Total Miles: 506.9
It sounds like a reasonably long distance when I say it out loud. I can't even tell you two cities that are roughly 500 miles apart, but if I could my next suggestion would certainly not be to walk from one to the other. That's what planes are for.
Eclipsing the 500 mile mark seems like something that ought to be worthy of a modest celebration but it came and went without any of us even noticing. An imaginary spot on a trail where we still need to repeat that same distance nearly five more times.
The early morning miles were an uneventful cruise downhill into the town of Twin Lakes, with the word ‘town’ being used very loosely considering it’s really nothing more than a small general store that kindly holds hiker resupply boxes. After collecting our box and then sorting through it in the shade, the owner, Bob, came strolling over to us asking if we'd care for some ice cream. The delivery truck had just pulled up, and he offered it to us right as the back doors had been swung open. Ice cream sandwiches for breakfast? It would've been rude to say no.
With the chore of resupply behind us, we headed off towards a bushwhack of a mile and a half around the west end of the twin lakes from which the town takes its name. Picking our way through thick brush, beaver damns, and fording a knee deep river, we arrived at the other side wet but glad to have avoided the 11 mile road walk that the trail officially follows around the lakes. Saving those miles only meant that we'd arrived at the foot of the next challenge...
Yup, that probably isn't going to climb itself. Before starting the long slog, we chatted with another hiker named Skippy, who’s thru-hiking the Colorado Trail and whom we'd met yesterday evening. After he showed us the 3.5 pounds of Skippy peanut butter he had in his pack, there's was no need to ask how he'd gotten his trail name.
The climb was relentlessly consistent in its gradient, and by the time we'd reached the halfway point for a snack break I think I'd found new places to sweat from that I didn't previously know even existed. Given that it's the weekend, there were also throngs of day-hikers bent on reaching the pass. By contrast to how completely and utterly alone we'd been for the first several hundred miles of this hike, it almost felt claustrophobic to be sharing the trail with so many others. At last reaching the pass, the view did not disappoint.
Looking out into one of the true highlights of the trail in Colorado, the West Collegiates were assembled and ready to greet us over the next few days. Dropping down the south side of the pass, the wind vanished as did the people. The daily ritual of afternoon sprinkles began just as we sat down beside the trail to cook dinner, but the clouds seemed to think the better of really letting loose. The yelps that came from Ace and Sweet Pea moments later weren't from the rain—they were courtesy of two squirrels, who in their frenzy, decided to run across both their legs before dashing back into the woods.
Latitude/Longitude: 38.95488, -106.46297