I was almost the last one out of camp this morning but still hoped to hike around 15 miles today as the Collegiate West route would rejoin the main Colorado Trail. I’d had a nice visit with my son Erik and my granddaughter Kya the day before at Monarch Pass, where they had met me with my resupply, and I was finding it difficult to get my head back onto the trail. I had hiked about a half mile and the last person out of camp hollered at me from behind, letting me know I had hiked passed the marked CT single track turn off the dirt road. I eventually would have realized from the Guthook app that I was off trail, but he probably saved me a mile or more of backtracking. I had almost gotten the trail name “Wrong Way” a couple days earlier and thought maybe that was fitting after all.
It was already an overcast Saturday morning, and a few mountain bikers were starting to pass me on this popular multi-use section of trail. I reached a point with cell service and give my wife Maria a quick check-in call. She’d had some COVID symptoms and I had encouraged her to got tested the day before. When I called Maria let me know she still didn’t feel well, and that she wouldn’t have her test result until Monday. I hiked on for about another mile and didn’t feel right about Maria, but was now out of cell range. I sat on the side of the trail for few minutes until another CT hiker walked past, and I shared my dilemma with this unknown but compassionate hiker. She told me I would know what to do. I continued on about another half mile uphill, thinking I would gain a cell signal on higher ground. When I still didn’t have service, I decided to hike back to Monarch where I could hitch back to Leadville to get my truck, then drive back to Steamboat to be with Maria. After backtracking to where I called Maria earlier, I called to let her know I was leaving trail. She insisted that no, she was already feeling a little better, she had plenty of food at home and friends that could help if needed, and she wanted me to go after my dream. Even though I had hiked an extra 3 miles or so, I felt much more at peace and I think it meant something to Maria to know that I was ready to leave trail for her.
By now it was starting to rain a bit I was soon sharing the trail with lots of weekend mountain bikers and even some dirt bikers. I hadn’t realized, but wasn’t surprised, that this super scenic Monarch Crest is a marquis trail for mountain bikers. I met a friendly trio of CT hikers around my age, and I assumed my level of experience, and hiked with them as the rain got heavier. We eventually reached the Green Creek shelter, the only shelter on the Colorado Trail. Some mountain bikers made room for us in the shelter, but I was surprised when my hiking companions carried on into the now pouring rain. I opted for the shelter, and paid close attention when one of the mountain bikers who was leading a tour shared the forecast of a near-record monsoon season to continue over the coming weeks. I waited in the shelter for probably an hour, and chatted a bit more with the young woman who I had talked to on-trail earlier that day about Maria. We hiked on separately as the rain let up; I don’t think she realized how much those bits of conversation helped me that day. I was happy to see her later in the San Juans, where she had gained the trail name Puff.
It was rough going the rest of the day, and I didn’t seem to be making much progress with my late start, back-tracking, and sitting out the rain in the shelter. I finally dragged myself into the Marshall Pass Trailhead after only 9 trail miles. I was relieved to see they had vault toilets and some nearby camping. There were three tents already set up, and I asked if they would mind if set up nearby. I was happy to see it was the three fellows I had I hiked with earlier, and they even invited me to come over at dinner time. It turned out that Speed had hiked the triple crown since retiring, Grasshopper had hiked the CDT, and all three had hiked the Colorado Trail multiple times. I gained some trail knowledge from those hikers that night, most importantly that the more experienced hikers were usually the most humble and welcoming to others. I went back to my tent that night with gratitude that I had ended the day with 9 miles.