26th June 29.3 miles Cataract Creek (1026.1) to Hwy 9 (1055.4) I was first on trail in the morning. I felt great and was actually hungry at breakfast for the first time in many days.… More
Twin Lakes (983.6)
I woke with all the best intentions of leaving. I had breakfast and certainly felt a bit better than previous days. But something is still not right. I’m tired, weak, nauseous and my stomach is a bit bloated.
Many years ago I traveled to Africa, well, I’ve traveled there a couple of times. On the first trip I picked up Malaria in Cameroon. That wasn’t fun.
On the second trip I picked up a parasite called schistosomiasis or bilharzia. This parasite fell in love with my liver and weakened me the same way I feel now. Which got me thinking. Is it really the altitude or are there some hitchhiking parasites in my body. The most common parasite in this part of the world is Giardia. I have medication to combat Giardia. Should I take it, it can’t do any harm. If I still feel average I’ll get some tests done in a couple of days.
So I took the medicine to kill the Giardia. And promptly fell asleep. I can’t remember the last time I slept in a bed during the middle of the day. This trail is brutal. In every way. I guess that’s why the term ’embrace the brutality’ is used by CDT hikers.
By the afternoon I had stomach cramps. My stomach was making all kinds of noises. I couldn’t handle eating food, my appetite has disappeared. Maybe I do have parasites and they are dying inside me.
It’s times like these I need to dig deep. Every part of me just wants to be in a quiet room watching a movie or mindless tv. The last place I want to be is on the trail. Having said that I’m not quitting. I’ll have a good nights sleep and see how I feel in the morning.
Bushcamp (966.2) to Twin Lakes (983.6)
I lazed in my tent. It was hard to get out of bed. I thought I had my hiking mojo back but my stomach was still nauseous. I wanted to go back to sleep. Just one high pass to cross and I would be in a town.
I forced down my breakfast and set off on short downhill section. Then came the nightmare. A super steep section of trail. 2500 feet of elevation gain over a short couple of miles. The trail was steep. The steepest trail I’ve hiked on the whole of the CDT.
My lungs were working hard. Much harder than my legs. I felt like I was going to vomit. I didn’t want to stop. Very slowly I kept moving forward. Despite the slow pace I made good time to the top of the pass.
At the top of the pass I rested while waiting for Big John. I had cell phone service for the first time in many days. I made contact with the outside world. As a humanoid I’m honoured to receive so many nice comments from people following my journey. Thank you. During times of hardship I’m encouraged to continue.
It was downhill all the way to the town of Twin Lakes. I was still a little nauseous and not really very hungry but we ate a meal anyway. I didn’t really feel any better so we got a hotel room in a place that was once a brothel. I rested. Hoping to feel better and refreshed for the morning.
Bushcamp (947) to Bushcamp (966.2)
It’s world hike naked day. It’s also the summer solstice. The longest day of the year and a day to get your kit off and go for a hike.
My hiking mojo is back. I think. I hope. It disappeared somewhere early on in Colorado. In recent days and weeks my attitude about the trail has been rather average. More like a ‘glass half empty’, kinda mood. Long distance hiking is like that. It can be an emotional Rollercoaster. I think camping at a lower altitude has done wonders for my energy and mood.
My late sleep in saw me hiking alone for the first couple of hours. I caught Big John at the top of the first 1000ft climb of the morning. We continued along an undulating trail for several miles. A thick forest shaded us from any heat of the sun.
I set off up the long drawn out climb to the top of 12600ft Lake Ann Pass. As I climbed above the tree line I looked for Big John but couldn’t see him. Not ahead and not behind. Maybe he took a wrong turn, I thought.
It was after midday when I reached the top of pass. On route I stripped off and hiked to the top naked. It is hike naked day after all. But it was cool at the summit so I wasn’t naked very long. Well, I am from the tropics and suffer in the cold. My early enthusiasm for feeling great seems to have taken a turn. Nausea has returned. Seems I’m fine at low altitude and horrible above 12000ft. At least my attitude is better.
Big John did make it to the pass about 45 minutes behind me. He had an ablutions break while hidden away from the trail. I didn’t see him, thankfully.
We had a minor problem to deal with before we could safely descend. The was a large, unstable cornice of snow that blocked the descent. In places it was overhanging. Not conducive to safe hiking. I chose to take a long way around the corniced snow and descend on a rather sketchy route back to the trail. Big John traversed around the worst of the cornices sections and descended on the snow. We both made it down without incident. I chose to glissade some of the snow sections to make for a quicker descent.
It wasn’t long before we were on good trail making good time. The clouds were taking on a darker shade of grey every time I looked at them. Rain was coming. We set up camp on a small patch of flat ground, the best we could find. The place had previously been used as a hikers toilet, as evidenced by what was found under a rock.
The rain arrived just as I had my tent set up. I sat in my tent eating to the sound of raindrops beating on tent fly. It had a soothing affect. I was asleep before 8pm.
Lake Camp (929.6) to Bushcamp (947)
Considering that I’m camped above 12000ft I slept well. But I had no appetite for breakfast. I forced the food down and felt nauseous. Altitude sickness has a grip on me again. Mental note to self, hike high and camp as low as possible.
It was slow going. My feet felt like they were made of lead. Each step worse than the last. Big John and I climbed a total of 4 passes, all at high elevation. And it was slow going. The first couple of passes were the most difficult. Patches of soft snow at high altitude made for hard work.
