CDT 2021: Day 89, Sheep Gulch to Texas Creek

False alarm, the only game in town

A view from Lake Ann Pass

Few things about thru-hiking are as essential as sleep. It restores the body to handle the rigors of hiking another day.

Sleeping with your tent pitched on a slope is not a way to get a full night's rest. I had to do that last night, which caused me to frequently toss and turn as I attempted to find a comfortable position.

That wasn't the worst part of my unrestful night, however.

DateSaturday, July 10, 2021
WeatherClear/hazy, temperatures from the low-50s to upper-70s
Trail ConditionsLong descents and climbs before a series of ups and downs
Today's Miles19.5
Trip Miles1224.7

An alarm sounded at 4:30 this morning. We were all awakened by it, though it wasn't set by Top O', OldTimer, or me. The annoying "beep-beep-beep" sound came from the two campers near us. They were the ones who were hogging two large tentsites when we arrived and forced us to squeeze into a smaller, sloped site.

Being awakened a full hour before we usually get up wasn't the end of this injustice, either. The alarm went off again about ten minutes later.

Incredibly, it then sounded a third time.

Top O' was livid after the second alarm. He let loose a few choice words. I may have added my own after the third alarm.

Looking across a valley

It was hard to hold a positive outlook after that rude awakening, but at least it had given us a reason to start hiking earlier. We were on the trail by 6:15 a.m.

I was tempted to hurl expletives in the direction of our inconsiderate neighbors' campsite as we walked by, but instead just shook my head. They still hadn't exited their tent, and I wondered if they were hiding in fear of bodily harm.

The trail took us down into a valley. Mountains on the other side of the valley glowed in the morning sun's rays.

Boulders across the trail

The trail crossed a couple more talus fields on the way down. Unlike the rocks we crossed yesterday after cresting Hope Pass, these were short sections and not rough enough to slow me down.

Descending to the valley

Clear Creek flowed at the bottom of the valley. The trail didn't descend all of the way there. Instead, it rounded the slope of Ervin Peak and turned at the confluence of Clear Creek's two forks to enter another valley.

Although we couldn't see it from the trail, we passed near a ghost town called Winfield. Begun in 1861 as a mining camp with just one cabin, it had grown by 1890 to a town with 1,500 residents.

The last ore removed from nearby mines was hauled away in 1918, and by then, most of the town's citizens had already left. Only a couple of buildings still stand today.

A mule deer watches warily from a distance

I stopped at 8:30 a.m. by a stream to collect some water and eat a second breakfast. During my break, a mule deer eyed me with suspicion from several yards away. It eventually became bored with me and wandered off.

Heading toward the Collegiate Peaks

The trail soon began to climb, gradually at first through a valley with no shade. The temperature in the open space was much warmer, and I was slowly losing energy. This was too early in the day to feel that way and was probably the result of my lack of sufficient sleep.

The trail was heading to the Collegiate Peaks, an area that contains the highest concentration of 14,000-foot mountains in the U.S. The mountains in this range are named for universities, including Mount Yale, Mount Oxford, Mount Columbia, and Mount Harvard.

A log bridge over a small stream

The trail followed the South Fork of Clear Creek before entering Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.

When I arrived at a small feeder stream with a cascade, I stopped to check the map. Seeing this was the last chance to get water near the trail before I began the steepest part of the climb, I decided to stop for another break. Though I had yet to go up and over Lake Ann Pass and had fallen behind my friends, I knew I needed to take a short rest.

I stayed about 20 minutes at the stream to eat a snack and drink a liter of water. When I was ready to hike again, I felt much more refreshed for the climb.

Passing Lake Ann

The trail went past Lake Ann on its way to the top of the pass. I met a Colorado Trail hiker named Goldfish near the lake. He was a year older than me and told me he probably wasn’t up to thru-hiking the whole trail this year.

Climbing to Lake Ann Pass

The climb from the bottom of the valley to the top of Lake Ann Pass was continuous without a descent, going up 3,200 feet in 3.9 miles. The trail's elevation profile shown on the Guthook app made the climb look steep, but surprisingly, it didn't feel that way on the ground.

I think I perfectly timed my last break because I felt strong the rest of the way up.

Looking back and down to Lake Ann

The steepest part of the climb was the final distance to the top of Lake Ann Pass. I paused along the way to look back, where I could see Lake Ann directly below me. The valley I followed to get here stretched in the distance. Huron Peak loomed large to one side.

A view from Lake Ann Pass

I was surprised to find OT at the top of Lake Ann Pass. He had stopped there to eat lunch. Top O' had already gone ahead.

OT left while I stayed to eat my lunch and enjoy the view.

A view from Lake Ann Pass

The elevation of Lake Ann Pass was nearly 12,600 feet. The weather was perfect, and I felt no reason to make a quick exit from the top.

When I was ready to leave, the descent was long and steep, though not as long as the climb had been. The pitch of the descent was about the same as the climb, but the trail only dropped 2.7 miles.

silky phacelia

The silky phacelia flowers that dotted the slope on the way down have an unusual characteristic. They tend to grow in gold-mining regions and have been known to absorb traces of the metal ore. The plant can't collect enough to make anyone rich by harvesting it, but two scientists suggest silky phacelia may help in prospecting for gold.

I caught up to OT again at a stream, and this time Top O' was with him. We discussed where we wanted to camp tonight and agreed that Waterloo Gulch looked like a feasible spot.

A dirt bike approaches on the trail

Soon after I resumed hiking, the trail turned to a section where dirt bikes were allowed. The trail here served as a boundary for the wilderness area. Motorbikes aren't allowed inside the wilderness, but apparently, they are okay on the edge of it.

There weren't many riders on the trail. I could hear and see most of them before they approached, but one came close to running me over. Giving him a dirty look was about all I could do before he sped off.

Trail that has been torn up by dirt bikes

The sound and exhaust of dirt bikes were annoying enough, but what they did to the trail was worse. Steep sections were eroded, with many large, exposed rocks.

Kevin Scott (Blue)

As I neared Waterloo Gulch and Texas Creek, I was surprised to run into a hiker I knew, Blue. I met him in Washington on my PCT thru-hike and didn't realize until now he was hiking here in Colorado.

He told me he was trying to hike all of the Colorado Trail in 20 days because he had a limited amount of time off from work.

A photo of Gravity, taken by Blue

Blue is an excellent photographer. As he did on the PCT, he was carrying expensive photography gear. He enjoys taking portraits of hikers, and that's how I met him in Washington. The photo he took of me then is the one found on the home page of this site.

Blue took a photo of me today. He prefers to use a shallow depth of field in his portraits to put the background out of focus, and he doesn't want his subjects to smile. It was hard for me to not do that.

Blue walks toward Texas Creek

We walked together for the last 30 minutes of the day. The trail completed its descent in a flat valley where Texas Creek flowed. From there, we began to look for where Top O' and OT had stopped.

Texas Creek

The creek was shallow, but we wouldn't have to cross it until tomorrow. We followed the trail along the creek until we found OT and Top O'.

OT and Blue sit at a campsite

It seems that the more miles I complete on long-distance trails, the more likely I am to run into a hiker I have known from another hike. Unexpectedly running into Blue today was another example of that. This experience is a fun reminder of the small and close-knit nature of the thru-hiking community.

Do you remember?
Hearts were too cold
Seasons had frozen us
Into our souls

People were saying
The whole world is burning
Ashes were scattered
Too hard to turn

Upside out
Or inside down
False alarm, the only game in town
No man's land, the only game in town
Terrible, the only game in town


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