Colorado Trail Segment 10 of 28

We listened to audio books and enjoyed some of our favorite music. Straight forward hiking with seemingly one goal in mind, reach the end of the segment.

Colorado Trail Segment 10 of 28

Start: Timberline Lake TH

End: Mount Massive TH

Distance: 13.1 Miles

What can we say, segment 10 was perhaps the biggest let down on the CT. But, in its defense, we did not choose to summit Mt Massive (14,421′) or Mt Elbert (14,439′) which are two highlighted side trip summits that are easily hiked from the Colorado Trail. That said, segment 10 was a walk in the woods with plenty of ups, downs and water features. Why was it such a let down? Other than milking a few aches and pains, it seemed that we were constantly on the edge of reaching treeline and having those big views. Apart from that, we really have no complaints. Why didn’t we attempt to climb one of the 14ers in the area? Time was of the essence for us, that, and cloudy mornings that would have hampered a summit. Are we bummed we missed climbing? No. We live in Colorado and can return anytime. Perhaps if we would have traveled from out of state, we would have put more of a priority on climbing at least one of them. We were on the fast track on this segment. Good trail conditions and a tight schedule were at the forefront of our minds. We just seem to push through with intent, get through the segment and closer to our resupply in Twin Lakes.

It was quiet on trail with plenty of water. The creeks were running swift and cold, our wet feet will attest to that! After the first few times of slipping off a rock or just plowing through the water, you give up and accept it. We had great places to choose from to take breaks, camp and filter water. The occasional views were amazing, though few in number. Perhaps the best was our campsite that allowed for a good panorama of the area in all directions. Because it is a wilderness area, we enjoyed less traffic on trails as bicycles must detour around the area on an alternate trail. This is a great time to enjoy listening to a book or music while hiking without the fear of a mountain bike coming up from behind you.

If we had to describe our experience in a few words, we hiked in a meditative state. The trail was very easy, rolling and gentle. Need a big complaint, mosquitoes. Other than that, there really isn’t much to tell, we just hiked. The big event here would have been to summit one of the 14ers in the area, but alas, it was just a quiet walk in the woods for us. We listened to audio books and enjoyed some of our favorite music. Straight forward hiking with seemingly one goal in mind, reach the end of the segment. No wildlife, other than the unseen but heard critters of the forest. It really was a non-event, but we like quiet, uneventful outings, so it was rather enjoyable to just walk in a relaxed state. If we wanted excitement we’d just walk through the next creek and get our stimulation from the cold water! It would certainly make for a great trail to camp near one of the access trails to the summits instead of parking at the trailhead and going from there. The trailhead was very crowded and zoo like! If you come the day before and camp further in you will enjoy quiet and easy access without the crowds the following morning. Mt Massive and Mt Elbert are the stars of the show for this segment, so if you are coming from out of state, we would recommend climbing at the very least one of them.

Peace,

MAD

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Colorado Trail Segment 9 of 28

The following morning was quite cold as we quickly moved down the trail and dove into what we called, ” the Valley of the Sun.” It was as it sounds, a beautiful valley full of morning sunlight and much needed warmth.

Colorado Trail Segment 9 of 28

Start: Tennessee Pass TH

End: Timberline Lake TH

Distance: 13.6 Miles

Tired? Want a comfortable place to sit and relax? You’re deep in the woods, good luck with that! Unless, of course, you just happen to be .5 miles in on segment 9 of the Colorado Trail and come upon an amazing porch swing just waiting for someone who is tired and needs a comfortable place to sit and relax. What a find. What a surprise. What a wonderful place to sit down and relax. After some long miles on the trail we couldn’t believe our eyes, a swing made for two. We sat, rocked and relaxed. We’ve been talking about it ever since we returned home, matter of fact we talked about it on the trail, giving back to a trail that gave so much to us. It really is amazing the things you come upon, the people you meet and the way things just seem to work out on the Colorado Trail. Something as simple as a porch swing placed along the trail can bring relief to a weary traveler. Trail angels and trail magic come in many forms, and we thank you all for all you do. It is so appreciated.

