Collegiate Loop Day 3 – Browns Creek to Cottonwood Creek

Day 3 ended up being a key decision day for the Yale side trip on day 5. During the planning, I had gone back and forth. It had looked like a great trip, but the loop was our primary objective. I had been concerned about my calf injury, so had concluded before departure that we would NOT do it. After a great day 2 going further than planned, we saw different options for how far we could go on day 3. If we could go far enough, it would set us up for getting to the Yale ridge on day 4, and the mountain on day 5. The great hitches we got into and out of Mt Princeton Hot Springs is what really made it viable. What we wrote at the time:

Up at 5 and on the trail by 6:30. Not as cold as previous morning. Pleasant and fairly flat 6 mile hike out to chalk creek trailhead. Just before descending hill to trailhead passed two large groups of people who were actually part of the same group. They had stayed at bootleg campground. We stopped there to use the toilet and have some snacks. Large bear box completely full of individual bear boxes and lots of MSR bladders hanging from a tree but no one in sight thinking this was there base camp and they were heading to brooks for one night. Also met a nice couple day hiking up from chalk creek. We crossed chalk creek and decided to try and hitch into town. After not seeing a single vehicle going our way for the first three minutes we were getting worried. But then the first vehicle stopped a pickup truck with a very nice man with two nice dogs. The guy was setting up cabins and hopefully a shop by Hancock on the CW side. We hopped in the back of his pickup truck and he was happy to take us to the resort. At the resort felt odd asking at the posh reception for the restaurant but they were very friendly and it was the breakfast menu as it was 10:15. We enjoyed pancakes and bacon and ham and apple juice and lattes (decaf for Peter). The two couples at the table next to us had finished their hike the day before at the resort having bailed two days early, so they had lots of spare food which they offered us and we gladly took a selection. (we forgot to ask for their names 😦 ) We had cell phone service so p checked in with mommy and agreed meeting arrangements with Paul Ryan. We went to the shop and food selection was limited but we found hot chocolate, three musketeers, and saltines. Checked with reception to see if we could pay anyone for a ride to the next trailhead but no luck. While very friendly and professional we noticed a striking difference between that professional hospitality and the kindness of strangers we have met so far on our travels. So we set out on the long three mile walk up the 1300 foot hill with hot sun. Once again tried to hitch and this time it was the second car that stopped only because the first one was full with stuff. It was one of the smallest cars we’ve ever seen in the states. A Chevy spark. And already quite full with stuff and a cat but Samantha Sunshine was eager to give us a lift as she had spent many years without a car hitching in Hawaii and Europe. She had just been filming with her cat an advert at the resort and had previously posed for them as a mermaid. She even went out of her way to take us to the trailhead along a rough bumpy steep gravel road. Even offering on the way up to stop on the way down to pick up a hiker who had just summited Mount Princeton. She kindly took our photo at the trailhead and we wish we would’ve taken a photo of her and her car but only thought about it 5 minutes after departure. This hitch made all the difference, setting us up later for Yale.

Stopped for lunch at Maxwell Creek and even laid down for thirty minutes in limited space barely noticing a group of 10 guys heading southbound. Having enjoyed the donated pepper sausage and dried mango and trail mix we marched on. After a while, passed a lone cyclist and then after a while longer, S saw an unleashed dog closely followed by a bike but the dog was so well behaved. We made it to the river but it was about half a mile more until we found a nice large campground right next to the river and laid down for a short nap. Ate protein bars, had cold soak in river and collected water. A couple offered us a trout which their son had caught but we couldn’t cook. They were from Little Rock Arkansas and had traveled in the UK including Isle of Skye, the Lake District, Isle of Wight, and the Chunnel. They had twin 26 year old boys. The one fishing had just finished third year of medical school which was a huge amount of studying. The other son had studied abroad in Italy and Germany and was an anthropologist and had recently visited Tanzania and seen tons of animals. We filtered our water and were sorting out food when it started to rain a little so we tried putting up our rain shelter. Not much room underneath but otherwise looks good. Felt more relaxed tonight than previous night and it is a little warmer as we go to sleep. We have a plan to hike tomorrow to the tree line below Yale ready for a very early start the following morning to hit the summit at sunrise after hiking by moonlight. We shall see what happens!

Hiking stats:
15 miles, 6 hours 23 minutes
Ascent 3510 ft., Descent 5078 ft.
Campsite altitude: 8921 ft.

We got some great hitches for the two road sections around Princeton Hot Springs. Both were quick and most welcomed! There is something special about riding in the back of a pickup in the mountains.
Fortunately we could sit outside at the Mt Princeton Hot Springs Resort restaurant. The refreshments were most welcome!
After giving us a most-welcome hitch up the mountain to the trailhead, Samantha Sunshine took our photo. Yes, we were that happy!
Beautiful columbines were often seen in the woods.
We learnt to be able to nap anywhere!
The forest cleared briefly and we could see the slopes of Mount Yale.
Plenty of bridges over the streams, some more robust than others.
Icing my calves!
A Colorado Blue Columbine. This is the flower than most reminds me of the hike.
The campsite with Cottonwood Creek through the trees.
Imagine falling asleep to this sound. Beautiful.

This page is linked to from my Collegiate Loop home page.

Published by Peter Ireland

I am originally from England, and my wife Janet is from Louisiana. When we started Geocaching in 2002, we needed a name, and the Cajunlimeys were created, and that is the name I use for my blog. Even though Janet has no Cajun blood, her cooking is excellent! “Limeys” comes from the nickname for English sailors, who ate limes to prevent scurvy. We live in Houston, Texas, with Bailey and Samuel. We love adventures and want to share the experiences with others. When planning trips, I have found other people’s sites very useful, so I want to give back and add a different perspective.

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