Route 40 to mile 1480.9: 20.7 miles
Total miles: 1267
I slept better in our hotel room than the night before, which was a relief. It always seems like such a waste of money to have poor sleep in a hotel room! We had breakfast, and made a sign that read “HIKERS 2 TRAIL” to aid our efforts to get a hitch out of town. We were super lucky with our hitch into town, and despite all the traffic in town, we were unsure we’d have the same luck hitching out as Steamboat Springs is known to be a harder hitch.
We hopped on the free bus to escape to cluttered main street, and got off on the east side of town near the Walgreens and a traffic light. We stood with our sign and thumbs out, and within a couple of minutes we were picked up! Paul, who works for Big Agnes (an outdoor company famous for their high quality tents and sleeping bags), gave us a ride back to the trail. As we exited the car, he gave us some snacks from Big Agnes’ sister company, Honey Stinger (which are some of my favorite trail snacks!). What luck we had.
We started up Route 40, and a few minutes later we saw a large black bear dash across the road in front of us. I’ve seen a few bears on the AT and PCT, but normally they are obscured by trees and I just get a glimpse of their bottom as they run away. This bear was in full view, and I gasped at its speed as it crossed the road and went into the forest on the other side. He was so fast we didn’t even have a chance to take a picture, just enough time to marvel in how handsome he was. It wasn’t even 9am yet and we’d had a very action-packed morning!
The trail soon diverged from Route 40, and we walked on a seldom used forest service road up to Dumont Lake where we turned onto trail. The day was supposed to be in the 90s in town, and I was happy to be hiking uphill to higher elevations and hopefully cooler temperatures.
The trail gradually climbed back up above 10,000 feet; it took us nearly all day to gain 1,000 feet of elevation the trail was so gentle. Being lower means more mosquitoes, and today they were so bad I hiked in my rain pants and head-net. Despite the mosquitoes, we had a very enjoyable day on trail. There was plenty of water, and we were moving at a good pace.
We hiked over twenty miles before deciding to stop a little after 7pm. We made our dinner and decided to eat in the tent, something we haven’t done since the cold San Juans, because the mosquitoes came out in droves. It would have been near impossible to eat dinner without also consuming a few bugs, and we weren’t really interested in that. As the day cooled off, the mosquitoes slowed down, and we were able to get out of the tent to brush our teeth for a few minutes before they could find us again.