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Living The Dream - Two weeks on the Colorado Trail
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Timothy Matthews
(timm4969) - F

Locale: Shady Sherman
Living The Dream - Two weeks on the Colorado Trail on 08/16/2010 20:33:30 MDT Print View

A trip on the CT was something that I had been thinking about for just about a year at the time that I set out on the trip. It started as a thought that a long distance trip would be a fun way to spend part of the summer after my freshman year. It would be my first long distance trip and my first trip solo. Living in Colorado made logistics for a trip on the CT much easier than they would’ve been for a trip on any other long trail. And so it was that about this time last year I began to lighten my load. Even when I had been a traditional backpacker my base weight had never been obscenely high. It usually hovered around the 22-25 pound base weight mark depending on what comforts I chose to take. This is not to say that I had never carried a heavy pack before. The heaviest I ever carried was when I went to Philmont, 70 pounds, I was 15 and did it voluntarily partially to see if I could and partially because I had the altruistic notion of carrying more than my share of group gear. I only had a 22 pound base. As fun as carrying 50 percent of my body weight had been and while I knew I was perfectly capable of it I also knew that it would not make for big mileage days which is what I was shooting for on this trip. So the weight came down. I switched over to a tarp and upgraded various pieces of gear. I wasn’t overly concerned with dropping weight and was pretty happy when it bottomed out around 12-13 pounds. I felt no need to drop any lower or concern myself with the little bit of extra weight keeping me from being truly ultralight. I knew I could handle a couple pounds so I was happy with this weight, with food and water I would never go above 25 pounds total. So with my weight down reasonably I switched my focus over to planning logistical aspects of the trip, namely who would I go with. I knew that I wanted to do part of the trip solo but I really didn’t feel like jumping straight into it and wanted to find people that would be able to go with me for the first part of the trip. I met a pair of long distance hikers at a cafe in Twin Lakes. Uncle and nephew, they were following the CDT and CT from the Mexico border to Denver. The uncle told me that family generally plays a large role in the long distance hikers life. This I found to be true because the people I found to go with me for the first part where my mom who would accompany me for the first 72 miles and my brother who would accompany me for the next 84. After these details had been worked out and I had also determined where I would be resupplying it was of course time to hike. We set out the morning of July 28th at the Waterton Canyon trailhead.At the trailhead we were sent off by my niece This, it turned out, couldn’t have been a better time to start as the canyon was closed a few days later and will not be reopened for over a year. The first day was hot and exposed the result being that I got sunburned on my first day out which is more fun than can be described.In the first couple miles we encountered some very friendly mountain goats We got a late start at about 10 in the morning and as such pushed into the evening to make it to camp at mile 18.Behind me in this picture is our first camp in the burnout We camped at the edge of the burnout on segment 2 of the trail allowing us to start early the next morning and hike out of the exposed portion before it got hot. Which we did. We rose as soon as the sun peeked above the horizon and broke camp quickly. It was a beautiful and only slightly chilly morning. A stream had cut a valley beneath where we were camping and in the early morning inversion had trapped fog down below us which was a very pretty backdrop to begin out hike.We camped the first night next to that rock formation Setting out in the morning Inversion behind as we walk out of campWe hiked through the first part of the burnout and then dipped back into tree for a while before entering back into the burnout which the trail cut through before reaching a road crossing near the end of segment 2 where we ate breakfast. After eating we took a short walk up the road to the volunteer fire station to refill our water after which we finished out segment 2 and began on segment 3. Further into segment 3 we stopped at a stream to refill our water and met a couple from Vermont who had come to hike the trail. They had already completed the AT and the PCT. When we asked how long they were planning to take on it they said probably about 6 weeks but it really could be anything since they didn’t really plan it out they just hiked according to how they felt on any given day. They were self employed and didn’t have to worry about how long it took them. They could take as long as they wanted. It sounded pretty awesome to me, maybe one day I will be able to do the same. We camped the second night at the top of a climb that we really didn’t feel like doing first thing in the morning, this put us at 19.3 miles for the day. The third day dawned clear and beautiful (a trend) and we set out to finish segment 3 before breakfast. At the end of the segment we stopped for breakfast where I at my Nido and granola (a trend) and then packed up to begin the Lost Creek Wilderness. Lost Creek Wilderness We stopped at a creek in the wilderness to wash a few clothes and fill up water. I also tried out a personal invention of mine, the PlatyShower (a pop bottle cap with holes punched in it and screwed onto my 3L platy).PlatyShower It dribbled more than showered but I was able to remove some dirt and wanted to believe that I had also removed some smell but I believe this was wishful thinking.A mushroom in the wilderness An Aspen in The Lost Creek Wilderness We continued through the wilderness getting out obligatory afternoon rain shower (a trend) and stopping in Lost Park for a mid-afternoon lunch/dinner.Setting out after lunch in Lost Park We continued on through Lost Park to the spot we thought we’d be camping but found it to be infested with mosquitoes and so began a two mile run/hike down a hill to get to a different campsite, at 19.6 miles, before dark. We got there and made camp, unfortunately we were hurried in setting up our tarp and did so with an un-vegetated hill to one side and a little later, when it began to rain, we found a small stream had appeared through our sleeping area. Which, while disconcerting, didn’t do any harm.The course that the river would later take through our tarp can clearly be seen here on the ground We decided not to choose such a campsite again. The next day dawned quite chilly and we broke camp hastily to make our way to where there was sunlight.A stray cloud when setting out the morning after our tarp adventure Hiking that morning Once the sun rose it turned into a beautiful morning. We stopped for breakfast in a meadow next to a stream and took the opportunity to dry out some of our gear from the night before, primarily the tarp. We continued on with an uneventful hike which only got interesting when we nearly got caught on a barren hillside in the obligatory afternoon thunderstorm. We waited the storm out in a patch of trees Waiting out the storm Some pretty cool cloudsand continued on finishing out a 15 mile day that got us to Kenosha Pass where my Mom would get off and my brother would get on. Our campsite at Kenosha Pass, the tarp is homemade and is a little oversizedThe next morning was spent drying out gear from another evening storm and packing up to hike to the nearby town of Jefferson to wait for my brother who wouldn’t be arriving until late in the afternoon. We ended up spending about six hours in the Jefferson general store/gas station/restaurant/post office and fudge shop.Walking to Jefferson The Jefferson MarketThe locals were extremely friendly and the Sherriff served me my bacon cheeseburger. It was a small town. Due to road construction my brother didn’t arrive until late in the evening and by the time we got on the trail (being sent on our way by a mountain biker telling us there was a bear not far up the trail) we only had enough daylight left to get about a mile before making camp.At the Kenosha Pass trailhead The next day we continued down the trail eating breakfast