Thursday, July 10, 2014

Day 31: Arapahoe Ridge to Colorado Highway 14

The sun reached our high camp on the ridge as we were packing up. 

I postholed in a small snow patch within the first ten minutes of hiking. Although we still encounter snow almost daily, there is less snow each day. We left behind our ice axes and microspikes in Grand Lake.  All too soon we will be hiking the Great Divide Basin in Wyoming, where snow will seem a fond, distant memory.  

Left at unmarked turn!  The data book warned twice in quick succession. The trail quickly disappeared after the second unmarked turn, leaving us to play hide and go seek with the trail again as we followed the unmarked route up a marshy canyon. GPS kept us on track, while subtle signs such as a depressed patch of grass or a familiar shoe track in the mud marked where other hikers may have passed. I spot the large Vibram soles of Atlas's Merrell GTX hiking shoes and the smaller tread of Shutterbug  2's Brooks Cascadia trail runners. When Sierra is ahead the small waffle print of her kids Brooks Adrenaline running shoes is easily recognizable. 

Eventually we reached a forest service road, also part of the official route. Walking along the steep, rocky dirt road, I pulled the relevant data book page out of my pocket to check our progress.  My feet gave way and like a runner sliding into home plate I slid down the hill.  My poles flew out of my hand. Riiiiiiiip!  More abrasions and holes in my hiking pants. Sierra retrieved my wayward poles, dusted me off, and we cautiously proceeded on our way. 

Butterflies flitted from flower to flower, including yellow swallowtails and orange painted ladies. We passed through an old aspen forest with lush green undergrowth scattered with deep purple columbine.  White dandelion puffs lined the road. 

We stopped for water at Indian Creek, the last water source before Steamboat Springs. Guthook's CDT app omits this important source, so we were relieved to find it running. Packs loaded with water, we sloshed down the trail. 

We followed the dirt road through rolling ranch land with fields of sunflowers. Although it would have been nice to cover more miles, we stopped early, just short of Colorado Highway 14, knowing there would be no camping for the nine miles the trail follows the highway. Instead we pitched our tent beneath a Cattle Crossing sign, shot through with multiple bullet holes. 

The mosquitoes swarmed the instant we stopped. We hurried through dinner and camp chores, relieved when we could finally escape behind a wall of bug netting. Moments after we crawled inside, the thunderstorms that had been lurking all afternoon finally arrived, spitting, dripping, then pouring for hours. 

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