Wednesday May 13, 22.0mi/35.4km

Ridge above Bear Creek (9.8/6611ft) to Morrison Creek (31.8/7730ft) (CO)

I was awake at 6:30am, and the sun was already above the treetops. I ate breakfast in my tent to stay warmer, then packed up and hiked out at 7am. I saw my first trail marker, and it was almost devoured by the tree!

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I started with thin gloves and a hat, but by 9am it had warmed enough that I packed them away. I re-packed my pack and ate 2nd breakfast at this very nice campsite.

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The views heading down to the South Platte River were spectacular.

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After a gradual 3 mile descent, I crossed a large dirt road, and parking with heaps of cars.

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There was a nice metal bridge to cross the river, which was a nice surprise since I was expecting to ford it.

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The climb up the other side was hot and exposed.

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Actually, the next 10 miles were hot and exposed. A wildfire had decimated the forest, and although it was starting to grow back, the young trees didn’t provide any shade. But, there were interesting things to see along the way!

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This was a shocking sign, though it didn’t prove true.

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A trio of equestrians.

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Chair Rocks in the distance.

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I don’t know the name of this juvenile cactus, but I like it!

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Lumber….we need lumber.

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A 1996 wildfire eliminated 12,000 acres of ponderosa pine forest, and it’s still growing back.

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I turned off the trail to get water at the North Fork fire hall, from a spigot behind the building.

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I drank a liter too quick, and got a cold headache, but it was still worth it. I filled another liter, left them a donation, then returned to the trail.

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The next section was nice and shaded, but also with tons of mountain bikers, passing by every 5 minutes. Towards the end of the day, I saw all these cool lumpy rock formations.

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An official overlook? What is this, the Appalachian Trail?

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And a little while later, a peaceful aspen grove, just starting to bloom for spring.

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And finally, I saw a cave!

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The last mile of the day was to Morrison Creek, where I stopped to make dinner. I hiked another 5 minutes, and setup camp at 6:30pm, It’s early, but today was an easy flat day.

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Tomorrow will be much more climbing!

Tuesday May 12, 5.9mi/9.5km

Waterton Canyon/Indian Creek Trail (6.7/5869ft) to Ridge above Bear Creek (9.8/6611ft) (CO) + 2.8mi Roxborough approach Trail

With the 2020 pandemic, I chose to hike a trail close to home, and hike in sections. By traveling in this manner, I could avoid public transport, town lodging, and hitchhiking. So, the Colorado Trail will be a fun local project! For details about the trail itself, see the main CT page.

I left home around 10:30am, and drove to Kenosha Pass, which will be my ending trailhead for this section. I arrived to the pass at 11:30am, and spent some time eating, drinking, and getting my bike ready. Then, I biked the 49 miles (mostly downhill) down Highway 285, back to the starting trailhead at Waterton Canyon.

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With a few breaks along the way, I arrived at 3:15pm. However, the Waterton trailhead was temporarily closed, so I asked my “just my roommate” to drive me to an alternate trailhead 10 minutes away.

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We arrived at Roxborough State Park, but the gate attendant wasn’t allowing cars to enter. So I had to start hiking from the entrance gate! The first mile was somewhat of a bushwhack and slab-walk.

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I emerged out on a nice gravel path, and it was easier walking from here.

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Then the path became overgrown and unused, I had to keep my eyes on the ground, but the scenery was amazing!

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Finally, after 30 minutes, I had arrived at my intended alternate trailhead, and it was already 4:45pm. Sheesh.

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The sign had warned of many stairs, and it wasn’t wrong. I took a break at the top, and enjoyed the amazing view of the red sandstone formations behind me.

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The trail entered the forest, and I occassionally saw trail junctions with other trails leading back to Roxborough State Park.

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The lowland forest was generally very open, and I had expansive views to the west for much of this 3-mile trail.

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After almost 3 miles, my alternate trail re-joined the official Colorado Trail, at the top of Waterton Canyon. I was quite surprised to see a herd of wild animals roaming about!

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Hi, bighorn sheep! I’ve learned their horns weigh an average of 10kg/22lbs. Ouch!

