CDT Day 89: Mt. Zirkel Wilderness

mile 1480.9 to Middle Fork of the Elk River: 22.1 miles

Total miles: 1289.1

We both slept well, and woke up energized from our miles the day before. We were on the trail by 6:30am, a full 15 minutes earlier than usual. The day was off to a great start! We soon passed by Ariel and Alex who are also hiking the CDT, and we’ve run into them a few times since Salida. They passed us a little later while we took a break, and that pattern continued for the rest of the day. Us passing them while they took a break and waving, then them doing the same while we took a break.

The morning consisted of a slow climb to the shoulder of Lone Ranger Peak. Slow being it took nearly 10 miles to gain 1000ft of elevation. As we neared 11,000ft I could feel the elevation effecting me a bit, and was thankful that we’d soon consistently be below 10,000ft for awhile. The hike up was beautiful, we didn’t know what to expect from the Mt. Zirkle Wilderness, and we were stunned by how distinct it was compared to the other mountains we’ve traveled through.

The peaks looked like they had been raked over by glaciers, with their tops distributed into crumbled hunks of rock lining the hill sides. Alpine lakes hid in the crevices, and wildflowers covered the empty spaces in between. We ate lunch at the top of the climb and took it all in, and then descended down. Thunderheads were building in the distance over Mt. Zirkle, and fortunately the CDT didn’t go that way. While we heard thunder, we only got rained on lightly a few times that afternoon.

Around 6:15pm we had made it to the Middle Fork of the Elk River. We normally hike a little later, but there was a nice spot to camp, I was tired, and we’d traveled a good distance for the day. Storm clouds were off in the distance, but as we picked our spot the winds changed and the clouds started moving rapidly towards us. We threw up the tent, and I went to collect water while Garrett started dinner. We finished just in time to hop in the tent as the rain sprinkled down. It came in spurts and spats, and eventually petered our an hour or so later. We had heard that monsoon season was due to start around July 4th in the mountains, and that prediction came true. Good thing Wyoming is only a couple days away.