Colorado Trail Segment 18 of 28

It was just a quiet stroll through a place lost in time. Nothing out here spoke of modern man. It was just earth, sky and far off mountains as far as the eye could see.

Colorado Trail Segment 18 of 28

Start: CO Hwy 114

End: Saguache Park Rd

Distance: 13.8 Miles

What a difference a day, err, warm bed and hot shower can make. After we got into town and checked into our hotel, another stroke of good luck, we learned one of our tramily members was also in town and staying at the same hotel no less. We enjoyed a nice visit and were offered a ride back to the trailhead the following morning. Such good news. Our gear still untouched where we dropped it after getting to the room, we went out in search of a good pizza to fill the void. Well, if the weather didn’t care when we were on trail, it certainly wouldn’t care now that we were in town. It was a good old-fashioned driving hard rain now. We attempted using our umbrellas but the wind decided otherwise. We ran and embraced the cold and wet. Food was more important. We ate our fill, did some shopping and got back to the hotel where we utterly deflated. Hot showers and clean clothes were next on the docket. With our gear strewn about the room and resupply spread out on the bed, we began the tedious task of putting it all back in our backpacks. The night had moved on and it was late, but we needed to just break it all down, clean up ourselves, clothes and gear and just do a good once over of everything to restore order after segment 17. Gear, food and all tucked away in our packs, we did the same with ourselves, a good nights sleep would do us good. No coyotes this time.

The following morning we felt refreshed, as good as we could be anyway. Gunnison is a great town to resupply in, if you are lucky enough to get a ride. The Wanderlust Hostel and Gene Taylor’s Sporting Goods can take care of all your needs, that and the many other great shops, hotelsĀ  and restaurants in the area. We went for a stroll through town for a few last minute items and then back to the hotel to rendezvous with Puppy Love for our ride back to the trail. Did we mention she had two wonderful dogs, we love dogs?! We all jumped in, puppies on laps with lots of tail wagging, licks and love and headed off to the trailhead to begin segment 18 of the CT. The weather would hold this time. A cool and overcast morning, we set off down the trail rejuvenated and restored from our experience of segment 17. A good resupply and quick visit in town did us good. The trail had, once again, provided and our spirits were lifted.

We enjoyed easy travel, flat, level and void of rocks and roots, not to mention slippery slopes! We were on the hiker highway now, making good time and enjoying a relaxed pace. We found ourselves having a good time on trail and felt the negativity of our previous sleep deprived and frustrated selves slip away. It was a good day. We walked and had fun doing so. The trail would meander through a valley until it came to a small saddle where we anxiously awaited what we would see on the other side of the horizon line. Amazed once we made the top of the small climb, we were staring out into a vast expanse of land, reaching as far as the eye could see. We were about to enter the old wild west! You would have thought a stampede of horses might appear at any moment. Thankfully they didn’t. It was just a quiet stroll through a place lost in time. Nothing out here spoke of modern man. It was just earth, sky and far off mountains as far as the eye could see. At one point we began walking along an old barbwire fence where bluebirds would allow us to get so close before they moved down the way and waited for us again and then start the process all over. We found a few cows, go figure, they stared at us like we had just landed here from a distant planet. But, out here, who know, they might have seen such a thing at one time or another!

We walked and walked and walked. The midday sun had arrived and the exposure was becoming intense. It was a hot and dry place. We recalled the dusty scenes of a few western movies where the lone traveler would lick his dry and cracked lips hoping for that watering hole to show up soon. We quickly grabbed our water bottles and thankfully enjoyed a nice drink, but with a hurried pace to reach our own watering hole. We definitely felt vulnerable and exposed, we couldn’t imagine what a thunderstorm would be like out here, but then again we could and made sure to move along. Trees began to come back into the picture and soon we found ourselves back among friends, and not only the leaf-bearing type, there were cows too, a lot of them. We had become outnumbered as we came to the end of the segment and had to watch where we stepped. They greeted us and gave us a warm welcome, so goes our interpretation of “mooooo” anyway. Finding a place to camp would to be another story, we were in the thick of cattle country, better put, cow territory, now. The CT doesn’t always stand for Colorado Trail. We were enjoying ourselves, the easy travel, wide open spaces and, yes, even the cows.

MAD

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Colorado Trail Segment 15 of 28

We were in a happy place. Good vibes just seemed to wrap around us. We hiked, we talked and we shared our stories. It was a day of recognizing all the good that exists.

Colorado Trail Segment 15 of 28

Start: Monarch Pass TH (CW)

End: Marshall Pass TH

Distance: 10.7 Miles

Our segment 15 experience starts well before one foot hit the trail. If you have read the posts from the previous segments, you are already aware that there is more going on here than just a simple thru-hike. It would be a rather lengthy explanation if we were to write it all down, suffice it to say, as we stated in the segment 13 blog post, “We were nearly at the halfway point of the Colorado Trail and were beginning to realize that someone was watching over us.” There were just too many instances going on proving that. The precise timing of every event on trail always seemed to lead to another. We have talked about it since we’ve been back home and are amazed at how everything worked itself out. The outcome of any of our chance meetings would have been changed dramatically if our timeline would have wavered in any direction. Consider all the anomalies of any given day and the mathematics of the odds are astronomical. We are so thankful and encouraged that we found ourselves in such a place. Our hats are off to all those who crossed our path on the Colorado Trail, from the amazing individuals we met, the businesses that we used to the random trail angels that surprised us many times, you were instrumental in us having a successful thru-hike. But, we can’t stop there as we know friends and family off trail were also keeping us in their daily thoughts, the friendship and support you give to us will always be remembered.