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I snuck by the herd of sheep, and then I was on the official Colorado Trail. The Waterton trailhead closure meant that I’d missed the first 6.7mi/11km of the CT, but I can always return to that section as a local dayhike.

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I’m not sure why they numbered the trail #1776. I think 1876 would have been more appropriate, since that is the year Colorado became a state.

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After a couple miles of switchbacked climbing, I paused at a nice rest spot at the top. It was a memorial bench for a local 18-year old Eagle Scout, and they named it Lenny’s Rest.

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By now, it was 7pm, and I wanted to go another couple miles to a spot I identified on my map as potentially having a flat area to camp.

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Also, any camping in the immediate area wasn’t attractive…there were frequent reminders of bear activity!

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I made dinner near Bear Creek, then filled up my water bottle and hiked on another mile, to put some distance between me and the bears. At the top of the ridge, I found an ideal camping spot – under trees, not near a river, and on a durable surface of gravel and pine needles.

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I’m using a new tent, a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1. It feels a little smaller than my old 2014 Fly Creek, and much smaller than my Tarptent Rainbow. I’m also testing out a new quilt, a Katabatic Alsek (22F/-6C), to replace my heavier (but much loved) WM Ultralite 20F. Tomorrow, I’ll have new gear results!

Monday October 7, 22.0mi/35.4km

Whitney Portal Campground (121.0/8020ft) to Mt Whitney Summit (132.0/14,505ft) (CA) (+11.0 return to trailhead)

I expected this to be a slower day, so I started moving uphill at 7:15am. Immediately I had a fun obstacle, a tunnel!

I arrived to Whitney Portal 15 minutes later, and saw a few other dayhikers packing up at their cars. The general store/restaurant was still closed.

After a few minutes wandering the maze of parking lots, I found the trail.

And up I went! About 10 minutes up the hill I entered a wilderness.

The views were good right from the start.

And the aspen trees were already showing their fall colors.

This part of trail actually had surface water! Such a change from the first 100 miles of the route.

More views…

The deer are not shy at all here.

As I climbed higher, there were more of last season’s snow patches scattered around.

I passed a tarn (alpine lake) at 12,000ft elevation.

There were about a dozen tents setup there, and quite a few marmots too!

Then a second marmot came out to say hi.

After the lake, the trail weaved up the mountain with 98 switchbacks (I counted). One particularly exposed section even had a railing!

I finally came to the top of the switchbacks at 13,500ft and also the crest of the ridge.

Looking west into Crabtree Meadows and the PCT.

The trail joined the JMT (John Muir Trail) for the final 2mi/3km to the summit.

I made it to the summit at 12:30pm, five hours after leaving Whitney Portal. Ouch. The summit is the western terminus of the L2H route (also the southern terminus of the JMT). The summit register was entertaining.

The usual summit shelter building was still there.

Summit plaque.

The requisite benchmark photo.

And lots of summit views!

Panoramic photos never fit well on a webpage.

My watch says it’s high!

I left the summit at 1:15pm, and didn’t take many photos on the way down, I was pretty tired. This was a neat perspective though :

And then walking thru the only snow on the entire trail…

One last look west, at Guitar Lake (right) and Hitchcock Lakes (left).

I dropped off the ridge top, and back down the 98 switchbacks to the lake, where I took a break.

I made it back to the parking lot at 5:15pm, four hours after leaving the summit. The restaurant was open, but I avoided temptation and started hitching right away. There was only an hour of daylight to try and gat a ride back down to Lone Pine. I got a ride ten minutes later, from the first car I saw. I was at the hostel in Lone Pine 20 minutes later, and then promptly went to the Whitney diner for food and cold beverages. I was mildly dehydrated from altitude and exertion, but the food, four iced teas, and ice cream sundae really helped!

The Lowest-to-highest route was terrific, and much more diverse than I had imagined. Highly recommended!

Sunday October 6, 18.0mi/29.0km

Long John Canyon (103.0/5180ft) to Whitney Portal Campground (121.0/8020ft) (CA)

I was planning to meet a friend for breakfast, so I was excited to get to town! I was hiking at 7am, which is just before sunrise these days.

