Day 78: Fastest Hitch Ever
Thursday, July 21, 2022 10:50 pm
Location: Muddy Pass / Steamboat Springs (1065.9 miles)

A day of road walking (and a hitch) brought me to Steamboat Springs, the final trail town in Colorado.

I managed to get up when I planned to this morning. It was cold and damp outside, but the desire to get to town early actually managed to override my desire to stay in my sleeping bag.

I wasn’t surprised at all to find that my tent was quite damp. While I couldn’t see it from where I camped, Indian Creek wasn’t too far away, lower in the valley, and that contributed to the cold and humidity.

Leaving camp at 6:20, I continued down a dirt road. The sun had not yet crested over the ridge to the east, though it didn’t take long for me to hike into the sun.

Before the sun rises, cows graze on grass near the top of a hill.

For about the next hour, I followed the dirt road as it meandered through green rolling hills. These were not the high mountains I’d been hiking through for most of Colorado; instead, it almost felt like pastoral farmland.

Just before reaching the paved Colorado Highway 14, a large sign board for the CDT stood beside the road. With nothing actually displayed, the plastic windows covering the board were quite reflective.

Selfie Day 78: “I am the CDT”
Selfie Day 78: “I am the CDT”A signboard for the CDT was both empty, and highly reflective.

Turning onto the highway, I began the last primarily westward stretch of trail in Colorado, heading towards US Route 40.

Colorado Highway 14 passes through the hills.

This stretch was the longest paved roadwalk in Colorado, just over nine miles. There was a fair amount of traffic, but the road had a sufficient shoulder that it didn’t feel unnecessarily dangerous. Almost every driver moved slightly out-of-lane to give me more space (and waved back when I waved at them). Curiously, almost every vehicle (except for semis) had at least two people.

To help pass the time and distract from the monotony of hiking on asphalt, I played podcasts almost the entirety of the hike today.

There was one main landmark visible most of the morning, the aptly-named Rabbit Ears Peak. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it as I got closer to US 40, when it became clear that the rock formation capping the mountain had a gap in the middle, giving its two “ears” (hence, the name).

Rabbit Ears Peak
Rabbit Ears Peak

The other notable attraction today were three signs for F.M. Light & Sons, a clothier based in Steamboat Springs. Some of the signs date back to 1928, and are considered historic (though they are maintained and repainted every year).

“The Right Road to F.M. Light & Sons Cowboy Outfitters”
“The Right Road to F.M. Light & Sons Cowboy Outfitters”A historical sign for the clothier based in Steamboat Springs.

I reached Muddy Pass, the intersection between CO 14 and US 40, only seconds before 10 am, completing just under twelve miles of roadwalk in less than four hours. After surveying the intersection, I picked a spot I figured would give me the best chance of a hitch from both drivers on both roads heading to Steamboat Springs, and stuck out my thumb.

Almost immediately, a driver pulled over and offered me a ride. This was my fastest hitch ever, and it would be very hard to improve on the time. The driver, from Wisconsin, explained that he’d done a lot of hitchhiking in his youth, and so he always tried to give people rides.

The thirteen mile drive from the intersection into town passed quickly, as the driver (whose name I neglected to get) recounted his experiences hitchhiking. I asked him to drop me off at Freshies, a breakfast restaurant. I figured that the time spent waiting for food would give me an opportunity to plan out the remainder of my stay in town.

I briefly considered just doing my resupply and immediately heading back out to trail, an idea bolstered by being able to sit at a booth next to a power outlet, allowing me to nearly fully charge my battery pack.

But, it’d been a week and a half since I last did laundry, and my clothes were on the verge of being able to stand up on their own. And, if I left town today, I ran the risk of getting to Encampment on Sunday, which would force me to stay there until Monday morning to get my food box from the post office.

I called two hotels in town, which were both sold out. A third had apparently just permanently closed. The fourth try, though, netted success; a room at the Holiday Inn. They offered a 20% discount when I hesitated after they told me the price, which I found surprising. (Though it did prevent me from having to ask if they had a hiker discount.) It’s still fantastically expensive, though.

That accomplished, I needed to resupply, so my next stop was the local Safeway. I was about to walk the half mile there, but leaving the restaurant, I passed a bus stop.

Steamboat Springs has a free bus system that runs on a loop through town, with pickups at each stop every twenty minutes. With the next bus due to arrive in only a few minutes, I opted to wait for the bus.

Safeway seemed to be completely sold out of full-size Snickers bars. There were none on the shelves, and every box of Snickers at every checkout line was completely empty. (Of course, there were packages of “fun size” Snickers, but they generate three times the trash and are hardly “fun”.) So after purchasing the rest of my resupply, I was resigned to going to the nearby Walmart just to buy Snickers bars. (They also didn’t have any on the shelves, but at least they had a full box at the self check-out.)

I took the bus to my hotel, located on the south end of town. Upon arriving, I discovered that the Holiday Inn had an attached restaurant, making it possible for me to get dinner without having to go back into town. Seemingly recently renovated, my room had a surprisingly large number of power outlets (and USB-A charging ports). (However, it, like almost every other hotel room anywhere, lacked hooks to hang wet things from.)

Once in my room, I quickly discovered that my water bottle had again escaped. Making the assumption it had probably fallen out on the bus, I called the bus system’s lost and found, who was able to quickly confirm that the driver had recovered it, and I’d be able to get it the next time the bus looped around.

After recovering my water bottle, and getting a shower, I got lunch at the hotel restaurant. Later, I ordered pizza to my room, while I put my clothes in the guest laundry. Drying clothes was a bit of a fiasco; one of the dryers didn’t work properly because it had overheated earlier in the day. (I was still able to get my clothes dry enough, though.)

Tomorrow: get breakfast at the hotel restaurant, and then get back to trail.