Waking up next to the river in Georgetown, I packed up to continue my fire closure alternate. I only had another hour walking down I70, which I was ecstatic at after over 5 hours next to it yesterday. Yay! Instead, I did have over 5,000ft (1,500m) climbing to get back onto the divide.
I headed up over a tiny pass and down into the town of Empire. I was desperate to find a toilet and headed into the general store. An hour and a coffee / breakfast burrito combo later I finally left. I was pleasantly sidetracked when I started talking to the extremely nice owner about the local area, Australia and the CDT. A few hours later I found a envelope in the mesh pocket while eating lunch. The lady had slipped the money I paid for breakfast back to me without my knowledge. #reversepickpocket #kindheartedness
I then transformed into climbing mode as I started up the maze of dirt roads. It was actually rather interesting morning, with some big views down the valley I was leaving. Most of it was well graded, but there were a couple of short, incredibly steep sections that made my heart absolutely pound my chest. I just wish I had a better memory of which roads to take. I would try to remember the sequence left, left, middle, right etc.. But every time I reached the next road I had stop and check.
There was also a mile cross country section to link up a couple of dirt roads. And then I was above treeline and swimming in the best lake to date, with a backdrop of rocky spires and a waterfall. Colorado is starting to change from huge rolling beasts to exposed rock spires – Not bad at all!
After lunch I continued the climb to the summit of James Peak to meet the 10ish marmots that call the rocky peak home. I wanted to enjoy the view, but the clear sky only half an hour before had changed. Cumulus clouds were building fast and I wanted to get off the mountain even faster.
I did get off that mountain but not below treeline. I was on a lower ridge when the storm finally unleashed. I quickly dropped down the side 500ft or so and hunkered down for over an hour until the lightning settled down.
I did get off that mountain but not below treeline. I was on a lower ridge when the storm finally unleashed. I quickly dropped down the side 500ft or so and hunkered down for over an hour until the lightning settled down. I have to say lightning is the most scary thing out here!
After the constant climbing of the morning, I was glad to find the afternoon walking followed a scenic, yet flat ridgeline. It was slightly off trail, with wooden poles guiding the way over grass and easy scree slopes. To the left I had a constant cliff with a great overview down to the constant lakes, while on the left I was treated with a huge vista of a low valley.
There was a constant light rain until 7pm, when every cloud in the sky vanished in an instant. I was at thumb pass when the clouds cleared and decided to camp here for an extraordinarily scenic spot to drift off to sleep.
The CDT heads down the valley from this point but I will be taking @andrewskurka Pfiffner Traverse high route until Grand Lake instead. Who wants to walk down in a humid valley when there is an option to stay up on a spectacular section of trail.