After our best night of sleep yet on the CT, we wake up early, eager to hit the trail for a possible zero day in Frisco. This will depend on three factors: weather, campsite and availability of a room at the motel we have booked for tomorrow night.
We change our routine this morning to speed up our wake-up to departure time by getting the coffee going early, and it works considerably better. On our way out of camp, we make a point of stopping to chat briefly with the Llama Brigade before hitting the trail and thank them for the delicious fresh oranges we enjoyed this morning for breakfast. Trail breakfast never tasted so good!
It’s a bit cool this morning, and that helps us set a healthy pace as we start a 1200-foot climb over the next 3 miles. The sun is shining and blue skies beckon us forward. We climb steadily through pine forest, crossing a small stream and eventually gain stupendous views over the Breckenridge/Frisco Valley and its surrounding mountains.
As we are close to several mountain resort towns and it’s a Sunday in the summertime, we find that we are sharing the trail today with tons of mountain bikers out enjoying the many trails that cross-cross the CT. Even the CT is open to bikers, and today we’ve got ‘em coming at us from both directions, often at high speeds, so we are on high alert.
The good news is that most are very courteous and slow down, allowing us time to step aside and yield the trail. Still, it happens every few minutes for most of the morning. No worries… this just gives us more opportunities to photograph and enjoy our gorgeous surroundings.
At the high point, we get cell service, so I call the motel and find, much to our delight, that they have a room available for us tonight, so criteria #1 is satisfied, and we are tempted to take a full Zero Day in Frisco tomorrow, which feels like the right move after eight solid days on the trail. We are both feeling good, but a whole day of rest will no doubt do us well.
As we start to descend into the valley we cross our first big milestone of the CT, the 100-mile mark, which we have achieved in under 8 days!
We are feeling pretty proud of ourselves and, as if warning us against getting too full of ourselves, the skies open up and drop big alligator rain drops on our heads! Don’t get cocky, kids!
We don our rain gear once again and keep walking. I’m sure this is just a sun shower, but the rain drops get heavier and then we are pelted with grovel. During a brief break in the rain, we stop and shove down a hasty peanut butter and honey tortilla wrap for lunch. Then the rain/grovel/wind starts up in earnest and the thunder gets closer. Criteria #2 is now satisfied—the weather is not cooperating with us today.
We hike faster as much to keep warm as to avoid being caught out in the open spaces if lightning should appear. As we descend to Horseshoe Gulch we run into Sheeker, Trail Jeff and BQ (Blister Queen), whom we have not seen since Day 1 back at Bear Creek. They, too, are headed to Breckenridge for an evening of R&R, as are all the fellow hikers we have met so far.
This is where we were supposed to camp, but the low flow of water, lack of attractive sites and power lines overhead don’t add to the ambiance, so criteria #3 decides the issue once and for all: we are headed to Frisco a night early to rest our legs, do some laundry and enjoy the fruits of our labors so far. So it’s back up and around the hill for the last 4 miles before the trailhead.
This section of trail has been devastated by a mountain beetle infestation, resulting in a substantial loss of pine trees. It’s not particularly attractive, less so when we turn the corner and see and hear civilization in the form of subdivisions, an RV park and Highway 9 rumbling far below.
We descend on long switchbacks to street level and walk to the bus stop where we catch a free Summit Stage shuttle into Frisco. It feels strange not to move under our own power.
We check into our room at the Snowshoe Motel in downtown Frisco. We are grateful to have a hot shower and our own space to spread out and reset for the next leg of our journey. After we take care of some laundry, we will head to a local brewpub to celebrate our first 100 miles on the Colorado Trail. Cheers!
Day 8 Trail Stats
Starting Point: North Fork Swan River, mile 91.4
End Point: Gold Hill Trailhead, mile 104.4
Date on Trail: July 8, 2018