One problem we found with hiking so high and following ridges was the lack of water. We both went many hours with no drinking water. So we melted some snow. It was the best we could do.
Cottonwood Pass was our last pass for the day. From there it’s downhill to camp. As we approached this popular pass day hikers appeared. They were so clean. They smelled like soap and shampoo. We must smell gross. We do smell gross.
At the pass a US Forestry volunteer approached us for information about the trail we’d just hiked. We told him of patchy snow but certainly passable to hikers. He also volunteers with the Colorado Trail (CT) so would pass on trail conditions for them. The hiking season for the CT is just starting now. But not many are on trail yet, I haven’t met any. I think I’ve already mentioned that the CT and CDT share the same trail for a lot of Colorado. Again we ran out of water and he gladly have us bottled water. I drank a litre almost without stopping, I was thirsty.
From cottonwood pass we dropped 2500ft of elevation. Our lungs and our bodies thanked us. For the first time in many miles I had a noticeable bounce in my step.
Our camp was near a small babbling stream. For the first time in many weeks we had a campfire. Not only did the smoke annoy us but it bought in the rain. Literally minutes after starting the fire it started to rain. Hopefully camping at the lower altitude helps me. Goodnight.
Bushcamp (910.8) to Lake Camp (929.6)
My mood was low when I started hiking in the morning. It stayed low for most of the day. Colorado is beating me up, I’m alone and have nobody to talk to. People might read this and think, wow, everyday is so awesome. Well, I have bad days too. Just like that bad day at work. Although, a bad day hiking is still better than a good day at work.
It was 7am when I started hiking, and I was still tired. The trail continued its climb over the first pass of the day. Then descended to a trail head with many day hikers, it was a Sunday. I rested out of sight, I was still feeling down and didn’t want to speak with anybody.
For the second pass of the day I followed an old railway line. The gentle graded trail was kind to my tiring body. At the end of the old line I had to make it to the pass. Rather than follow the snow covered trail I made my own trail. I set a compass bearing to the pass. Lots of undergrowth, snow, large rocks steep slopes proved my choice to be a bad one. Exhausted I did make the second pass for lunch.
The third pass was not going to be fun. After a long drawn out descent I was faced with almost 2000 ft of climbing. It was slow going as my tired legs started to fail me. Ahead I saw another hiker. It was Big John. I put in some effort and caught him.
Together we crawled over the fourth pass and settled for a less than ideal camp near a stream. Big John nearly feel into the stream when a snow bridge collapsed. It could have been really nasty, he only ended up with wet feet. With no flat ground we suffered with sloping tents. Finally I was able to have an all too short chat before our eyes told us to go to sleep. Our camp is above 12000ft, I hope I can sleep tonight.
Monarch Pass (899.2) to Bushcamp (910.8)
Salida was a difficult place to leave. I must admit this trail has worn me down, physically and mentally. I felt refreshed but I must be honest that I didn’t want to go back to the trail. I’m tired and just want to rest. Colorado is tough but I’m trying to be tougher.
I couldn’t be bothered hitchhiking the 20 plus miles from Salida back up to Monarch Pass. I took a taxi. I didn’t see any other hikers in the area so I set off alone.
The trail climbed up and over 12000ft. My days in Salida had lessened my ability to breath efficiently at altitude. I struggled. I’m starting to wonder if there is something wrong with me. I’ve been to high altitudes before. I’ve climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa and climbed over 20000ft in South America. This altitude is killing me. Several weeks at altitude and I’m still struggling.
With a late start I only made it just over 11 miles. I fought for every step. At times I was almost in tears. I was frustrated with my inability to hike with the freedom I have previously known and enjoyed. I guess right now I’m not enjoying the trail. As I make camp nausea ripples in my stomach. I think I need to vomit. I hope I feel better in the morning. Tomorrow is a new day.
I needed a rest. My mind and body was exhausted. Salida was an amazing place. Good atmosphere, nice people and an event called Fibark the largest white water festival on the world.
I stayed at the local hostel. Several other hikers were there, Thermometer, Buttercup, Zippy and Big John. There was another hiker staying there, Angela. She wasn’t hiking the CDT or Colorado Trail, she was hiking across the country west to east. A vastly different journey but with many similarities to my own. She is ex-military and is hiking to raise awareness for Post Traumatic Stress. As I’m ex-police we had a common history of service to country and service to community. We spent many hours talking about our past and present lives. You can follow her amazing story on Unite The Journey.
As the Fibark festival was happening I spent some time having a look around. Angela, Big John and I had a night out at a local concert. A rather unusual band with 14 members played some kind of upbeat music that included several brass instruments, several drums and occasional acrobatic dancers. All the while they dressed like a poor persons version of the village people.
I walked into a cannabis shop. The stuff is legal in the state of Colorado. I don’t smoke the stuff but decided to have a look. Many years ago I remember reading about cannabis being legalised in Colorado. Turns out it is taxed and the tax dollars are directly used to fund schools and education. Stoners are happy, police spend less time dealing with minor drug offences, courts are freed up and tax dollars are raised from sales that were never previously taxed. I can see sone benefits from it. I suspect there will be a negative affect such as an increase in drug driving related offences. But it’s time for me to hit the trail again.