The tent is still wet from yesterday’s rain when we wake up. It’s never fun packing up a soggy tent, but Matt straps the fly to the outside of his pack in hopes that we will find a warm patch of sun to dry it in during a trail break later on. We are slow getting out this morning because it is damp and cold. We have our puffies, hats and gloves on, and we are still chilled. We see the Orchestra and Juli and Eden march by, but they all have their heads down and don’t notice us or our campsite, which is about 100 feet off the trail. Maybe we will catch up to them on a break later, but they look like they are on a pace this morning, so we will see.
We keep all of our warm gear on this morning as we set off. We will be climbing about 2500 feet today over the next ten miles, so it shouldn’t take long to get warmed up.
We start off hiking up through the forest. I am feeling pretty strong this morning, but Matt says he feels a little shaky, so we take a short break to eat our other ProBar after only about 45 minutes or so on the trail. Looks like we are on the slow train today, but we continue putting one foot in front of the other and start making some progress. It feels nice when we finally hike out of the shade and into the sun.
After a few more miles, we emerge from the forest into a beautiful meadow called Longs Gulch. There is a sign and a trail register indicating that we have arrived in the Holy Cross Wilderness. We are supposed to fill out a permit slip to carry with us, but the box is stuffed full of used forms. There are no blank ones left, so Matt takes a photo of the chaotic interior of the permit box just in case we run into someone from the forest service. Chances are it won’t be an issue.
The trail takes us deeper into the meadow and then across the creek flowing through the middle of it. There is an impressive wall of gray rock at the opposite end that we are getting closer to as we start gaining elevation.
We cross a small creek that is lined with Mountain Bluebell covered in dew from last night’s rain. We can’t resist stopping to photograph the water droplets and the beautiful patterns they make on the leaves and flowers.
Eventually we pop out at treeline in the middle of an amphitheater of rocky grey peaks completely surrounding us. If this is the Holy Cross Wilderness, we just arrived in church, and we are feeling the faith. Hallelujah!
We find a large boulder to scramble up on and take in the magnificent 360 degree view. What a spectacular spot! How is it that neither of us have ever heard of this place before? And how come there aren’t mobs of people here? Whatever the reason, we are thrilled to have this spot all to ourselves, and we spend a good hour enjoying our elevensies snack break and taking photos of the exquisite alpine scenery.
It is still rather early in the day for there to be so many clouds in the sky already, and, before we leave, even the dark gray ones are starting to appear. That’s our cue to get going, so we gather our things and head on our way, but we don’t get very far before we are stopped again by another awesome photographic subject.
This one is Porcupine Lake, which apparently you can camp at because there are two women sitting on a rock near the edge of the lake with their camping gear all strewn about. We take a short side-trail to get a closer look at the lake for ourselves, and we find an almost perfect reflection on this nearly windless day.
We chat with the two women who are from Switzerland while we take photos of the postcard-perfect lake. They are backpacking the CT for the next three weeks, and this was their very first campsite. What luck! They aren’t yet packed to go, and, with a campsite this beautiful, it’s easy to understand why they are a little reluctant to leave.
We are, too, but we haven’t even reached the high point of the day, and the skies are looking worrisome.
We retrace our steps to pick up the CT again, and we immediately drop down into a vertical meadow of fir trees and alpine wildflowers that practically takes our breath away. Who knew there were so many different shades of Indian Paintbrush?
From there we contour the mountainside to reach our highest point of the day at 11,702 feet before beginning the long descent down to the Timberline Lake Trailhead. We lose 1500 feet over the next five miles, stopping to take photos of the beautiful scenery we see along the way.
Seeing fields of wildflowers like this is a dream come true!
We don’t see too many people today, but we do have a surprise encounter with Wolfgang and Silva, a German/Austrian couple currently living in Sweden. We first met them in the middle of Segment 4 while we were filtering water. They hike a lot faster than we do, so we figured we wouldn’t be seeing them again. But here they are. Apparenty, one of their tent poles snapped, and they had to spend a few days in Dillon getting it fixed. And, sadly, Silva’s aunt had unexpected heart surgery, so they spent two days in Leadville waiting to make sure that all went well before carrying on. They are back on the trail now and eager to make up some time.
During our lunch break, Matt spots a pair of Pine Grossbeaks. We saw these beautiful birds in Minnesota for the first time this winter, but they are very uncommon in the US during the summer breeding season. Matt is a little excited!
There is something Boundary Waters-like about this leg with its reed-filled ponds and boulder-strewn trail. We haven’t seen many lakes so far on the CT, and this segment has three of them! We enjoy the end of Segment 9 and its nod to the Northwoods.
We start Segment 10 at the Timberline Lake Trailhead by taking a short snack break in the campsite near the parking lot. Just after we set off, it starts to rain, so we pull off to get out all the raingear. It always feels like such a chore to put it on!
Within minutes, we are hot and steamy, but, by the time we get to Glacier Creek just .4 miles up the trail, the rain has stopped, and we are stripping down again. As the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather in the mountains, just wait five minutes…
If only we could be patient. We still have 4.5 miles until our intended campsite, and time is ticking. We cross the bridge and continue on our way up through the forest. The 1000-foot elevation at the end of this day is killing us, but we remind ourselves to keep putting one foot in front of the other. As long as we keep in motion, we will get there eventually.
We finally arrive at the Twin Mounds Saddle, where there is a large campsite with a number of diffferent tent pads scattered amongst the pine trees. We are the only ones here, so we pick out the best log/tent pad combo. We never had a chance to dry the tent out while hiking today, so we hang the fly, the footprint and the tent itself from the trees while we take care of the other camp chores of hanging bear rope lines and making dinner.
All too soon, it is dark, and we are ready for bed. We are both exhausted after another long day on the trail and quickly fall asleep in the peace and quiet of the forest.
Day 13 Stats
Starting Point: West Tennessee Creek, mile 146.8
End Point: Twin Mounds saddle, 161.4
Segments: 9 & 10
Date on Trail: July 13, 2018