Day 80

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Bear Lake Trailhead to Gutter Creek
26 mi ::
1037 mi ::
56,800 steps ::

It’s a wet morning, but just from dew. The big storm I worried about last night didn’t materialize. By now I’ve learned that it never becomes comfortable to get out of bed on such mornings, so I force myself out of the bag without too much stalling.

The trail emerges from the Holy Cross Wilderness near a sawmill or some kind of noisy machinery. There are more people hiking and camping here, oblivious of the constant droning. I wend my way through the trees to Tennessee Pass and highway 24. From here I descend easy wandering roads and trails, pushing to put some miles in. It seems like I’m walking fast, but the progress comes slowly. I’m also thirsty, and fresh water sources in these lowlands have been scarce.

I pass several expired warning notices that an area of the trail had been closed by the Army Corps of Engineers for something to do with ordnance. This comes into context at the bottom of the hill when I come upon Camp Hale, a dreary, decimated line of cement bunkers in a lush green meadow. It seems like an appropriate spot to feel hot, tired, and thirsty.

I tromp across the wide, flat park in the sun. Where the trail begins to climb again I meet a family of four hiking the Colorado Trail. They’re cheerful, having just come down from great views at Kokomo Pass. They tell me there are good springs just ahead.

To my relief, a perfect cold spring appears just above the trail just as promised. I have a late lunch there in the shade of some Aspen.

The climb to Kokomo pass raises my spirits. It feels grand to be above treeline again, able to survey the earth around me. I get to stay up high for a few miles to Searle Pass, with views of some of the vast copper mines in the area. Then I drop into Gutter Creek Canyon, which is much prettier than it sounds and find a fine place to make my camp for the night.

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