Friday, August 8, 2014

The Collegiate Loop Part 1 (Very very delayed)

So this is a little overdue but I thought I'd at least write something. I know how much I enjoy looking at trip reports and armchair traveling my way through less exciting times in my own life. The only problem is this trip ended more on a frustrated whimper for me than anything else. My last day actually started off great, I slept in, miraculously had dry feet and I slept above 11000 feet. What more could I want? I trotted down the trail, pretty content with life. Out of laziness I leaned down to fill up my water without taking my pack off and promptly lost my sunglasses in the rushing creek. I frantically grabbed but between the water bottle and trekking poles away the glasses floated. Darn it, I kept those things through the whole PCT. Oh well at least it was only one morning I'd have to squint my way down the trail. About 5 minutes later I took a wrong turn, only realizing this when I was halfway across a large meadow thing on a fire road. Oops, back I went around the tree that had fallen halfway across the intersection. Soon enough the trail was done and I hit the road. Anticlimactic as usual. When I pulled off the road to get some gas in Green River Utah I made my most impressive mistake of the day. No pockets and sleep deprivation had me placing my phone on my roof while getting gas and then driving away. 75 mph on the highway and 2 exits away I realized my mistake.

I drove back and some very nice truckers and gas station attendants helped me, attempting the find my phone app and walking up and down the highway with no luck in a not so funny comedy of errors. Word to the wise, if your phone is on airplane mode (like you might do to preserve battery life on a long backpacking trip...) find my phone is a fail, as is the cloud and its magical storage. So in one fell swoop I lost all my photos and my phone. I was startlingly upset over the loss of my photos, after all I know I hiked, I know I will remember the views and the miles. I feel shallow and annoyed at myself but nevertheless it bothers me.

The trip overall was about 160 miles and I completed the loop in 8 days starting on 7/11. I started at Twin Lakes in CO. Finding the trail head was a little tricky and I hit the trail around 5pm in the pouring rain. I finished the loop in the early morning with thankfully no rain and a much simpler time finding my way back to the road. The mileages are based mostly on the GPS app by Guthook but also the Colorado Trail datebook. Overall I don't regret this trip at all but I found that it took me awhile to get into it and actually enjoy myself, coupled with the lack of photos blogging in depth about it sounds pretty unappealing so a shorter summary it is.

Day 1: about 9.5 miles (to Clear Creek campground). More time on dirt roads and under power lines than expected, but a great rainbow as I headed down to the pretty campground with a surprising amount of civilization and people at the campground. My hike was bouts of pouring rain, green aspen, glimpses of mountains and hellacious mosquitoes at my campsite. I tucked myself into bed excited for the upcoming miles.

Day 2: 21.4 miles (to mile 29.7, top of ridge near Mt Yale). Aspen, creeks, and wet feet was the theme of my day. I woke up chilly with soaked shoes and a few short hours after they dried it was back to pouring rain and thunder storms. By afternoon I would see a few tents tucked into trees but no one else silly enough to hike in the pouring rain. Pretty trail overall, I spent a few hours killing time under a big tree sheltered from the rain near a parking lot and a bathroom, classy to a T. I climbed up to the ridge after 5 hoping to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Gloriously steep, but ridiculously wet my plan failed. The hike was probably not the wisest decision as the skies opened up minutes after I set out, oh well I had fun. My campsite seemed clever until the trees continued to rain on me long after the rain stopped (sometime around 10 pm).

Day 3: 26 miles (to mile 55.7 Little Brown's Creek). I was already ahead of schedule and today was Mt Princeton Hot Springs. I hoped to get there early, kill the afternoon possibly enjoying some hot springs and get my resupply package. The start of my morning was beautiful and soon enough I was heading down, mountain bikes made way to dirt roads, atvs and dirt bikes. This trail is not what I expected, I was constantly surprised I was still going the right direction. Then I was at the resort before 1 pm, just like I hoped. It was a huge and overwhelming world of watersides and tourists spreading well over two city blocks. I couldn't handle it. I resupplied on the lawn, and when it started raining I retreated into the restaurant and after a lackluster meal I headed back to the trail, 6 days of food was heavy! I chatted with some Colorado Trail thru hikers and then found myself alone again. At least I felt validated, they had booked it early too, simply too much humanity. Chalk cliffs are pretty and the meadows were gorgeous but large open meadows with afternoon lightning didn't seem like my brightest idea. I stopped and camped while it was still light and for the first time this trip went to sleep in the pattering rain happily knowing at least my shoes were going to start the morning dry.

Day 4: 22 miles (last creek crossing before the official Collegiate loop intersection approx mile 77.5)
Past zipped up tents and sleeping campers, a mellow morning. I pass the Mt Shavano trailhead and its requisite day hikers. Bagging 14000 ft peaks sure is super popular out here. Then down past a trailhead and bathrooms and climbing again. I pass the top of the ridge without realizing it, only stopping to enjoy a small sliver of sunshine as the clouds relentlessly continue to cover the sky. Soon enough I've made it to US Highway 50. I love actually having a connection to something on this trail. Then thinking I'm lost I search for the trail, nope more road walking. Pavement makes way to dirt as I pass the disappointing Foose Lake, more of a small fishing pond crowded with anglers. Thens its up and up I go, unmarked dirt roads finally make way to trail and just when I think I'm in the clear and almost to my possible campsite the sky opens up. Hail, so very much hail, pelting me and then its rain soaking to the skin. I take a break during a short lull and decide to press on on. Guthook says I'm at the last water but the CT data book says theres another spot around 3 miles ahead. If I camp there I'll get to the true Continental Divide less than .5 miles into my morning and split with the Colorado trail. No more southbound, it will be looping back north on the CDT back to Twin Lakes. I press on, more pouring rain but water overnight will not be my issue. So much water, the trail itself is a creek most of the time. Guthook definitely has had some missteps water source wise so far. But its pretty and other than a lack of campsites on the steep mountainside its not bad. I finally find a spot near a little waterfall and peel off my wet things. Tomorrow is the CDT!

By the way I'm pretty sure this trip report was not meant to be, sorry if its disjointed but I've lost the silly thing twice and rewriting it is getting old.

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