I finally got around to writing up a report of my time on the CT in June. The original plan was to thru hike, but a foot injury took me off the trail after Segment 6. It was a bummer, but I definitely enjoyed the time I spent out there.
PS most of this reads like a journal.
Day 1 - 18 miles
I started this morning at around 9AM at the Indian Creek TH. One of my clients, Wendy, was nice enough to give me a lift up here.
The first couple miles were pretty blah - ridiculously dense, wet, and lush. The trail was overgrown in places and quite horse poopy. After some climbing though, I crested a little ridge and was rewarded with my first views. Nothing I don't see regularly in New Mexico, but pretty nonetheless.
I had thought the trail ran something like six miles before it hit the CT, but apparently it's only four. Plesant surprise! The trail was nice in spots and overgrown in others, but a few miles of climbing soon brought us to a beautiful overlook. After stopping for snacks, we began the steep descent (with WAY too many switchbacks) to the South Platte River and arrived in no time.
This was our planned camp for the day, but there was one problem - it was only 2:30. I decided to lounge for a bit, eat dinner, tank up on water while the sun and temperature chilled a bit, and then head into the burn area. I'm not good at sitting still for long.
Up until this point, the sun had been relentless, but it relaxed a lot as we started into segment two. I carried 3.5 liters of water to take us the next 13 miles. The burn area is totally something else...I've never seen anything like it. It's just...desolate. The 360 views, however, we're spectacular. Somewhere over the next few miles we met our first fellow thru hiker. When I asked where she was heading and she responded with "Durango", it was cool to yell, "me too!"
After about five miles of climbing we finally gained the ridge at something like 7800 feet. I figured that was enough for the day - 18 miles or so - and set up camp with an open view of the mountains to come.
Day 2 - 14.5 miles
As usual, Flurry had me up as soon as it was light outside - which, unfortunately, meant not long after 5AM. I warded her off for a while, but soon emerged from the tent and went about the usual morning chores.
We broke camp around 7:30AM and started through the rest of the burn area. Soon enough, we were rewarded with some great and varied 360 views - burnt desolation on one side, high mountains on the other. It was neat to finally get a glimpse of what we would soon be hiking through.
The temp climbed fast. Low on water, we stopped at the fire station and borrowed some of theirs. Well...more than some. I'm glad I tanked up there because the next section would prove to be just as dry as the burn area.
After walking through some random horse competition, we found the beginning of segment three. We started right in after a short snack and crap break. The trail was the most pleasant it had been so far, but unfortunately water was in short supply. We crossed a few pretty disgusting water sources on the way to Tramway Creek, which was supposed to be the next reliable water source - it was nothing but mud and horse poo. Disheartened, almost out of water, and dehydrated, we pushed on. Eventually, we crossed a road leading into a group campground. The heat and sun were overwhelming some marched right in, tanked up on water, and plopped down in the shade of a big tree.
The campground was full, and had apparently been rented out by a large group of friends. Had they asked me to leave, they would have needed a gun and a tow truck to get my ass out of there. Luckily, it didn't come to that. The people seemed nice enough, so I proceeded to look as pitiful as possible. My efforts were soon rewarded with sprite and root beer. I really like campgrounds.
Around 5:30, after the worst heat of the day, we pressed on. I had tanked up with 3.5 liters of water, now unsure of the data book's "reliable" water sources. Fortunately, the next source just up the trail, Buffalo Creek, was flowing nicely. Although today's mileage was pretty low at just under 15, we stopped and set up camp here. I'm glad we did - we're now well hydrated and ready to put in a potentially long day tomorrow through the Lost Creek Wilderness, our first day above 10,000 feet.
Day 3 - 15.5 miles
Last night's sleep was pretty great, especially considering I usually sleep terribly on the trail. I woke up feeling refreshed, but with a very stiff Achilles'. Nothing a little Vitamin I can't solve!
The end of Segment 3 was nice, with prettier views over the last few miles than the first half. After a moderate climb, we found ourselves at the beginning of Segment 4, and soon after, the Lost Creek Wilderness.
