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Terry "Cheers!" Norton
Begins: May 1, 2007
Date: Sat, Jun 30th, 2007
Start: Grand Lake, Colorado
End: Rabbit Ears Pass, Colorado
Daily Distance: 78
Trip Distance: 929.1
Entry Visits: 447
Journal Visits: 9,533
Guestbook Views: 219
Guestbook Entrys: 6
Grand Lake to Rabbit Ears Pass
Although hiking downhill can often be a joy, in these mountains I will pay a price for such pleasure. OK, the descent to Grand Lake wasn't exactly a "joy" since I couldn't find the newer path and crawled slowly over blowdowns.
Leaving Grand Lake a thruhiker has the option of hiking a loop in Rocky Mountain National Park, or continuing northward. Having hiked all the trails of this spectacular loop, I continued northward. The route follows roads along the west side of RMNP before beginning a seemingly unending climb along the North Supply Creek 4WD road until it reaches Blue Ridge.
On the climb out of the valley floor, I was struck by magnitude of the beetle kill. That is, the trees killed by the western pine bark beetle. I would estimate that 50% of the trees are dead on the western side of Rocky Mountan National Park. I cannot begin to imagine the fire that will occur in the near future with one lightning strike during a summer of drought.
Finally at the ridge I am back to having views! Along this walk I ran into Steve and his dog where were scrambling to get to treeline before the afternoon showers began. I looked north to Cascade Mountain and judged the storms were not troublesome. Although there was some rumbling, I did not see any ground strikes. As I started the final climb there were a few visible lightning strikes, and I took refuge in the last stand of trees for the next few miles of trail. Windy, exposed, and beautiful was the walk to Bown Pass. I was exhausted after a day with over 6,000 feet of ascent. With a creek and some trees for wind protection, I set down for the night a few hundred yards north of the pass.
Recently I changed back to my "usual" breakfast that has worked for me on the AT (twice) and most of the PCT. For the first part of this trip I had been substituting a protien shake for my usual morning quart of instant milk with a little chocolate powder. The protien shakes were not as appealing, and I often carried the drink pouched for 100's of miles before forcing myself to drink them. The chocolate milk also had a few more calories, although much less protien.
Being snowmelt season, the mosquitoes are horrid! Greasy, smelly DEET brings welcome relief. These pests have been starting early in the day, and I have been wearing my headnet by late afternoon to avoid inhaling a little extra protien.
The additonal effect of higher elevation gain at these altitudes is wreaking havoc on my daily mileage. Twenty mile days do not flow along quickly with 5,000+ feet of ascent at 10,000 feet of altitude (average). Still the scenery is amazing, and the trial through much of this section is actually "trail" rather than 4WD road.
The walk the next day across Illinois Pass and Willow Pass to the beginning of the climb to Parkview Mountain went quickly. On the other hand, the last 2,000 foot ascent to the top of Parkview Mtn was exhausting! I apparently sweated off my DEET from the morning, and had to have a second treatment by early afternoon. As usual, the clouds were rumbling as I reached the summit, but I continued on.
There is a very tempting trail to the southwest from the summit of Parkview Mountain. I checked my map, compass, and GPS multiple times hoping that the nice looking route was the CDT route. Instead, I took a cross-country route due west along a spectacular ridge! The next 3.5 miles were on wonderfully rolling terrain marked by cairns. When descending from the ridge, I opted for the shorter cut-off through trees rather than the official CDT route which would add another 3 or 4 miles. Still, the descent to the road was maddening since an avalanche long ago had filled the woods with debris.
Argh! Another road walk! At least this one was only a few miles on a dirt road before an unmarked turn-off toward Troublesome Pass. I would worry about that in the morning.
My GPS proved useful in finding the CDT turn-off from the road. There was a small cairn hidden in the trees at this junciton, and I constructed a new one that was a little more visible. The walk up this abandoned two track was pleasant, although none of my maps has the correct routing. When I didn't see a cairn or other marker for a mile, I doubled back to see if I missed something. Add 2 bonus miles for the day! The walk across Poison Ridge was scenic and pleasant. This would be the last trail for this section.
Did I ever mention that I don't like road walking? The final 30+ miles of this section are on roads. The progression is from a graded dirt road, then to high grade improved dirt road on road base, to finally paved black top! Friday night I put down at the junction of CR53 and CO14 since I reached it just before nightfall and was unable to hitch to Rabbit Ears Pass. In the morning I walked off the final miles to Rabbit Ears.
The Continental Divide Trail is a national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada via New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. This unfinished trail can potentially span up to 3,100 miles. Learn more: www.continentaldividetrail.org
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