Colorado Trail Segment 11 of 28

We were a sight. With our backpacks leaned up against a tree, we began going through our resupply box, inhaling our fries and chasing them down with cold blueberry iced tea.

Colorado Trail Segment 11 of 28

Start: Mount Massive TH

End: Clear Creek Rd

Distance: 21.5 Miles

Segment 11 was an interesting one for us. We cannot deny the fact that we were looking forward to our resupply in Twin Lakes, though it would not be your standard resupply either. For one, it would be a quick stop, no overnight accommodations available at the time, nor in the nearest alternate town, Leadville. There was a large bike race going on and all options were unavailable. That said, our stop in Twin Lakes was short, a few hours at most.

Segment 11 starts off nice and easy, a mild trail by Colorado standards, gently rolling and never wavering much beyond 10,500′ and 10,100′ until the decent into Twin Lakes where it drops down to nearly 9,200′, until the far side of the lake is reached and the climbing begins again. At that point we had to choose either the Collegiate Peaks East or West route. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

After the portion of the Mt Massive Wilderness we hiked through in segment 10, it was nice to finally get in some good views and pass through lush aspen groves that felt more like enchanted forests in some medieval movie. The drop in to Twin Lakes is beautiful, offering great mountain and lake scenery that seems to grow with each step forward. Perhaps it was the fact that we were losing altitude, it just seemed that the nearby peaks kept rising in front of us as we got closer into town. Though Twin Lakes is not really a town, more of a village, there are enough services to aid travelers through the area.

We had heard of a food truck that frequented here, complete with vegetarian and gluten free options. Perfect, we thought. Upon arrival we found the truck, as well as the general store, quickly. Did we mention the term village? Just about the whole place can be seen at once. Resupply box in hand, we made our way to Punky’s Food Truck. We kept it simple, ordered the “Ribbon Fries” and found a nice place to sit in the shade. We were a sight. With our backpacks leaned up against a tree, we began going through our resupply box inhaling our fries and chasing them down with cold blueberry iced tea.

After lunch, back on trail and back in the heat. We now had the grueling task of walking around the lakes, about six miles. And yes, there really are “twin lakes” though not identical. There are two sides to them as well, one side exposed and hot in the midday sun, the other, cool and protected by dense forest opening up only to expose the immediate shoreline. We enjoyed the forested side as it was a very warm day and there was a cool breeze blowing across the lake cooling us off after having walked in the sun for a few hours.

We bid farewell to Twin Lakes as we came to the trail junction where CT hikers must choose to follow either the Collegiate East or Collegiate West route. We chose to follow the original and more traditional east route. The west was adopted in 2012, coinciding with the Continental Divide Trail, a more dramatic and exposed alpine option. Either way, it begins a climb up and out of the Twin Lakes area. Soon after, we began looking for a campsite for the night, after which we enjoyed a nice cool evening adorned by a full moon.

That night we read, played cards and discussed the plans for the following day, which would be the beginning of segment 12 and a lot of up hill climbing being at the forefront of the discussion. In the morning we ate snickers for breakfast, drank cold coffee and enjoyed expansive views looking down into an amazing valley. The valley was beautiful, and the climb appeared to be brutal. One thing at a time. We descended and focused on the beauty of a deep glacier cut and lush valley. The climb would come in its own time.

Peace,

MAD

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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 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 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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Colorado Trail #4 – The Journey Begins

The weather will be perfect, it will be raging…there will be times we will see all four seasons in one day. It will be as predictable as any one raindrop finding its way to earth

July 2019, 24 Hours till the Colorado Trail

And so it begins, a journey of some five hundred miles across the top of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. A journey of, not just putting one foot in front of the other, of not just sweat and certainly a journey of not just pristine mountain views. This journey is a journey of two souls, two high school sweethearts, of two kids who became best friends, parents and grandparents. We are not setting out to conquer any feat of strength or endurance, though we will certainly give it our all. No, we are setting out to embrace the beauty, solitude and grandeur of life in a most raw and wild way. We are putting ourselves out there to walk the walk of meditation. The simplicity of being alone and on our own in the wilderness with nothing more than what is on our backs, in our hearts and envisioned in our minds. We will be alone again, relying on one another and nothing more.