The first part of Segment 4 was rough: climb, climb, climb. It wasn't terribly steep, just continuous. Only a few miles in, we met up with a guy named Zack. He was out for the weekend section hiking Segments 3, 4, and 5. After chatting for a bit we decided to hike together. Not long after, we ran into a few more people - three trail volunteers doing some much needed maintenance (lots of downed trees). We stopped for about an hour to have lunch and chat them up.
The next few miles involved a rough climb, but we were finally into the higher terrain. The temperature difference was great..much needed! It was nice to hike during the hottest part of the day and not feel like hell.
I had originally planned to plow through the entire segment today, covering the 21 miles and crashing near the next TH. But Zack was a pretty cool dude and offered me a ride from Kenosha Pass into Jefferson for my resupply, so I decided to stay with him through the next day.
Water was easier to find throughout this segment, but even the reliable sources were low. Given how dry it is and the fact that both Flurry and I are downing water like no tomorrow, I've been carrying at least 2 liters most of the time.
We stopped for a brief siesta along Lost Creek, the first decent water of the segment. We then pushed on to mile 11.3, what looks to be the last water until the next TH. it's just a tiny stream, but water is water when you're thirsty. After we set up camp, Zack was nice enough to share a bit of his bourbon, a commodity I desperately wish I had in my pack. Gotta love a tasty nightcap.
We're planning to finish out this segment in the morning and then knock out all but the last few miles of segment 5. The past two days have been draining, but today really boosted my morale.
Day 4 - 16.5
This morning was COLD. And windy. We woke up to frozen water bottles. Neither of us made it out of our tent until the sun came into the valley - it was seriously chilly. The temps definitely dropped into the 20's, something I wasn't expecting. And of course it didn't help that we camped right in the middle of a very exposed valley.
We didn't make it out of camp until 9, but made good time on the trail. We ran into a couple of sections hikers that warned us of an aggressive bird (of all things, ha) ahead, but we never did see it.
We quickly transitioned into segment 5, and after a small break at a little creek, continued to make good time. The trail throughout this section was fantastic - it contoured along a ridge which allowed some very nice views of the terrain to come.
We ran into a pair of guys visiting for work from Holland. They seemed a little turnedaground, but we actually ran into them again several hours later at the next trailhead. Turns out they had a few break days between conferences and were wisely using them to explore rather than rest. Super cool.
After slowly winding our way along the ridge, we hit the good stuff - or so we thought. There were great 360 views of the ground we had covered over the past few hours and the ground we would cover over the next few.
After a lengthy break at the last water source until tomorrow morning at Kenosha Pass, we climbed into another nice valley. The views were great, but after a bit more climbing we hit the jackpot. We found a campsite in a big meadow with views of the Continental Divide straight ahead. I can actually spot the pass just below Mount Guyot where we'll be hiking in just a couple days.
I'm excited to get into Jefferson tomorrow for my resupply. I'm planning to do some damage at the restaurant. It should be a pretty lazy day - 4 miles to the TH, ride into town, eat and relax, and then hike or hitch back to Kenosha Pass.
I have mixed feelings about again being solo, as I've come to enjoy having some human company along the trail. It makes the hard climbs and rough spots much easier to handle. I wouldn't mind a day or two alone, but I'm hoping to meet another hiking partner sooner rather than later. I've yet to see another thru hiker since the lady from segment 2, but I'm thinking I'll see more traffic once I hit the divide.
Day 5 - 10 miles
Today was a very interesting day. Sunrise at our camp was gorgeous as expected, and the temp only dropped to 35 or so. We got out of camp around 9 and made the short hike to Kenosha Pass. I was so excited to resupply.
We drove into town and I ran into the Jefferson Market real quick to grab my mail drop and check the restaurant menu. It turns out that someone who will not be named freaked out because my SPOT stopped working and called the Sheriff. They were getting ready to send out a search and rescue team, so good thing we showed up when we did!
After calling the Sheriff's office and my mom to get everything sorted out, I sifted through my resupply boxes and ordered a green chile burger with a massive basket of fries. Oh, and a Mountain Dew. It was a much needed and very delicious hot meal.
