Breckenridge to Aspen Hike Hiking & Backpacking

Breck to Aspen, Hike days 5-6: Continental Divide & Uncle Bud’s Huts

Day 5: Jackal Hut to Continental Divide Cabin

DSC00872We had a nice stroll down the hill back to Camp Hale this morning – well, as nice as a stroll down a rocky dirt road can be. We were, once again, very early for our shuttle across Camp Hale – it would have been a 10 mile day without the shuttle and while it was mostly fairly flat, it was also the only day we had to carry two full days’ worth of food (plus an emergency dinner) so M&T were loaded up pretty well. Our guide took us across the Camp, giving us a bit of history on the way, and up the old dirt Highway 24 to a point where our trail crossed the main road. We started an easy walk along the edge of a meadow, although by the time we started a gentle climb Tom was feeling the weight of his pack and when we hit the ‘bushwhack’ section he was none too happy with it. The map indicated that we just needed to follow one ski trail right to the hut, but it turned out that there was a whole network of ski trails on the hill and our hut wasn’t actually right on any of them. I had said all kinds of rude things about Tom’s GPS before we set out on the trip, even suggesting that we not bring it to save weight, but I took them all back when it led us right where we needed to go.

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Watching the rain out the open window. Carys fell in love with the teddy in the foreground and carried it around for most of the evening.

Continental Divide is a bit different from all the other huts; it only sleeps eight and you have to reserve the whole cabin so once again we were the only ones there. We had a nice afternoon nap but Carys’ wake-up was rough – the first of several such days – she cried inconsolably for about half an hour, stopping momentarily when something DSC00893caught her attention but starting up again a few minutes later. I would offer her milk and water and all manner of foods, all of which she refused, preferring only to be cuddled. Eventually she signed for milk and drank quite a lot, which apparently made her feel a good deal better. She didn’t want to be outside so we went inside and played with the toys – the cabin is so close to the road that it’s popular with families. Tom found a teddy bear which Carys immediately gave an enormous hug, and she dragged it around for much of the afternoon. There were also Jenga blocks (without the filthy messages this time) and cars and building blocks. A storm moved in quickly and we had to rush outside to pull our laundry in off the balcony railing; luckily most of it did get dry overnight. We also attempted a second hut bath, which she enjoyed rather more than the first…

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Cartoon found in the New Yorker at the Continental Divide hut, photographed before dawn (hence the bad lighting)

The forecast for the next day was rather dicey so we decided to cover our bases by booking the cabin for a second night in case it was pouring when we woke up and we were unable to hike. It did rain in the night, but when I went out to the bathroom at midnight I was most surprised to hear the sounds of a nearby party from another (privately-owned) cabin – we were so used to being the only people around that it was quite jarring to hear ‘civilization’ so close by. The cabin had two rooms each with two single beds; the other four beds were arranged under the windows in the common space. M&T took one room and you had the other; I was quite comfortable out in the common area and we all slept well.

Day 6: Continental Divide Hut to Uncle Bud’s Hut

The weather forecast had marginally improved by the time we woke up at 5am, early so as to try to avoid the anticipated afternoon storm. We got as packed as we could until I woke Carys up around 6:30, and she was actually not unhappy about it at all – she cheerfully ate oatmeal and drank milk and we were on the trail shortly before 7am with a promise to ourselves that if the weather looked too dicey we would not be too proud to turn back.

I guess not all of the Ryvita was making it into her mouth...

I guess not all of the Ryvita we gave her on-trail was making it into her mouth…

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There are raisins in that bag…I can see ’em!

I had actually thought that the majority of the day would be spent above treeline but this wasn’t the case; we were in the forest most of the time and while the distance (8 miles on the map; 10 on the GPS!) made it one of our longer days, the elevation gain wasn’t terrible. It was only about 800’ net, but apparently there was a fair bit of up and down as the GPS said we’d covered 2,000’ by the end of the day! Carys was a bit fussy on the last mile or so of the hike so we sang to her about marching ants quite a bit, which she liked, and also fed her raisins regularly, which she liked very much.

We arrived at Uncle Bud’s without incident around lunchtime, and shortly thereafter the dark clouds hovering over Turquoise Lake started moving our way and at least two storms moved through in quick succession. We had fantastic views of Mounts Massive and Elbert, although we did wish that someone had cut down the clump of trees (just off to the right of this carefully composed image) that ruined the panorama…

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The hut is named for Bud Winter, who was killed in Italy during World War II at age 20. He was one of the 33 soldiers who completed the “trooper traverse” from Leadville to Aspen in February 1944, a trip which had failed the previous winter. It was pretty clear from reading the history books in the hut libraries that while the Division fought hard in the war and sustained heavy losses, they weren’t in Europe for very long and most of them had a darned good time in the Colorado mountains before they went.

Once again we had the hut to ourselves; Carys had her own private room while M, T and I shared the common room with a panoramic view of the mountains. She actually managed to tip her tent over after I put her down for her nap; luckily I had placed it far enough back from the edge of the bed that she didn’t fall off, but she did give herself a bit of a scare. In future I was always careful to set the longer, more tippable side perpendicular to the edge of the bed wherever possible – or at least prop it up a bit with a pillow which made it harder to tip. I’m not sure she tried it again, though – anyway, she wasn’t successful.

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Tom found he could make a spinning top out of one of the parts of the ubiquitous coffee makers, which Carys thought was an absolute hoot.

Breck to Aspen, Hike days 7-9: Leadville Hostel, Skinner Hut, and the Diamond J Ranch
Breck to Aspen, Hike Days 3 and 4: Janet's Cabin and Jackal Hut

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