We packed up the tent right as the cold, wet rain started to come down and headed out, eating oranges in the downpour as we climbed the mountain. We silently cursed our luck and worried about the blizzard that was probably happening on top of the pass. Many people had reminded us that today was national donut day and we bemoaned our lack of donuts on the miserable cold morning we had ahead of us. The rain started to lighten up and we noticed a man walking his dogs on the side of the road at a stop light. As we got closer we recognized Tony! He’d brought us donuts and coffee to celebrate national donut day and to check on us because of the bad weather.
We have drunk more coffee on this trip than normal. And this morning the coffee was a welcome warmth as we continued on our way, the rain had stopped so we had another reason to smile as we walked.
The mountain we were about to climb loomed ahead of us and water ran down the side of the mountain from the rain that morning. But the sun started coming out and the day was looking up.
We got to the first switch back and realized what we signed up for. The road wasn’t too steep but it added a lot of distance so we tried to climb up the side of the hill to cut off a little distance on the first turn. That was the last one we did that for.
The drainage ditch was mostly dry and a great place for us to walk.
The sights were beautiful as we climbed the mountain, but the road ahead was a long one.
We got to a point after the major turns and realized the shoulder completely disappears toward the top of the mountain, so we had to make a decision to hitch to the top. With partially wet roads, sharp turns, and no shoulder we didn’t think it would be safe to walk the rest of the way up.
We stopped at a pull out for plows on the side of the road and got a ride with a nice man on his way up. We asked him to drop us right at the top so we could take pictures and walk down the other side.
At the top there were a couple guys skiing in t-shirts, but we were cold in our rain gear so we got into the rest area and ate lunch while we decided what to do.
We started down the other side to discover that there was no shoulder, a sharp drop off, and sharp turns. This was no real surprise to us, though we’d hoped to luck out with some shoulder. We discussed it and decided it would be best to hitch a ride out of the shoulderless area to not risk our lives this early in the trip. We were picked up by a father and son who mentioned that people often hitch up the hill in the winter to ski down the mountain and with a truck he feels bad not picking them up. So we discussed our trip with them and got dropped off at Berthoud Falls, a small town right at the base of the pass.
We walked down the hill from there planning to end the day just past Empire, giving us a 6 mile head start on our plan for tomorrow. But pretty quickly Tim slipped into a mud puddle.
And we laughed at the terrifying possibility of getting shot in an avalanche prevention project.
As we walked happily toward town a dead deer nearly gave Tim a heart attack. He calls it the albino monster deer incident, but Rebecca just calls it hilarious. The shadows hid the deer well so he didn’t notice it staring right at us until the last minute and jumped out of his shoes (not really) when he noticed it. Rebecca laughed so hard she couldn’t breathe and the endorphins gave her a boost of good feelings. As we got into town those feelings must have played to her good senses and we decided to give up our plans to continue past town and ate at the local cafe. Rebecca liked the town so much she joked about moving there with the waiter (who said the restaurant was for sale if we wanted it). We discussed our trip with the other couple eating near us and enjoyed an amazing meal.
We headed across the street to the park, hid out in the visitor’s center for a bit, and set up the tent between a couple of trees. Tim slept terribly, either from dreaming about the albino monster deer or worrying about being kicked out of the park. Rebecca slept amazingly well, comfortable in her favorite little town on the trip.
Today we walked through:
Rebecca: 43,170 steps
Tim: 38,500 steps
1281 miles finished