My mail drops had some great stuff, some of which I was probably a little too excited about - like the lemon lime Gatorade packets. But I guess that's what happens when you eat the same food day after day.
While organizing my gear and food I met a pretty cool older dude named John. He started in Denver and was heading to Breckenridge at a very relaxed pace. We chatted on and off over the next few hours until I finally decided to get my lazy ass back to Kenosha Pass. But not before two scoops of vanilla ice cream, a bottled Starbucks frap, a dark chocolate Snickers, and bottle of Coke.
It took a good 45 minutes of road walking before we found a ride. I didn't mind though as the view was fantastic in all directions. A youngish couple in an RV was nice enough to turn completely around on a narrow highway - twice! - to pick us up. They figured since I had a backpack, a dog, and the dog had a backpack, we couldn't possibly be bad people!
At Kenosha Pass, I ran into John once again; apparently he had better luck hitching than we did. Originally, we were going to spend the night at or near the Kenosha Pass Campground, but I didn't feel like idling any longer. We hiked along for a bit until cell service and 3G magically appeared. I stopped for a few to chat with my mom and update Facebook, and then we were on the move once again.
The views along most of the next section were great. We broke for dinner at Deadman Creek, 4.5 miles into the segment. After consulting my trusty (sometimes) data book, I decided we would head to Jefferson Creek at mile 6 and make camp. I think it's the highest water I've seen so far besides the South Platte River, and there were mosquitoes aplenty.
Today was low mileage at only 10 or so (not counting the 2 miles or so on road), but it was nice to have a half day. We'll gain the Continental Divide tomorrow morning, which should be awesome. I'm planning for an early start as I'm shooting for 20 miles tomorrow.
Day 6 - 17ish miles
I totally spaced and forgot to write an entry - my mind was on other things. I woke up in the morning with some mild top of foot pain; nothing to immediately worry about, but something to keep an eye on.
The climb up to Georgia Pass was a tough, especially with my foot getting worse and worse. But man, the views. It was so awesome up there. Just after the pass, I found a bin of trail magic filled with...SODA! I was so excited. Coolest thing ever. I grabbed a Sprite and Root Beer and hung out on the pass for lunch. Even with my foot hurting and the very real possibility I would have to get off the trail, I had a smile on my face.
Coming down Georgia Pass, the pain intensified big time and had me worried about a possible stress fracture or something similar. I just kept plodding on, with no other option available.
Later in the day, it seemed a little better...but that didn't last long. We had a steep 1000ft climb over two miles to our camp for the night. Although we were traveling uphill, this is when everything went seriously downhill. The pain was so bad by the end of the climb that I could barely put weight on my left foot and a misplaced step resulted in tears. I hadn't felt foot pain like that in a long time.
I was thinking my trip may be over, although the swelling was minimal and there was no bruising.
Day 7 - 11 miles
I still had an 11 mile hike and 5 mile road walk today into civilization. The hike was pretty miserable. The pain was manageable, which had me in better spirits, but it still sucked. We dropped a couple thousand feet back down..lots of nice views, including various ski slopes. I had to stop often, but knew the sooner I got out the sooner I could get off my destroyed foot.
With a few miles of trail left, I met a nice older couple that lived in the area. We chatted for a few and they eventually offered to drive me into Frisco. I had managed to arrange for a hotel in a spot where I actually had phone signal, so I just had them drop me there. At this point, I knew my foot was bad. With nothing else going on though, I decided to try switching shoes and hung around in Frisco for a few days to try to let my foot heal.
A few days later, with much regret, I finally made the decision to get off the trail. The swelling and bruising in my foot had gone down with a few days of rest, but even walking a few miles around town was difficult. It turned out to be a good decision, as it took about six weeks to heal. I've slowly built back into regular activity and am once again functionally normally as I train for a marathon.
Overall, I'm really happy to have spent the week that I did on the trail. I saw some great scenery, spent a lot of quality time with my dog, and met some friendly people. I definitely recommend the CT to anyone and everyone!