Leadville, CO

Day 51     6/19     10 miles 

So everything went pretty smooth yesterday. The pilot landed in Denver We caught up with Cheese, and some of his friends for lunch including Grundlehammer who I first met on the PCT in ’15. Queen B and I then walked all over downtown Denver, watched some break dancers while earing a bunch of noodles. Nomad met us at a Mexican restaurant later on for more food and we were also joined by legendary hiker Jabba aka @therealhikingviking of instagram fame. We spent the night at Nomad’s sweet apartment on the 18th floor of a high rise looking over Union Station. Cheese is joining us for a couple sections so this morning we met up with him and proceeded to return to the trail. With him driving, the 3 of us headed to Leadville where he dropped his truck, then we started hitching the 100+ miles south to the trail. Hope gave us a ride for about 40 miles to Nathrop and then Joy scooped us up for about a half hour ride into Salida. Seb was driving a big rig, which I never ever get rides in, but he picked us up and took us down to Saguache(I spelled it wrong the other day). We waited for an awful long time but finally got picked up by Joanie and rode in the back of her pickup back to Coachetopa creek. We got back on trail around 4:30 and seriously not 10 minutes later saw this huge black bear in a valley. A great bear sighting, close enough so we got a good view and far enough where we didn’t scare the beast off too quickly. We got 10 miles in and set up for the night. Looking down from Nomad’s placesweet ride in a big rig! grear big bear 

Day 52     6/20     27 miles 

Great day of hiking on the good ol’ Continental Divide National Scenic Trail today! Not too much out of the ordinary just an all around bang up day on the trail. It was nice hiking with Cheese and hearing all that he’s been up to since we first hiked together in Southern California. A Wisconsin native, Cheese relocated to Denver last summer and has had lots of adventures since. Since we got back on trail the mosquitoes have been out in full force. None of us are carrying any bug spray so the last 2 nights we had campfires. Including today and yesterday I can count on 1 hand the amount of times I’ve had campfires while thru hiking and they’ve all been to smoke out the bugs. Thankfully we have Queen B around, a former Girl Scout, she’s a pro at building fires. We found a nice little spot next to a stream to camp and with the smoke the bugs didn’t bother us too much. Good thing QB was a Girl Scout

Day 53     6/21     17 miles 

Today we had ourselves a nice modified town day. We used the in and out strategy that is helpful for not only saving a few bucks by not staying in town, but it’s much more productive to get back on trail in the evening. Town can be like a vortex making it hard to leave, even if you have every intention of getting back on trail first thing in the morning you still have to get breakfast. Right away this morning we hiked a nice quick 9 miles to Monarch Pass and ate some ice cream at the store there. Then Jerry, a local hiker, gave the 3 of us a ride into the town of Salida. We made a beeline for some cheeseburgers, then walked over to the supermarket to resupply. From there we got a hitch in the back of a pickup to the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center for a shower and a nice soak. Salida has a little shuttle bus that just bops around all over the place and the driver scooped us up and brought us a few miles to the edge of town. We were about to start hitching back to the pass from there but we saw a Thai restaurant across the street and decided we couldn’t just pass that up. After dinner we got a ride back to the trail by a couple of scout leaders who generously went a good distance out of their way to get us where we were going. It was about 5:30 when we started walking again and got in a strong 8 miles before sunset. It was some really nice miles too, high up on a ridgeline we enjoyed the summer solstice with views of granite mountains, alpine lakes, and pink skies. We found a sweet spot below a ridge and near a lake and called it a night.  Salida, COQB and Cheese hitching to SalidaPerfect evening for the summer solstice

Day 54     6/22     25 miles 

Cheese hiked in with us and we camped together last night and he then turned back to Monarch Pass this morning while QB and I carried on. It was great hiking with him these last few days and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing our buddy again before we’re out of Colorado. Today was awesome. The hiking was a little difficult at times but we were constantly rewarded with amazing views. I think we went up and over 4 passes including Chalk Creek Pass and Tincup Pass(the other 2 either didn’t have names or I never learned them). In between the passes was a fair amount of snow travel that slowed us down but nothing too exhausting. From Monarch Pass to Twin Lakes, hikers have the option of going through the West or East Collegiate mountains(I think these are just mountains named after colleges). We did the West route last year on the Colorado Trail and knew that it was quite magestic, so we chose the same route again. The Mirror Lake alternate was a 20 odd mile trail off of the West route that we also opted for just to shake things up a bit. Tonight we’re camping at the empty Mirror Lake CG about 6 miles into the alternate. I think we missed the trail somewhere and just waded through the edge of Mirror Lake

Day 55     6/23     27 miles 

Today was borderline exceptional. We left Mirror Lake CG and climbed up onto a ridge for awhile before following the trail up and down through pine forests before descending into a valley containing the Texas Lakes. We broke for lunch at one of the lakes and immediately jumped in. Swimming/bathing in a natural body of icy cold water on a hot day when I’m sweating and filthy is probably my absolute favorite thing to do. After lunch we came across a couple of moose chilling out in a meadow about 20 yards away, the bull was giving us the stink eye. I’ve got some decent footage. The trail followed along this meadow for awhile and then started to climb up towards Lake Ann Pass. I don’t know if it was the afternoon coffee I was drinking or the extra pack of ramen I had last night but I caught a wild hair and absolutely crushed it up the steep switchbacks of the pass. Queen B must have had the eye of the tiger herself because she was right on my heels. Upon reaching the top I resisted every urge to let out a primal, blood curdling scream for fear of causing an avalanche because the north side of the pass was all snow and heavily corniced. Getting down would be a challenge; there was tons of snow and only one very steep path of footprints down. It was gnarly. One of the more precarious situations I’ve been in. Queen B wanted to lead the charge and I wasn’t putting up an argument. The sight was incredible though. I remember how impressive it looked last August and this year the snow gave the landscape a whole new paint job. Sooner than later we made our way down and were whoop whooping through a few more miles of snow until we found a spot near a creek to camp. A primo lunch spota great big moosewe hiked down a super steep path to get around these beefy cornices

Day 56     6/24     19 miles 

This morning after breaking camp we followed the trail as it pleasantly rolled through a valley in the middle of the Collegiate Wilderness. Mountains everywhere; it was magical. Eventually we started climbing up Hope Pass, and this thing was no joke! Super steep and went on for miles but couldn’t slow me down any. There were lots of people out; day hikers and trail runners. I think I saw more day hikers today then in all of New Mexico, real talk. Most of the runners we saw were training for the Leadville 100, a true endurance race that takes some serious grit. Maybe someday but for now I’m too busy hiking. The north side of Hope Pass was much tamer than Lake Ann and after awhile we ended up on a road walk into the tiny town of Twin Lakes. Not before jumping into a freezing cold river of snowmelt(it definitely helps to get a layer of grime off before hitch hiking). After eating a couple burgers at a food truck with a pair of section hikers, we hitched over to Leadville. This town is pretty rad. An old mining town it also has the highest elevation of any town in the U.S.(with some caveat or something). We resupplied at the supermarket and are showering and currently doing laundry at the Colorado Trail House. This hostel is great and the owners Rick and Bec are super friendly towards thru hikers. Cheese and Jabba are driving down tonight and the plan is for them to pick us up and we’ll go for a little field trip to climb a mountain tomorrow. Check back next week for details and follow me on insta for more pictures and maybe even a wild animal video @endlesspsummerQB crushing it up Hope Pass


PS All My Love!!!

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