Day Nineteen: Nine in Eight

I wake late because it’s coldcoldcold, frost on the outside of my shelter. My foot, to my chagrin, has not somehow magically healed overnight, so we’re slow getting out of camp; I’m abusing the good graces of my right foot/leg babying my left foot like I’ve been told to. We’re not helped by the fact that it’s another climb up a rocky jeep road to start today, but at least we’re only planning on nine miles for the day – that should put us in Salida on Thursday, where we can have another quiet evening to ourselves before I’m bombarded with friends and fun.

A plane makes a ridiculous amount of passes overhead as we walk, a confusing soundtrack for our morning – is it surveying the valley? Checking out the new trail? Are we being watched? Is someone lost? Can we help? There are no answers, just more questions, but eventually it wanders off.

We quickly pass the spot where the Colorado Trail Foundation is working to get the trail off the jeep road, further up the side of the hill. Today, I’m glad we don’t have to climb it; it’s hard to consistently concentrate on carefully placing each step, and on the steps that I misplace, there’s a slow burn that starts to bloom in my injured foot. We make it up to Hancock Lake relatively without incident, pass a bunch of would-be-fisherman on a quest to learn the craft on our way up to Chalk Creek Pass.

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Chalk Creek Pass and Hancock Lake

Spesh is walking ahead, stops for a morning snack; I catch him shortly – and am glad for the break for my increasingly nagging foot – before Julie catches us. Another thru, and one we met briefly in Twin Lakes, Julie is hauling, looking to make the 15 miles into Salida tonight or early tomorrow to meet a friend, have a shower. She hears about my foot problems and offers me some of her roll of 2-inch athletic tape; I tear off three strips, use them to support my arch, but don’t wrap them all the way around for fear of cutting off my circulation. There’s no immediate result – my foot feels fine when I’m not putting any weight on it – so I’m interested to see if this helps or hurts or or or.

Turns out, the tape helps – my foot feels almost normal for the rest of the 500 feet of gain, and I don’t have to pay as close attention to my footfalls as before, so I can do things like actually look around and take pictures again.

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Hancock Lake (center), Upper Hancock Lake (left) from Chalk Creek Pass

 

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Such rock. Many rock. So rock. Wow.

 

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It’s a nice meander down the valley on the other side, with intermittent boulder-hopping that I should probably be super careful about take to with gusto. Talus, not so much my jam, but small boulders, ones that (usually) don’t move, those are fun to run on, let loose, stretch my legs. It’s so hard to hold back, since the tape is working; cerebrally, I know it’s just a temporary fix, but feeling normal after being worried feels too good.

The day can’t decide whether it wants to be warm or cold, and lunch is a dance in and out of windshirts and coats. Shortly after our stop, we find a couple of Homo sapiens sapiens sitting outside a privately-owned cabin on the trail/jeep road. They don’t own it or anything, but find it about as odd as we do that the Forest Service let someone build up here. There’s a couple more cabins down the way, they tell us, as well as a pretty impressive avalanche chute that’s worth a gawk. They wish us good luck on our hike, and we gallivant off on our way.

The sights greet us sooner than we expect:

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*chants* han-ta-vi-rus *clap clap clapclapclap*

As we walk, the road continues to slope down, down, and it’s just about as rocky as the avalanche field. The tape helps but it’s not enough, and I have to stop about two-thirds of the way down to let it simmer down now. A couple of CDT Hikers pass by, and they’re just as exhausted, done as the others we’ve seen. They’re meeting friends in Salida tomorrow, but decide to try to hitch in early at the bottom of the road we’re on, before even Boss Lake Trailhead, where there might be some dayhikers about. We wish them luck and send them on their way, tentatively make ours downhill then up again to Boss Lake.

There are moments on-trail, like the one yesterday, where I’m not really sure what the point of a particular section of trail is. The trail at Boss Lake is one of those. Instead of meandering by the lake for its climb up to the climb up to Hunt Lake, there’s a brand new bridge luring you onto some of the sketchiest trail I’ve seen – and I’ve yelled at ranted about seen the trail through the Tenmile Range. It’s super short, and super steep, which is also why it’s confusing. But we survive it, and it us out near a still-open mine shaft.

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Curiosity killed the cat, and maybe also the miner.

Then it’s down before up, away from Boss Lake, but not before some shenanigans.

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He’s Speshul, alright.

The last miles to Hunt Lake are among the more painful I’ve experienced – I’m humming some nameless, made up tune in an effort to keep my mind off my continually slowing pace, the growing pain in my foot despite the tape. I don’t even see half the scenery on the way up, but I notice the water, when it flows trailside: almost there.

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Hunt Lake is beautiful, moreso than my phone camera can suggest; it probably doesn’t hurt that it’s taken me eight hours to go nine miles, and finally, finally I can sit down. There are a ton of (super nice!) folks1 camping lakeside, and it’s windy-windy near the shore, but we manage to go up a ways and find a couple of nice spots out of the wind where we can hear the pikas chirping.

We’ve got an early morning ahead of us tomorrow – the entire 9-mile day is pretty much a ridgewalk into Monarch Pass –  but my phone’s still got charge and I decide to use it. I organize, write, and rewrite until well past hiker midnight, and don’t properly go to sleep until the phone’s slipping out of my hand in my exhaustion.

Start: 242.5  •  End: 251.6  •  Day: 9.1
Notable Accomplishments:  That much closer to Salida •   OH HEY PASSED HALFWAY  •  Lulled to sleep by pikas


[1] Six. There are six folks.

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