CDT67 – 1426 – Steamboat Springs

Unrelated to coming into Steamboat Springs, but this scene from the 80s movie Road Warrior captures a facet of thruhiking perfectly. Also, Bruce Spence is a genius.

Click for movie scene

Day 1 – Leaving Grand Lake

All hitches are easy when you’re a 30 year old woman.


Having camped semi-legally outside town, on a slice of burned land just putside the Park, I got up early and went into downtown Grand Lake. Things were still wet, so I hit a 24 hour laundromat to dry them. Like true hiker trash, I spread out, charged my phone, and rinsed ( then put back on ) my socks. At 7am it was time for breakfast. While walking around the empty streets, puddles frozen ftom the cold, I saw a wandering bear. Right on town. Because people don’t manage their trash.

Hung out until mid afternoon, then did 4.2 miles through the ( closed ) fire area, then ended up routed down a side trail. All the while thinking I was done with the National Park. Hint: nope. I met this guy Jason and his kids, who was so excited to meet a thruhiker he wanted a selfie.

Mosquitoes are now a thing. A bad thing. I discovered the park didn’t end, so I kept hiking. I hit this broad, grassy valley which turned out to be the Colorado River. There was a small stream in the middle, but hardly an epic river. I met Old Soul and Mummy, and we did the 0.9 until the Neversummer Wilderness and the end of the park.

I hate camping late and eating late, but it was close to sunset. Horrible mosquitoes, so we dove into our tents. I cooked and filtered water while pondering the implications of a place called “Neversummer Wilderness”.

Day 2 – Neversummer Wilderness

So tired today. I think because I didnt really eat much in town. A long grind up the pass. Beautiful. Then a terrible descent, complete with blowdowns, snow, and vanishing trail. Entering a recent burn area, the trail was ripped up by motorcycles and occasionally rutted down to a waist deep gravelly track. I was totally out of gas at mile 18, at a road crossing, so I just camped. Old Soul showed up, and things got much better and more interesting. Smne guy drove by on the highway, then turned and came back to offer us water and beef jerky. ( I took water ). 50 miles to Steamboat, more or less, depending on how you play the roadwalk. Last 38 are on a combo of forest roads and highways. Big climb tomorrow, maybe another 18.

I don’t know why I’m so tired. Definitely not eating enough. I’ve seen other hikers’ snack bags as big as my food bag. I think that’s why my body us breaking down, while other people are getting stronger. Had no appetite either lately, and my stomach is … not well. More rest and food, perhaps.

Day 3 – ontrail nero

Bad night, ended up racing outside to use the bsthroom. Trudged, really trudged, all day. I was utterly cooked by 3pm. Did last 12er, Parkview. Slow and steady, but not enjoyable, just work. 4 people passed me today, something that used to happen at the PCT endgame. I thought I might catch some for dinner, but no.

I did the math in the roadwalk to Steamboat amd decided I would hitch the highway. Lots of comments like “no shoulder, cars passing at 80 mph”. With that, I had extra food.

So, I had double dinner. And laid down at 4pm. Did camp chores, in a leisurely sort if warm afternoon – nails, did some pack repair, food bag reorganized. I was camped in a big saddle, but with plenty of trees – good because lots of thunder at 6pm. Rain on and off all day. This is the new Colorado, where there’s perpetual lightning, thunder, and rain every day after 5pm.

Almost everyone I’ve talked to about it is completely done with the State. On one hand it’s just been a long 800 miles or so. But also the last few weeks have been endless up and downs torrential rains, hail, and bugs.A

A lot of people are also just “tired”. I think people like me push too hard then don’t recover after some if these high mileage and high elevation days. The real youngbloods are fine, but there’s a lot of fatigue going around. Mental and physical.

Day 4 – Slim and the 22

Woke up, felt great. Who wouldnt after a day off? Did 5 hours of cold rainy ridgewalks. But I had a much better attitude. They werent the usual crap ridgewalks though, some slabbing and switchbacks. From time to time the clouds would lift and there’d be views. By noon I was at FR104, where I hoped for some easy rolling. Even qhen roads are rough, theyre easier for your brain to follow and hiking is easier.

Slim caught me on the road. He had taken a few days off to see family in Breckenridge. But because he’s a beast, he already made up that time. He told me his miles per day average on the northern PCT was 28. Average.

We did 12 more miles down the road, making for the National Forest boundary, for a 5 mile runout to the highway in the AM. We ran into Extra Mile and Hornsby heading south from Steamboat to spend holiday weekend in Grabd Lake. Much cheaper, and an easy hitch. They had rooms at the hostel overlooking the lake for the fireworks show.

At the boundary, we camped in a field. So.e guy from France rolled in. Tops and another hiker showed up, just to cook and then push on. They were doing the same south-to-Grand Lake trick. Clouds started forming, reminding me of the Jethro Tull song “Broadsword” from the odd album “Broadsword and the Beast”. They ate, pushed on, and we got in out tents. A few minutes later the rain started, and a few minutes later, the epic, sky-filling thunder began. Tent and sketchy pole repair survived!

