CDT, Day 5 — An easier day

CDT, Day 5 — July 5

I slept soundly last night in my cozy tent and hit the trail at 6 a.m. under clear, cold skies. My longjohns, wind shell, and pile gloves kept me warm.

Hiking started with an easy half mile of trail across tundra followed by a short but steep ascent that passed over a snowfield. My microspikes made the ascent easy. Three miles of more or less level walking followed the occasionally visible trail. NOBO thru-hiker Rocket Man passed me, wearing the sandals he's used since starting.

I gained some elevation over a ridge then descended a bit to the Devil’s Thumb Trail junction. I turned west and started downhill for a three-mile walk to Devil’s Park, losing the trail once in a large snowfield. The trail went essentially straight downhill after it entered the timber, and the resulting erosion left many small round stones on which I slipped several times. On the way, I ran into a former work colleague, John Carron, and his wife and daughter.

At Devil’s Park, the CDT turns north and heads uphill fairly gently for 2.5 miles through lodgepole-pine forest. Thankfully, not too many blowdowns. My alpine hiking was over for a while.

After reaching a ridge, I descended four miles through more lodgepole-pine forest interspersed with vast, willow-dominated wetlands. At the lower elevations, the air finally warmed. At a trail junction, my map showed a right turn quickly followed by a left turn. I turned right and soon realized that the map was in error.

I retraced my steps and found the CDT, continuing north through terrain that didn’t seem to match that shown on my map. But CDT confidence markers on trees led me on — thanks! After some time, I started downhill steeply toward Monarch Lake. When I reached the valley, I and soon came upon the 1.5-mile long lake. I walked along an easy trail to a trail head then along a road for a mile.

My plan was to mooch a camp site at the Arapahoe Bay campground on Lake Granby, a huge reservoir. When I arrived at the campground at 5:30 p.m., a kind family of mom, dad, and three girls let me share their site. I set up my tent, ate dinner and rested. This was by far the easier day so far. I was finally able to hike 20 miles in a day.

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