Rolling Creek Trailhead Colorado Trail

Trail Stank and A Slice of Heaven – Colorado Trail Day 4

Colorado Trail Segment 3, July 4, 2017
Shinglemill Trail to Rolling Creek Trailhead, 10 miles
40.7 total miles

As usual, I was the last to wake up, around 8 a.m. I heard Michael quietly moving about, and hoped I hadn’t kept him waiting too long. We chatted while we ate cold breakfasts (since we’d both ditched our camp stoves) — me, cold oatmeal and coffee and him, a granola bar and a handful of peanuts. We were both convinced that the day’s hike would be easy breezy, since we were already a good part of the way into Colorado Trail segment 3.

Colorado Trail
Loading up for the day
Pre-Hike Glamour Shot Shinglemill Trail Colorado Trail Segment 3
Pre-hike glamour shot

But despite our expectations, we both had a hard time hiking that day. The first part of the trail stayed around 7,500 feet in elevation with no drastic ascents. Even then, it was slow going. I was out-of-steam and feeling my ankle. Michael’s knee kept dislocating and he continually had to pop it back in.

By the Way, It’s Independence Day!

We stopped frequently for breaks about every mile or so, running into the same group of hikers along the way. One of them said, “Happy July 4th!” I’d forgotten that it was Independence Day.

Backpackers community break Colorado Trail Segment 3
Taking a break

I was grateful that Michael seemed to want breaks as often as I did. Worried that I was slowing him down, I told Michael he didn’t have to hang with me if he wanted to go faster. But he said hiking together was helping him as much as it was helping me. The good news: at least we were out of the burn area and were hiking through trees. The bad news: there was a steady climb the last 4.5 miles of Colorado Trail segment 3 of almost 1,000 feet.

trail buddies Colorado Trail Segment 3
Trail buddy selfie (photo by Michael Turner)

Has Anybody Seen My Hiking Mojo?

After awhile, we saw fewer hikers and it felt like we were alone in the world. We marveled that neither one of us felt the urge to explore sights off the trail, like a large rock formation in the distance or a cliff just a short way off the path. My typically adventurous, curious hiking self just wanted to get to the end of the trail. My hiking mojo was nowhere to be seen. Thoughts of a shower, clean clothes, and civilization occupied my mind.

We gradually became quieter and quieter and got into a cadence of Michael taking the lead and me following. He kept a good pace and I was glad, because that meant we’d be done sooner. I kept focus on him and his red hair leading the way, like a beacon. Periodically I’d drop back and fall behind, and he’d stop and wait for me. Thinking we were closer to Rolling Creek Trailhead, the end of Colorado Trail segment 3, than we were, we chased the last couple miles of the segment with sweat and determination.

Found the Trailhead……Now What?

Finally, we reached Rolling Creek Trailhead, which was dry, with no water and no camping allowed. Beyond reaching the trailhead, we’d planned on either finding camping nearby or hitching into Bailey. I had accumulated a whole lot of trail stank by then and couldn’t imagine another day without a shower. I was attracting flies, no joke.

A trio of hikers, Rick, Kenny, and John, were at the trailhead. Michael had hiked with them a few days back. They were anxiously awaiting a shuttle from the Lynwood Park hostel in Bailey. A hostel! A place with a shower and a bed? Sounded fabulous! Michael and I banked on catching a ride with the shuttle and the hostel having space. For the next hour or so, the five of us sat, paced, watched, and waited for the shuttle. Honestly, I was just tickled to not be carrying my pack. When it started sprinkling, Michael showed me how to rig a tarp shelter.

How to make a tarp shelter Rolling Creek Trailhead Colorado Trail Segment 3
Learning how to make a tarp shelter

Getting Creative With Hitching

When waiting for the shuttle became too long and unbearable, and with no cell service at the trailhead, the guys tried a different tactic. Kenny tried flagging down cars on the dirt road in front of the trailhead. Finally a guy stopped. John wrote the name and number of the hostel on a scrap of paper. Kenny asked the guy to call the hostel for us when he got into cell service. Lucky for us, the guy was going just down the road to pick something up, and then heading back our way again. On his way back, he stopped to let us know that he’d called the hostel and the shuttle was on its way!

Meanwhile, a day hiker returned to his car in the parking lot and offered to give a couple of us a ride into town. Michael and I jumped at the chance and hopped in. After the fact, I felt bad that we left John, Rick, and Kenny at the trailhead. They’d been waiting much longer than us. But soon the shuttle retrieved them and we all met up at the hostel.

Lynwood Park hostel in Bailey, Colorado, end of Colorado Trail Segment 3
Lynwood Park, a thru-hiker’s haven
Trout pond at Lynwood Park, Bailey, Colorado, end of Colorado Trail Segment 3
Trout pond at Lynwood Park

Hostel Heaven in Bailey, Colorado

Ah, Lynwood Park, my first ever hostel experience! A little slice of heaven awaits you at the end of Colorado Trail segment 3! The hosts, Lyn and Bill, were extraordinarily sweet and helpful. Characterized by cozy nooks and crannies, the hostel was downright charming. And they had space for the night! The five of us booked The Gathering Room, a large room right on the river with five camp cots, a full kitchen, washer and dryer, and shower.

The rest of the night was sort of like bunking up with my brothers (if I had brothers). Filthy, tired, hungry, and giddy with relief from being at the hostel, we all began the process of getting clean and getting fed. I literally had no clean clothes at all and didn’t want to put on dirty clothes after my shower. There was a robe by the washer and I put that on, looking super stylish with my crocs and disheveled hair. We all threw our clothes in together and did loads of laundry.

Raiding the Store and Winding Down

We went en masse into the hostel Store, a fabulous thru-hiker’s paradise of everything from frozen pizza, burritos, ice cream, soda, and candy bars to dehydrated food pouches, combs, shampoo, and fresh fruit. Picking out dinner was fun and was on the honor system. You wrote what you took on a piece of paper with your name, and paid up when you checked out.

Back in The Gathering Room, we took turns taking showers and then took care of business for the night. Rick pulled everything out of his pack and decided what to ditch. John and I figured out how to run the washer and dryer. I called my mom and told her that I most likely would want her to come pick me up in the morning. Kenny called his kids. Later on, Michael and I folded clothes. I threw my sleeping bag on my cot next to Michael’s. We chatted for awhile then I curled up and fell asleep, clean and content.

See my Colorado Trail Planning Guide for complete details about planning your own trip!

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