8/27 – We had to walk for about 10 miles on Highway 14, which wasn’t great, but it was fast and so by lunch we’d done 17 miles. The next day (8/28) was both exhausting and demoralizing – lots of ups and downs and an insane wind that whipped all the energy out of us – and we’d put in less than 10 miles by lunch. Then after lunch we marched straight up to the summit of 12,297 feet tall Parkview Mountain. At the top we enjoyed a respite in a small Forest Service shelter before heading down the wrong ridge, bushwhacking through numerous blowdowns and experiencing a thunder and lighting storm of Armageddon like proportions. We only managed to count 3 seconds between seeing the lightning and hearing the crash of thunder shake our bones. Thankfully we were off the summit and in the trees, though that wasn’t necessarily that safe since we later walked past a tree that’d been struck by lightning and was still buzzing with electricity.
8/29 the rain subsided but the wind kept up its roar as we enjoyed a scenic ridge walk from Bowen Pass, bagging Ruby and Cascade Peaks before seeking shelter amongst the trees. This area included the aptly-named “Never Summer Wilderness.” The wind whistles from the holes in my trekking poles and a few day hikers excitedly mistook the sound for bugeling elk. Sorry friends, just my kids’ Leki trekking poles.
One of the things so maddening about the 3 days from Steamboat Springs to Grand Lake was that even though we were often above 11,000 feet, the mountains looked more like hills. There was no snow to be seen and not many rocks either, just withered grass. But considering how tired I felt, I could tell we were now traveling at a higher altitude. So it was lovely to get into Grand Lake, on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, early on the morning of 8/30 and enjoy a gorgeous breakfast at Bluewater bakery.