Take a Trek

Day 13: Detour to the Top

Mount Massive Trailhead to CT/CDT Junction
Day: 17.2 Miles
Trip: 186.5 Miles

Mount Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado, is 4.8 miles and 4,339 feet from my campsite. The 14,421-foot monster isn’t technically part of the Colorado Trail, but it’s close enough to be considered a semi-short detour. The temptation to stomp my stinky feet all over the top of Colorado is irresistible.

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A sign of Elbert

The ascent up the north side of Mount Elbert is a trudge that comes with a side of stress, thanks to The Grouch. It doesn’t normally storm until the afternoon, but the surly bastard must have woken up early today.

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Approaching Mount Elbert

I’m halfway through the climb, when a nervous vibe circulating amongst the day hikers becomes apparent. The folks on this mountain aren’t just taking breaks on their way to the top, they’re looking around in circles, checking their watches, evaluating, and calculating. I push on, every step a respiratory struggle, under the weight of my gear and three days worth of provisions. A storm is undoubtedly on its way, but it’s traveling to the north of Mount Elbert.

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Dodging The Grouch

I push harder and climb faster, until the sweat runs down my face, like a fat man at a chili-eating contest. The day hikers are dropping like flys, turning around and heading back down the mountain. To the north, The Grouch is spitting rain sideways through a sky of black. I meet two women, who ask me to deliver a message to their husbands. “If you carry on, will you tell them that we decided to go back down? Are you going to go up there?” They reak of panic. “I’m just going to take it one step at a time, with a watchful eye,” I tell them. I’ve been tracking this storm all morning, and I’m convinced that the wind is taking it away from us, but sharing my meteorological expertise with these ladies is none of my business.

I’m not sure if my success with this climb is the result of luck, or an educated decision, but it sure feels good to be the highest thing in Colorado.

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A view from the top of Colorado

I even found a rad little sign that confirms how awesome I am for climbing this big pile of rock.

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Kicking Ass

Gloating in my victory over The Grouch, I descend Elbert with my sights fixed on Twin Lakes. The Colorado Trail (CT) passes within feet of this small town that’ll provide me with the additional provisions that I need to make it to my next major resupply point, Monarch Crest, ninety miles down the trail. I assume, Twin Lakes also has ice cream and cold beer.

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Descending towards Twin Lakes

There are three other hikers already sprawled out at a small table, in front of the Twin Lakes General Store, when I arrive. I’m pleased to see that one of them is Mr. Oddity. Although he didn’t climb Elbert, It’s nice to see that he’s still maintaining a steady pace on this challenging trail. The other two characters are a young duo that remind me of Bill and Ted, from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, a 90s film about a couple of teenagers that try to start a garage band so they can get babes to make out with them. The charismatic Bill and Ted, fellow thru-hikers on the CT, are currently indulging in an assortment of treats that they purchased from the store, including hard boiled eggs, bananas, a jar of peanut butter, and a six pack of Sierra Nevada beer. They offer me a beer, which I graciously accept. Fortunately, they don’t offer me anything else.

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Twin Lakes

The Twin Lakes General Store has a pretty lackluster selection, as far as backpacker supplies are concerned, but they take mail drops, which means they have a hiker box. Hiker boxes are an awesome way for backpackers to leave their extra provisions behind, for other mountain travelers that are in need. Considering the options that are available to me on these shelves, I qualify as one such mountain traveler. Thank you, hiker box.

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Treasure from the hiker box

Along with a few other purchases from the store, including a couple of soft serve ice cream cones, I’m set for another ninety miles of trail.

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Slamming some soft serve

I guess a shower would be cool too, but there’s no need to be picky, when I’m camping next to a lake.

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Campsite awesomeness