Day Nine – (False) Summit County

We wake early – M has to get out of town to get back to work, and I’m a little sad to see her go. But I have to get out and go, too – back to the trail, six days to Twin Lakes since I’ve decided not to stop in Leadville. One less hitch, but I get the feeling that these are oddly long resupplies in general, and the weight of the food in my pack makes me less than thrilled about my decision. But I’ve made reservations for Special and I – he’s coming hiking with me for a week – and so I’ve a timeline to keep to, and that includes hiking over Tenmile today.

I barely catch the 8:30 bus, am back to the trailhead by 9-ish, hiking-hiking by 9:20, as I’m town hungover. Not hungover-hungover, since I knew I’d be getting out early this morning, but I’m feeling fat and slow and generally longing for a bed again. Especially when I see that the trail’s been rerouted a bit, snaking up Gold Hill instead of shooting up it, and while normally that would make me happy, for some reason it just makes me grouchy. More miles. I should’ve taken PCT/AT hiker’s advice in the cafe: slackpack1 the next section, catch the bus back to Frisco, spend the night, take the bus back to Copper Mountain and continue on. But noooo, I wanted a “proper zero”. I mean, I got a lot done, but I’m regretting it a little now.

Today is the day of all of the up. Many up. Much up. So up. Wow. Nothing but climbing, first through a logging area:



Then, through a more nicely forested area:



And finally, the trail breaks treeline, and I get to see my first pikas and marmots2:



I take so many pictures today, because to think would be to acknowledge the fiery pain in my legs and my stomach and my head, and complaining should be is very hard in these surrounds, even if the trail is straight up and even if every time you think you see the top, it’s not the top, and you begin to wonder what in the actual fuck you’re doing out here, why the hell you’re climbing this hill, are you Sisyphus or worse than Sisyphus, given that you, at least, have the option to be back down in that comfy bed from this morning, you are clearly crazy, or at the very least masochistic.

It’s hard to argue with yourself sometimes.


Near the top I have a conniption, complete with screaming and crying and everything. It’s the second or third false summit, and I’m pretty sure I’m not cut out for this, that I’m never going to make it, and I take a moment to “indulge” in those feelings. The song “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” pops into my head and stays there, and the crying turns into laughing.


I’m still angry with myself everything nothing, but I make it to the top, scream my triumph at the hill, and feel a lot better.


The ridgewalk is beautiful, if blustery, and I feel like I’m on top of the world.


But up means down, and down’s nearly as bad as up – it’s straight down, and I fall twice – luckily coming up relatively unscathed – and by the end of it I am genuinely disillusioned about this whole hiking thing. Shit’s hard, yo. And I’m not even making the miles that some people are.

I look for Jane and Sarah at the bottom, but the only campsites I find are near the parking lot and devoid of them, and so I stealth camp in the meadow just off the bike path, terrifying a couple of bikers when I rustle. I try hard to feel bad about it, but really, I’m just tired, so I cook and shove the tasteless-after-town-food hiker food down my throat before turning in.

Start: 104.4 • End: 116.8 • Day: 12.4
Notable Accomplisments: Actually got out of the town vortex • Actually got over the mountain without falling off the edge or quitting • Actually ate food

[1] Get rid of basically everything in your pack except some essentials and hike with barely anything on your back. It’s a luxury usually only afforded to those being directly supported, but the Summit County bus system is fantastic.

[2] What follows is a rant about pikas and marmots; feel free to move along if uninterested.

On Pikas:
Holy. Fucking. Shit. Pikas are SO GODDAMN CUTE. I’m not really a ladies’ lady, not really one to wax adorable when faced with things that are cute, but good lord. To paraphrase Archer, “LOOKIT IT’S TUFTED EARS! D’YOU HEAR THAT TINY NOISE?!” I melt, fucking melt, every time I hear a pika’s rallying cry. I even pretend they’re cheering for me, my own pika cheering squad, as I’m going uphill, that’s how fucking cute they are. Good. Lord.

On Marmots:
And don’t even get me started on marmots. Those furry bastards are the benevolent kings of the tundra, guarding it from the vicious squirrel outriders of the treeline. Lording it over everyone and everything, and YOU ARE GONNA LIKE IT, DAMMIT. And I do. I just want to high-five them every time I see them. I strive to be more like a marmot.

4 thoughts on “Day Nine – (False) Summit County

  1. betty says:

    Enjoying your blog! As for marmots: they are fat thieving bastards, and the real reason we have to carry bear cans to Mt. Whitney… But I totally agree about pikas!


    • Brown Girl says:

      Depends on the year, and how fast you’re going. Some folks can finish in four weeks – October usually sees our first snow up there – and if that’s the case and you can start beginning of September and you have experience with snow travel, then a northbound/eastbound thruhike might not be out of the question. I probably wouldn’t southbound/westbound at that time of year though.


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