The easy trot down Forest Trail 390 gave little indication of the difficulty ahead. Perhaps I should have been clued in by the giant mountains on all sides.
I turned left at Winfield, another old mining town. The former population of 1500 doesn't seem like much unless compared with the current total of zero. Only a tiny museum and a couple of preserved buildings remain.
The Lake Ann trailhead signaled my entrance ont the up ramp. The path wound beside a creek running through a rocky gorge. A pair of waterfalls kicked up the visual stimulus meter up to eleven. More struggle toward the heavens brought me to the promised reward of Lake Ann, more of a glacial pond with the light snows this year, but nonetheless a worthy sight for tired muscles and bones lying as it did underneath two snow covered peaks. A tragedy really - if only they could see...
As much as I wanted to stop and revel in the view there was yet higher to go. Another meeting of black clouds looked to be scheduled for sometime in the near future. Impelled on, I past the treeline and began navigating a trail that looked more like a rock garden. Bits covered in snow and ice made finding the way difficult. In fact the trail completely disappeared on me. I guessed the probable direction it was headed and returned, only to lose the stone road once more.
By now I was only one hundred yards from the top of the pass and determined to get there one way or another. I picked the "easiest" looking slope and scrabbled up a few feet at a time. I was rock-climbing now, not hiking and I don't recommend trying the sport while wearing a forty pound pack. Fifteen feet from the top I made a last charge, making the apex, only to collapse with lungs and heart heaving so hard I thought my ribcage would burst.
I was sitting atop the Continental Divide, although I didn't realize it then. I didn't even have the energy to take a picture. The black clouds were still meeting and even if they hadn't carried through on their threats yet I wasn't waiting around for them to reach a quorum.
Down the narrow path I went, switchback after switchback leading me slowly back into the shade. At the next intersection I turned away from the CDT and CT for good. The Timberline Trail would fail to impress. Rocky, flooded, and narrow are a few of the kinder words I could use to describe this hiking trail, which is so beloved by hikers that on a Saturday I ran into a grand total of zero fellow pedestrians.
There weren't many useful spots to set down either. The sun was low on the horizon by the time I found a semi-flat square of pine straw not covered in rock slide. A continent divided might be able to stand, but I can't any longer.
15 miles/2724 total miles