just before a big climb (the first above treeline). We stopped once we reached the top of the climb to dry out our gear. An interesting tree on our first climb of the dayDrying Gear The Continental DivideJust one of many pretty flowers seen along the trailDue to the rain my brother and I decided to switch to a tent instead of the tarp, this was a decision with mixed results as every morning we woke with condensation soaking our bags, something that never happened in the tarp. However later that day when we reached camp (at 18.7 miles) and pitched our tent we were grateful for the coverage that it provided when the biggest storm of the trip rolled through. The storm was moving so fast that we would see lightning count to fifteen, maybe two minutes later we’d see lightning count to five a few minutes later the lightning would shatter the sky above our tent being followed almost simultaneously by thunder that shook the ground. A few minutes later the thunder would move off in the other direction. This cycle continued from about five in the afternoon until long after dark. However the next morning dawned as pretty as the next, we stopped an hour into our hike and dried everything while we ate breakfast.Drying out in the morning Then we continued on. Unfortunately a couple of hours later my brother’s body started to complain about the hiking and by the time we reached the trailhead at the end of segment 6, 13 miles into the day it was clear that he would not be able to continue hiking as he could hardly walk anymore. As it turns out raising a child, while very rewarding, is not a good way to get in shape for long days of hiking.A sunset over our tent the night before my brother left The next day my brother left and I found myself alone on the trail earlier than planned. My first task of the day was to climb up and over the Tenmile Range. I made it up to the top where I was greeted by a view of the Copper Mountain ski resort, which looked as if someone had picked up a piece of Vegas and dropped it in the middle of the mountains. On the way up the Tenmile RangeOn the way up the Tenmile RangeOne of the climbs on the way up the Tenmile RangeCopper MountainIt seemed to me, standing at 12,000 feet and looking down on it, that it was an absurd and unsightly mess to find in the mountains. But a few hours later I was grateful for this mess when it provided me a place eat lunch and stay in out of the afternoon shower. After the storm passed and I had eaten I continued hiking reaching a place just below treeline to finish out my 22 mile day. My campsiteThe next day began immediately with a climb over a pass and a four mile walk in the tundra, which was beautiful in the early morning light.Hiking across the tundra I ate breakfast at 12,000 feet and continued on passing by a well populated burrow of marmots which are one of my favorite animals because they’re just plain awesome. I must have seen about 20 or 30 marmots in the space of about a quarter mile. A MarmotI descended down Kokomo pass and filled up my platy from the headwaters of cataract creek before descending down and passing by what was left of Camp Hale and the 10th Mountain Division.Camp Hale I finished segment 8 and ate lunch at the trailhead, there I met a biker who was doing the entire trail. After climbing up the Tenmile Range which had some heinously steep up-hills I had a great deal of respect for him.I accidentally put my thumb through my DriDucks The most ridiculous seasonal drainage I've ever seen Mushrooms in the Holy Cross WildernessI started on segment 9 entering the Holy Cross Wilderness shortly thereafter it started to rain which it did for the next four miles that I hiked. I was lucky that just before I got to camp the sky turned blue and it stopped raining which made setting up camp much more pleasant. I camped at treeline and 27.5 miles from my previous camp.My camp The next morning I slept in and took a leisurely start to the morning hiking 2 miles the trailhead where my mom met me to take me into Leadville for breakfast. Breakfast in LeadvilleAfterwards we returned to the trail where I resupplied and continued on my way. Because of the stop in town I didn’t get back on the trail until about 1 in the afternoon and only made about 18 miles that day. I camped partway up the trail to Mt. Elbert which I planned to climb the next day.My campsite on Elbert On the summit of ElbertFortunately the weather cooperated and gave me a great morning to climb. I reached the summit at 8:30 took some pictures, made some phone calls and continued down the south ridge to go into Twin Lakes for food. I made the mile trek into Twin Lakes and ordered pizza after eating I took a piece of pie to go and made the mile trek back to the CT. I sat and ate my pie underneath the overpass that the CT crosses under at the road crossing. After I finished the pie I continued on to finish the segment. I got to the trailhead just as it was getting to be time to make camp. I had walked 24 miles, unfortunately only about 20 of those were CT miles between my stop at Twin Lakes and climbing Elbert. I was happy when I got to the trailhead to see that there was a free use campground a few hundred yards up the road that guaranteed a flat spot to pitch my tarp.Coming down into camp was the most picturesque green farming valley I setup and then discovered it to be one of the most mosquito infested places I had ever seen (as it turns out the campground serviced a neighboring reservoir popular both for fisherman and mosquitoes). Fortunately a breeze blew in and the mosquitoes disappeared for the entire night. It rained a little but proved to be one of the most restful nights I had on the trail. The next morning I woke with a sour prospect. A 2400 foot climb, immediately. At the top of the climb I ate breakfast and got buzzed by two C130 cargo planes that were maybe a few hundred feet off. I descended into a river valley and filled up my water for the next climb. Not quite as high as the first but still high enough. At the top I met two college students from New Hampshire, we talked for a while and then continued on. The trail meandered downwards for eight or so miles before reaching the trailhead. There I stopped and ate a late lunch before continuing on to my next climb, another with around 2400 feet of gain. At the top I was ready to be done for the day but I continued on for a few more miles and made camp at the bottom of a valley a few hundred feet away from a trailhead. I had done 25 miles and 7000 feet of elevation gain. I slept very well. The next morning I woke and broke camp just as it was starting to sprinkle. By the time I was packed it was raining. I walked in the rain for about an hour then stopped to eat breakfast. As I continued on the sun came out and the rain stopped making for great hiking weather. I hiked until I reached the Mt. Princeton hot springs resort where I stopped at their general store for food and ice cream. After that stop I continued on to the trailhead at the end of segment 13 there I began segment 14 at 2:30 in the afternoon, hoping to go fifteen more miles before making camp. The next four hours I walked non-stop at a fast pace pushing to get as far up the trail as I could, when I checked the time at 6:30 I had made it 13 miles and only two more to go before making camp. I relaxed a little and enjoyed those last few miles. I descended into a valley and found, once again, a free use campground. This one even had picnic tables which I was extremely glad to see at this time. This was a beautiful sight after 31 miles on the trailI had hiked 31 miles, the farthest I’ve done in one day, I was ready to sit. I mixed potatoes and mac’n’cheese making myself a very filling dinner. I went to bed but despite all my miles was unable to go to sleep easily. I have concluded from this that elevation gain makes me tire and miles make me sore. The next morning I slept in again and took a leisurely start. I hiked our 5.5 miles to meet my mom where she met me to take me into the town of Salida for what was to be a two night layoverA ground squirrel on the hike out.Getting picked up in Salida However once there I decided that, while I was feeling great, I wanted to save the rest of the CT for another summer and do something else with my last couple weeks before school. As of right now that means running a half-marathon. I think that I’ll probably do another hike too. Maybe a high mileage weekender, we’ll see.

