We left July backcountry campsite, where we stayed at the end of Day 2, early on Tuesday morning. We would be ascending over 1700 feet as we continued on North Inlet Trail to reach our connection to the Tonahutu Trail, which travels along a portion of the Continental Divide. We would then drop 1800 feet altitude to finish up our 7.5 mile hike at the Renegade backcountry campsite.
Day 3 (Tuesday, July 24)
July Campsite (10,650 feet) to Renegade Campsite (10,500 feet)- 7.5 miles
Total Day 2- 7.5 miles
Maximum elevation gain- 1713 feet
As we started out the morning… the name of the game was elevation. We were climbing by switchbacks along the mountainside which overlooked an absolutely brilliant valley. In every way this spacious vastness just screamed life…and we took it in with every breath. Forget about the heavy packs and trudging upward fighting gravity…this was heaven on earth man. It was just good. But it didn’t take long before we were left standing still in our own tracks. As we looked 25-feet uphill… a 6×6, 600-pound bull elk was hovering over us chewing on this green breakfast. He thought we were interesting, but his breakfast was more interesting. He was close enough that we did not want to move for fear that he might get defensive, so we stayed put. Eventually he began to move away but only to move ONTO OUR TRAIL AT THE SWITCHBACK. He never snorted. He never stomped his hooves. He was definitely cool. But we didn’t have the courage to move forward. So we retreated back by 30-feet and had to climb straight up the mountain to connect to our trail. Some fellow hikers, without our knowledge, was below us on the mountain and snapped a couple of pictures for us.
Once we made it above the tree-line into the alpine region… my heart began to skip from the striking beauty. These are the places you see in magazines and say, “I wish I could be there.” And here we were. It was so surreal. Forget my words… just look at the pictures.
The beauty speaks for itself. You find out very quickly how the area got it’s name because it is definitely rocky. Some of the boulders and boulder configurations baffle the mind. The temperature on this July day was in the mid-60’s at this elevation (over 12,000 feet). We needed light shirt with sleeves… but it was the ultra-violet radiation which was the concern. We wore our UV sunglasses and put on sunscreen for our exposed skin areas.
We could see the valley opening up with a mix of wildflowers and pine. The final leg of our hike along the Tonahutu Trail would take us to Renegade. This final section, in my opinion, was rough hiking. The rocks were many times the size of baseballs and softballs, which made our steps rough. We also began to see a ton of marmots running out from the rocks across the trail and into other rocks. Pretty amazing stuff.
We set up quickly at Renegade and went down to the creek to cool off and wash up. We ate supper early and sat back to relax when the storm clouds rolled in. It started to rain at 7pm and we hopped into our tents. We ended up falling asleep as it rained all night long.
This was one of my favorite days on the hike. Day 4 will take us through the Big Meadow and back to the TH.
Day 4 (Wednesday, July 25)
Renegade Campsite (10,500 feet) to Tonahutu/North Inlet TH via Big Meadows (8540 feet)- 9.2 miles