Collegiate East

Day 12 | July 6

This morning we said goodbye to Jive and continued to follow the Colorado Trail along the east side of the Collegiate Peaks. 

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As we hiked we began to hear the roar of thunder around us. Storms move in and out of the mountains quickly. Luckily, all we got was some light rain fall that cleared up by the evening.

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As sunset hours fell upon us we started the search for a campsite. We collected our evening’s water at Silver Creek and then climbed a mile to a potential camp spot. It was still light out when we got there and we were feeling good so we decided to hike a little further.

We assumed we would find a spot in less than a mile, and we assumed that the short hike would be as manageable as the 21 miles we did all day. We were mistaken. Very suddenly the trail took a steep turn. Our packs had the added weight of 3 liters of water each as we continued to go straight up on trail. Sweat seeped through my clothes and dropped off my skin. As I was looking down at the sandy gravel I saw a splotch of red fall to the ground. Great, another nose bleed! I grabbed Cosmo’s red bandana and with one hand on my nose, and one hand on my hiking stick, I continued to climb.

Just before darkness fell we came to a flat clearing. We dropped our packs in exhaustion and exclaimed in joy, “we’re home!”

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Day 13 | July 7, 2018

This morning we woke up on a mission. We were 18.7 miles from Mount Princeton Hot Springs and we were ready to treat ourselves. It was almost all downhill to the hot springs and after last night’s big climb we were happy to enjoy much more mellow terrain today.

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 In the afternoon, thunder roared and rain came down in sporadic spurts, but for the most part we managed to sneak past a storm. We made it to the Hot Springs by early evening and wasted no time getting settled.

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Mount Princeton Resort is a family friendly establishment, and far from a rustic hot spring.  We knew the pools would be packed with people and this would not be a desolate escape. We didn’t care. As soon as I heard there was a water slide that wound its way into a warm pool of natural water, I was sold!

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We paid the $25 dollar day rate, grabbed our water slide mats and wasted no time joining the crowds.

After just one hour (and three times down the slide) a lightening storm caused the lifeguards to blow the whistle and close the pool.

We headed over to the main resort office to regroup and just as we got inside rain started to fall heavily outside. We stood at the check-in counter, right next to the restaurant, and salivated as we thought about beer, french fries, and dinner. Having hiker hunger at any resort is no good. We felt trapped. The prices were out of our league but we were desperate for food.

After pacing back and forth between the hotel and the market next door (which was meager and overpriced for what it did have) we caved. We sat at the bar and shared a plate of fries, a small salad, and a beer. We finished our food fast and noticed that the two girls on our right were about to throw away their leftovers. Feeling desperate and hungry Cosmo asked if we could have their leftover fries and half eaten pickle. The girls giggled but immediately passed their food over to us.

After we ate we chatted with Joyce, a kind hotel employee. She was as accommodating as she could be and extremely excited to have hikers around. She let us charge our phone batteries, gave us fruit and water, and excitedly shared a story about her upcoming El Camino hike later this month in Spain.

Eventually the rain stopped and the sky grew clear. We went for one last soak and then hiked two road miles to the trailhead.  Once we arrived, we found a nice flat spot by the creek and happily ate ramen noodles before falling asleep.

Day 14 | July 8, 2018

Today we started and completed Segment 14 from Chalk Creek Trailhead to Highway 50.

Early into our hike we were excited to stumble upon trail magic, a rarity so far on the Colorado Trail. An anonymous trail angel left a cooler filled with snacks, some supplies, and a trail register. We made small talk with two section hikers while we delighted in our surprise treats.

I’ve learned that the weather in Colorado is unpredictable. Most days we hear thunder roll in mid-afternoon, but so far we haven’t had much more than a short sprinkle of rain. Today, however, the rain came in with crashing lightning and roaring thunder, and stayed until the evening.

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We passed by the trailheads for Antero, Shavano, and Tabeguache (three Colorado 14ers), but decided to skip these peak bagging opportunities due to the weather. It’s never a good idea to climb mountains with a storm rolling by.

We made Cree Creek our last stop for the day. We filled our water bottles and set up camp on a ledge over looking the valley and canyon below.  The rain persisted as we set up camp, though we didn’t panic, knowing that these summer storms are fleeting.

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As darkness fell I peaked outside and looked up. Seeing the stars I smiled knowing that the clouds had gone.

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