* I’ve been persuaded by some NOBOs to take a zero in Steamboat
* I’ve made it to Steamboat using an alternative route of my own devising, which looked fun on paper…
* I have about 5 days of hiking to hit Grand Lake, at which point I’m heading up to Glacier NP
After Rawlins it took me 3 days to get to Encampment, a small town around 20 miles from the Colorado border. The three days were full of glorious snow traverses and trail finding, with some peak climbing that had real ascents. The kind of hiking that had been absent through the basin.
I arrived at the parking lot to hitch into Encampment a couple hours before sunset. My hitch into Encampment was… unexpected, given that only two cars drove by in about 2 hours. As sunset approached, I realized that I’d just have to camp near the pit toilets (the only non-paved, flat area), and would have to hitch a ride in the morning.
Just as I pulled out my bivy, a pickup truck swung into the parking lot, and I secured a ride in their truck bed into Encampment that got me there around 9 PM. Turns out, nothing in Encampment is open passed 5:30 PM, and I had some difficulty finding a place to sleep and shower. Fortunately, I eventually found a pajama-clad campsite host, and secured a patch of grass for the night.
Prior to getting into Encampment, I had heard from some NOBOs that the snow 30mi north of Rabbit Ears Pass was dangerous at best, and quite possibly impassable. As such, I pulled together what looked like a fun alternative route, which would bring me directly into Steamboat, and allow me to avoid snow and a potentially meh hitch into town.
As I passed more NOBOs over the next 2 days, I learned that Rabbit Ears Pass was fine. Before reaching the point where I had to make a decision, I passed a rare trail curiosity: a pack of hundreds of sheep some random truck decided to dump onto the road. “Bahhh” they exclaimed. “Hello clouds!” I called back.
With wisdom from the sheeps’ words echoing through my mind, I decided I wanted to try out the alternative that I had mapped. Yeah, probably a mistake. Instead of snow, my route had me clambering over tens of thousands of burned, fallen trees. When not leaping over trees, I found myself wading through chest-deep rivers — swollen from the late season snow pack. The trail finding was difficult at best, and my feet remained wet for the 30 mile route I constructed.
The numerous tree traverses wore away my gear. My once hole-filled pants quickly become so holy the Vatican expressed interest, and then went past the point of having holes to the point where there might still be some fabric connectivity. I also lost my sunglasses during one particularly acrobatic (and not graceful) tree leap.
To be fair, the area was beautiful, and once some trail crews clean up the hundreds of acres of relevant burn area, I really think it will be a great hike! 4/5 stars, would not do again.
As I began my 5-mile road walk into Steamboat, I began frantically searching for a place to stay for the night. As it’s a weekend, and Steamboat is… Steamboat, my only options were severely over-priced accommodations. While I would have loved to look into a variety of other options, the sky decided to throw thunder, lightning, and one helluva a storm upon me at the very moment I began searching for not an absurd hotel room. And with that, I quickly grabbed a room for the night so I could put my phone away before it was water damaged. Once the rain stopped, I found out there were some other CDT hikers also looking for a place to stay. And like that, we struck a deal to bring my room’s cost down to something a little less absurd.
With love and new pants from Steamboat,