Total Miles: 414.8
At 8.3 pounds per gallon, the weight of water is something you notice. While the heaviest of the commodities we tote around with us, it’s also inarguably the most important which is why the decision of exactly how much to carry away from each water source is such a critical one. Fortunately, in spite of the rapid snow melt in Colorado, water sources have been plentiful. Under a pitiless sun, the sweating that happens between them has also been plentiful.
Making matters even less comfortable was the utter absence of the wind that has lashed us nearly everyday, and even when we descended into forest expecting a shady reprieve, the destruction of the pine beetle meant a lodgepole forest naked of its usual foliage. There was nowhere to hide.
The menu item du jour was electrolytes. If there had been a bar in the middle of the unpeopled wilderness we traversed today, I would have ordered shots of Gatorade without a hint of humor. In absence of that, all that was left to do was to keep moving forward and focus on something other than the punishment the sun was inflicting upon us.
Before the sun was even a twinkle in our eyes, we’d gotten our first dose of wet feet since Montana courtesy of an early morning stream ford. As cold as it was, a little warmth to thaw ourselves would have been welcome, our relationship to the sun being not unlike a torrid affair alternating between pleading passion and outright disgust.
Leaving one final water source before ascending to our first pass of the day, Ace temporarily lost the very faint trail at the apex of a switchback and continued following a herd path that looked about as well used as the actual trail. Five minutes later, we were reunited back on the trail and churning our way towards higher elevation.
The double disappointment of finding nearly shadeless forests was that the same blight that caused their death inevitably yielded evermore blowdown to scramble over. Nothing kills pace quite like blowdown. Between the extra care taken to avoid a misplaced step when navigating those obstacles and the uneven footing among tufts of high alpine grasses during the long stretches of trail-less cross country travel, it was like all the little stabilizer muscles in your hips and ankles had been pressed into service. By the time the day’s miles were over, they were none too happy about their forced servitude.
Working our way down the final few miles toward the town of Silverthorne, we stopped for one last break in what little shade we could find at a small stream. Behind us on a log was a tiny gnome figurine, which brought back memories of a similar discovery when Ace and I had hiked the Wonderland Trail with our friend Julie. ￼His flushed cheeks could mean only one thing—even he was feeling the heat.
Latitude/Longitude: 39.63086, -106.06437