Segment 9 begins as a leisurely walk in the woods, a good thing for those who are tired and looking for easy terrain. Rest now and enjoy the swing, the Holy Cross Wilderness will sneak up on you and the climbing will begin. All the amazing views come at a price, you will climb to see them, but it’s worth it. But you might want to save some of that energy if you are traveling during mosquito season. Those ravenous blood sucking miniature vampires will stop at nothing to get a sample of your blood. We must have hit it just right because they were out in full force. We ate all meals in our tent, took breaks in our tent, hell, we would have hiked in our tent if it were possible. That said, the Holy Cross Wilderness is absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, the CT only touches it for a short time. We want to get back in that area and do some exploring in the future.

After entering into the Holy Cross Wilderness, we had been hiking all day, which was a good twenty miles or better if memory serves us. We were actually looking for a good camping spot when we came up on the wilderness boundary and decided to keep going to find a pair of small lakes we had read about, Porcupine Lakes, located near a saddle at about 11,500′ after a healthy 600 foot climb in about a mile. That would just about drain our tank for the day. The setting was amazing though, set just at treeline the lakes appeared as glass reflecting the surrounding peaks. The sunset, as well the sunrise, was magical. The following morning was quite cold as we quickly moved down the trail and dove into what we called, ” the Valley of the Sun.” It was as it sounds, a beautiful valley full of morning sunlight and much needed warmth. Amazing what a little sun can do once it hits you in the early morning. A little sunlight can go a long way to warming you up, even if it is just psychological.

With the warmth on our face, we journeyed on. A new day full of new surprises, new mountain peaks, new valleys, new ridges and new memories. Not one day on the Colorado Trail is the same as the one before. Each day is unique unto itself. There are good days, bad days, blah days and days you don’t even store. The miles go on and on, the days all seem to blend, time stands still, but one thing is for certain, each moment, each turn of the trail, every mountain top and every forest is a new and welcoming experience. We joked before heading out on the Colorado Trail that it would be just thirty plus day hikes back to back. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There is nearly 500 miles of differing and constantly changing terrain out there. Add in an ever-changing cycle of weather, an ever-changing mental and physical challenge and you come away with a truly unique experience. Doubtful that one could hike the Colorado Trial and have the same experience more than once. Thru-hiking is an entirely different animal than its counter parts of day hiking and multi-day backpacking trips.

Peace,

MAD

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Colorado Trail Segment 8 of 28

The wind was calm, the clouds growing, but the window of opportunity remained. It was almost as if we had been invited for this personal journey across this heavenly place far from any city and high above all else.

Colorado Trail Segment 8 of 28

Start: Copper Mountain

End: Tennessee Pass TH

Distance: 25.4 Miles

From the modern comforts of Copper Mountain, to the tundra of high mountain passes and back down into relaxed lazy valleys, segment 8 of the Colorado Trail has a little bit of everything for every hiker. Where else can you grab a cappuccino and be on trail within minutes? Oh yes we did, and it was an amazing cappuccino at that. We got a ride on the free bus from Frisco back over to Copper Mountain and followed the detour through the village to get to the trail. All it took was one small whiff of fresh coffee and we were on our way into a shop to order. Back on trail we found ourselves hiking under ski lifts and walking across skin runs as we made our way out of Copper Mountain. You might think, they had us detour through the shopping district, a trap for any hungry hiker, so the least they could do is give us a ride on one of those lifts to the top of the climb. Yeah, we kept walking and climbing, not a hard task with all that caffeine coursing through our veins!

As we drifted further and further away from civilization, we began a mild climb up a valley full of wildflowers and a healthy flowing Guller Creek. Passing a well designed beaver dam, another avalanche debris field and on up the valley nearing treeline to Janet’s Cabin and the headwaters of Guller Creek. What a beautiful valley, so full of life. This was to be our planned stop for the day, but it was early, the weather was good and we were ready to get in some more miles. We filtered water and filled our bottles for the long trek across the high tundra. Breaking treeline, we came up on Searle Pass (12,043′) and looked out across the high alpine expanse towards Elk Ridge (12,282′) and Kokomo Pass(12,023′). The weather was holding in our favor, a good thing because it would be almost five miles of very exposed terrain before we would be back under treeline. We were in heaven, or at the very least a little closer to it. The high open alpine is an amazing place. One should walk gently here, stay on trail and respect the weather.

