I got up around 6, hit the trail just before 7, hiked down to the highway, crossed the highway, went up a grass embankment, and then… had no idea where to pick up the trail again! My guidebook said the trail skirted a golf course before heading back into the forest, and that it was well-marked. I looked over the landscape, deliberating about which direction to take. I was very confused! I was supposed to pass under some ski lifts at mile 1.6, saw some across the golf course, and thought about cutting across. Instead, I wound up lost in some uphill putting sections! Ugh! Time was passing and I was going absolutely nowhere! I backtracked and came out to field level again, luckily seeing a post with a CT sign from a distance! Finally, I found the trail into the forest, ascended the switchbacks, and eventually passed under a series of chairlifts.
After emerging from the other side of the forest, a woman who was walking her dog came around the corner,startling me. She commented to the dog that someone was walking on his path… There were condos on the other side. I came to Copperhead Ski Resort, which reminded me of Switzerland and my Swiss friend. I thought it was a place he would definitely hang out at.
It would have been nice to get something to eat there, but I decided to save my money and time and continue on.
On the climb up the next hill, I stopped to put on my visor and sunscreen. A group of younger people started the climb after me and I quickly went on.
A bit later, I caught up to a father and son who were out on a day hike. They let me pass them as I was moving more quickly, but they passed me back after I took a break to eat a plum that I had brought from Breckenridge. They went up a grassy hill while I continued on the CT, into the woods, heading for my second long stretch (4.8 miles) of exposed terrain- Searle Pass.
I saw a ski hut in the evergreens, which again made me think of Switzerland. And then, I was out in the open again! My favorite part!
I got to the highest point that I could see, saw a nice flat rock to sit down on and have lunch, then looked behind me to see big, dark clouds! Oh, no… The wind quickly picked up, the temperature rapidly dropped, and it began sprinkling. So much for enjoying lunch… I put on my rain jacket and moved on.
The rain turned to hail… It pelted my hands and bare legs. All I could do was keep moving forward. I thought about people at home, enjoying themselves in comfort as the hail stung my skin. I wished I could enjoy the views in these open areas without racing away from storms! The hail eventually turned to rain, and then stopped altogether. I still hadn’t reached the highest part of this section at mile 12.3. I heard and saw both marmots and pikas. A family of 5 or so marmots poked their heads out of the rocks and watched me walk by. So cute!
Rain still sputtered and I continued to move.
I finally reached the high point, and the trail started to descend.
I could see treeline in the distance. Then, I saw flashes of lightning! I picked up my pace, hiking as fast as I could as lightning bolts flashed in the sky. Finally I made it to treeline- safety! The rain picked up in intensity again. Lightning was again striking.
I headed off the trail to 2 pine trees, which I felt were protecting me from the lightning and keeping me somewhat dry. I waited for 10 minutes until it seemed as though the storm was passing.
Again, I pressed on, downhill, heading towards a dirt road. And again, the rain started. I saw the headlights of a car approaching me. It passed me by without acknowledgement. I walked on a path along the road, in the rain, eventually crossing the road and heading towards the forest once again. I saw a flat spot underneath a couple of trees at the end of the road and thought about setting up camp there. But then I saw some spooky bunkers nearby, and decided it would be best to continue on! I climbed another mile. My guidebook said there was a great campsite 0.1 miles from this point, but I saw nothing! So, I pressed on, growing more tired, hungry, and demoralized by the minute. I reached a bench a few minutes later, pulled out a power bar, and wondered if I should change plans and try to hike 5 more miles and hitch the 9 miles into town tonight. I didn’t know if there were any camping spots in the next five miles. I would be exhausted and wouldn’t reach the trailhead until 7:30 (after having hiked 26 miles that day), but I would be able to spend the night out of the rain. I put my pack back on and pressed on. Not long after, I saw a bit of flat ground, looked into the woods in that direction and saw a place to camp! That was it! I was stopping for the day.
I had to set up my tent on some tree roots. I unpacked my sleeping bag, got things set up, then took my stove out to cook some dinner. It then started sprinkling again! Fine- I guess I will just rest in my tent for awhile…I tried to lie down and relax. I woke up about 20-30 minutes later to the sound of steadier rain. It was really starting to come down! And then, I noticed it flooding my tent- in all directions! My sleeping bag was getting wet (it’s really bad to get down wet because it loses its insulation properties and takes forever to dry!), and water was running underneath my sleeping pad! It was a nightmare! For the next 2 hours, I tried to triage the situation. I tried to mop up the puddles with toilet paper. I didn’t have my rain beak staked out, so I was trying to hold it away from the mesh wall of my tent to prevent more water from dripping in… I managed to nibble on a few snacks, but I didn’t feel very hungry. I was just exhausted.
At 8:00, I decided that the drops I heard falling on my tent were coming from the trees and that the rain had let up, so I got out to pee and brush my teeth. I tried to get some sleep, but all night long, water dripped on my tent from the pine needles above me.
This was a very difficult day! (And I managed to lose one of my Crocs, too…)