I wake up gently, chilly. My shelter’s wet from the rain, and so we take our time to let things dry a bit. It’s a decadent morning, full of coffee and breakfast and enjoying sitting. Sitting is great. Soon we’ll walk, but for now, sitting. Yes. Gooood.
Eventually we’re up and off, and I do mean up – we’ve got a 1,500 foot climb this morning, followed by a 1,300 foot climb up Tincup Pass later this afternoon; we’re planning on stopping at the North Fork of Chalk Creek to settle in. But maybe it’s having eaten breakfast or having slept to the sound of the rain or, y’know, not waking up feeling like death, but I feel good, strong, happy. Happy to be out here, and, dare I say it, happy to be climbing this hill. I’m moving relatively quickly, stopping less, probably helped along by the fact that I’m quietly singing through the entire Aida soundtrack. Having to moderate my breathing to sing is helping me up the hill, and it’s fun to remember the lyrics in such an exquisite setting.
I finish the whole musical near the top, and I’m struggling to remember other musicals I know. I know I know a bunch – I was a theater kid in high school – but none of them are coming to mind. When a particular song does, it’s Wouldn’t It Be Loverly from My Fair Lady, and I discover it’s kind of everything I think about when I’m hiking1. I laugh about it a bit before we crest the hillside for our first views of the day.
We spend a fair bit of time walking the hillside, curving around before we head down towards Mirror Lake. The clouds are hovering, hardly moving, and we cuddle into our windshirts since there’s a chill without the sun.
We see lots of signposts that look like they should be touting the Colorado Trail, or at least the CDT, but it looks like someone’s taken the time to cut the markers off them. So we’re following the no-longer-markers around the hill.
It’s a lovely walk, so hard not to stop and smell the metaphorical roses, but the clouds are looking a bit foreboding, and we should probably get off the hill. Still, we enjoy it while it lasts.
We’re just reaching treeline on the descent to Mirror Lake when we hear our first peal of thunder. We prep with rain gear in hopes of staving it off, make it all the way down to the Garden Basin Trailhead – where there are pit toilets! I get to use a toilet! – before it starts thunderclapping in earnest, rumbling deep in my chest. Since Tincup Pass is next on the agenda and it’s a bit out in the open, we decide to cook lunch at the toilets, wait for the storm to pass. We look a little odd to the ATVers that pull up, but the mac and cheese is warming and filling, and the toilets were just cleaned yesterday.
When the storm passes, we make our way up the ATV road, dodging motorcycles and ATVs up to Mirror Lake.
Dodging back and forth is what the reroute was meant to avoid, I suppose. That, and the jeep road we have to walk up.
It’s a warren up here, with roads criss-crossing and overlapping and branching off. We’re pretty sure we take a harder route than necessary, but all we know is that we’re supposed to head up, so it’s up we head.
We’re nearly there when we see our ATV friends from the toilet coming down from the pass, claiming we have “too much energy”. How we must seem to them – a couple hours ago, we were all at the bottom of all this, and the two of us walked up. Seems pretty cool when you look at it that way.
We dodge a few more ATVs, and make it to the top of the pass.
On the way down the other side, Spesh notices hail on the side of the trail – I’m glad we stayed low and avoided the weather – and manages to find a $10 bill to boot2. A little further along, the weather decides that we didn’t really get the full hailstorm experience, so the heavens let loose and we ow ow ow down the trail in the cold.
Spesh mentions that he tried to get service on Tincup Pass in an effort to get us a room at Mount Princeton Hot Springs for the night. I meeeean… it’s Monday, there’re probably rooms right? And we could probably get a hitch in, right? So Spesh twists my arm reeeally hard, and we agree to try to hitch in at the bottom for an hour. If we don’t get a ride, we’re pretty much at our campsite at the North Fork of Chalk Creek anyway, we’ll have a nice relaxing evening. But we want a ride.
The hail lets up as we approach the trail junction, benevolence in weather form for our hitching purposes – for my first hitch. We sit on the side of the road and I make up new lyrics to Sittin’ on The Dock of the Bay about hitchhiking3. A few ATVs pass by, and then a line of Jeepers4 looks to pass us before Mike and Sharon pick me up, thrust Spesh upon some of their friends. They’re headed back to Buena Vista, and agree to take us all the way to Mount Princeton Hot Springs.
I have a lot of fun chatting with them all the way down the 4×4 track, the paved road – they tell me all about Jeeping, about the places they’ve been, the places they plan to go. I learn a lot on that fairly short ride, and by the end, I feel like I’ve ridden with family. I’m glad that this was my first experience hitching – Mike and Sharon made it memorable, in the good way.
I sit outside while Spesh checks on a room, get glared at by people in fancy clothing, but then beer! And a bed! And burgers!
And, of course hot springs, delicious hot springs!
Did I mention there was a bed?
Start: 222.7 • End: 234.4 • Day: 11.7
Notable Accomplishments: Remembered an entire musical! • Two rougher ups! • My first hitch!
 All I want is a room somewhere / Far away from the cold night air
With one enormous chair / Oh wouldn’t it be loverly
Lots of chocolate for me to eat / Lots of coal makin’ lots of heat
Warm face, warm hands, warm feet / Oh wouldn’t it be loverly
Oh so loverly sittin’ abso-bloomin’-loutely still
I would never budge til spring / Crept over me windowsill…
 He asked the trail gods for a beer, too, and we found a can – empty, unfortunately.
 Sittin’ in the evenin’ sun / I’ll be sittin’ ’til a hitch it come
Watchin’ the clouds roll in / Then (please) watch ’em roll away again
I’m just a sittin’ on the side of the road / Waitin’ for a riiiiide down the… road
Just a sittin’ on the side of the road / Wastin’ tiiiiime
…I was really tired at that point.
 Not as in creepers, or inquiring about peepers, but as in people who like to explore the backcountry in jeeps. Some of the stuff they do is quite technical and rad-sounding.