CDT mile 1132, miles hiked 27.5
My alarm went off at 5, I hit the snooze button and laid in bed for 15 minutes drifting in and out of sleep. I finally rolled over, lit my stove and got in gear for the day’s marathon of 26.2 miles to Grand Lake. Cheezy and I had slept close to a marsh and my bag and tent were soaking from condensation but being town day I shoved them in the pack and we were off.
The terrain was gentle up and down through marshlands. We finally were getting lower, and the elevation was no longer an issue. We made some great time moving at 3.5 mph the fastest we had hiked in weeks. We passed an old cabin at the Junco Lake and given it had a picnic table, a privy and a porch we assumed that Buttercup spent the night (later I learned he did, in fact, stay there).
The next 8 miles took us through Indian peaks wilderness and to the famous monarch lake. I was treated to some great wildlife, a large herd of female we and their babies were enjoying the morning dew and eating grass. A few miles later I spotted a mother moose and 1-year-old calf, the wildlife was healthy and large in the area and it made me smile to see so many mommas and their young offspring enjoying the same areas as me.
The trail climbed up a bit and then joined an old road before heading back into the woods. The trail took a deep descent towards monarch lake and then it started, the crowds of people. No sooner did I leave the wilderness boundary and was immediately met by a group of 12 people and 3 dogs. For the next 2 miles I would see numerous groups of kids, retires, dog lovers and one unfortunate couple that had a wife limping to the trailhead with a sprained ankle. I offered them pain killers and that was about it, I have nothing else in my kit for such and issue but I told them I would send help if any was around.
When I made monarch lake there was ranger station, I told the guy on duty about the couple and he shrugged and said do I need to call search and rescue? Seeing he was not going to do much I figured why should I, so I sat at a picnic table, fired up my stove and made the lst food I had a Mac and cheese for cheesy and I to eat when she arrived.
When Cheezy arrived she had no poles, she had lent them to the lady I passed with the ankle and her husband was there arranging to get his truck up trail to get her. By the time we were eating our Mac and cheese the woman was safe In her truck going to town for proper first aid. We left Monarch Lake and .8 miles later came to Arapaho Valley Ranch and amazing place to visit with colorado’s smallest bar and tepees for the glampers. I met the owner, enjoyed a soda and chatted with them for an hour before lamenting that I couldn’t stay and off we went.
The next section of trail went by granby lake and the infamous Knight Ridge. Knight Ridge had over 1000 blowdowns for years, last year the crew I met the previous day had spent a summer cutting over 700 blowdowns. The area is a wilderness area so each and every blowdowns was cut by hand with an axe or a cross cut. The work they did was amazing and the last few miles had some fresh blowdowns that slowed us down but made us appreciate the work of the crew even more.
As I left the wilderness area I came to the lake shore and there I waited for Cheesy at the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) border, I ate a snack and watched the sky darkens the wind increase and the storm blow in. We donned our goretex and set off in a storm with rain and thunder to make the last 8 miles to town.
If you are following along you will notice a pattern, when Cheezy and I are on our way to town we often get in the pooh of weather and today was no exception. We walked along the lake shore getting wet but enjoying the shoreline walk. We stopped at the Colorado River to take a photo and then walked the east shore alternate towards town.
The trail disappeared in a muddy marsh so we crossed countries over to the Colorado River and nearly at its source we wadded the river to get to Shadow Lake Dam and the walk to town. The East Shore trail was overgrown, full of blowdowns and marshy. The good old CDT was given us one more good slap on the way there. We finally made the parking lot and the road to town, we walked it’s the bridge and finally arrived in Grand Lake. Our marathon was over but we had to hike an extra mile to the hostel. As we walked Main Street a couple from the lake we had met saw us and invited us over for a burger. In minutes I was eating cheeseburgers, drinking beer and enjoying the hospitality of Colorado’s fine residents.
The rest of the night is a blur of margarita pitchers, cold beers and hanging with the Grand Lake locals until 2am at the local watering hole.