We sleep in to almost 5:40 this morning. Today is a recovery day. We breakfast again at the Roosters Crow Cafe because it was that good the first time. I keep it light and only order one plate this time around.
First stop after breakfast is the Mount Princeton Hot Springs near Nathrop – a few minutes south of BV. This hotel and spa is located along Chalk Creek and sits only two miles east of the eastern loop of the Colorado Trail. Once there we acquire day passes to the spa. First order of business is a shower and shave. This spa is a little oasis in the wild. We receive big fluffy towels and robes, razors and combs, and libations. After we clean up, we spend the morning lounging in multiple hot springs of various temperatures and drinking Bloody Marys. The bartender runs them through a juicer which we don’t exactly approve of, but drink willingly anyway. Mike and I schedule treatments for mid afternoon while La Plata does laundry.
After a late lunch we drive back over Cottonwood Pass, leaving my car at the trailhead on top and take La Plata’s four wheel drive truck down into Tin Cup. We camp along Mirror Lake for a continuation of our epic adventure. The first photo above is of our early morning rise with the trail off to the left of the lake and Tincup Pass in the background. This photo is at the top of the pass, but we’re not yet done climbing.
We could stop here but instead determine to mount our first peak of the trip. It’s unnamed but rises north of the pass another 1100 feet. The jaunt to the pass itself was about three miles and took us only an hour bearing lighter packs. The climb up this unnamed peak is less than a mile but takes nearly another hour due to a steep slope.
Mike leads us to the top and the views are impressive. This is the Continental Divide and we can see both sides. Crested Butte fifty miles to the west. Aspen’s Maroon Belles to the north. God’s country everywhere. At over 12,000 feet, possibly heaven. The descent is tough on the quads and knees but quick. I leverage my trekking poles for stability. We reach Mirror Lake in another hour and this completes our shortest day to date. We head back over Cottonwood Pass Road for lunch at K’s Burger joint in BV. We run some errands and actually I forget what all we did for the afternoon.
Soon enough, we find ourselves sitting at the bar in the Deerhammer Distillery on Main Street – which is also Cottonwood Pass Road. Lenny serves us their products paired with stories. We learn that whiskey begins as beer mash, but is then distilled. We first drink Whitewater Whiskey which is, well, white. Or clear to be more exact. There is no color because it spends very little time aging in an oak cask. We follow this up with a more traditional oak-aged whiskey. A single malt named Down Time. Our final tasting is of a gin distilled over very unique botanicals. With this knowledge of their stock, we order more Bloody Marys fueled with Deerhammer Gin.
After happy hour, we cross the street to dine at the Asian Palate. La Plata and I have been here before. The three of us sit at the sushi bar to interact with the chef. He relates to us how the finer dining scene in the Arkansas River Valley has pushed north from Salida into BV and might one day reach Leadville. He’s a Vail transplant. We eat our fill while mapping out a strategy for backpacking the next two days. Our plan is for more day hikes like today. The benefit being we are able to leave heavier gear like our tents and sleeping bags in the car. Our packs will easily weigh less than half their original weight, and in fact do. Before dusk, we ride back up Cottonwood Pass Road and find a nice camp spot at a trailhead to an older CDT trail route. We’re learning our way around the Collegiates. Tomorrow, we plan to begin from Cottonwood Pass and hike south as far as the snow allows.