As I descended the last part of Long John Canyon, the wash slowly turned into a two-track road.

The Sierras in the distance.

Just before reaching Lone Pine, I crossed what was left of the Owens “River”. Sadly, most of it is diverted into a pipeline that runs over 300 miles to the city of LA.

Lone Pine looking like it always does:

I met up with Catwater! She and I hiked part of the PCT together in 2015, and she has continued on to hike the PCT again (southbound), the CDT, Colorado trail, JMT a few times, and is also a snowboarder and coach for the US national team. What a badass.

After a nice long breakfast, she was kind enough to drive me to the USFS office to pick up my permit for Mt Whitney (for some reason, they still make you go in person). We said our goodbyes, and I continued on hiking, in the afternoon heat. This hill above Lone Pine has “LP” on it, a common thing for western towns to do.

I hiked a couple of hours through the Alabama Hills, which is also a rock climbing destination.

Hundreds of film scenes have been shot here in the Alabama Hills, mostly Western movies. There was a plaque to explain and commemorate this.

I love the random PSA from CalFire along the roadside.Hmm, let me run home and check my space!

There was an hour of paved roadwalk, which was the only part of this route I didn’t like.

I was glad to turn off into a campground, and enter the Inyo National Forest. “I’m in yo forest!”

From there, I was on the Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail, a nice 3mi/5km trail up to Whitney Portal.

It started off in desert landscapes…

And turned to Pine forest as I went up in elevation.

And then, I even followed along a rushing stream, with log crossings and fallen leaves. It felt like being on the AT!

I arrived to the campground at 6:30pm, just before dark. I made my last dinner on trail, and setup quickly in the rapidly cooling temperature.

Saturday October 5, 24.5mi/39.4km

White Mountain Talc Road (78.5/5980ft) to Long John Canyon (103.0/5180ft) (CA)

I started by 7am today, since I knew it would be a longer day. It was a long, 3-hour climb up to an 8000-foot high ridge.

Near the top, I entered an old mining district, Cerro Gordo mines.

Looking back downhill from where I started this morning:

The entrance to the old mining village was at the crest of the hill.

I spent an hour exploring the old buildings, talking to the caretaker, and sitting in the wonderful shade!

Finally, I left the old mining village, and spent all the afternoon walking the crest of the Inyo Mountains.

I could see the Owens Valley to the west. This area used to be Owens Lake, before Los Angeles stole all the water.

And across the valley was the front range of the Sierras, rising 10,000ft/3000m above the valley.

After an hour of ridgewalking, I came across an old mining cabin!

The inside was nice and cool, and full of random trinkets. No interpretive display signs, just an interesting site.

The old mine was nearby. I definitely didn’t go in, small enclosed spaces are my kryptonite. Plus it might collapse!

To the east of the ridge was another huge valley, the Saline Valley.

It was an afternoon of bliss, expansive views in all directions, and on an easy old jeep road.

The road winding along the ridge in the distance…

I passed an old salt tram, which used to haul salt that was mined in Saline Valley up and over the Inyo mountains, and down to a railroad in the Owens Valley.

Saline Valley, 7000ft/2100m below:

I explored the inner workings of the tram, it was mostly just the structure left, no cables or machinery.

I met a random guy who had driven up there in his jeep, he was super knowledgeable about the local mining history and very interesting to chat with. I couldn’t stay long though, I still had 5mi/8km to hike before dark!

I left the ridge at 5pm, and traveled x-country down some steep hillsides, finally dropping into a wash.

This eventually joined Long John Canyon, which I was able to hike in the dark with my headlamp, since navigation is not an issue in a canyon. I setup camp at 7:30pm, an hour after sunset, and quickly fell asleep after a 12+ hour day!

Friday October 4, 23.5mi/37.8km

Ridge above Darwin Canyon (55.0/3280ft) to White Mountain Talc Road (78.5/5980ft) (CA)

It was so windy last night, and I woke up covered with a fine layer of desert sand. Gross. Since packing up also involved a cleaning step today, I didn’t get moving down the trail until 7:45am.