We were back to “trail reality” as we moved across the high terrain. There would be no where to run if the weather turned. We made quick progress and yet wanted to soak it all in. The wildflowers just seemed to expand in all directions as the snow gently melted across the high bench we were navigating across. There was water everywhere, fresh from the snowfields only feet away. We continued, listening to the marmots and pikas whistle and chirp. The wind was calm, the clouds growing, but the window of opportunity remained. It was almost as if we had been invited for this personal journey across this heavenly place far from any city and high above all else. The trail lead on and the clouds remained at bay as if calling us to move forward with peace of mind. Tread lightly, enjoy your walk and leave no evidence your were ever here. This was our time, our experience, alone on top of the world.

After reaching treeline again, we were thankful for a alpine journey and gave thanks for safe passage. It was time to make camp, have dinner and soak in the memories of the day. The next morning was cool, damp and cloudy. It didn’t last long, as the sun warmed everything just enough to be comfortable. We were losing track of time now after being on trail day in and day out; it seemed as if time had stopped. The days, weeks, month and even the clock had left us. If not for a watch we carried, we might have forgotten altogether. We had made extra miles again, were ahead of schedule and slowly dropping to lower terrain into a very lazy and relaxing valley. We walked in peace and enjoyed the lack of a mechanized world. Coming upon Camp Hale, a historic bunker built in 1942, we were thrust back into the world of machines and man as our thoughts drifted to the wars of times past. Now in ruins, Camp Hale is a reminder of what man can accomplish, both positively and negatively. It’s a strange place to happen upon, but it’s there. We moved on, out of the valley and back into the forests. Time slipped away again as we hiked on to finish segment 8.

Peace,

MAD

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Colorado Trail Segment 7 of 28

What an incredible place it was. Surrounded on three sides with jagged peaks and steep scree fields, the alpine bowl opened up down the valley to an expansive view of the Dillon Reservoir.

Colorado Trail Segment 7 of 28

Start: Copper Mountain

End: Gold Hill TH

Distance: 13.2 Miles

Hello,McFly, McFly, anybody home? Yep, we’re slackers, slack-packers that is. The Breckenridge / Frisco area has a unique situation that allowed for us to hike segment 7 at a more leisurely pace, if that were possible. For starters, the free bus system is amazing, which is how we got to our hotel after coming off of segment 6. If that weren’t a stroke of logistical luck, the bus stop was right in front of our hotel! That said, we kept our hotel for a second night, left all of our heavier gear in the room that we would not be needing, got on the bus, headed to Copper Mountain and hiked segment 7 in reverse. Once we were back at HWY 9 in Breckenridge, we picked up the bus again and wound up back at our hotel like the day before. We were becoming pros at the great bus system they have, seriously, it made it too easy. Being quite the modernized area, we did have access to all of our creature comforts, mostly being a hot shower and a Whole Foods Market.

It quite well could have been the easiest hard hike we’d ever done. Well, there was the 2,700 foot climb to 12,500′ without switchbacks, but who is counting. This hike was fantastic, and getting around was a piece of cake. The climb was a nonstop straight approach; good thing our packs were lighter. Climbing through treeline, we were getting excited as the views were amazing. We could see for miles in all directions, naming off the surrounding peaks that included many great 13ers and 14ers. Once we made the ridge, we walked along the high tundra with Copper Mountain down to our left and the Breckenridge / Frisco corridor down to our right. Miles upon miles of uninterrupted views. We could see everything. We even met up with other thru-hikers we would meet several times more as we progressed through the segments of the Colorado Trail, one of which we actually finished in Durango with on our last day.

On the decent, we were not expecting the route to surprise us with a trek through an amazing alpine bowl. What an incredible place it was. Surrounded on three sides with jagged peaks and steep scree fields, the alpine bowl opened up down the valley to an expansive view of the Dillon Reservoir. If we wouldn’t have left our overnight gear back at the hotel we might have just stayed there that night and explored a little more. It is the kind of setting that you could easily burn through a memory card in your camera. We did. Marmots and Picas chirping all about, warm afternoon sun held to the the perfect temperature due to altitude and a calm breeze and a creek running through to give life to all the wildflowers that seem to go on and on; we had found a diamond in the rough. We have put this portion of the Colorado Trail on the map of our highly recommended places to explore.

