August 28th-31st, 2021
The tight knit hiking community never fails to amaze me. Not only did we have amazing trail magic leading into Lake City, it turns out that the owner of the local hostel was a fellow AT thru hiker from 2005. Lucky gave us a ride, 17 miles from Spring Creek Pass to Lake City, he was also kind enough to drop us off in the middle of town and had some good recommendations for where to grab a beer. Thanks Lucky!
After a relaxing zero day in Lake City the three of us stuck our thumbs out and easily caught a ride back up to Spring Creek Pass where we continued south.
We camped next to a crystal clear lake and that evening watched moose feeding in the near by Cataract Lake. Throughout our entire evening we could see five moose popping in and out of the thick vegetation that surrounded the lake. In the morning we spotted them even closer to camp, but thankfully they always gave us a comfortable breadth.
Shortly after passing the junction where the CDT leaves the CT we began a long descent. There was a spectacular example of switchbacks which we followed down to Elk Creek. Remnants of old mining shafts could be seen all along the western side of the canyon. Some of them were easily accessible from the trail. I poked my head into one of them, but even with the light from my phone, didn’t have the guts to go more than 50 feet back. It was an eerie feeling to be inside those manmade tunnels in the mountainside. Hard to believe that people worked in those conditions. That night we camped on a small glass covered flat next to the dilapidated remnants of an old mining cabin. Goats walked right through camp as we set up our tents.
In the morning we began a brutal descent. There were two different spots where avalanche debris had completely covered the trail. Thankfully we ran into a trail crew that was slowly carving a path back into the debris. At spots trees were stacked 15 feet tall in a mess of chaos and splinters. Near the bottom of the descent there is an option to take a side trail the Elk Park Rail Station, where hikers can catch a train ride into Silverton. We could hear the train in the distance as it made it’s way through the valley. It was enticing to hop on for a ride, but we decided to continue to Hwy 550, where we’d hitch into town.
The great thing about long distance trips is that you momentarily separate yourself from the day to day grind of life back home. Ironically you give up one grind for another. While grueling, hiking everyday ultimately it is very therapeutic. Multiple days on the trail lead to a calm mind and a clarity that I’ve always cherished. It is important to remember that when you’re on trail it is not an escape from life, but actually you getting the most out of your life. The good and the bad. Sometimes the bad creeps in, and there is nothing you can do but embrace it. When we arrived at Hwy 550 I was a few minutes ahead of the group and turned on my phone to see if there was service. There was, and quickly my phone came alive with text notifications from my oldest brother and voicemail dings from my Dad. My mind immediately went to worse case scenario and unfortunately my instincts where correct. When Katie and Torsten caught up we walked up the road to a scenic pullout and sat shoulder to shoulder on a small bench. My hand shook slightly as I hit the circle to ring my Dad. Dark rain clouds rolled in over us as Dad with a painful shake in his voice let us know that Grandpa had passed. We shared as much love as we could over the phone, and then disconnected. For several minutes the three of us sat quietly, staring blankly at the cold asphalt of the parking lot.
Nov 22, 1926 – Aug 31, 2021