I hiked up a gentle hill, and then dropped down into a shallow wash to cross it.

I kept hearing these strange noises all morning, and after a couple hours, I discovered the source… Burros!

I approached and they ran away.

Oh well, onward. I saw several more burros, but they were too fast to get a photo. And then I was distracted by this lone Joshua tree. They usually grow in large groups, so this was strange.

I hiked cross-country another hour, and then got to the highway crossing where I had cached some water.

The rest of the day was on dirt roads, and I saw only one car all afternoon.

After two hours of roadwalking, Joshua trees started to appear. Thousands of them.

Apparently they are in the Lily family, and related to asparagus and onions. What a delicious family.

So many cool looking Joshua Trees.

I hiked 13 miles on dirt roads, and I came to my final water cache.

I refilled my bottles, and then cut up the jugs to fit inside another jug. They take up much less space this way.

I hiked another hour, until 6pm. There were so many Joshua trees!

The sunset was fun to watch as I rolled into camp.

I setup my tent under a setting sun…

… and a setting moon too!

It’s not windy at this spot, but at 6000ft, I’m expecting it to be colder tonight.

Thursday October 3, 20.2mi/32.5km

Trina-Wildrose Road (34.8/2510ft) to Ridge above Darwin Canyon (55.0/3280ft) (CA)

It was a warm night, and I started off hiking in shorts at 7:30am.

The desert warmed up quickly, and by 10am I was hiking under my umbrella. The Panamint Valley is less than 2000ft elevation, so I expected it would be hot today.

Apparently there is a military base nearby, as I kept hearing jets all morning. Finally, I saw one. It was only a few hundred feet above the ground!

A few seconds after the jet passed by, I heard it go by. Sound travels slowly.

After traversing the Panamint Valley on various old dirt roads all morning, I then did some x-country travel over the playa.

I walked the sandy playa for a mile, crossed a paved road, and then joined an actual trail for a mile.

By now, it was getting hot outside, almost 90F, so I pushed on to the Panamint Springs resort for food and A/C. And after I saw their sign specifically said “Ice cream and milkshakes”, I had no choice but to stop there!

It was a solid meal. The poor waiter kept trying to give me the bill, but I kept ordering more food.

I also showered and bought some more snacks from the general store. I started walking again at 4pm, briefly on a paved road.

I stayed on the white line, so my shoes wouldn’t get all soft and melty. In less than a mile I turned off the pavement, and into Darwin Canyon.

It started off looking like any other desert canyon…

But then quickly changed to green!

I went a half mile off my route to go chasing this famous waterfall, Darwin Falls.

Supposedly there is a way to scramble up and around it, and I tried, but it seemed too precarious with a large unbalanced backpack. So I got one last photo, and turned around back to the main L2H route.

The main route climbed 500ft up out of the canyon, and onto a ridge. It looked like a basalt moon surface up on the ridge.

It was windy as, but I found a somewhat sheltered spot from the wind. I staked my tent very securely, and then watched the sunset from inside.

Wednesday October 2, 18.7mi/30.1km

Ridge above Hanaupah Spring (16.1/5046ft) to Trina-Wildrose Rd (34.8/2510ft) (CA)

I was up early, to catch the sunrise from my tent. This was a great campsite!


Sunrise occurs pretty late here in October, so I didn’t get moving until 7:30am. Morning hiking is my favorite.

These trees are everywhere up here, Junipers I believe.

I spent all morning climbing up this ridge, from 5000ft elevation up to 10,000 ft.

It was slow moving, as it was steep at times, and there was no trail to follow, so a few times I hit a dead end in thick brush. I was so happy to see a wide open scree field!

Finally, at 11:30am, I had gained the top of Telescope Ridge, and was back on a maintained trail for a short while. Looking back east from where I had started:

And then, as I was finishing my lunch break, I hear a “hello”, and I’m surprised as hell to see another hiker out here!

Her name is “Not a Chance”, and she has hiked the PCT four times, countless other long trails, and this route (L2H) three times. Not surprisingly, after walking and talking for an hour together, we realized we know many of the same people. What a cool coincidence!

After an hour, I said goodbye and turned off the trail, down into Tuber Canyon.