Once back in town, we took a trip back to Whole Foods Market and their open buffet. We sat outside the store eating and drinking water and tea as if we hadn’t eaten in months. Funny, we didn’t eat much on trail, but when we would go into town, well, let’s just say they would have to restock. Even now, after we have completed the CT and been home, we are finding our appetite to be quite aggressive. Not really sure why, but it has been nonstop. We want to eat everything! A short walk back to our hotel and we collapsed on the bed exhausted but energized at the same time. What a wonderful day on trail followed up with another night in a comfortable bed and hot shower. Every once in a while on a long hike such as the CT, you need to stop and relax. Our plan to slack pack segment 7 was just that, relaxing. A trip back to the area for a long weekend hike would be so easy to do, too. Just follow the above route and you won’t be sorry.

Peace,

MAD

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Colorado Trail Segment 6 of 28

The air is changing. The energy is changing. The landscape is changing. We are changing. Everything is changing.

Colorado Trail Segment 6 of 28

Start: Kenosha Pass

End: Gold Hill TH

Distance: 32.7 Miles

Segment 6 of the Colorado Trail is where things begin to really change. For us, it is a gateway to the alpine we so love and enjoy the most. Starting at Kenosha Pass, we were, like segment 5, thrust into the aspen trees, after which we found ourselves staring off into the distance as Mt Guyot (13,376′) and Georgia Pass (11,874′) came into view. It was here that we knew changes were coming, and coming quickly. From this point, you sense the trail changing from the foothills of the Front Range to the higher alpine regions soon to come. The creeks seem to grow in size, intensity and cooler temperatures as if not having melted from snow all that long ago. The air becomes drier and crisper. Everything just seems to grow larger and you begin to feel smaller. The vastness of the alpine region has always had that affect on us, an affect we gladly recognize and respect as the wilderness areas of this region become far less human friendly and harsher than those of lower altitudes. When it comes to the mountain regions, it just seems that for every increase in beauty, there is an increase in danger.

Georgia Pass, a little less than halfway through the segment, is the dividing line of true change. Granted the approach, in and of itself, is a testament to this, but once atop Georgia Pass you soon realize all has changed. Going forward is to bid farewell to what you have known and enter into an entirely new region full of new ranges, mountain tops, valleys and the like. In a sense, you pass through a wilderness portal at this stage. The air is changing. The energy is changing. The landscape is changing. We are changing. Everything is changing. Once over the pass, the trail itself merges with the Continental Divide Trail and shares the same path for some 300 miles (if following the Collegiate West route). The name itself provides clues to the new environment entered, Continental Divide.

Our first resupply now only a day or two away in Breckenridge / Frisco. On our way we experience views, wildlife and wildflowers. We could feel our bodies becoming stronger and our minds easing into trail life. It was becoming normal to us to go through our new daily routine of sleeping in the outdoors, filtering water from creeks, surviving with what we had on our backs and hiking mile after mile, day after day. We were comfortable and yet watchful. We retained our respect for the wilderness and carefully treated it as if we were the visitor on gentle earth. Pack it in, pack it out and leave no trace. But even here, in this new found wonderland, we had not yet even begun to experience what would come as we trekked on, deeper and further. We had not even broken the 100 mile mark. There was so much more to come. More remote than we had yet to see.

Our campsites were amazing. We were surrounded by views up, down and all around. There were mountain peaks, valleys, yeah, everything we had imagined. It was all here and we were in it. Rain on the tent at night only aided in our sleep. Fog rolling through the valleys in the mornings, the sunsets painting the skies in the evenings and the wildlife going about their business as if we weren’t even there; an amazing outdoor experience and nothing less. We walked in awe and soaked it all in. A moose, alongside her calf on the trail, catching us off guard was a quick trip back to reality. We stepped to the side and gave way to them. Such a majestic animal with motherly instincts not to be tested. Slowly we went by as not to appear threatening. A sigh of relief and quiet cheer of excitement, our first moose encounter on the Colorado Trail.

