In July 2018 we drove our small car from Austin, Texas to Colorado. My sister drove from her home near Houston, and we all met up at Frisco, left her car there, took our car over to Denver to meet up with another Austin friend at her friend’s house, did all our final rummaging there, slept over, and all 4 piled into our car to drive to the Colorado Trail eastern terminus at Waterton Canyon. We parked our car there (you have to notify the Denver Water Dept. for long parking), took pictures, and embarked on our longest hike ever. My sister and our friend were on for the first week, then they were to depart and leave us two to thru-hike the trail on our own.
Our first few days: Lower elevation, heat wave, tons of hikers and mountain bikers, friendly people, queasiness (yah lower elevation but we are from Texas), a nice splash in the South Platte, murdered my phone which had all our mapping software. Fortunately we also always carry paper. And we had the guidebook and databook.
Nah, all y’all don’t want to read a blow-by-blow of 6 1/2 weeks. What would you like to read in a trip report about a long and varied trip?
Overall impressions and random memories:
The Colorado mountains are beautiful.
The Colorado mountains are huge.
The valleys between and below the mountains are deep and huge.
Parts of the Colorado Trail have a lot of mountain bikes.
A few parts have motorbikes! Ack!
The first 100 miles or so, a lot of other hikers and backpackers.
Later, not so many, much later, very few.
Mina helped 7 other backpackers adjust their packs during the first week.
Walking up and over and down thousands of vertical feet is a lot of work.
This trail stretched our physical abilities.
It took persistence.
We had one serious embarrassing misadventure involving carelessness that I am not ready to ‘fess up to yet, but will probably post about some time later. We got away with it.
A few times we felt more in danger than might have been wise, but we forged on.
Dangers included exposure, unstable trail surfaces, lightning, and cold wet windstorms.
The weather and the sky provided a constant thrilling show.
Umbrellas for rain work pretty well when it isn’t too windy or cold. Frogg Toggs work when it is.
The alpine flower shows were fading but the multicolored fall dry grasses and seedheads beautiful.
Raspberry season! Plus a few strawberries and blueberries.
So many of the forests are dead or dying from beetles; new life will emerge but we don’t know what it will be.
We saw a lot of cows in some areas. And huge hollering flocks of sheep.
Other animals: Pikas! Marmots. Chipmunks. Squirrels. Elk. Bighorns. A moose! Beaver dams. Snakes. Ground squirrels. Hawks. Jays. Hummingbirds. Robins. Ptarmigan. Magpies. Lots of other birds we didn’t know. Spiders. Ants. More ants. Beetles. Files. Bees. Butterflies and moths.
We ran out of water on one stretch because a listed water source was dry.
It was a dry year and we had several long heavy water carries.
Robert’s feet got all blistered and his trail runners lost all their tread which made walking hard.
Mina’s trail runners failed early and she was able to acquire replacement light hikers before we left the last REI (Dillon) behind, so her feet did fine.
The rest of our equipment worked, our sleeping bags were warm enough, our shelter’s zippers began failing but it got us through.
Even after being in the mountains for weeks, altitude got us when we camped 2 nights in a row above 12,000 ft.
We met a lot of friendly fun other thru-hikers but most of them passed us and then later a different batch would catch up with us and we would get to know them.
We enjoyed meeting a number of section hikers too.
We found we needed full-zeros, i.e. 2 nights, at our 5 resupply stops.
We did one on-trail zero to help Robert’s feet heal.
Robert brought and enjoyed his Outdoor Ukulele since his default behavior is plinking at strings and the fiddle and mandolin had to stay home.
Colorado has a lot of kind and generous people who help backpackers.
Our car was intact and worked perfectly when we got back to it 6 1/2 weeks later! Woohoo!
We are right proud of ourselves.
The weblog posts to follow are the detailed journal entries from the trip.