There will challenges, there will be amazing moments, there will be times that just stand still as we travel through many differing and diverse areas. The weather will be perfect, it will be raging…there will be times we will see all four seasons in one day. It will be as predictable as any one raindrop finding its way to earth. We will wake each day to the same trail with new experiences. Each morning, afternoon and night will hold its own memories and events like no other. The lay of the land will rise and fall just as the sun itself rises and sets. The skies will be filled with wonder, clouds will form patterns that invite creative imagination, the celestial lights will shine in wondrous ways, the storms will be dramatic and the mornings will begin anew with a clean artist’s canvas. The sun will be bold while the early fog will isolate us in a melodramatic embrace. The winds will challenge our steps and the calm will grant us a well deserved break. The rains will wash the dirt from our faces only to return again as the miles progress. The blue skies will be infinite. The mountain tops will stand guard over the land, inviting us ever higher as we take passage high atop and across their massive shoulders to new and unseen valleys below.

Our walk will be one of incredible beauty. Our movement will be slow and sure as we absorb each moment. Our pace will be quick as we race the next storm. Safety will be paramount, where experience will win the day. We will walk hand in hand as one and unite our excitement as we travel the long and seemingly endless trail. Who would have thought 37 years would pass by and two love struck teenagers would find themselves making passage through such an amazingly rugged and enduring wilderness. Our promise to each other to keep moving carries forward in a new chapter of our lives as we thru hike the captivating Colorado Trail. We look forward to our new memories and the stories will will undoubtedly share. The photos and videos we take will capture moments in time and yet we alone will hold the emotion of our adventure deep in our own hearts. It is, after all, our walk, our time, our trial, something we are excited and nervous to embark upon, together. Just as it was when we met many years ago, the future is now, once again, in front of us, unknown, calling us to another journey of a lifetime.

Live map feed of our progress: https://share.garmin.com/MADHippiesLife

See you on the backside.

Peace,

MAD

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Colorado Trail #2

“A roll of toilet paper seems to go for a while until it gets near the end and then it goes really fast.”

March 2019, 4 months till the Colorado Trail

Today was the first day, in what seems to have been a very long time, that we did not wake up to frost, ice or snow. It definitely felt warmer, not that that’s saying much, probably 34° or so, but definitely above freezing. That said, bring on spring and warmer temperatures!

With four months to go, we have all but completed our gear list. Our sleep system, shelter, packs, cook system, water system and electronics are all dialed in and ready. We now move on to finalizing our menu, resupply towns, personal items and clothing. Physically we also continue to log miles whenever and wherever possible.

Winter in Colorado has been, well, winter. After several dry years that resulted in a drought, the snow machine has once again been let loose. At this time the Colorado snowpack is well above average with more time for continued accumulation. That said, we have stopped worrying about water sources on trail and have begun considering that many of the high passes will hold their snow well beyond summer.

It has been somewhat challenging to try and mimic trail conditions on any given outing as we continue to log miles with our packs full. The snow just keeps coming leaving many places we might normally use as a “full pack workout” covered in snow and ice. We have been getting creative nonetheless, wearing ice spikes or hiking as early as possible before packed snow begins to get soft with added sunlight. Other days are spent on level surfaces with increased miles, while other, more inclement days, are just spent inside using our own exercise equipment. Spring and early summer will bring better hiking conditions and increased accessibility to trails with more demanding gains and higher altitude.

We are so ready for long, warm days on trail! Watching the calendar certainly isn’t helping matters, though it is somewhat like a silly quote we recently heard, “A roll of toilet paper seems to go for a while until it gets near the end and then it goes really fast.” This will more than likely be the case for us, for now it is a slow wait, but soon time will accelerate and before you know it we will be on the Colorado Trail.

