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Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and the Colorado Trail

 Pacific Crest Trail – April through      September, 2016 

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Colorado Trail – July, 2017

As John Muir said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”

I am going to start a thru-hike of the Colorado Trail on July 2, 2017. I will be following the Collegiate West Route. I’ll hike a distance of about 500 miles. At this point I plan to finish around August 3. The Trail starts near Denver and ends near Durango, which is not far from the Colorado/New Mexico border.

COlorado-Trail map

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Day 31 – To finish or not to finish – The Colorado Trail

August 1

Miles hiked today – 22.7

I had set my phone alarm for 5:20 am, within five minutes of waking, it was raining.  We only planned to hike 18.1 miles today, so I changed the alarm to 6:10 am, and tried to go back to sleep. By 6:00 am it had stopped raining,  so I started my morning process of eating, packing and hiking.

The trail was very muddy from yesterday’s storm, and this morning’s brief shower. The trail had willow bushes on each side of the trail, as I walked, the wet branches brushed against my pant legs. Within minutes my pants were soaking wet.  Trying not to slip in the mud, and enduring the cold wet pant legs, made for a challenging start of my morning.

The closer we got to Durango, the less grand the views were.

We did pass a small waterfall that was pretty.

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After eight miles I reached an open area next to a stream.  The sun was shining bright, so I stopped for a snack break,  and to dry my tent, sleeping bag and ground cloth. Peace Maker stopped a few minutes later and did the same.

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After the break I had two 500 foot ups before starting the final down towards Durango. Later there was a light rain,  so I made use of my umbrella.

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Jerrod, Shaun, Miles, Kate, Peace Maker and I all planned to stop after 18.1 miles,  and camp at a small campsite labled “Cow Pond”.

I reached the Cow Pond campsite first. It was only 2:15 pm. The very small pond was full of dirty water, with cow footprints all around the pond, and many cow patties nearby. There was very little in the way of flat areas for tenting. Jerrod and Shaun showed up a few minutes later and set-up their tent.

I was only 4.6 miles from the end of the trail, but I had planned to finish tomorrow morning, so that I could avoid spending the night in Durango.  I hesitated putting up my tent,  because I wasn’t at all happy with this campsite, and it was only 2:15 pm.

Peace Maker showed up next.   He immediately said that he was going to continue hiking, and spend the night in Durango.  I was tempted to go with him,  but felt I should wait for Miles and Kate.  At 2:40 pm Miles and Kate arrived. They also said that they were going to continue on. At that point, I knew that was what I wanted to do as well, so I quickly packed up my things and hurried after  them, leaving Jerrod and Shaun behind.

I hiked behind Miles and Kate the final 4.6 miles.

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At 4:05 pm the three of us completed the Colorado Trail. Peace Maker was still at the finish when we arrived. This is Miles, me, Peace Maker and Kate.

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Miles, Peace Maker and I decided to share a motel room. After securing a room at Days Inn,  we went to a restaurant for dinner.

While at the restaurant, I called three car rental companies, trying to rent a car to drive to Denver tomorrow.  They each said that they didn’t have any cars for one-way rentals. Not good! Kate had contacted Mark and Tyler (fellow CT hikers) about riding with them to Denver.  When they got to the restaurant to pick up Kate, I asked if I could ride with them as well. Luckily they said, “yes.”

As we were leaving the restaurant,  Jerrod and Shaun walked in. The lure of town was too strong.

It was after midnight when we reached Denver.  Mark told Kate and me that we could spend the night at his apartment,  and that tomorrow he’d drive Kate to the airport, and me to get my car at my friend’s house. It all couldn’t have worked out better.

There’s a saying among long distance hikers that goes, “The trail provides”, this is an example of it. Hikers helping fellow hikers.

The long distance hiker community is very special. Your age, gender, tax bracket, education level nor your address are important,  you are simply judged by who you are as a person. I feel fortunate to have experienced the thru-hiker culture on the AT, PCT and now the CT.

