There’s a long steep climb up to almost 12,000 feet early in the morning. We pop above tree line and squeaks of marmots and pikas are in the air. I geek out over the abundant alpine wildflowers. Christian left camp before Gordon and I are even up. Gordon is moving slowly today, the elevation seems to be hitting him hard. I catch up to Christian near the top of the ridge and he’s playing in a large snowfield. He takes out his groundsheet and try’s to sled down it but with little luck. We wait for Gordon at the top of a pass and can see some rain coming our way. When Gordon catches up he’s looking rough and said he was dry heaving coming up the hill due to the elevation. After a quick snack and some photos we rush to get below tree line before the storm reaches us. It becomes apparent we can’t outrun the storm but can make a beeline for a ski lift building to take shelter in. About a quarter mile off trail. We rush as fat as we can in the direction of the building but the mountainside is rocky and very steep. It’s hard on out ankles. I make it to the building just as it starts raining. Turns out the door is even open! We go inside and it’s warm. There’s nobody there or course and we take a lunch break inside. Even a toilet! We wait out the storm and ate reluctant to leave the warm of a building in the middle of nowhere.
After the rain passed we started down the mountain. My knee started to hurt a lot and I started thinking about a plan B if I can’t walk any longer. I thought about flying back early or finding some other activity to do in Colorado that doesn’t involve walking around much. I decided to see how my knee feels after Twinkle’s wedding. I’ll be off my feet a few days and then maybe I can get back on trail. We get to copper mountain resort right as a big thunderstorm rolls in and starts hailing on us. Gordon and I make it to an apartment building and take shelter in a hallway there. Christian holes up somewhere in the woods. Once we regroup the sun comes out again and we look for extra food at the copper mountain resort. We find a convenience store there and buy some more food. I get a huge cinnamon roll. That damn thing has 1300 calories in it!
We hike out of the busy resort and are in low forest for a bit. I find a perfect group of Calypso orchids there and take some photos. This is such a cool little plant and one I’ve always wanted to see in bloom. The trail starts to gradually rise up to Kokomo pass. On the way up we wait for Christian to catch up but he never shows up so we keep on hiking. We want to get to lower elevation before it gets dark. We have a long time above tree line ahead of us. Once we reach the ridge there are beautiful views all around us and we soak in all the wildflowers and vistas. We walk for hours in this before reaching Kokomo pass. It’s getting chilly and the sun is getting low so we head down it and look for he first flat spot where we can tent to wait for Christian to catch up. It seems strange we haven’t seen him in hours, he’s pretty quick even though he hikes in crocs. We set up camp near a stream in a small meadow. We gather lots of wood for a fire and eat. It gets dark and there is still no sign of Christian. “At least the foxes shouldn’t bother us tonight now that we have a fire.” I say. Not 30 seconds later a fox walks right into our camp about 15 feet from me. “You gotta be shitting me.” At 11 pm we see a light coming down the trail. About time! We’ve been worried Christian broke a leg or something. Then we notice the light is moving way too fast for a hiker. A thru biker shows up and asks if he can borrow out fire for some warmth and to light a bowl. Sure. We asked him if he saw a hiker with a blue backpack and sure enough he did, although he was very far back he said. Turns out Christian left the top of his backpack at the copper mountain store and walked back miles and miles to get it. He’s gotta be so pissed off. We figure we won’t see him until tomorrow for sure. The biker stayed and chatted for more than an hour before he finally continued on into the night. We fall asleep around midnight.