Trevor Wilson
(trevor83) - MLife

Locale: ATL -- Zurich -- SF Bay Area
Re: Living The Dream - Two weeks on the Colorado Trail on 08/16/2010 22:28:20 MDT Print View

Great trip report! Thank you very much for sharing your experience. It sounds like you had a great time and learned a lot in the process. I hope you enjoyed your last couple weeks of summer.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Living The Dream - Two weeks on the Colorado Trail on 08/17/2010 11:26:10 MDT Print View

Nice Trip Report!

I've done the exact same Platypus shower thing, except I added an on/off valve. Works well!

Paul Siegel

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Re: Living The Dream - Two weeks on the Colorado Trail on 08/17/2010 15:14:32 MDT Print View

Excellent, Trip report. The marmot is one of my favorite animals as well.

Jennifer W
(tothetrail) - MLife

Locale: So. Cal.
Re: Re: Re: Living The Dream - Two weeks on the Colorado Trail (On Off Valve) on 08/17/2010 15:37:51 MDT Print View

Wow Tim, love the report. Looks like a fun place to spend a couple of weeks!

Travis, how does your on/off valve work? Do you have a source or a pic?

Edited by tothetrail on 08/17/2010 15:59:23 MDT.

Eric Palumbo
(palumbo) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Fantastic on 08/17/2010 15:51:36 MDT Print View

Thanks so much for your beautiful report. I am dreaming of a thru next year. Now to get 3-4 contiguous weeks off work...