Saturday, July 5, 2014

Day 26: Old Cabin to Grand Lake

Everything was damp from the night's rain. We packed up damp sleeping bags and a soggy tent. Damp grass and plants soon soaked out pants and shoes. Our feet slipped on wet logs as we climbed over blowdowns and crossed creeks. 

We stopped at the Monarch Lake Teailhead to dry our sodden gear. As we were waiting, Shutterbug 2 (PCT '12) hiked up and pointed out a moose grazing on an island. He disappeared to go take a photo, reappearing just as we finished packing up. 

Although we were trying to hurry to Grand Lake, we could not resist stopping in at the Little Moose Trading Post, a tiny home-based store that welcomes CDT hikers with open arms. Ice cream!  Cold drinks!  Hot coffee!  Homemade brownies and baked goods!  Chimichanga was already there, and Atlas, Shutterbug 2, Sierra and I joined him. The owners' granddaughter Lizzy was on sofa. Atlas and Lizzy played checkers, then Sierra and Lizzy played a few games, quickly becoming friends. We lingered as long as we could before finally hiking on.

A loud cry alerted us to an osprey nest with mother osprey circling overhead. Just beyond the nest we reached the first of the infamous blowdowns -- a long section of downed trees that has prompted some hikers to take the road. Sierra's can of rootbeer was the first casualty.  A sharp stick punctured the can as Sierra was scrambling over the first downed trees causing rootbeer to spray onto her shirt, pants, and backpack. 

Navigating blowdowns is a bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where each of us might choose her or his own way over, under, or around a given obstacle. Dead branches reached out and stabbed me. One a branch broke, sending me reeling backward, landing flat on my back. 

Of course, blowdowns can be fun too. Climbing over blowdowns is a hiker obstacle course, a little like playing on a jungle gym. We found balance beam logs, bounce house logs, and teeter totter logs.  We hiked through fields of knee-high grass, wild roses, lupine, and columbine.  

Once through the blowdowns, the trail followed the lakeshore right into Rocky Mountain National Park.  Motor boats, water skiers, and lakeside campers provided a strange contrast to the peacefulness of the woods.  Sierra discovered wild strawberries growing next to the trail and declared the tiny fruit delicious, although still a little tart. 

Shortly before Grand Lake the trail briefly became an ankle deep creek as it passed through a thick, muddy marsh that smelled faintly of moose scat. We tried to work our way through the marsh on taller tufts of grass, but quickly sank into the mud. We finally resigned ourselves to wading down the trail. 

We soon reached the trailhead where hot food and showers waited in the tiny town of Grand Lake. We will take a zero here tomorrow to spend time with our friends Chris aka Shutterbug and Anna aka Northstar (PCT '12). 

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