After MUCH soul searching about my cardio condition (have not run only walked since December) and accepting the reality of faulty equipment after a night of misery, I made the decision to hike back to the trail head today alone and stay in Snowmass while the other four finish their loop.  The other tent would hold 3, but not 4.  Colorado is known for afternoon thundershowers, so the possibility of being wet was good---wet and cold are miserable.  I had struggled the first leg of the 4 and it was the easiest day of the hike.  The hiking is doable-what caused me to question my capabilities was all the weight on my back and trying to keep enough oxygen in my lungs.  IF the tent had not leaked yesterday, I would have hiked on and another day of hiking puts you at the point of having no choice but finishing the loop.  The other 3 girls were in much better cardio condition than me---while I never had any problem carrying the weight---getting enough air in my lungs while doing so was a very real problem.  Could I have done it---probably--but would I have struggled and maybe been so miserable that I did not enjoy the hike-more than likely.  So for ONCE in my life---I let good sense prevail, left my pride behind, and packed to head back down the trail.  I would carry the faulty tent and at least a couple of pounds of garbage back with me.  I now had 35-40 #s on my back--BUT most of the trip back would be down with only  a few short ups---more precarious stepping-but much easier on my cardio-pulmonary system.

We broke camp after a breakfast of hot cereal and headed out--me down and the others up.  I only traveled about an hour before I began meeting the continuous stream of hikers coming up the trail.  After that first hour, I met someone every 10-15 minutes---LOTS of people doing this hike!   While thinking about this later---MOST are young-do not think I met many my age-and NO women my age.  During those stretches of solitary hiking, I sang out my presence in all of the blind spots--there ARE bears in those mountains.  I had a roaring stream to cross--balancing myself and my pack on the slippery rocks of the creek bed---knowing I did not want wet feet for the next few hours.  Lots of boulder fields, rock strewn path, and miles of trail to retrace to get back to civilization.

I started this cold morning with 3 shirts and a jacket and tights and long pants---but I slowly peeled off clothes as I descended.  One hiker came by as I was peeling off yet another layer and told me he was sorry he had no dollar bills to reward my strip tease act.  I guess you could call it an Alpine strip.

Finally making it back to Crater Lake, I stopped and rested and ate a snack--while watching the tourist descend upon the lake.  I had a chat with a young man who had been climbing one of the 14ers as they call the mountains over 14,000' .  He had been climbing the mountain when the mountain goats began kicking rocks at him from the trail above.  When he continued the climb, they charged him in an effort to frighten him away.  I have never seen mountain goats act like that---usually they are shy and at most just ignore your presence--must have had a baby with them.  I watched the local chippy beg for food and just soaked in the ambiance.

I finally headed back down the same rock laden trail that I had climbed the day before.  While slowly making my way down, I had a large group of runners go by me on their way up---keep these runners in mind--they come into play later in the week.  Finally I make it back to the Maroon Bell Lake.  The first trash can I went by was rewarded with my faithful trail shoes.  After the fourth hiking trip and many miles of training--they were coming apart on my foot---well done shoes!  The camp sandals became my new footwear--certainly a lot lighter, but also no where close to the support.

There is still more fun to come!  I told the others that I would get a ride back to the hotel and leave them the car.  There are buses coming up to the trail head for all the tourist to ride---I take one of those buses back down the mountain--BUT as usual it is not that simple.  The kind bus driver-seeing my pack--takes it from me and puts it on the bus---I stand next to him on the standing room only bus and he entertains me with tales of his own hiking trips.  I then have to take a bus into Aspen and then another bus to the valley transit center and then another bus to Snowmass---ALL while wagging BB along-no offers of help after the first bus.  I got plenty of stares--and not many volunteers to sit by me---BIG PACK & NO SHOWER for 48 hours!  FINALLY after two hours of bus rides I made it all the way back---fortunately I could get a room and a shower and then a bath convinced me that I had lived to tell the tale!

There was a reward for my good sense coming--tomorrow---God's little prize for me---a fun surprise and a man in a skirt!  Day 5-Part II

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