Miners Creek to South of Kokomo Pass
Day: 21.7 Miles
Trip: 131 Miles
Jon and Anton are still nestled in their hammocks, when I break camp this morning. I don’t blame them; six o’clock in the morning is a miserably cold hour, in the Rocky Mountains. From afar, their shelters look like futuristic aircrafts, flying through the forest. Or, giant pea pods.
My first hurdle of the day is a two-thousand-foot climb into a mountain pass that my map calls High Point.
The wind, at this elevation, cuts into my sweaty torso, like a knife.
The trail descends towards Cooper Mountain Resort and takes me through a series of pointless up and downs (PUDS). This area is a recreational haven for mountain-biking and day-hiking tourists. Outside of the resort, the screeches and laughter of children can be heard for miles. I assume there’s a playground over there, but it could also be a torture chamber. I can’t really tell, from here.
My second accent of the day is another two-thousand foot climb to the top of Searle Pass. With a watchful eye turned towards the early-afternoon sky, I climb with the understanding that I may have to turn around at any moment.
Shortly before summiting Searle Pass, I meet a Bulgarian Character named George. Rambling through a thick foreign accent, George tells me that he spent last night scared shitless in his bivy sack, while a large animal sniffed him over. “I could feel its breath on me”, he says. I try to console him: “Its okay, man. Whatever it was probably just mistook you for a giant burrito.” I’m not sure, if he thinks I’m funny. “I shouldn’t have had my Chapstick in my pocket,” he carries on.
Since We’re both planning to clear the next two passes, before we camp, a buddy system seems appropriate. We’re going to be pretty vulnerable to the elements, for about six miles.
From the top of Searle Pass, we can see our next obstacle, Kokomo Pass, in the far distance. To get there, George and I need to cross a four-mile-long valley. Once we begin this traverse, there’s no turning back, as we’ll have gone past the point of no return. To the far west, dark clouds hang on the horizon.
This high-altitude valley is breathtaking, but we need to keep moving. Watching the scenery go by is like watching a shooting star streak across the sky. It’s a unique and rare experience that I would like to slow down and cherish, but I can’t. It’s fleeting, as quickly as it’s happening, and there’s nothing I can do to slow it down.
We do, however, find the time to take a couple self portraits.
The dark clouds to the west have shifted towards the south. Although we’re both aware of the unfortunate possibility we face, it’s never discussed. We push on, towards the summit of Kokomo, and the darkness moves to the east. It’s dumping rain on mountains afar, as it circles us like a vulture. We’re passing through a dream, that threatens to turn into a nightmare, if we don’t keep our asses moving. There’s immense beauty in the precariousness of our situation.
Under a rumbling sky, we descend down the south side of Kokomo Pass. Like the valley that we just traversed, the trail leads us through a spectrum of wild flowers.
The familiar sound of rain splatting on the top of my pack begins. Soon, the sky will unleash a downpour onto us that blows sideways in the wind.
We set up camp, in the first flat area that we come to, moments before the inevitable happens. There are two others in our vicinity tonight, including a man named DJ from Louisiana, and Topless Tom. Topless Tom received her trail name from a guy who mistook her for a man, when he discovered her sunbathing nude in the woods.