It is dark in our little riverside forest camp when the warm goes off at 5. It is tempting to play possum, but neither of us has been sleeping very well so far, so it is better to go ahead and get moving. We have a big climb today up and over Georgia Pass at 11,874 feet. It is supposed to be our very best view on the Colorado Trail so far, and, with the afternoon thunderstorms that we have been having the past few days, we want to make sure that we get up and over the pass well before noon.
Even though we feel like we are hustling to get all packed up, we still don’t hit the trail until 6:45. We are still trying to figure out how we can break camp faster. With another thirty or so chances to practice, we hope we can get this down before the end of the CT.
We run into Achilles as soon as we hit the trail, and we spend the next few miles chatting and getting to know each other as we climb through the forest steadily gaining elevation.
We pass another camp at our third mile just as Juli and Eden are leaving, so our group grows to five. Within minutes, we get distracted by our first bird sighting of the day (a male American Three-toed Woodpecker with a cool yellow crown), and we are back to hiking alone.
For most of the morning, the trees are tall and thick with dark green, healthy-looking needles, until, all of the sudden, they start to thin out and become smaller in size. Matt notices the change right away and says that we must be close to getting above treeline. Within minutes, a rusty-hued ridge of mountains appears to our left, and we are in a high alpine meadow that seems to stretch out in front of us forever.
There are a few day hikers and mountain bikers sharing the trail with us, and everyone seems to be quite pleased to have gotten themselves up to this beautiful spot on this picture-perfect day. We take a short trip down a side trail where we see some small snow patches clinging to the side of the mountain. A mountain biker is whizzing down the trail far off in the distance. It’s hard to imagine a better place to be a mountain biker than here.
We retrace our steps back to the CT and continue up to the high point of Georgia Pass, where the Orchestra and Juli and Eden are gathered taking photos. Juli points out a small herd of mountain goats off in the distance, and we all take turns getting a closer look at them through Matt’s binoculars.
From the pass, we have a close up view of Mount Guyot, whose distinctive triangular peak surrounded by bright blue skies and puffy white cloudsis a spectacular backdrop for the many photographs taken by everyone who arrives here.
Matt takes out our tent ground cloth to dry in the sun and checks on the World Cup scores. We have the best reception we have seen on the entire trail so far, so we take a few minutes to check email and make sure that nothing critical has happened over the past few days. No news is good news, so we pack up our things and continue on.
We lose very little elevation over the next couple miles as we traverse the high alpine meadow to the west of the pass.
After crossing a rough Jeep road, we spot our very first Continental Divide Trail blaze, indicating that we are now sharing the trail with thru-hikers who are marching all the way from New Mexico to Canada. We are not sure where they should be at this point in their long journey, and we wonder if we will see many of them over these next 300+ miles that our two trails share together.
A few mountain bikers pass us from behind, and most give us a whistle, ring a bell or even a loud hoot to warn us of their presence and give us a chance to step off the trail before they zoom past us. My heart leaps out of its chest, though, the one time that I hear tires skidding just a few feet behind me. I let out a small shriek and jump off the trail just in time to avoid a nasty collision. The biker nonchalantly asks how I am doing as he passes by, and I can’t help myself from telling him that he nearly scared me to death!
We have a way more peaceful encounter furthur down the trai when we finally meet “DC Kathy” (the DC stands for directionally challenged) and her 9 year-old grandson “T-Navigator.” We met her son on Day 3 after he spent a few days on the trail with them and was hiking out to get back to work. I asked if he was resupplying them, and he told me that they had llamas with them.
Most of the other people we have hiked with told us of running into the llamas, but this was our very first face-to-face encounter. DC Kathy is 68 years old and hired these llamas from a man in Denver. She actually got 50% off the rental price by helping out their owner with their care on several occasions before their trip. They are sitting in the shade having lunch because one of the llamas decided to go on a sit-down strike and refused to move. If you can’t beat ‘em, join’em!
We head down the trail to find our own lunch spot when we see a backpacker heading up the trail in the opposite direction. Matt asks if he is a CDT hiker, and, sure enough, he is! His name is “Story Time”, and he has been hiking since April 15. He has already done the PCT twice and the AT, so this will be his last long national scenic trail to complete the Triple Crown of backpacking. He indulges us and lets us ask him a zillion questions before he finally bids us farewell. He has to average 22 miles per day if he wants to get to Canada before the snow flies. We wish him the best before he disappears from our view.
We have about three more miles to go before we get to our next water source at the Swan River. The trail here changes character from the smooth, sandy grade that we have been spoiled with for the most part to a steep, rocky trail that takes us a little more time to negotiate. The forest here is lush and pretty. I have often heard of the Oregon section of the PCT referred to as the “tunnel of green” and wonder how similar this section of the CT may be to that.
When we finally arrive at the creek, Zen is sitting on the footbridge. We saw her a few times on the trail yesterday, but this is the first time that we have a chance to formally meet. She is a pre-school teacher from Berkeley here doing the trail on her own, and she has a mellow vibe that must have been the inspiration for her trail name.
We cross paths with a few other CDT hikers while we filter our water and exchange some intel about what we each know about the trail ahead. It seems that water cooler talk happens out here in the wilderness, too.
It’s only another mile or so into camp, which, for the second night in a row, happens to be near a water source. Matt scouts out a plum spot with river access and a little more privacy than the others in the area. It’s 4:30 and time for our afternoon thunderstorm, so we try to get the tent set up as quickly as possible and throw everything inside.
Luckily, the rain holds off, and we have a string of visitors come say hello and chat as we reorganize our belongings. This is the first time that we have camped in the vicinity of people we know from the trail, and it’s fun to have a social hour.
Our favorite visitor has to be Barry, DC Kathy’s husband who is here to resupply her and T-Nav with food for the next segment of the trail. He has a bag full of apples and oranges and insists that we take as many as we would like. Fresh fruit on the trail is such a treat. We could definitely get used to this trail magic thing!
We spend the rest of the evening relaxing down by the river. We have a meadow view, and the sound of the stream is music to our ears. Day 7 on the CT is one we are not likely to forget!
Day 7 Trail Stats
Starting Point: Jefferson Creek, mile 77.7
End Point: North Fork Swan River, mile 91.4
Mileage: 13.7 miles
Date on Trail: July 7, 2018