Day 11: Elevation Gain and Some Rain

Thursday July 1, 22.6mi/36.4km

Waverly Mt. Ridgetop (196.1/11634ft) to South Cottonwood TH (218.7/9005ft) (CO)

I slept in a little, it was pretty cold and I wanted to wait until the day warmed a bit. The view from 11,600ft was great.

I immediately descended 1000ft down to Pine Creek valley, which was wet with morning dew.

In the valley I saw plenty of animal tracks, including these big ones.

I crossed Pine Creek, and entered the Collegiate Wilderness.

I re-climbed all 1000ft, plus a bit more up to another ridge. The trail was easy, even with the climbing.

I was surprised to see this arrangement of stones on the side of the trail, I thought hikers only did this on longer trails. Apparently I’m 200 miles into the Colorado Trail!

The clouds were starting to gather a little earlier than usual today, it was fun to watch the contrast of dark clouds and blue sky.

As I descended off the ridge, I couldn’t help but notice the hillside covered in talus.

A lifetime of talus

I could see all the way down into the Arkansas River, and the town of Buena Vista.

On the descent, I followed a tiny but raging stream for a while. It was very loud, and I was relieved there was a bridge to cross it.

Probably the most surprising thing of the day was passing by a pack train of 9 horses. It didn’t seem like a trail crew, they didn’t have any gear and were dressed too nice. Maybe just a youth group out for a pleasure ride?

I crossed another stream, this time on a much less sturdy bridge. The logs appeared ancient, and bowed alarmingly under my small weight.

I love this trail name. Three elks seems like an awkward number…

I passed by the Harvard Lakes, which had a neat looking surface from the light rain.

The most confusing and disturbing thing I saw all day was definitely this severed leg.

I descended to North Cottonwood Creek on an exposed trail thru sagebrush, so the views of the valley and threatening clouds were great.

I crossed North Cottonwood Creek, which was also raging. There seems to be too much rain for this time of year, and not normal for Colorado.

I began the huge 2500ft climb up, and it started to lightly rain. I put up the umbrella, and plodded along, slowly gaining elevation. About halfway up, I was rewarded with a neat view behind me.

A mile later, I came to a high meadow, and the rain subsided.

An old cabin ruins was barely visible from the trail, so I walked over to investigate. It was strange seeing a structure inside a Wilderness area.

Home sweet home?

I crossed Silver Creek and departed the meadow, heading for the last 800ft of my climb.

I re-entered the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness… apparently I had left it?

Finally, the top of the climb. I was on a ridge of Mt. Yale, with some pretty awesome views.

Mt Yale is the tallest peak, and a 14er.

The descent was quick but steep. Soon I was looking down into the next valley, where I was planning to camp for the night.

Rainbow Lake

The view to the west, towards Cottonwood Pass.

The south-facing hillside was covered in all colors of wildflowers, which was one nice thing from all the rain this week.

I reached the bottom, after descending 2500ft in only 3 miles! I continued on for another flat mile until I found a campsite. Unfortunately it was near a trailhead, so there was a bit of traffic noise. I setup and ate dinner, and just as I was going to sleep a massive thunderstorm rolled thru. For 20 minutes my tent was pelted with some rain, but mostly hail. Exciting!

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