We have gone over the route and have written it out at least a half dozen times, looking at the details of each day, each segment and each resupply point. We have carefully chosen our gear, food and electronics. Sometimes we ask ourselves if we are crazy for doing this, some days we just feel like we are going crazy waiting. We have watched videos, viewed pictures and talked with others who have already made the trek. We have already experienced many of the early segments in previous years and look forward to points beyond. Waiting is hard, but we welcome the time we have left to continue with our planning and dream of the trail before us.

Peace,

MAD

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Why Hike the Colorado Trail

The Colorado Trail is the perfect culmination of all we have been doing to keep ourselves active and will certainly challenge us across the board, a challenge we gladly accept and look forward to completing.

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People are taken back when we tell them we are backpacking the Colorado Trail as a thru-hike. Once we describe the terrain, altitude, distance and time involved, then the confused facial expressions coupled with the concurrent question of “why?” soon follow. Although, in their defense, the question does beg to be asked, “just why are we doing this?” It is an honest question and certainly deserves and honest answer. While we cannot answer for everyone, we can at the very least attempt to explain ourselves.

The Colorado Trail is nearly 500 miles of rugged terrain. To say the month long trek is enjoyable after considering what is involved might have some questioning our sanity. Big temperature swings and exposure to the elements are a constant battle. Having to carry not only gear and clothing, but food and water, can be quite the burden. The day in, day out, getting up and out of a warm sleeping bag to walk an average of 15 to 20 miles can be a mental fight. Lions, tigers and bears are certainly the least of our worries. So, just what is the draw and why would we put ourselves through such a test of mental and physical endurance?

Years ago we decided to challenge ourselves to hike every week throughout the entire year, regardless of the weather. We encountered rain, snow, mud, extreme winds, hail, lightning, intense sun and temperature swings that would have a thermometer throwing in the towel. However, for every inclement or sweltering weather day we encountered, there were times that would stop us dead in our tracks leaving us speechless at the immense and pristine landscape before us. The Colorado Rocky Mountains have a way of captivating those who explore its vast wilderness areas. But that is only part of our reasoning. Even the worst weather days we found absolute beauty in our surroundings.

The calming effect the Colorado wilderness has on us is indisputable. One can’t help but stare into the face of the age old craggy peaks that have witnessed countless explorers over time and wonder what stories they left behind. Walking through endless fields of wildflowers atop open benches high above treeline is akin to a 4th of July grand finale fireworks display. At the end of each day, finding ourselves camping near a babbling brook deep in the forest of an elongated valley while listening to the sounds of nature serenade us to sleep is music to our ears. All of these things are nothing short of a symphony for our senses, an invitation, if you will, for body, mind and soul to experience tranquility.

Personal endurance challenge? Perhaps. We do like to push ourselves physically as well as mentally. Again, going back to our goal of hiking every week, we want to keep moving and keep ourselves vibrant, healthy and strong to the best of our abilities. Hiking and backpacking is a great avenue to do just that. Complete with good and balanced eating habits we are able to nourish ourselves in all aspects, physically, mentally and spiritually. The Colorado Trail is the perfect culmination of all we have been doing to keep ourselves active and will certainly challenge us across the board, a challenge we gladly accept and look forward to completing.

Are our expectations to have a seamless blue sky day surrounded by Bambi and all his friends of the forest? No. We expect nothing short of all Colorado mountain weather has to offer. We do anticipate clear blue skies, wind, thunderstorms, frost and even snow. We also anticipate that any or all will happen on the same day. Bambi and his friends will be there, along with Bullwinkle and a few others. Mosquitoes and other biting nuisances will be plentiful as will trail challenges like downed trees, snowfields and mud. All of which are just part of what keeps the wilderness wild and untamed. For every difficulty there is also a silver lining, a moment of awe, that negates the hardships of being in a natural environment with nothing but the clothes, err, backpacks on our backs.

Just like the Colorado Trail itself travels up and down, climbing high atop the Continental Divide and down low into fertile valleys, so too will our thru-hike be. Full of highs and lows, physically and emotionally. It is, after all, life, our life, on the Colorado Trail. Experiences and memories, full of grand stories, perhaps embellished at times, to be to shared with generations to come of how two high school sweethearts walked side by side through life and one day set out on the adventure of a lifetime.

Peace,

MAD

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