I dropped 2000ft into the canyon, and followed a wash all afternoon.

There were speedy lizards everywhere, I finally caught a photo of one sunning itself.

As I got lower in the canyon, it became drier with more cacti, and opened up wider.

At the bottom, I found a very old car, and some old mining equipment.

The final two miles were on a dirt road, and I hiked until sunset (6:15pm), to the spot where I had cached water a couple of days ago.

I refilled my six water bottles, drank another liter on the spot, and setup my tent. It was becoming windy, so I’m assuming all my stuff will be covered in a fine desert sand in the morning. Oh well. A tiring day!

Tuesday October 1, 16.1mi/25.9km

Badwater Basin (0.0/-282ft) to Ridge above Hanaupah Spring (16.1/5046ft) (CA)

I was awake at 6:45am, everyone else in the hostel was still sleeping, so I packed up quietly and slipped out for breakfast. I had a big greasy meal, and returned to the hostel to find my ride waiting for me. Chuck does shuttles from Lone Pine to all the local trailheads, and he agreed to drive me the two hours to Badwater Basin. We left at 8:15am, and arrived at 10.30am. It was a busy and crowded parking lot.

I wandered around the area for a bit, reading all the signs. It’s the lowest place in the western hemisphere!

And usually very hot too, though today was only 88F/31C.

I started walking toward the path across the salt flats, and there were already less people.

The area was named for this little spring, which has salty, or “bad” water. I thought I saw some brine shrimp living in it.

I asked some tourists to get me photo, and then I was off hiking!

The salt flats were very loud and crunchy to walk on.

I had 5mi/8km to get across the playa.

Some spots in the flats had more sand mixed in with the salt, making them look brown.

After two hours, I was across the salt flats. I stopped for a break at what appeared to be someone’s failed garden.

I started up an eroded dirt road towards Hanaupah canyon, and saw a sign warning about compromised water quality. Umm….

(The water turned out to be fine). I spent the rest of the afternoon on a gentle uphill grade, winding my way into a canyon.

Up and up, three thousand feet, and the temperature started to cool a little.

Eventually the old road disappeared, and I was walking in a wash. It felt about the same.

I stopped to refill my water, which was indeed flowing and clean. This was the first of only three natural water sources for the next hundred miles.

Then, I went steeply uphill, leaving the canyon for a ridgeline. It was steep, gaining 1500ft in a mile.

As usual, I had several small slips, and I always caught myself. One of the times I caught myself on a cactus though… ouch.

I stopped taking photos after this, to avoid getting blood all over my phone. After another hour, I was on top of the ridge, and I setup camp in the fading daylight.

Sunday September 29 & Monday September 30, 0mi/0km

After lunch, Cougar and I went to the airport, and I picked up a rental car and drove towards Lone Pine CA. I stopped and bought groceries for the hike, and water. Lots of water!

I had a quick dinner at In-N-Out burger, then continued south into the Eastern Sierra.

I stopped at trailhead a little ways off the highway to camp, and the next morning I drove the rest of the way to Lone Pine.

I stopped for a quick breakfast to go, and continued down into Death Valley National Park, to cache my water.

I placed water in three locations, since there are so few natural water sources on the hiking route. The third location was a little more difficult to access, as it was 12 miles down an eroded dirt road.

After the final water cache, I drove back to Lone Pine, and dropped some stuff off at the hostel I’m staying at. Then, I had to drive an hour north, back up to Bishop, to return the rental car. Along the way, I saw a PCT hiker trying to get a ride, and I picked him up and brought him to bishop. “PH-B” was his trail name, since he has a doctorate degree in bees. He was fun to talk to and didn’t even smell that bad!

I dropped off the rental car, and then hitched back to Lone Pine. My ride was two other hikers “going to death valley”. As I loaded my backpack into the trunk, I saw their gear, and realized they are former thru-hikers as well. Turns out, they are doing the L2H route as well, starting a day after me! What an incredible coincidence – only like ten people per year do this route. We arrived to Lone Pine, and I had dinner and then got organized in the hostel bunkroom. Tomorrow, I start the hike!