You have your best sleep to date on the CT. You’ve been slow to acclimate to the hard earth but seem to be adapting to it. A 3 day hike is good for that. You wake up to the sound of Tumbleweed packing up his tent and note how refreshed you feel. You credit your soak in the hot springs after yesterday’s hike. Recovery was a key concern for you and you’re pleased to be able to check that off as a success. And you’re excited to begin the day as it marks the completion of half the CT segments, roughly half the mileage, and you’ll be leaving the huge Sawatch mountain range and entering into the San Juans range.
Typical of launching from a creek bed, the trail begins with a steep incline, affording you a nice view to your left of the chalk cliffs. The Chalk Creek TH is somewhat low in elevation for the Sawatch range at 8400 feet. This segment of the CT remains fairly low only reaching a height of 10,200 feet, but rides up and down like a roller coaster. This is hard on your legs but you take advantage of the flat segments to run much more than you expected.
Some of the running segments take you through picturesque old growth aspen groves. Many of these trees tower over 50 feet tall. You feel as if you’re running through a Hallmark card and you think forward to what the scenery will be in September. The experience doesn’t end with the trees either. Much of it comes from the ground. Trails layered with soft, moist dirt and pine needles present you with a dream-like running opportunity. You feel special and you take advantage of it. In fact, while you expected today to be slow due to fatigue, it’s your fastest pace of the weekend with a 19 minute mile average. That includes rest time; moving time averages 15 minutes per mile. You run the 18th mile in 11 minutes. Damn!
Today’s hike has been beyond belief, until you reach the end and you discover you mixed the CT trail head with the CDT trail head; the result being your car is parked 4 miles uphill on Monarch Pass. Dammit! So you pull what thru-hikers refer to as a “yogi” and hitch a ride. Fortunately 3 mountain bikers are shuffling a car across the road from you with the plan to drive up to Monarch Pass to start their ride. Tumbleweed and you owe a big special thanks to Brett, Shelly and Dan for squeezing you into their van for the ride to your car.
This works out well for you and next on the agenda is lunch. You ramble down the mountain pass toward Hwy 285 and stop at the intersection with Hwy 50 which is a little town called Poncha Springs. Here you gas up and try out a small hamburger joint. The burger is ok and the chocolate malt is pretty tasty. Not a bad lunch. Tumbleweed then shuffles you to your car for the end of another epic weekend adventure. You plan the logistics to meet up again next weekend in Poncha Springs and expect to have a third hiker – up from Texas – join you for segment 15. Let the good times roll.