I can’t think of anything besides hiking – burning miles, thats it. I forgot about the holiday, or weekend. Others have the spare brainpower and legs to do off trail stuff. I’m in a tunnel – because I have to be.

The Smokebeard Special
“… bring me my broadsword…”

Day 5 – Trail Magic

Slim and I rolled out at around 6, and did 5 cold and foggy miles through to road. It rained much of the night, the tent was soaked. I was dry, but I hate packing a wet tent. We got to the road and Slim coordinated a ride at the end of the 9 mile roadwalk. I was going to just hitch.

I spent 2 hours hitching with no luck. Little traffic, and what there was, was mostly semi trucks, wimen drivers, and fancy truck guys. No beat up trucks or subarus, so no luck. At 10 I started to walk the road, and wrenched my ankle in the first quarter mile when I stepped off the asphalt wrong. Heard and felt a pop. The kind of ankle roll where the pain makes your stomach hurt.

6 miles of grumbly, muttery, painful roadwalking later, I got a hitch. After a 1200 calorie lunch at the grocery store, I met Slim and Dan the Trail Angel. Through a set of bizarre coincidences, Slim wrangled us showers, laundry and camping at another trail angels house, someone he met in Silver Springs, NM!

No luck at the PO with my Amazon package. They were baffled how it could be both “available for pickup” and “out for delivery” at the same time. Turns put UPS “delivered” it to their facility at the other end of town. Which is open for 90 minutes a day. And not weekends or holidays.

We went out for pizza wearing just our raingear, since all our clothes were at the Trail Angel’s house. Classy. Finishing our food, we looked outside and … pouring rain. Fucking again. I hadn’t pitched my tent super well, so I prayed it held. Grabbed ice cream on the way back, and after some chitchat, was in my ( dry ) quilt by 9:30.

I count towns, others count passes. My compass points to the next time I need to resupply, all logistics. Others’ point to the next challenge. I think one of us is doing it wrong.

Day 6 – there will be a smell

We got up early, by 6 or so. The plan was to go out to breakfast with Slim and Dan. Went to a nice little place, spent $65 for 3 people because Steamboat. I went to the PO to mail sone stuff for Slim, then kind of bummed around town. Theres a free bus that runs the length if the strip.

What about your homie?

Steamboat Springs resident

I decided to go to the urgent care to get my ankle looked at. Am I looking at 2 days, or 2 weeks? After some insurance snafu ( seriously Blue Cross, this is why people hate you ), I got right in. In the intake interview they asked about the usual things, then asked if I was depressed. I asked them if being severely disappointed counted. ( It doesn’t. )

I warned the guy, “my feet are clean, but I put them in very dirty shoes. There will be a smell.” Just a sprain, and a 2 out of 1-4. One of 3 ligaments partially torn. I guess if I tore it completely it would have swelled up like a balloon. He also said I wouldn’t be walking on it. My reply: “I’m dumb, I’ve walked for miles on a broken foot.” So it’s the usual stuff, rest, ice, elevation – all the things I can’t do. Basically rest until it feels good enough to hike rough terrain. NOT the solid prediction I wanted, but at least no big issues.

BUT, since I need to regain my strength anyway, AND my package isn’t here until Tuesday, I’m taking a few zeroes in Steamboat. The fun part is that hotels are $300 a night. I’m looking at alternative options.

The problem is worsened by the Rainbow Family being set up near town in the woods somewhere. 1000s of thieving hippies, driving crappy vans, digging in trash cans and wearing backpacks. I imagine there’s limited patience for another bearded loiterer. “They’re not nice people”, said one shopkeeper.

At the grocery store there were a couple of other thruhikers too, that I didnt know. One town person offered me some snacks. When I told him I was good, he asked, “what about your homie?” Just thought that was funny.

Next steps: rest here until Tuesday, minimum, and then see what I can see. The library is awesome. There’s coffee places, and grocery stores. Apparently there’s a parade on the 4th. Worse places to spend 3 days, I guess.


  1. Cheryl says:

    Ok so Ed what else is in the smoke heard special besides Fritos and a wrap? You are doing a great job of filming this as you go along I wanted to let you know.

    1. smokebeard says:

      The crunchy peanut butter. Might be hard to see. Wrap + PB + chips.

  2. Green, the Redbeard says:

    Oh, no! The Rainbows! Seriously, just the worst group of people I’ve ever had to deal with. I hope you heal up quick.

  3. Billy says:

    Hey Ed ,
    Finally got to read a whole post. Man you had me worried ,between , not eating getting sick and your broken ankle. It was great read, and it sounds like you are having a hell of a trip.
    Vic and I send out love.
    Hang in there brother.

  4. Peggy says:

    Very fun reading your adventurous story! Except for the mosquito part! Hope you’re feeling better. Steamboat is awesome but pricy for sure.
    Keep up the writing! It’s awesome.

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