Knowing once again that we have an ambitious day ahead (we are hoping to tackle 14 + miles and there’s some serious uphill involved), we wake up at 4:15 and start the usual process rolling. It’s the Fourth of July today and we are hiking on the 1776, aka the Colorado Trail. So naturally we’ve got tunes from Hamilton on the brain! What time is it? Showtime!
It’s a crisp morning as we set off on the trail, but we are treated to some beautiful golden light that illuminates the forest in front of us.
The first segment of today’s trail takes us down to the Rolling Creek Trailhead and into the Lost Creek Wilderness. We stop to register before continuing on into a coniferous forest interspersed with stands of aspen, with their tall slender branchless trunks jutting skyward. Purple columbine are in bloom, and we notice young blueberry bushes as well. Alas, it will be some time before there are ripe berries.
We climb steadily and top the 10,000 foot mark for the first time! The bird life this morning is good: we see a Red-breasted nuthatch, a pair of Mountain chickadees, and a Brown creeper, and then we hear a woodpecker very close by tapping out Morse code on a dead tree trunk. I pull out my binoculars but struggle to locate the bird. Finally I see movement and follow him until I can identify that he is only black and white and has a white patch on his back. Then, I see him use his beak to flake off bark from a pine tree and I know that I’ve spied a lifer! An American Three-toed Woodpecker, which my bird app says is “inconspicuous and uncommon!” Day 4 is already off to a great start!
The next segment of the trail finds us following an old, rocky, logging road as we make a fairly steep ascent. Eventually we turn back into the forest where we compete the big climb of the day all the way up to 10,600 feet. We descend slightly to the arid side of the mountain and begin seeing vistas over open meadows to the tree-covered slopes beyond.
We exit the Lost Creek Wilderness and make our way down to the North Fork of Lost Creek where the CT intersects the Brookside-McCurdy Trail. A meadow opens out on either side of the creek, and there are attractive looking campsites visible at the tree line. We see a handsome male Wilson’s warbler and a pair of White-crowned sparrows in the willow bushes that nestle up to the water.
We head down to the creek to take an extended lunch. While Alison pulls lunch out of her pack and prepares our peanut butter tortilla sandwiches, I begin filtering water as once again we will need to mule water to a dry campsite tonight. But the sun is out, and the temperature pleasant, so this is one chore we don’t mind doing. We also take the opportunity to dip our feet in the chilly water and “cool our dawgs,” which is like pressing the reset button on our feet!
We are joined by other hikers who also fill their water, and the chatter is all about how far everyone hopes to make it. We are all on different plans and hike at different speeds, but its fun to “talk trail” with fellow hikers.
It’s time to pack up for the final stretch. We’ve already come 9.2 miles today, but we would like to make it another 5.4 to the next guaranteed campsite. This takes us on a relatively flat trail alongside the meadow and slightly above the creek. We have long, expansive views before us and a decent cloud cover keeps the temperature quite pleasant. Our feet are tired, but we are feeling energized and keep pressing on. A few rain drops start falling and force us to briefly don rain jackets and protect our cameras, but this passes soon enough, so it’s right back off with all that.
There is a fire nearby, which we cannot smell, but which is producing hazy skies that turn the sun to unusual orange color. We make the final climb up to the saddle at the end of the meadow and expect to find other hikers camping but end up with a delightful site all to ourselves. A fine place to celebrate Trail 1776 on the Fourth of July!
Day 4 Trail Stats
Starting Point: Trailside camp, mile 40.2
End Point: Dry campsite at end of meadow/head of North Fork of Lost Creek, mile 55
Segments: 3 & 4
Date on Trail: July 4, 2018