Leaving Grand Lake was so much easier in full sun. After two days of rain, being able to hike in shorts and short sleeves was amazing. It was still definitely cooler – summer may be gone for good. We left town late with visions of big miles that just didn’t happen. We encountered a stretch of trail where every tree had fallen. It was like climbing through a giant’s jungle gym.
We woke up this morning with renewed goals. And it has turned out to be one of my favorite days. By 10am we had climbed above treeline and stayed high all day. We walked along the divide with panoramic views. Since I was five years old, I have been coming to Winter Park and dreaming of hiking the mountains across the valleys. Today I got my chance. After hiking until early afternoon with great views, the trail rocketed up to over 13,000 feet. In the last ten miles we climbed (very steeply) three peaks over 13,000 including the highest peak of the trail. Pushing ourselves right to the limit, we made it down to Berthoud Pass by headlamp.
There hadn’t been a water source since early morning and I didn’t even have enough to cook dinner. Our solution: hitch down to Winter Park for pizza. Normally hitching after dark is next to impossible, but we had a rest area parking lot. The third vehicle we asked took us down. Then while devouring pizza, the table next to us started quizzing us about the hike. After a bit we got invited to shower and crash at their condo. Spectacular beauty, great food and a warm place to sleep. It doesn’t get better than this.