Days 74-76: Grand Lake, CO to Rabbit Ears Pass, ~71 miles, ~1,269 miles total
A read of the maps for this section foretold the miles of hiking in the alpine tundra would soon be a sweet and distant memory. Peaks, passes, lowland forest hiking all at lower elevations than the terrain we have traversed for the last 500 miles.
This leg I wanted to admire the tundra wildflowers with greater fervor. The passion Muir evoked in his descriptions of harebells and heather often runs through my mind. All the more so after I picked up a tundra flower guide and learned the cushion plants and dwarf clovers I so admire can take 50 years to grow a diameter of 6 inches! And that’s only after the patch was a pocket gopher garden (i.e. disturbed soil). I feel so in awe of the endemic alpine sunflowers nodding their heads east, away from the western winds. Their cheerful blooms a reminder to accept the wind that scours the high meadows instead of bracing against it.
Running these high ridges a bloom with wildflowers on the Continental Divide. Splendid and spectacular. We often pause to look around and reflect, while not profound words, it feels a poignant concept: So this is the Divide. Snow to the west melting and flowing to the Colorado. Snow to the east flowing to the Platte.
The shorter mountains, meadows, shrubsteppe, and forests to come will be no less grand. All ecosystems have elegant relationships to marvel at, contemplate, and praise. But for now, the alpine tundra of Colorado has been the highlight of the trail as it runs through the state. Maybe I’m just partial to marmot country.
Special thanks to Greg for giving us a ride to Steamboat and the beer recommendations! Greg was awesome to chat with and he gave us a ride to Cakewalk’s condo, where we reunited with Smudge, Groceries, and Lucy. More thanks to all of them for a wonderful evening.