Mountain, or take a lower route that was about two miles longer but had less climbing uphill? I was feeling good, but moving slower than the day before, so we decided to take a chance and take the unvetted lower route we came up with looking at our maps. We crossed our fingers it would work out.
Our lower route generally worked out well. There was plenty of water, and it was a mix of trails and forest service roads. The roads and trails could be used by motorized vehicles, so a few times we had to step off for a dirt bike or ATV. It still hilly, and the sun burned hot in the afternoon. I started regretting taking an “easy” route, especially because it was starting to not be very much fun the longer the road dragged on. At least if we had stayed high, we have good views. It took us nearly all day to reconnect with the CDT though, so I imagine the higher route would have taken us even longer. We eventually reconnected with the CDT at Troublesome Pass and then slept on the divide.
The next day I woke up cranky. I was anxious for how the day would play out, as we had some mountain walking in the morning with 7.5 miles until water, and then after that there was an over 30 mile dry stretch per our hiking app, Guthooks. Looking at our maps, and reading some reports from other hikers fortunately showed that that was not the case; there was water every 8 miles or so. We’ve been spoiled in Colorado not having to worry about when the next water is, this section is a nice warm up to what the Great Basin in Wyoming will soon bring.
Throughout the morning we went up and down, and so did my mood. One mile I’d be thinking about how I should probably get off the trail in the next town of Steamboat Springs, the next I’d be thinking that I could at least make it to the first town in Wyoming. The day was also overcast with smoke from the wildfires currently burning in Colorado, which only added to my dark mood.
After lunch we had one final two mile uphill stretch before making to to a road, where we would stay off trails for nearly 30 miles. The first bit was forest service road, and we were only passed by two ATVs the entire afternoon. Towards the evening we saw two other CDT hikers, it’s been nearly a week since we’ve seen other thru-hikers on trail! They passed us as we were having a snack.
Later that day we suddenly exited Arapaho National Forest, and entered a road through private land which generally means no trespassing off the road. I took a quick look at my map and saw in a mile we’d be on BLM land for a small bit, and when we got there we found camping. Despite feeling down earlier in the day, my mood really improved in the afternoon. We were making miles, and the walking was similar to what it should be in Wyoming. If we’re able to keep this up, we have a good chance to make it through Wyoming at least!