I especially want to thank Bilbo (Bob Livezey) for inviting me on this hike. He provided a spreadsheet with everything I needed to know pertaining to food resupply. This hike required very little preparation on my part. I had heard great things about the CT, and hoped to one-day hike it, because of Bilbo, now I have.

Before we started this hike,  we discussed the possibility that we would separate at some point. It’s very common for long distance hikers to move in and out of different groups during the course of their hike. After a week and a half, that’s what we did. We did message each other later in our hike.

On trail I had many people ask me which I liked most – the AT or PCT.  I guess now the CT will be added to that list. I’ve heard it said that most people think of their long distance hikes the same way you think about your children – they are each unique and you love them all.

The CT was an awesome hike. It was challenging, beautiful, a little scary at times and very rewarding. Steve, AKA Pack Ratt, hiked the CT this year for a second time, in back-to-back years. I thought that seemed a little odd, but now I understand. The CT is that great.

I also want to thank each of you that have followed my blog. I know many of you were along for my PCT and AT hike. Knowing that people were following along definitely made each hike even more special for me. So – Thank you!

What’s next you ask – I don’t have any definite plans, but I certainly plan to continue backpacking.  At this point, I doubt that I’ll do another four or five month long hike, like the AT or PCT. Being away from my grandchildren that long really hurts, so I think I’ll stay with  shorter hikes in the two or three week range.

Hiking is a great pastime for people of all ages. Whether it’s backpacking or a short dayhike – it’s all good. Hopefully some of you have been inspired to get out yourself.

Talk to you later…..

Day 30 – Lightning!

July 31

Miles hiked today – 14.2

Camped at Taylor Lake

I got up this morning at 6:00 am. We weren’t going to start until around 7:00 am, since  we weren’t doing very many miles today.  We both plan to finish Wednesday morning,  so there wasn’t any reason to do anymore miles.

I started hiking a little before Miles. After a short distance I saw Kate. I hiked with her for a mile or two.

I stopped after seven miles at a water source.  There wasn’t much water,  but we were able to fill our bottles. I ate a few snacks and talked with Miles and Peace Maker.

After our break, Peace Maker and I hiked together for the next several miles. When we reached 12,000 feet we had a nice view.

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We stopped in this area for a short break. There were some clouds that caused us a little concern.  We were going to be over 12,000 feet for four more miles, and above tree line for a portion of it. When Miles  showed up we all started hiking again.  Soon after it started to hail. We all put on our rain gear.  This is some of the hail soon after it first started.

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As we were about to leave tree line we decided to stay put for a while. There was a fair amount of thunder and lightning.

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The lightning was a few miles off, but still very concerning.  We stayed below tree line for about 30 minutes.  Waiting for  better conditions. This is Peace Maker.

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And this is Miles.

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As the conditions were improving, Jerrod and Shaun showed up.  The five of us felt it was safe to continue hiking.  There was still heavy cloud cover,  but they looked more like rain clouds.

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Just as we were getting ready to drop below 12,000 feet we went through an area with beautiful wildflowers.  They were gorgeous.

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As we started down from the pass we could see Taylor Lake where we planned to camp.

When we reached the side trail to Taylor Lake the five of us discussed the options of doing more miles today. We all quickly decided we would camp next to the lake.

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This is Miles working with his tent, Jerrod and Shaun’s tent is in the background.

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Kate showed up at 5:00 pm. She had stopped at a lower level when the weather looked threatening.

The five of us, six including Kate, are planning to finish Wednesday morning.  I first met Miles, Jerrod, Shaun and Kate in Breckenridge three weeks ago. I’ve hiked with Miles the most, but have seen all of them off and on. It’ll be nice to finish the hike with them.

Day 29 – Elk!

July 30
Miles hiked today – 19.3
Camped at mile 447.7

I got on trail this morning at 6:25 am. Miles had left about ten minutes before me.

I caught up with Miles after 20 minutes.

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At around 7:00 am we saw a herd of elk at a distance.  I counted at least 9, there might have been a few I missed. We watched them for several minutes,  and slowly continued to walk the trail, which took us in their direction. As we got closer, they started  running away. They’re hard to see, but they really are there.

