CDT July 5-6: Eldora to Grand Lake


My wife Elaine and I have been hiking the Continental Divide Trail, beginning way back in early April from the Mexican border. Our final destination is the Canadian border in Glacier National Park. We’ve hiked about 1,500 miles so far through a wide variety of terrain, ranging from scorching desert near the Mexican border to snowy peaks in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. It’s been a true adventure, with rattle snakes, dangerous mountain traverses over avalanching slopes, chest deep river crossings, animal encounters and all the things you’d expect from a long hike (and sometimes ski) on the highest trail on the North American continent. 

And yet, it’s been the unexpected things that have caused us the most anguish and delay. Specifically, while hiking on the trail, our Alaskan Husky Stella – who stayed with a good friend during this adventure – passed away. She died one day before we got home, the decision to euthanize or not conveyed over a Delorme satellite device with 150 character messages. Bottom line, it sucked, and we’ve been struggling greatly to continue. On the flip side Stella loved a good adventure and would not have wanted us to quit. With the help of some good friends and family, we continue.

We’ve accumulated two books of notes for the first half of the trip for a future book, and it’s a story chalk full of adventure. During our break, however, Elaine got me this little Zagg pocket keyboard, so for the journey north from home to Canada, we’ll keep a public blog. So here goes.

Our journey up and over the divide from home to the western side of the divide was made a lot easier thanks to Elaine’s mom Carol accompanying us on the way. Heavy hearts were eased by good conversation, pretty views and a phenomenal lunch of fancy Whole Foods meat and cheeses. It felt downright classy snacking on the scrumptious foods while gazing at the Indian Peaks. 


Views are hard to rate, but I have to say the vistas the Indian Peaks are better than just about anywhere on the CDT, perhaps the Needles and Grendalier district of the San Juans excepted. Our home mountains are glacier carved and dramatic, our forests healthier, our lakes bluer than those found further south. Sometimes you have to travel far and wide to discover home is as good or better than most places. 


We said goodbye to Elaine’s mom and headed down the valley towards Monarch Lake. After a few miles we were in new terrain for the first time in more than 600 miles. We hiked the CDT back in 2015 from Wolf Creek to home and the repeat of the same route led to a bit of “here we go again.” It’s better to do new terrain on an adventure this long – the freshness and anticipation of what’s around the corner pulls you along.  We followed Arapaho Creek down a glacial valley through pine forests and towering peaks. Technically speaking this route is an alternate of the CDT though I don’t know why because it’s higher and likely prettier than the beetle killed forests a few miles to the west. 


We arrived at Monarch Lake, an artificial lake created back in the 1910s to float logs from a sawmill down to the railroad in Granby. Further still we reached Lake Grandby, a massive reservoir and the first in a series of many rapes of the Colorado River. Barely five miles into its existence, and the Colorado River is human impacted. 

We passed through a tiny community of cabins and had a nice conversation with a gentleman Richard who told us the history of the area, including how the government put Mackinaw fish in Grand Lake which killed all the trout. He is spending the week in his cabin here to avoid the Estes Park crowds – can’t blame him a bit. He also told us about a secret campsite on the lake in a forbidden camping zone which we made note of as the day was rapidly ending. Onward we went through some designated campgrounds, full of RVs with generators and folks grilling yummy smelling food.  


A bit further on we found the campsite tucked behind a rock. It was small, and our tent couldn’t have been more than 2 feet from the lake itself, but it worked. Took an evening swim, wrote a little and did our best to fend off missing the dog but also allowing that sadness to exist because it’s important. 


This morning the hike continued looping around the reservoir. We moved in an out of the Indian Peaks and Rocky Mountain National Park, all the while circling the eastern side of Lake Granby for 12 miles. Deer and moose abound. A muggy day has turned into cool thunderstorms. We picked up our re-ration and as we enjoy a burger and shake at Dairy King the rain falls down. Spirits are OK, but waves of sadness are heavy. We’re keeping our heads down and moving forward. Next stop, Steamboat, but not before a foray into the Never Summer Range and Rabbit Ears Pass. 

3 thoughts on “CDT July 5-6: Eldora to Grand Lake

  1. It’s a little surreal to be reading this while I am embracing insomnia in my very-much-not-in-the-wilderness house in New England. I bet you both sleep very well. Except of course for the rustling of wild animals? Stay safe you two. Write on!

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