Mt. Princeton Hot Springs

August 21, 2015
The thermometer outside the cabin in Twin Lakes read 33 degrees this morning.  It didn’t seem that cold with the sun rising and the dry air.  We visited with the cabin owner for awhile after getting breakfast from the general store and began walking at 9:15 am.
Twin Lakes was a natural lake but has been deepened with a dam and spillway at the east end.  The Colorado trail took us to the east end of the lake and around to the south side.  We walked back west along the lake for a few miles before climbing back into the mountains.

 We are starting to get out “trail legs” because after finishing the 15 miles in Segment 11 we still had time and energy left to attempt a 2,500 foot vertical climb up to the shoulder of Mt. Waverly.
We finished segment 11 by following the trail into a wide open valley.  A ranch with freshly mowed hay was visible to the west and a campground and RV park to the east.  A series of switchbacks led us down from the ponderosa forest through sagebrush, yucca, and prickly pear cactus to the flat valley floor.  It then led us through the campground to a bridge over Clear Creek.

 The sun was beating down and a hot wind made for the perfect summer setting.  I washed my feet in the cold water as young girl and her father played in the rocks near shore.  The place was peaceful and I could have camped there listening to the water and warm summer wind.
However, the 2,500 foot climb was still ahead.  We had six miles to go before the next camp area inside the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.
We left the river and began segment 12 as switchbacks eased us onto the mountainside before turning into a steep grade that seemed to go on forever.  I told Holli to set a slow and steady pace.  I carried a quart of water from the stream and stopped her every half hour for a drink.
We made good time because we crested the top of the ridge well under two hours for the three mile climb only stopping once for water at a high mountain spring.  The cool air was comforting as we turned down toward the valley below and three more miles to camp.
Twenty one miles and 10 hours of hiking brought us to a stunning camp area near Pine Creek.  I grabbed the first camping spot we came to as the weekend crowd was beginning to arrive.  Eight or nine tents were scattered about by the time we had set up camp and had supper cooking.

Deep sleep was the reward (aside from the view of Collegiates).

 August 22, 2015

We slept in a little after our tough day but still managed to walk by 8:15 am.  Another steep climb took us out of the valley.  We created the ridge an hour later and met our friends Ryan and Julie at the top.  We hadn’t seen them since Breckenridge but knew they were less than a half day ahead of us.
We rested with them and caught up on our adventures over the last week.  Another couple of northbound thru-hikers crested the ridge as we began to leave.  They had left Durango on August 1st and were headed to Denver.  The tall red-haired hiker offered us a shot of whiskey since it was 9:30 am and we were all on top of a mountain.  It didn’t sound good at first but then I thought how rude of me it was to refuse after this guy carried whiskey all the way from who-knows-where? So we all enjoyed a sip of whiskey to get our day started.
We finished segment 12 and had another bit of trail magic near the river at the start of segment 13.  A family was letting thier one year old play in the stream after their day hike and offered us the left over food.  We ate it as we watched the little guy have a ball in the cold water.

We left the river to begin our second brutal climb of the day.  This one was as high as the day before but had two steeper sections with a short flat meadow in between.
We topped the ridge in late afternoon and were greeted with an expansive view of Mt. Princeton to the south, Yale to the west, and Harvard to the north.  The sun was still warm at 12,000 feet and we took our time before descending the punishing switchbacks on the other side. 18.5 miles ended our day at the trailhead below.

 Our third episode of trail magic occurred in camp as Ryan’s friend from Breckenridge met us with food and beer.  We ate supper by the light of a campfire.
August 23, 2015
The race was on for our destination today.  Mt. Princeton  Hot Springs Resort sits directly on the Colorado Trail and we were all eager to get there.
We covered 14 miles to arrive by early afternoon.  The springs were relaxing and now we are sharing a cabin with Ryan, Julie, Lyndsey, and Dan (Julie’s father).


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