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We went over Blackhawk Pass at 11,985 feet. The view from the pass was very pretty.
https://youtu.be/_0LBiXe9h4k

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After about 12 miles we stopped at a water source for a lunch break.  There was a small seasonal stream coming down the mountain and across the trail. My databook said this was the last reliable water for 22 miles.  We both drank a fair amount there,  and carried 2+ liters with us. We knew we would most likely dry camp tonight.

This afternoon we saw some wild strawberries next to the trail. We both ate a couple.  They had great flavor. I told Miles about me eating a lot of blueberries on the PCT last year. 

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It looked like heavy rain was moving our way. There was a very light rain as we searched for level spots for us to camp.

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We found a nice spot.

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We only have 37 miles left of the Colorado Trail.  We could easily finish in two days, but instead of finishing Tuesday afternoon, we’re going to finish early Wednesday morning.

Day 28 – Rain!

July 29

Miles hiked today – 17.7

Camped at 11,453 feet, at mile 428.4

I went for breakfast this morning at 7:00 am at the Bent Elbow Restaurant across the street from the hostel. There were eight hikers  at our table. There was Miles, Peace Maker (Brian), Kate,  Jerrod, Shaun, Mark and Tyler. The breakfast was great!

When we returned to the hostel, Jan, the manager,  was going to drive us back to the trail. She charged $5 per person. She could only take three at a time in her small pickup truck.  Jerrod, Shaun and Kate went first. Miles, Peace Maker and I waited outside with our backpacks for her to return.  She dropped us off at the trail at 9:30 am. The three of us hiked close together for the first four miles, after that we began to space out. Peace Maker was in front, me in the middle and Miles at the rear.

There was a light rain almost thr entire day. We all had rain gear on. The trail consisted of either standing water, running water (like a stream) or soupy mud. Needless to say my feet and shoes are soaked. I slipped in the mud several times,  but each time I was able to stay upright.

The views today were very limited due to the cloud cover.

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There were pretty wildflowers along the trail again today.

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After a couple hours Peace Maker and I stopped for a snack break.

We passed Kate and later caught up with Jerrod and Shaun who had stopped to have a cup of coffee and snack. While there,  a man and lady came by with two llamas carrying their gear. It looks like a nice way to enjoy the back country.  They rented the llamas in Silverton.

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Miles and I hiked the last five miles together.   We found a small campsite that would work for the two of us.

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Day 27 – Last town stop

July 28
Miles hiked today – 4.8
Nero in Silverton

I woke up this morning at 5:40 and was on trail at 6:00 am. To start my morning I had 1,300 feet of up over the first two miles. It was a pretty big up, but there were some well designed switchbacks that made it seem not so bad.

After a few miles, I took a side trail to the Molas Lake Campground,  where I picked up my resupply box that I had sent there. After filling my food bag I continued hiking two more miles to a road crossing at US Hwy-550.

I needed to hitchhike six miles to the town of Silverton.  I stood at the side of the road for 30 minutes,  and still no ride. I walked a few hundred feet up the road to where there was a small parking lot at an overlook.  I saw a man and lady getting into their car. They had just closed the doors when I reached their vehicle.  I walked up to the driver’s door and asked if they were going to Silverton.  When the lady said yes, I asked if I could have a ride. She looked at the man, and then back at me, and said, “okay.” What a relief! It turns out that they were father – daughter. They drove me to the Blair Street Hostel in the small town of Silverton.

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I ate lunch with Goldie and Sam, the two Eagle Scouts that I first met a week ago.

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This town is very small, but also very touristy. There an old train that people take from Durango to Silverton and back.

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There aren’t any traffic lights in the town.

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I took a shower at the hostel, and washed a few items of clothing.

I ate dinner with the two Australians – Jerrod and Shaun, Miles and Peace Maker. This is Miles,  Jerrod and Shaun having coffee earlier.

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I then went through my backpack, making sure I was ready for this last leg of the hike. Miles, Jerrod, Shaun and I have arranged for the hostel worker to drive us back to the trail tomorrow morning at 8:00 am.