Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 4: Georgia Pass to Breckenridge

Our tent walls flapped and fluttered in the cool mor ing breeze. Reluctantly, we scrambled out of our down cocoons and donned puffy jackets while we quickly packed up our camp. 48 minutes later we were heading down the trail, still swaddled in warm, long sleeves.

The first rays of the early morning sun blanketed Mount Guyot with a warm, golden glow. But the warmth did not extend to the trail, which dipped into the trees just below our camp. We hiked with our eyes riveted to our feet to avoid the many obstacles in the rocky trail.

Suddenly, I noticed a reddish golden form loping along the trail ahead of us. A fox? Whatever it was, it didn't linger long enough to allow positive identification.

A few miles down the trail we heard an eerie chorus of howls and yips echoing up the canyon. Although I have often heard coyotes howl and hip while hunting together a night, I have never heard them during the day. And the closer we came to the sound, the more it sounded like the ordinary barks and whiles of domesticated dogs. Sure enough, we soon spotted a kennel or breeder tucked away in the woods, with several husky dogs running around outside. I later learned that we had passed Snow Caps Sled Dogs, the largest Siberian Husky kennel in the nation. The noises followed us as we continued down the canyon, leaving us with no doubt as to why the kennel was in such a remote location!

Reaching the bottom of the canyon we found a popular car camping area with large tents parked on the grassy river banks and smoke rising from early morning campfires. As we navigated the maze of use trails near the campground, we saw a hiker approach. "You just answered my question," he said by way of greeting. Sycamore, a Continental Divide Trail hiker, was also looking for the trail.

As we climbed to the next ridge we began to notice dead trees piled next to the trail in tangled, jumbled heaps. The bark beetle has killed large swaths of forest in Colorado. Breckenridge has been hit particularly hard.

Just before lunch we came upon a group of several hikers stopped in the middle of the trail. "Looks like a traffic jam!" I quipped. "Is that Mama Bear?" A blond hiker broke from the group and headed up the trail toward us. "You must be Rockin!" I exclaimed. Rockin, a friend of our friend Wired, is a teacher in Tehachapi along the PCT. Rockin's middle school students interviewed Sierra about her PCT hike, and we've exchanged numerous e-mail messages. We were excited to finally meet in person!

Rockin and her son Silly Chili are hiking a large section of the CDT this summer (see www.ladyonarock.wordpress.com), most recently with our friend Wired. We enjoyed talking for a while. Moments after she hiked on we met LoveNote, another friend of Wires who is hiking the CDT this summer. SweetFish and Ninja soon followed, then Annie and Breeze. With so few people hiking the CDT in any given year, so many hikers together in one place constitutes a herd!

We continued our descent to Breckenridge, dodging the many mountain bikes as we went. Although mountain bikes are allowed on several of the other sections we've hiked, the handful of bikers have been courteous and we have not minded sharing the trail with them. But the sheer volume of bikes in the Breckenridge area made it impossible to keep up a steady pace, and not all of the riders were as safe and courteous as the riders we met on the more remote sections of the trail.

Just before Breckenridge we discovered another cooler of trail magic. By the time we reached Highway 9 it was just after 5. The trail crosses the highway without benefit of traffic light or crosswalk. We watched hundreds of cars whiz past on the busy highway before dashing across during a break in traffic. Jeff met us at the trailhead, and tomorrow we will be taking a zero day together in Breckenridge.

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