Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 18: Copper Mountain to Breckenridge

We woke to the dull roar of traffic on the I-70 down in the valley below our camp. After packing up, we sauntered over to the Copper Mountain village, where we met Atlas and Jeff for breakfast at the Endo Grill. 

Thru-hikers eat like hobbits.  Moments after finishing breakfast, as we were heading back to the trail, I noticed Sierra munching on a protein bar. "What are you doing?" I asked incredulously. "I'm hungry," Sierra explained as she continued munching on her second breakfast. 

We reached our third breakfast just two miles later. Just after the CO 91 highway crossing we discovered a large tub of trail magic left by Neon (CDT '13). Cold Gatorade and salty chips were just what we needed to fuel us up the long climb over the ridge separating Copper Mountain and Breckenridge. 

Dark clouds gathered as we approached the ridge, and an icy wind bit through our clothes. We crossed several snowfields  near the top of the ridge. Peering down over the other side we saw miles of patchy snow below. 

We glissaded and boot skied our way down the steepest sections, then tromped through a mile or two of almost continuous snow through the woods. When we finally reached dry trail, several miles below the ridgetop, we marveled at the die hard mountain bikers we had seen carrying their bikes through the snow, determined to reach the top. 

Below snowline, hundreds of downed trees cluttered the forest floor, mostly beetle-killed pines unable to stand up to the wind and snow. As we neared Breckenridge, hill after hill had been cleared of beetle-killed trees, leaving a graveyard of stumps and tree trunks piled up like matchsticks.  Beautiful yellow wildflowers and deep purple irises helped bring color to the otherwise dreary scene.

We quickly managed our town chores, then enjoyed a delicious Mexican meal at Frisco's Hacienda Real. Outside, the clouds are gathering and it looks like a good night to sleep indoors. 










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