Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Collegiate West: Day 5

With Chalk Creek Pass ten miles away, I want to be sure that I am up and over the pass before any storms have the chance to build, so I am up early, cooking breakfast and breaking camp in the dark. I click off my head lamp just as I start hiking, enjoying the transition from night to day. 

After a long series of switchbacks up a heavily treed mountainside, I break out of the trees into another glorious Colorado morning. A couple of Forest Service employees that I ran into the evening before told me they had seen a moose up here, so I have my eyes open for a moose!

 Do you see a moose? Neither do I! But it sure is pretty up here, and there's a couple of deer!

Beneath this hillside is what remains of the Alpine Tunnel, a narrow gauge railroad tunnel constructed in the early 1880s. It was in use until 1910 when it was closed due to damage. It has since been sealed off. It was the first railroad tunnel constructed through the Continental Divide in Colorado, and remains the highest railroad tunnel and longest narrow gauge tunnel in North America. 

The old railroad grade makes for some easy hiking...

...but this jeep road that climbs out of the old town of Hancock is no fun to hike on!

As I am filtering some drinking water, I look back down the valley at Hancock Lake and the Chalk Creek drainage. This water eventually flows past Mount Princeton Hot Springs. A most perfect scene!

With the pass behind me, I am now hiking along the Middle Fork of the South Arkansas River. 

An America robin and the Colorado Trail decal both pointing the way - go left.

 I make it to Hunt Lake and my highest campsite at nearly 11,500'. The sky decides to rain lightly on and off as the day ends, and the mosquitoes are a mighty force, so I am tucked in pretty early after a long 17-mile day.

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