August 20, 2013
Three Mile Lake Trail to Rabbit Ears Pass
I can't remember the last time that I willingly woke up at 4am, but that is exactly what I did this morning. After my usual morning breakfast routine and packing up I was on trail at 4:50am and on my way. After a short downhill and roadwalk to a trailhead I entered the Mt Zirkel Wilderness. As soon as the wilderness began, so did the climbing. It was 3400' elevation gain over about 8 or 9 miles to 11,900'. I was glad to have started early because the morning was a comfortable temperature for the climb. I reached the top of the climb at 8:30, hiked past a few llamas and their owners, and took a break around 9am after about 4 hours and 12 miles of hiking.
Most of the rest of the day was spent hiking along a ridge on the divide and I must say that so far Colorado has been pretty great. I ran into a fair amount of people out and about either for a hiking or backpacking with smiles on their faces as big as the blue sky above and shining like the sun. Around 10am I bumped into a NOBO thru-hiker who was headed to the Mt Zirkel TH for the night to meet his wife and pick up a resupply. I mentioned that I was headed to Rabbit Ears Pass for the night to get into Steamboat Springs in time for dinner and hopefully get some town chores taken care of. He looked up as he did the mental math of how much further it was to the pass and remarked that it was another 23-24 miles (which I was well aware) and also had the gall to say, "I don't think you'll make it." I must admit that I was a bit taken aback by his comment. It was the first time I had come across anyone on the trail who was pessimistic about my ability to do what I aimed to do, let alone another thru-hiker! There wasn't much left to say so we wished each other luck and then headed on in our respective directions. Secretly inside I was fired up. How dare the negative-Nancy naysay my abilities. I mean, what a Debbie-downer. All it really did was stele my resolve to make it to the pass to prove him wrong (not that he will ever know) and to prove to myself that I could in fact do it.
Along the way, around lunc I also ran into a couple of older ladies from Steamboat out for a day hike with beaming smiles and who were incredulous of my journey along the CDT. There was also a mother and daughter with their dog out for a day hike who informed me that there is the USA Pro Cycling Challenge race even taking place in Colorado and one of the stages is even finishing in Steamboat tomorrow! Could be a little bit crazy in town, but it's generally fun to be around big athletic events so it should be interesting. They were also kind enought to give me a couple homemade brownies after hearing about my planned mileage for the day and the trek in general. I thanked them and headed on my way. Once getting to Buffalo Pass another few miles down the trail, the hiking was pretty mellow and easy and I was able to make it to Rabbit Ears Pass by 6:30pm. So HA! I did it!
It took about 20-30 minutes to get a hitch into Steamboat with a couple of guys who rode the stage yesterday, but were driving to Steamboat to watch the finish of the stage tomorrow. I am staying at the Rabbit Ears Motel and even made a stop at the local brewery to try some local brew and food. Delish. Not sure what my plan is for tomorrow, only time will tell!