We started segment 15 via an alternate, using Monarch Pass, part of the Collegiate West CT/CDT portion, as our access point. Beginning from this point one is quickly thrust into an amazing alpine environment, our favorite place to hike. We began our day hiking with some of our tramily (trail family) as we all enjoyed a pleasant trek across the high country at an average of 11,500′ with big views in all directions. Hiking here is a testament to what our vision of the CT/CDT is. Granted there are many facets to the 500 miles of trail, this is our place, our love. As seen in the video, at some point we all just seemed to fit into a groove and walk in a mesmerized state of hiker bliss across the high ridges. Such a beautiful and captivating portion of the CT.

We were in a happy place. Good vibes just seemed to wrap around us. We hiked, we talked and we shared our stories. It was a day of recognizing all the good that exists. Add to that, the incredible terrain we were crossing through and it just made for a great memory to hold on to and cherish. On this seemingly short segment, we wanted the day to just continue, where the miles were lacking, the expansive views made up for it. A great experience in the town of Salida followed up by a great experience on trail with good people, there was just no denying what a wonderful trail we were blessed to be on. In the aftermath of being home, catching up on all of our responsibilities and after all the aches and pains had finally subsided from hiking nearly 500 miles and climbing nearly 90,000′ vertical feet, we are ready to return, ready to get back in the Colorado high country, ready to get back to the Colorado Trail and experience more of this truly amazing wilderness and some of the most breathtaking views we have ever seen. Living in Colorado just seems to make it all the more inviting, we are so privileged to be here and have the access we do.

Peace,

MAD

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Colorado Trail Segment 14 of 28

The day had been great, travel had been great, breakfast had been great. We were hiking with a new and encouraged mindset, each day just seemed to bring new and wonderful surprises.

Colorado Trail Segment 14 of 28

Start: Chalk Creek TH

End: US Hwy 50

Distance: 20.4 Miles

After the events of segment 13, it is hard to find the words for segment 14. It was a nonevent walk to get to Salida. So, that’s it. OK, maybe not so blah, but it really was quite non eventful. It was quite warm and dry for the most part, though there were plenty of water sources to soak our feet in and keep us hydrated. With a big climb, another 1,000 feet, right after we began the segment, we were certainly grateful for a nice breeze, once atop the climb we had to hold onto our hats! The wind did subside and was much more gentle on the backside as we made our way down and into some very easy terrain where our travel was fast across a wide open area littered with trees here and there. It reminded us of a western movie and how travel had not changed much over the years, going from water source to water source and town to town. We almost felt like a rider on a horse would appear from off the horizon at any moment. It wouldn’t be long before the terrain changed once again and thrust us back into a climbing forest, the trail complete with rocks and roots to keep us alert and on our toes.

We had passed by the high school students again, several times actually, as we found a few groups in this segment. How could we feel any negativity towards them for being in our desired campsite in segment 13 when the end result was a stay at My Princeton Hot Springs. They were great kids, very polite and experiencing life from a far different perspective than kids back in the city. We thought it was great for them to be out there with their teachers seeing the world in a whole new way and learning skills that many never attain. We leapfrogged with them pretty much all day having small conversations here and there. This would not be the last time we would see them however.

We made camp in a wonderful bend of the trail with a great running creek nearby that almost convinced us to soak in a deep pool close to our campsite. There’s just something about the water in the mountains of Colorado that keeps us from doing such activities, cold snow melt. It makes for great drinking water, filtered of course. And it is certainly fine for a quick foot soak, but the whole body, no thanks, that would be an eye opening experience to say the least. We love camping near enough to a stream to be able to hear it at night, the sound of the water just seems to sing us to sleep. Plenty to drink, plenty to make music with and plenty to soak (our feet) in, water is such an important part of thru-hiking.

The next day we would get up early and make tracks, we were heading to Salida and only one thing stood in our way, another 1,000 foot climb. This one would be a much easier task though, we were not even at 10,000′ on this segment of the CT making for easier travel on inclines. We made our way to the Angel of Shavano Campground after a beautiful decent though a valley to a surprise greeting, the high school kids again. This time they all cheered as we came into view and invited us over for breakfast. Talking about trail magic! But it didn’t end there. Everything was made to order, all organic, fresh and delicious. Best breakfast burritos we have ever had. We sat, ate and listened to them tell us about their adventure.

The climb soon after felt like a nonevent as we soon found ourselves at the top of the ridge looking back at Mt Shavano. We bid the area farewell and made our way on towards Hwy 50. We popped out on a ridge complete with large power line towers and commanding views towards Monarch Pass, our next trailhead after a stop in Salida. The day had been great, travel had been great, breakfast had been great. We were hiking with a new and encouraged mindset, each day just seemed to bring new and wonderful surprises. Speaking of, when we arrived at Hwy 50 and the end of segment 14, a trail angel had just pulled up to drop off a couple hikers getting back on trail, we were offered a ride into town without having to wait even five minutes for a ride. Thank you Lunchbox, the ride was a huge surprise.

Once in Salida, we picked up our resupply box, made our way to Moonlight Pizza where we were greeted warmly, hiker stink and all. Salida would be one of our favorite towns along the entire CT. Great people, great hospitality, great pizza and salad, great place to stop and relax. After getting situated at our hotel, cleaned up, clothes and all, we went out for a walk and enjoyed the historic city center area of town. We met another hiker, David, we knew who was driving by, he pulled over and offered us a ride back to the trailhead the next day. We had no idea he was even in these parts, another moment of the trail giving back. Everything just seemed to fall into place. We spent the evening eating our fill, getting some good rest and felt refreshed the next morning as we headed back to the trail alongside some really good people (David and Turquoise) who would actually become part of our “tramily” on trail. Good times, good people.

Peace,

MAD

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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 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 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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