Soon enough we would walk out of the wilderness and back into society, but for a short time to resupply, relax and get clean. Once around the last corner before we were to “drop in” to the Breckenridge / Frisco area, we could not only see but hear society and all of its modern trimmings. The food, shower and rest would be good, but only for a short stay. It would be less then 24 hours before we were once again climbing out of the modern world and back into the alpine. We could see our next goal, the Ten Mile Range, from our hotel. It seemed to stretch high into the sky and pull the clouds down on itself. Our imaginations could only begin to conjure the images of what we would see the next morning when we once again set foot on the Colorado Trail.

Peace,

MAD

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Colorado Trail Segment 5 of 28

Sure, we weren’t in the high alpine yet, but we were getting there, and after our low point with the early heat, this was an unexpected gem at lower elevation.

Colorado Trail Segment 5 of 28

Start: Kenosha Pass

End: Long Gulch

Distance: 14.6 Miles

We hiked segment five in reverse, we are a little backwards, but it does keep things interesting! One fact is true about this segment, Kenosha Pass is blanketed in aspen trees. It is definitely a favorite among “leaf peepers” in the fall when the aspens all turn gold, something we are guilty of, just about anyone is guilty of. Cool temperatures, cloudless deep blue skies and shimmering gold aspen leaves just seem to get people’s attention in the fall. Did we mention we love to hike in the fall? We do! After hiking segment five, we just might be returning this winter to snowshoe that segment. The terrain is rolling with no major climbs, aspens are abundant, and then there are the open meadows that just seem to come and go, rotating in and out of pine forests, aspens groves and back again. A recipe for a successful overnight snowshoeing adventure if you ask us.

With the heat of segments one through three behind us, a distant memory now, we enjoyed almost fall like weather. Warm days, not hot, and cool nights. OK, it was a cold night, but comparatively speaking, much better that broiling in the burn scar area of segment two. Granted, the day before we were to hike through this segment, there was a strong storm that moved through catching several hikers off guard. We spoke with a few people who were section hiking and thru-hiking the CT and they just shook their heads, “it was a tough night,” they said. Wind, hail, driving rains and a lot of dangerous lighting. We were eating our lunch as they were laying their gear all about in the sun to dry it off. Everyone generally goes through at least one tough event on trail when thru-hiking. We were hopeful that ours was behind us.

The rolling terrain, mixed forests of pine and aspen and the meadows were expected. But, what we didn’t expect were the expansive views we enjoyed. It really was one of those surprise segments that we didn’t expect much out of. Add in the surplus of water flowing in all the creeks, we’d have to say that this was a great segment. Sure, we weren’t in the high alpine yet, but we were getting there, and after our low point with the early heat, this was an unexpected gem at lower elevation. Did we mention the fall like conditions and that we love to hike in fall? Aspens, running creeks, cool breezes and great views, yep, that was a good segment to hike.

If there were a gripe, and who can’t find something negative to complain about, we’d say there needs to be benches or picnic tables at trailheads. So, we’re being a bit spoiled here, but really, why not. When you’re traveling (on foot) for miles and days on end, having a comfortable place to sit, lean and relax is huge. It goes a long way to keeping oneself relaxed on trail. We could carry ultralight backpacking chairs with us, but we were counting ounces as it was with our gear. Luxury items on a thru-hike are generally kept to a single item, ours were an Anker Power Core and camp shoes, both hugely loved and used on trail the entire hike from Denver to Durango. Our gear was all carefully chosen; weights, usefulness and all. We will certainly be coming out with information on our gear, what worked and what didn’t. Suffice it to say, we chose very carefully before carrying everything almost 500 miles across Colorado.

Peace,

MAD

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Colorado Trail Segment 4 of 28

There are campsites here and there in the trees that line the meadow, a creek running down the middle, mostly hidden in the reeds, and evidence of a multitude of wildlife, footprints included, along the trail.

Colorado Trail Segment 4 of 28

Start: Long Gulch

End: Rolling Creek TH

Distance: 16.6 Miles

The turning point. Segment 4 was a relaxing walk through mixed terrain and great weather. We had hiked in this area many times and this was the first in which there were no weather related impacts. We were waiting and anticipating, at the very least, a small rain shower. Nothing. The sun was shining, the wind was gentle and the temperatures perfect. If there were a complaint in the weather department, we’d have to say it was cold in the morning. What can we say, after being all snuggled up in our tent, alongside Mia who is a terrific companion when it comes to generating warmth in the tent, we had trouble getting up in the morning and getting on trail. It was one of the coldest mornings we had on trail this year. The aspens seemed to be in prefall mode, dropping yellow leaves all about with every passing breeze. Did we mention our favorite time to hike, fall?! Sure, it is still summer, but it felt like fall, it looked like fall and it smelled like fall…we decided it WAS fall, for a day anyway. It was a very nice reprieve from the heat of segments one through three.

