CDT 2021: Day 74, Twin Creek to Coyote Park

And we will run, we will; we will crawl, we will

Crossing Arapaho Creek

We had some information about the trail ahead, and it wasn't the kind of news we wanted. Comments in the Guthook app and Facebook said a long section of the CDT heading up to Devil's Thumb Pass was choked with fallen trees.

Although there was an alternate route to consider, we didn't have any information about it. Perhaps it was in better shape, but it could also be in worse shape. Unless we got an update on the conditions soon, we would have to make our best guess and go.

DateFriday, June 25, 2021
WeatherPartly to mostly cloudy, with periods of rain; temperatures from upper-40s to low-60s
Trail ConditionsShort ups and downs, followed by a gravel road, then a long climb with hundreds of blowdowns
Today's Miles14.9
Trip Miles1038.0

After the storm passed through last night, rain hung around and didn't end until early morning. It ended before I woke up.

I did a better job of setting up my tent last night than I did the night before. It didn't leak this time. Still, my quilt was damp from condensation.

Grand Bay on Lake Granby

I couldn't check out the river bank near our campsite last night because of the approaching storm. With some extra time this morning, I walked down to the water. It was glassy smooth. Low clouds lingered after last night's rain and hugged the tops of higher ridges.

The map called this spot Grand Bay. It was near where Twin Creek flowed into the Colorado River. Not far downstream, the bay emptied into Lake Granby.

Cleared trail

As we had seen yesterday, many of the trees in this area had been killed by mountain pine beetles. A few lodgepole pines were still standing and appeared to be healthy, but many more had succumbed. Fortunately, those that fell across the trail had been cut and cleared. We didn't have to climb over any this morning.

A view of Lake Granby

Soon after leaving camp, the trail entered Indian Peaks Wilderness and began to climb. It went up 650 feet in the next 1.8 miles.

Clouds continued to hang so low that the trail almost climbed to meet them. From a higher elevation, I could see ahead to where the trail was going, which was the other end of Lake Granby.

Clearing sky

The clouds began to break up on the descent, and within an hour, the sun was shining brightly. We walked five miles from our campsite before reaching Arapaho Bay Campground, which was located at the end of the lake and inside Arapaho National Recreation Area.

Although many people were camping here, we found an unoccupied campsite and used a picnic table to spread our gear to dry in the sun.

Top O' decided to test his yogi skills by chatting with a family camped at a nearby site. Unfortunately, he failed to coax any free food or drinks from them. This was the first time I had seen him fail at that.

Entering Arapaho Valley Ranch

The CDT followed a road from the campground and went past a private business called Arapaho Valley Ranch. A hand-painted sign at the gate said drinks and snacks were sold between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m. We were there at 11:00 a.m. but decided to take a chance and see if we could buy some drinks anyway.

Joe DiFabio

A personable man named Joe DiFabio met us near the main building. He said he wasn't an employee, but was helping the owners with repairs and other jobs while staying there with his family.

As we chatted and told Joe we were hiking the Continental Divide Trail, he mentioned he had a childhood friend who was also hiking the trail. "Do you know Just Awesome?" he asked.

This wild coincidence of meeting the friend of one of my hiking friends in such a random place made me laugh.

Top O' and I told Joe about when we spent time with JA on our flip to Wyoming.

Arapaho Valley Ranch lodge

We then went into the lodge building and were greeted by Emily Gold, one of the owners. She took us to a bar in the back where we purchased cold soft drinks.

The property has a fascinating history dating back to the 1800s when ranching was replacing mining jobs. A man named Harry Knight owned land near here. Though that name might not be familiar, he played a critical role in an extraordinary moment in world events.

When a prize of $25,000 was offered in 1926 to the first person to fly solo from New York to Paris, Knight was convinced he knew who could do it. He formed an organization called "The Spirit of St. Louis" to provide financial support for his friend, Charles Lindbergh.

Lindbergh made many visits to Knight's ranch after his heroic flight. He flew here and landed on a runway Knight had constructed by the Colorado River. Lindbergh came here so many times, locals named a mountain after the famous aviator in what is now Indian Peaks Wilderness.

That mountain was renamed a few years later, however, when Lindbergh spoke out in support of Adolph Hitler. Although he later retracted that support, the damage was already done to his reputation.

As I said, Knight's ranch was located near here. It wasn't on Arapaho Valley Ranch's land, but there is still a connection to it. After Knight died in 1933, his family continued to operate it. Then when the U.S. government wanted the land in 1944 to construct a dam and create Lake Granby, some of the buildings from Knight's ranch were moved to Arapaho Valley Ranch.

Before the valley was flooded, the house, bunkhouse, and other buildings were rolled on logs to where they now stand.

Looking at a trail map at Monarch Lake

We could have stayed longer, but we felt a need to keep moving. On the way out, we saw a moose with her baby. They were too far away for me to get a good photo.

The CDT continued on the same road from the campground. It led us to Monarch Lake, another man-made lake. This one was much smaller than Lake Granby or the others to the north. We could tell it was a popular place for day hikers because the parking lot was overflowing with cars.

A volunteer was working here to provide information for hikers, so we asked him what he knew about the conditions of the CDT and the Arapaho Pass Trail. He took us over to a large map to point out the two trails. He didn't have any useful information about trail conditions, but oddly, he threw in a derogatory wisecrack about government health care.

Irritated by his political comment, which I considered inappropriate for someone working on behalf of the government, I said to him, "I'm on Medicare."

"Oh yes, I am too," he answered, apparently missing the irony of his reply.

