Day 76

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Upper North Fork Chalk Creek to Cottonwood Road
19 mi ::
35,200 steps ::
960 mi ::
Sunny, some afternoon clouds

I figure it won’t be a long day, so I don’t get started too early. Fitzpatrick Peak looks like it should be an easy climb, but my energy level is nothing like it was yesterday. There are deer and elk grazing on the slopes this morning. I can see how game traps on ridges could work – they always escape upward from me. One set I see again on the other side as I am descending on them, but they still find a little knob to run up and behind.

Headed for Tincup Pass after a couple of hours on the mountain, I’m hungry. I see some ATVs on the pass, but they turn back at a big snow drift. I climb up, sit down by myself, and have breakfast.

When I get going again a jeep passes, and the guy asks how much snow there is. I’m not sure. “If it’s only 30 of 40 feet,” he says, “I’ll try to shovel it.” I admire his determination. Some ATVs pass, also headed up.

A family of three pass with big packs. They’re hiking a CDT segment from Tennesee Pass. Then it’s like floodgates have opened. More ATVs pass. Then more 4x4s. Then a whole a stream of ATVs. The 4th of July weekend has definitely started. I wonder what they’re all going to do up there.

I’m thankful to pass Mirror Lake and get back on a solitary trail again. I walk for a while seeing only a couple of other hikers. I’m adjusting my waist belt at one point when the main buckle breaks. I sigh at the thought of carrying the pack on my shoulders, but I get it to hitch just enough to function. Just then another hiker comes along – Ann! She says I’m a little early but consents to cut her walk short and lead me to our camp. It’s crazy with weekend cars driving by there too, she says, but not many are stopping where we’re camped. She also met The Animal and Garlic Man, the two hikers in front of me. It sounds like we may all converge in Twin Lakes on Sunday.

When we get to camp Ann pops a cold beer for me and makes dinner. I don’t know how I’ll ever get used to this tough trail life.

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