We actually hiked this segment, along with segment five, in reverse. Mia would return to get in her last 31 miles of the CT with us, for a total of five segments and a little over 71.5 miles, not bad for a little chihuahua. It is about this time on the CT that one begins to realize that you areĀ  continuing to put distance in between yourself and the Denver metro area, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of city life. With each step the wilderness began to open up more and the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains near. All in all, segment four was a relaxing and quiet walk fro us. One could say that it is therapy for the body, mind and soul compared to the first three segments which were unseasonably hot and dry.

Segment four has a unique feature that is not to be missed, and quite frankly is impossible not to see. As the Colorado Trail data books puts it, you follow along an “unusually straight six mile meadow” that you walk through midway through the segment. In the summer months this would be best hiked in the early morning hours before the heat of the midday sun, or even in the cooler evening. There are campsites here and there in the trees that line the meadow, a creek running down the middle, mostly hidden in the reeds, and evidence of a multitude of wildlife, footprints included, along the trail. As we walked along, our conversation quickly went to returning here in the fall to see the colors. The aspens, reeds and grasses must put on a spectacular show of reds, yellows and oranges among the greens of the pines and blue sky. Definitely a must return to place for some fall camping and hiking. Who knows, there might even be an elk bugling contest going on, too.

With lush conditions, plenty of water and a much more remote feel, the elongated meadow in segment four in the Lost Creek Wilderness just might become a favorite fall return to place for us. It would certainly be on our list of recommended hikes, in any season, for a day hike, multi-day hike and, yes, part of a thru-hike of the Colorado Trail. There are plenty of access points for whatever type of outing suits the hiker. We’re sure anyone could find a little solace in this area. But, don’t take our word for it, experience for yourself. Our advise, take a nice overnight or day trip to the area in the fall. A camera in the morning and evening and a good book in the shade during the afternoon, though a nap in a hammock would hurt anything either. Come prepared to relax.

Peace,

MAD

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Colorado Trail Segment 3 of 28

Who would have thought, the first three segments are among the easiest elevation-wise, and yet, throw in some heat and dry conditions and you would have thought we were trekking through some of the hardest terrain on the trail.

Colorado Trail Segment 3 of 28

Start: Little Scraggy TH

End: Rolling Creek TH

Distance: 12.2 Miles

We wanted to be open and honest about our experience on the Colorado Trail from the outset of creating the videos, sharing the photos and writing the blogs. It is easy to show all the good stuff, and there is plenty of it. But not so easy to share the difficulties, hardships and the not so nice events. But reality speaks, life is not perfect, nor is any thru-hike for that matter. Hell, if we’re honest with ourselves, there are times on trail that are just not that interesting or eye-popping. However, there is far more to the trail than big views! It’s quite difficult to explain, just like any big event in life, if you’ve been there you probably get it.

Segment 3 of the Colorado Trail was a transition for us. After hiking through and coming out of the hot temperatures of segment one, and the heat and burn scar of segment two we were, well, whooped. The heat had taken a toll on us, especially Mia. We walked slowly and drank a lot. Unfortunately the damage was done. We were moving forward, but almost in a dream state. It is quite amazing what draining yourself mentally and physically can do to a person, especially on trail where the comforts of home are far, far away. We were apprehensive that the oppressive heat would ever go away, granted we now had some relief from the sun with plenty of forest overhead, the heat was still lingering. It just goes without saying, we are not lower elevation hikers in the summer months.

We plugged away at the miles looking forward to Buffalo Creek, the first major and naturally running water source we would see since the Platte River at the end of segment one. The creek was a sight for sore eyes and a great way to relax after walking almost 40 miles. Shocking at first, the water felt amazing to our tired and swollen feet. We had lunch, drank to our hearts’ content and waded in the cool running stream for a good long while before heading back out on the trail. Amazing what a water feature can do for the psyche after so many punishing miles. Refreshed and eager to move on, we reluctantly left our little oasis and began another climb, becoming hot and dry once again.

