Hiking out of Breckenridge on the weekend is not the best idea. Like salmon swimming upriver, we fought a steady stream of mountain bikes as we climbed. Most of the cyclists were safe and courteous, but constantly dodging bikes significantly interrupted our forward momentum and slowed our pace. But after a few miles the trail became significantly steeper, and the mountain bikes disappeared.
Like the low warning growls of a protective dog, thunder rumbled just behind us as we reached the crest.
We quickly scrambled over the top, hoping to reach treeline before the storm hit. The thunder roared louder and louder as the storm approached. We were still following the high, exposed ridgeline when the sky opened and it began to pour. We stopped briefly to throw on rain jackets and pack covers, then dashed down the trail. Soon we felt the sharp sting of hundreds of little balls of ice pelting the backs of our legs. Our pant legs quickly soaked through.
After a mile of traversing the high, exposed hillside, we spotted a grove of trees ahead and made a beeline for them.
Huddled in the trees we layered up, adding rain pants over our sodden hiking pants and Z-packs cuben fiber mitts over our numb fingers. We emerged from the trees much warmer.
Hail littered the ground like freshly fallen snow. Hail, sleet, and then rain continued to pelt us as we descended. Reaching Highway 91, we headed into Copper Mountain where, despite the wet and cold, we enjoyed milkshakes with Jeff who is now heading home. We said goodbye, and then headed back up the trail.
After navigating the maze of use trails and service roads behind the Copper Mountain ski resort, we climbed into a beautiful canyon. We followed a creek past several active beaver dams to a high, open meadow where we are now camped in the trees.