CDT 2021: Day 87, Galena Mountain to Dayton Gulch

There are times when I can help you out

Dawn sky

I have been helped countless times during my hikes. Often, the help is a simple gesture of kindness, like when someone leaves a cooler of cold drinks by the trail. The rides we got to and from town yesterday were also like that. The help didn't require a lot of effort, but Top O', OldTimer, and I greatly benefited from the assistance.

Sometimes the help has been more substantial, like when someone invited me into their home or drove out of their way to help me.

All of this assistance is remarkable, and there are too many instances of it to list here. Whether someone has offered me a snack bar or has driven halfway across the country to help me, their generosity has played a meaningful part in my success.

DateThursday, July 8, 2021
WeatherPartly cloudy, temperatures from the upper-40s to upper-80s
Trail ConditionsTwo big climbs to above 11,000 feet
Today's Miles20.5
Trip Miles1195.3

At the same time, there's no way I can adequately reciprocate. For one thing, there isn't a lot I can do on the trail except try to communicate my gratitude. I would like to be as generous as the people who help me, but there are limits to what I can do.

I can do more to give back when I'm off the trail. I try to be generous with donations to trail organizations and my time helping other hikers. I try to pay back for what I've been given, but it never feels like I'm doing enough.

A view of Mount Massive

There was a little trail left to finish this morning of the climb I started yesterday. We camped last night near the top of the shoulder of Galena Mountain. As I crested the top, I could see the Sawatch Range. Fifteen 14ers stretched along this range, though from here I couldn't see all of them.

In the middle of the mountains ahead of me was Mt. Massive, the second-highest in the Rockies. It is so huge it includes five summits above 14,000 feet.

To my left and barely in view from where I stood on Galena was Mt. Elbert, the highest mountain in the Rockies. Only Mt. Whitney in California is taller among mountains in the continental U.S.

A footbridge over a stream

Leaving Galena Mountain, the trail made a steep descent, dropping nearly 1,400 feet in the next two miles. Most of the route was shaded by trees, but they didn't help much in keeping me cool. The temperature was warming quickly.

The trail left Holy Cross Wilderness near the bottom of the descent, then crossed footbridges over two streams. They flowed into a man-made reservoir called Turquoise Lake. A road also intersected the trail at the bottom.

The trail makes a climb to Mt. Massive Wilderness

The start of a two-mile climb came next. It went 1,000 feet up a slope of Bald Eagle Mountain. The trail entered Mount Massive Wilderness near the top. The next ten miles of the CDT and CT were in the wilderness.

I hadn't thought about this before, but I realized today a nice benefit of walking in these protected areas. No mountain bikes are allowed here.

There have been a few annoying moments with mountain bike riders on my hikes. Most respect the trail, but a small number ignore restrictions that protect it. Generally, though, mountain bikers follow regulations and trail etiquette. Still, I always feel I need to stay extra alert when they are on the trail.

Looking back toward Galena Mountain

When I had a chance to turn and look behind me through an opening in the trees, I saw Galena Mountain. This was a good view of the shoulder where we camped last night.

A view looking toward the Arkansas River

The next 1.5 miles of the trail remained at around 11,000 feet. The Arkansas River Valley came into view near the end of that stretch. It is the sixth-longest river in the U.S. and a major tributary of the Mississippi River.

The trail makes a gradual descent

When the trail descended again, it entered a portion of Mt. Massive Wilderness designated as Leadville National Fish Hatchery. It was established in 1889 and is the second oldest fish hatchery operated by the U.S. government.

An unusual blaze tacked to a tree

I saw something late in the morning I had never seen on a trail before. It was an unusual marker on a tree. Instead of a logo or words, this marker displayed the image of a traditional trail blaze. It looked like those that are carved in trees with an ax. That practice has lost favor in recent years, so maybe this marker was a way to duplicate the blaze without cutting an invasive notch in the bark.