OldTimer and Top O' at Monarch Lake

A four-mile trail circled Monarch Lake, which was why so many day hikers were here. The CDT followed about half that distance before splitting from it to climb toward Devil's Thumb Pass.

As we began to walk on the smooth, flat footpath, we still hadn't decided if we wanted to follow the CDT or Arapaho Pass Trail.

Top O', OldTimer, and Gravity stopped for lunch

We also hadn't eaten lunch yet, so when we spotted an unoccupied picnic table at 12:45 p.m., we stopped to eat. Just as we were sitting down, we were pelted briefly by small hail.

Dark clouds over Monarch Lake

From the appearance of clouds around us and in the distance, it seemed we might be in for more rough weather, though a storm never came.

Walking around Monarch Lake

Following the loop trail around the lake, we occasionally passed day hikers. At last, we could go fast enough to make up some of the lost time from taking long breaks.

We had only walked 8.2 miles by 1:45 p.m., which was when we re-entered Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Most of the mountains within the wilderness area are named for Native American tribes. The idea for choosing those names came from a botany teacher from a Denver high school, Ellsworth Bethel.

Starting up Arapaho Pass Trail

After crossing the boundary, only four-tenths of a mile remained before we arrived at where the CDT turned off the loop trail. Now we had to make a decision Should we go up this trail or continue a short distance farther and follow the Arapaho Pass Trail?

Though we knew the CDT was horribly clogged by downed trees, we were unsure if a crew had started to clear it. We also didn't know anything about the Arapaho Pass Trail, except how it appeared on a map. It was separated from the CDT by a ridge, so we wondered if maybe it wasn't as badly impacted by the storm that hit the CDT and knocked down so many trees.

Without a doubt, we were taking a gamble when we chose to take the Arapaho Pass Trail.

Sun comes out

After turning to that trail, the footpath began as easy as the loop trail. Blowdowns had been cleared from it. The sun came out about that time, which brightened our hopes for a clear route to the top of the climb.

A nasty blowdown

The trail followed Arapaho Creek. When we came upon the first few blowdowns, they were small and not difficult to climb over.

In the next three hours, however, more and more downed trees appeared. We couldn't walk for much more than a tenth of a mile before coming upon another downed tree. Many didn't look like they had been dead for a long time. They had been toppled over, mostly in the same direction, and some were uprooted.

Now we knew this trail wasn't spared by the wind storm that hit the CDT. Trees killed by beetles often drop most of their branches before they are blown over, but many of these downed trees still had most of their branches. Those are the worst kind for a hiker because they are much harder to climb over.

The trail passes a large boulder

We were startled when we saw two teenage boys coming down the trail. They didn't stop to talk as they went by.

Seeing them reminded me of some outdoor adventures I had when I was in my late teens. Before I could think much more about this, Top O' said he found a tent lying on the trail. Thinking it probably belonged to the two boys, I turned around and ran while trying to holler at them. They had already gone too far, though, and I couldn't chase them down.

We figured they were resourceful and resilient, and would find a way to deal with this missing tent. Still, I couldn't help but think how horrified they would be when they discovered their tent was no longer strapped to a backpack.

We left the tent in a conspicuous spot on the trail in case the boys returned to retrieve it, then continued walking and crawling over trees.

Though we saw an excellent spot to camp at 4 p.m., that was much too early to stop. I wondered what our prospects were for finding another campsite, however. The terrain was steep, and of course, there were so many fallen trees.

OldTimer crosses Arapaho Creek

The trail crossed Arapaho Creek from time to time. The water came up nearly to my knees where there weren't any rocks to hop across.

Top O' stops to look for a route through downed trees

The farther we went, the worse the trail conditions became. The stretches of walkable trail were shorter, and we often had to step from one tree to another. We were forced to pick any route that would allow us to move forward while trying not to stray too far from where we thought the trail went. With so many branches and trunks of fallen trees, the trail was often impossible to see.

We tried to help each other navigate as we inched our way forward. Our hiking speed dwindled to less than a mile an hour.

There were times when I would stop and look around in bewilderment, trying to find the least difficult path forward. I'm sure Top O' and OT did too. Small stretches of walkable trail still appeared from time to time, but I felt I was now crawling over trees more than I was walking on the ground.

A tentsite on the Arapaho Pass Trail

We began to question whether we would ever find a patch of bare ground wide enough for three tents. We didn't care at this point if it was flat.

At last, such a spot finally appeared at 7:45 p.m. A light rain began to fall before we finished setting up our tents.

I was exhausted, but my next task was almost as taxing as climbing over those downed trees. To get from our tentsite to the creek for water required descending straight down a steep and slippery slope. Climbing back up was worse because I had to haul up a couple of liters of water while grabbing onto tree branches or anything else I could find to pull myself up.

There was no way to know if we had made the wrong decision by going this way or if the other trail was in worse condition. All I knew was the last few miles of the trail made me feel like I had been clawing my way through hell.

I would like to reach out my hand
I may see you, I may tell you to run (on my way, on my way)
You know what they say about the young

Well pick me up with golden hand
I may see you, I may tell you to run (on my way, on my way)
You know what they say about the young

Well, I would like to hold my little hand
And we will run, we will; we will crawl, we will
I would like to hold my little hand
And we will run, we will; we will crawl

Send me on my way (on my way)
Send me on my way (on my way)
Send me on my way (on my way)
Send me on my way (on my way)
Send me on my way (on my way)
Send me on my way (on my way)
Send me on my way (on my way)
Mm-hmm (on my way)


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.