Thursday, August 23, 2007

Colorado Vacation - Colorado Trail- Day 2

We woke up the next morning not too sore. We ate oatmeal for breakfast and prepared our day-packs and dog's saddle bags, ready to leave Extreme Base Camp and push for the Summit. The rain had lightened to a faint mist as we left camp. As we were passing our neighbours camp, Kristi asked how their night had been. He muttered some expletives ranting about how he and his wife had to be camping through the worst thunderstorm all year, and couldn't get any sleep. I don't think Kristi knew how to respond to his rants, all she could have said was "earplugs." For fear of any repercussions she just continued smiling. The first couple of miles were really relaxing. The soft forest floor padded the sound of our footsteps. We passed a camp, and had to grab the dogs so they wouldn't spook their horses. After we passed over a couple of creeks, we heard the pounding of water. We followed the sound and came upon a beautiful waterfall. At the waterfall we took some pics and discovered a really pretty flower. I will have to look up what kind it was. Soon the trail became steep and passed through more talus and glacial remains. After the recent rains the canyon was now cascading with little waterfalls all around. Soon we met up with more Boy Scouts at a deep creek crossing. They had their boots off and were trying to wade through. Kristi and I didn't pause and trudged right through, hoping our Gore-Tex boots would live up to their name. For the most part they did. The trail squeezed through a notch dripping with seep springs, then came to an old mining camp. An old cabin sat dilapidated with wall boards strewn about. Since it was above the treeline some campers tried to use the boards for campfires. With out adequate kindling it would be tough to get it going. Judging from the number of unconsumed boards burnt on one end laying around they weren't entirely successful. Luckily we arrived at the cabin before the Boy Scouts did. I was able to get some great pics. After leaving the cabin the trail continued along the now dwindling Elk Creek. The trail then took a turn straight up. Then another turn. It continued to switch back about 30 times. We actually counted. There was some debate where we were counting from, however. Either the corner, or the entire tier. Since Kristi was the one keeping count, she decided to count the corners. Eventually Elk Creek disappeared into the mountain. Talk about headwaters. The trail continued to switch back all the way to the top. I always love coming to the top of mountain passes. The anticipation of what awaits is always worth the climb. Sure enough there was no disappointment. There were a couple more cabins down a thousand feet on the other side. The sun was out and we were surrounded by hills of wild flowers and snowy mountain peaks. Time to collapse and eat lunch. I think I heard Kristi snoring. She was feeling a little light headed. We were right up there at 13,000 ft with the 14,000 peaks surrounding us. Clouds swirling around, and distant rumbles of thunder. At the top we had some choices to make. There were trails going off in many different directions. The guide book steered us toward a couple of high altitude lakes. After some more climbing we reached a ridge, then followed it past Lake El Dorado. The trail kept going along the continental divide, so since it wasn't raining we thought we had better look to see what was around the corner. Another mile or so and we reached what seemed the end of the world. With clouds below us swirling around we were awe stricken. We spent two hours exploring the various trails, careful not to loose too much elevation. Alas, it was getting late and the clouds were closing in. As we started to leave the Boy Scouts were just arriving. They remarked that we were like a couple of jack rabbits for having gotten up there so fast. It makes a huge difference if you don't have an extra 40 lbs on your back. We were actually thinking how hard it would have been to summit with our packs, not to mention not having any shelter away from the thunderstorms. The decent back to base camp seemed to take forever, and the adrenaline faded fast. Our feet were pounding by the time we got to camp, and I could feel my blood sugar level falling. We quickly made an Indian Tofu dish, with fresh vegetables and wolfed it down. Bellies full, we crawled into bed. Then it started raining again. It was a replay from the night before. The dogs curled up at our feet and we slept.

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