When I stopped at a stream for a short break, I met a hiker having difficulty with her water filter. It was clogged, and she was becoming frustrated because she couldn't filter what she needed. I made a couple of suggestions and then realized I might have a better solution for her problem.

I showed her how to point the nozzle of a water bottle at the nozzle of her filter, then force water through to backflush the filter. After a couple of attempts, water began to flow better through the filter. I also suggested shaking the filter and hitting it on a hand or hard surface to break up dirt clogged in it.

A view of Mount Elbert

I stopped again for lunch soon after that, then continued the climb to an elevation of 11,300 feet. The descent from there was less steep, going down for the next 3.8 miles. On the way, I got a peek at Mt. Elbert through a break in the trees.

The trail left the boundary of Mt. Massive Wilderness at the bottom of the descent and immediately began another climb.

I was becoming weary of these ups and downs on this warm day, and the day was only half done.

OldTimer walking down the trail

In the late afternoon, I talked to a woman who told me she planned to start a thru-hike of the John Muir Trail in three days. She was out for a short warm-up hike before traveling to California.

The two women I met were the only hikers I saw on the trail all day. I didn't catch up to Top O' after leaving our campsite this morning, but I saw OT at 5:30 p.m. We knew Top O' would stop when he was ready, and we would just keep walking until we saw where he stopped.

A pond with a beaver dam

I was unable to keep pace with OT. My energy was still lagging a little, and that resulted in a hiking mistake. If I had been following OT more closely or had more energy, I wouldn't have missed where the trail made a turn. Instead of turning to follow the CDT and CT, I walked straight ahead on a trail that went past a series of ponds.

At first, this looked like a legitimate trail. There was no reason to think I wasn't on the correct route. The trail gradually changed, becoming a little overgrown before turning to a forest road. Along the way, it passed a large beaver pond.

The sign I failed to see earlier

I walked for about a half-mile before a sickening feeling came over me. It was a sixth sense telling me this was not the right way. A quick check of my Guthook app confirmed the hunch. Now close to 6 p.m., I decided I needed to hike faster to make up for the lost time.

When I got back to the trail, I found a large sign. It was so large I couldn't believe I failed to see it, even if it wasn't facing me when I took the wrong turn. There wasn't an equivalent sign for southbound hikers. I should have noticed it but somehow simply walked right past it.

Flowers along the trail

The trail the rest of the way wasn't difficult, mostly downhill. I didn't want to stop, not even to collect water, but I did stop for a moment when I saw again the woman with a clogged filter. She was delighted when she told me it was working well now.

A view of Twin Lakes

On the way down the trail, I passed a few gaps in trees with glimpses of two lakes, collectively known as Twin Lakes. A small village was also down there. That is where we will be going tomorrow.

A message written for me in the dirt

I found a message left for me at the junction of the Twin Lakes Village Trail. My name was written in the dirt with an arrow pointing in the direction to turn. Top O' and OT were set up only one-tenth of a mile farther, and I arrived there shortly after 6:30 p.m.

I was almost out of water, and our campsite was high on a dry ridge above Dayton Gulch. Getting to the stream in the gulch might have been possible, but my friends said they had plenty of water to share. They gave me what I needed for tonight and the morning.

A light rain fell when I began setting up my tent, then quit about a minute later.

Despite my "bonus mile" when I took a wrong turn, this had been a good day. We walked more than 20 miles, and that was the farthest we've gone in a day since we walked into Grand Lake two weeks ago.

Today was also a rewarding day. I was happy for the chance to help another hiker and make her hike better. The effort wasn't a lot, but it was another way to pay back for all that I have received. I know how much a little help like that can matter.

There are times when you can beckon,
There are times when you must call.
You can take a lot of reckoning,
But you can't take it all.

There are times when I can help you out,
And times when you must fall.
There are times when you must live in doubt
And I can't help at all.

Three blue stars rise on the hill
Sing no more now just be still
All these trials soon be past
Look for something built to last


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