Unfortunately, Mia had begun to show signs of her own weariness. A conversation soon ensued and we knew what choice had to be made. Mia would be getting off trail and going home. It was the right thing to do, just not what we wanted to do. But for her safety and comfort it was a necessity. Dogs will follow their owners over a cliff if you let them. Mia no doubt would have continued on disregarding her own health to stay with us. Instead, we decided she would enjoy the luxury of family and the comfort of home, giving us peace of mind that she would be well cared for. She would return to hike segments 4 and 5 with us, but that would be all. The trail was just too long and remote for a little chihuahua and carrying her the entire way would be overwhelming.

We took a few days off to regroup and reevaluate our gear before heading back out on trail. A much needed break for all of us to say the least. Who would have thought, the first three segments are among the easiest elevation-wise, and yet, throw in some heat and dry conditions and you would have thought we were trekking through some of the hardest terrain on the trail. Indeed, there is a surprise around every bend of the Colorado Trail, weather included. Fortunately for us, and being on the backside now to see it, we were to be on the receiving end of some of the best hiking weather ever in the days to come. We didn’t know it then, but our experience with the CT was about to become remarkably blessed. After our low point early on, the trail began to surprise us in other ways, ways we continue to look back on and just say “wow, we were so lucky.”

Peace,

MAD

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Colorado Trail Segment 2 of 28

We have had a share of hardships over the years, we have certainly dealt with our share of challenges, but we chose to do this!

Colorado Trail Segment 2 of 28

Start: South Platte River TH

End: Little Scraggy TH

Distance: 11.5 Miles

Segment two, where do we even begin? It was hot, dry and tested our patience. It’s part of the trail, so, sure, we hiked it. Would we choose to do so otherwise? Yes and no. We have hiked this portion of trail before and liked it, but it was cool, not hot. During the time we were going through this segment, Denver and the surrounding areas had been going through a hot and dry spell, making this a not so pleasant outing. Don’t take this the wrong way, we are just not into hiking in heat, 90s with little to no humidity is not our idea of ideal conditions. Matter of fact, it is about thirty degrees off the mark! That said, segment two is actually very unique and beautiful holding vast views in all directions in the midst of a regenerating forest.

In 1996 a wildfire, caused by humans, burned almost 12,000 acres in the Pike National Forest where segment two runs through. Today, some 23 years later, the area is still in the process of regrowth. Sadly, it still lacks trees, where mostly it is just covered in ground plants, grasses and flowers. Aspens are beginning to pop up here and there, but it will be many, many years before pines begin to fill back in. Interestingly, even in this post-burn environment, it is quite beautiful to be able to, not only see the raw state of the landscape, but the new growth in the evolution of a redeveloping forest. Uniquely beautiful is probably the best way to describe this area. That, and dry. There are no naturally running streams to be had in the warm months making this trek difficult on hot days in the summer. The nearest water source after the Platte River is ten miles away at the volunteer fire station, an oasis to thru-hikers of the Colorado Trail coming off segment two.

We must have had our first realization that we were actually hiking the CT on this segment. Realizing that many of the hikers we were now sharing the trail with were probably half our age, we took a time out to accept we would be slower than most, do smaller mileage days and need a break here and there. In our fifties, this trail would test us to our core. Day hiking and backpacking for a few days, yeah, we can do that. But, thirty plus days of getting up everyday at first light and putting in fifteen to twenty miles, hiking eight to ten hour days, well, that was going to be quite the accomplishment. We have had a share of hardships over the years, we have certainly dealt with our share of challenges, but we chose to do this! We still had some 470 miles to go. One day at time. One mile at a time some days. We made small goals and paid no attention to the trail rising in front of us as, yet another climb came into view. It really is more of a mental test versus a physical one. For us, anyway. Yeah, segment two was our OMG moment on trail, we are really doing this.

