Miles: 21.5

Camp: My CDT mile 1188.2

Elevation at camp: 8400 feet

For the first time in days, I had a great night of sleep. I was pretty wiped out last night and thankfully it was enough to sleep through most of the night. There is always some tossing and turning while camping, it comes with the territory. Regardless, I was thankful to wake up after a good sleep, even if it meant that I slept until 6:30 this morning. I guess I needed it!

The trail traveled through a forest all day and occasionally large open meadows would sprawl out just off trail. I even saw a moose!

I’ve never seen a black moose before. He was pretty.

There were lots of mosquitoes last night, so I’m not sure why there didn’t seem to be any today. I’m definitely not complaining, but had certainly braced myself for the likelihood. It made for a really pleasant day. I pretty much just strolled through the forest all morning and listened to the birds.

Around lunch time I came across Monarch Lake and along with it an onslaught of tourists. Remembering that it was Saturday, I put my head down and powered through the masses smelling all of their perfumes, lotions and DEET as I passed them. It can be overwhelming to suddenly be surrounded by artificial smells, they really are quite offensive when you aren’t used to them. My nose is naturalized and the smells.of civilization sure are strong…which I never mind at all when those smells involve tasty food. I started craving barbecue as I began fantasizing about weekends by the lake.

The trail followed a road for a little bit and cars wold come barreling by me without slowing down. I’m nervous on those gravel roads that a car could kick up a rock and really do some hurt…but they don’t care, they’re all in a hurry to go see the next attraction. Most won’t even take one moment to just feel what it feels like to stand in a beautiful place, they just take a picture and move on. It makes me kind of sad for them, they are really missing out…and I really wish they’d slow down.

A man on a moped was ambling about on the road and shouted, “hey, are you a thru-hiker?”

“Yeah,” I was happy that someone knew what I was doing.

“Come get some snacks and sign our book!” He said.

I followed him to an old building from the 1800’s that was apparently rescued from a flooded town in the 1940’s. It was a beautiful building, immaculately kept. Ella Fitzgerald was playing on a speaker somewhere in the lofty rooms as I followed this man to the back. He unlocked a room that had a padlock on it and inside was a tiny bar. It is said to be Colorado’s smallest bar. With only 4 stools and not a lot of room to stand, I couldn’t imagine one smaller. Funny, I had just been thinking today how much I like working in small bars. 

I declined an alcoholic beverage as it was noon, but bought a flavored San Pelegrino and a snack bag of Goldfish crackers. A beer sounded delightful, but I still wanted to hike 9 more miles and could just feel the vortex of the place. It is called, “Arapaho Valley Ranch,” and they offer camping and showers too. If I didn’t have deadlines I might have stayed, but again, it was noon and there was more hiking to do. They rent out rooms and teepees as well, so I think a return trip there may be in order. It was a really cool and relaxing place and I really liked the guys who run it. Great vibes.

I sat on their patio and ate my lunch along with the provisions I had acquired there. I chatted with the owner and Lee, the guy who kind of seems to manage everything while I ate, and they really want to build it up for hikers. I see a beautiful thing happening there. Kudos to Arapaho Valley Ranch!

After my visit I walked the perimeter of 2 more large lakes, sometimes up on a ridge and sometimes right by the shore. It was really hot and there were lots of people and boats. No one else was using the trail though, so I just quietly kept to my side of the lakes and watched the festivities from afar. 

Eventually I found myself a nice spot to camp on a small ridge next to the Colorado River. It got late on me, so I must turn this in so I can brush my teeth and call it a day. In the morning I only have 4.5 miles to Grand Lake where some of my family is coming to visit! I’m excited for tomorrow, let’s hope I sleep!

Dinner: refried beans with corn, salsa, pepper jack cheese and avocado.

Monarch Lake

A whole lotta blowdowns today.

Not a dandelion.