Rob and I met up at the Mountain Buzz Cafe & Pizzeria Friday night in Georgetown, exit 228, to camp out and hike the CDT nearby on Saturday. We returned from our last outing with each other’s sleeping bag, so first order of business was the exchange. I knew I had Robs’ but did he remember mine? We’re good friends and all but I wasn’t giving Rob his bag unless he had mine. Funny thing was we both brought not only each other’s bag but an extra one just in case. I ended up using my extra bag for additional cushion in my tent.
I can’t say enough about how awesome this little pizza place is in Georgetown. I think the name alludes to their coffee. Hard to say considering we’re a “green” state. The menu is mostly pizza, but also calzones and paninis. And they have a few beers. We drank a couple of IPAs. Actually, Rob had to wait for me about 30 minutes and who knows how many beers he had. He was able to talk with Paul, the guy in the pic, as well as other patrons. He met some kayakers chasing the last fast running water before it dries up or freezes. The flat screen was playing my new favorite show – American Pickers. What’s the odds of a restaurant or bar playing the History Channel? Before leaving, I ordered a calzone to go to eat on the trail the next day.
After dinner, we drove up I-70 7 miles and setup camp at the Bakersfield exit 221. Our trail would launch from here Saturday but we were close enough to the other trailhead that we didn’t plan to shuffle cars until morning. I took my time setting up my tent, preferring to drink more IPAs while sitting in my camp chair. It was dark of course but the sky was clear and we enjoyed some great stars. The camp conversation was deep. I learned the first time Rob got drunk drinking beer was with Miller High Life. Mine was PBR.
We called it a night around 10pm expecting a half foot or so of snow overnight. I went to sleep in my Under Armour to keep warm. The wind hit us like a freight train some time after midnight but the trees sheltered us. The snow didn’t begin to fall in earnest until we woke up at 4:30am. Rob brewed some trail head coffee and we shuffled a car 3 miles west to exit 218. The plan was to start with a 4 mile run on the trail between our camp site and this Herman Gulch Trailhead. The trail runs along the south side of I-70 and is actually paved. I think it continues to the Loveland ski area. We began running at 6:10am expecting to need our headlamps but it was easy enough to see in the morning twilight.
This was a good warmup and helped us to determine the gear we would need to wear for the hike. Once we reached the car I took off some heavy cotton and dressed in layers of light gear. I wore snow pants along with my knee-high gaiters. I left my big snow jacket behind risking a lighter wind jacket. I don’t know the temperature but guessing it was around 32° and there wasn’t much wind – especially in the woods. We almost canceled this trip because of the weather reports but the day turned out to be great for hiking. It snowed non-stop but it wasn’t cold. In fact, we planned on snow shoeing but there wasn’t near enough snow for that. We did use our trekking poles and they were very much needed.
The trail was hard to spot at times and Rob did pull out his GPS after we lost the trail in the snow. It was slow going due to ice under the fresh fallen snow. This is a popular trail close to Denver with easy interstate access, so we ran into a number of other hikers. One big group had turned around and warned us about the ice. We managed though using our trekking poles and got in a 6 hour hike covering 10 to 12 miles. Rob did crash hard on some ice on the way back but lived. I bet he’s feeling that fall now though.
Rob demonstrated how to keep your fingers warm by swinging your arms in a windmill fashion. It’s always good to learn a new trick. Watch the video. This works well. We did occasionally have some strong wind when hiking ridges so we alternated gear a few times. I had plenty of options of light gear in my back pack. The sun came out by the end of the day – which for us was around noon. I ate my calzone in the trees below Herman Lake which we got in with a side trip on the return. This was an out and back hike. I award Mountain Buzz with a puerco pibil for that calzone. Some of the best hiking food I’ve ever had.
We planned to snow shoe and that didn’t happen, but it was a great day for using trekking poles. I can’t imagine not using them for this hike. My arms are sore still – this was very much a full-body workout. More so to guard from falling on ice than post-holing. Besides safety, the poles helped us to maintain a healthy pace. I suspect we will continue hiking segments of the CDT throughout the winter. And snow shoes are definitely in our future.