Beneath a thick layer of tree debris and mulch, a layer of ice remained, insulated from the sun by the avalanche mess. At this elevation (9,400′), there was no other snow or ice around, yet below the mess, a stubborn, icy crust remained. Middle Cottonwood Creek was running fast beneath the avalanche field. We passed over the area easily and followed the trail southeast above Rainbow Lake.
The trail descended gradually to about 8,900′ and then we began a climb of about 1,000′ over a 2 mile stretch, contouring around the base of Mt. Princeton (a 14,197′ peak). We stopped for a lunch break and enjoyed sandwiches we’d prepared before leaving home. As we continued on, we met a solo biker going the other direction. Shortly after that, rain clouds threatened and that same biker soon came by going the other way, away from the threatening clouds. As he went by, he said something like “Sometimes you just know it’s time to turn around”. As it turned out, the cloud spit rain briefly and moved on. Over the next several miles, the trail climbed slowly to just over 10,000′, and then descended again to 9,500′ at Dry Creek. The CT Databook said “Bridge over Dry Creek”. I called it a “Bridge Over the River Dry”. I think there was a movie about that bridge .
Dry Creek was anything but dry. It roared with the abundant runoff from the melting snowpack at higher elevations. At Dry Creek, after hiking 9.3 miles, we needed to decide whether we should camp there or continue on to the next reliable water source, about 7 miles further south. We elected to camp at Dry Creek. It’s a good thing we did. Shortly after setting up camp, rain clouds came in and we had a pretty good shower for about an hour and a half. After the rain, we emerged from our tents and had a real nice evening. It was beef stroganoff night. In contrast to our hikes last year, we were able to have a campfire and enjoyed some time around the fire telling stories. We hit the sack at 9 p.m.