We lifted our umbrellas as if taunting the afternoon sun, opened them up and walked on, baking in the shade and swallowing sand as we went. We caught occasional glimpses of the distant high peaks and began to dream of snow covered mountaintops offering up cold running streams that flowed through meadows full of wildflowers. Amazingly, we did find that awaiting us after a few more days of hiking through the foothills. Soon enough, the heat would give way to cooler temperatures. Until then, we sufficed to say, we would get stronger as each day passed. We did just that. We love hiking in the alpine of Colorado, but never as much as this year. After having hiked through much lower terrain, our appreciation for the lush alpine had never been so strong. Sometimes you have to give yourself a reality check to be able to enjoy what you truly love and enjoy the most. Sometimes you just get a reality check, without asking for it. We pushed on, out of segment two, looking west towards the Colorado Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide.

Peace,

MAD

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Colorado Trail Segment 1 of 28

We were tired, it was steamy hot after the storms and the thought of continuing on felt daunting. Camp was set up and we called it a day.

Colorado Trail Segment 1 of 28

Start: Indian Creek TH (alternate)

End: South Platte River TH

Distance: 13.3 Miles

We did it! We completed our journey across Colorado along the Colorado Trail. Spanning nearly 500 miles from Denver to Durango, we anticipated 30 plus days hiking on trail with six stops to resupply and get cleaned up. We finished, surprisingly, a few days earlier than planned. This was due to our unknown ability to make bigger miles than we originally thought. Go figure. Now in our 50s, we knew it wouldn’t be easy, and no doubt, it wasn’t. This is by far the hardest thing we have ever chosen to do, both physically and mentally, emphasis on the later. There were days we didn’t want to hike. There were days, it seemed, that hiking is all we did. There were days that were filled will awe-inspiring views. There were days that were very uninspiring. There were days that we climbed. There were days we just walked effortlessly. There were days that were cold. There were days that were hot. Each day on the Colorado trail was a new chapter in a month long hike. The most surprising aspect of the CT? The people we met and became friends with, our Colorado Trail “tramily” that we became accustomed to seeing in towns, in camp and on trail. A source of strength, support and laughter as we vented, shared stories, food and experiences. There is more than just a trail out there, there are people, good people, all moving at different speeds with a common goal.

Segment 1 of the CT was hot. We generally never hike at lower elevations during the summer months in Colorado just for this reason. Needless to say, it is a part of the trail, the beginning. We quickly lost our enthusiasm as the miles went on. Heat is no friend to a thru-hiker who is carrying their very life on their backs. But, like hiking up a mountain, there were rewards to come, and it would just take a week to get to the high country and cooler weather. We pushed on. Rolling hills, dry creeks and relentless sun were a test, no less, of our endurance. We quickly learned that this trail was going to be more of a mental challenge even if it was physically demanding. Did we mention the heat? It was overbearing. We just kept looking to the west and the distant snow-capped peaks. We don’t want to overdramatize our hike, nor do we want to romanticize something that is truly a difficult undertaking. This trail, as we are sure all thru-hikes are, is demanding and will test you to the core. All this and it is only day one. We have a month of hiking ahead of us!

Starting at the Indian Creek Trailhead, an alternate to Waterton Canyon for those traveling with animals, we quickly found ourselves on a single track trail hiking in the woods of the Denver Front Range. The evening before must have been rainy as all the foliage was wet. We dubbed it the “car wash” trail as all that moisture moved from the plants to our clothing! Once we gained our first climb and ridgeline, we dried out and began to have views of the surrounding hills. It was starting to sink in that we are out here for the duration, for a month, with nothing but the packs on our backs. Are we crazy? We can just go home if we want. Or, as we did, we swept those thoughts to the backs of our minds where they stayed close at hand to remind us at any given moment that we could recall them and entertain getting off trail. We hiked on. Upon reaching the high point of segment one we could see segment two, that and, storms heading our way. Thunder echoed overhead as we quickened our decent down off the ridge and towards the end of the segment. Once at the end, down at the Platte River, we through off our packs and sat under a lonely tree affording us just enough shade. We were tired, it was steamy hot after the storms and the thought of continuing on felt daunting. Camp was set up and we called it a day. We drank water till dark and watched a deer stroll up on our camp. Mia, sound asleep and snoring, startled the deer and it ran off. A little laugh and we, too, were heading towards sleep. The next morning we would get up and begin segment two and the dreaded “burn area” with no water for ten miles.

Peace,

MAD

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