A swimming bear, shooting stars, and a 10 by 10: Colorado Trail thru-hike days one through three

The beginning of my Colorado Trail thru-hike didn’t exactly go off without a hitch. As I mentioned in my preparation posts, my friends Ibex and Dori, both of whom were a part of my Appalachian Trail tramily, are joining me for this adventure. I live in Colorado, so for me, getting to the start of the trail at Waterton Canyon is a walk in the park. But for them, it’s a bit more complicated.

Ibex lives in Upstate New York and Dori hails from Georgia, so they both have to fly across the country. Seems pretty straightforward, but less so when we’re in a global pandemic that a). hasn’t quite ended yet, and b). has impacted flight schedules and created staff shortages. Long story short, Ibex’s flight was delayed by half a day due to the nose of her plane breaking (thankfully they caught this BEFORE her flight, but she still had to fly on that very plane!). Luckily she still made it in time to start the trail with me, and even have one celebratory pre-hike evening with me in Boulder (Band on the Bricks, anyone?!). Dori, on the other hand, is delayed a week after catching covid. He’s not having symptoms, but after his roommate and close coworker both tested positive, he felt he had to do the right thing and get tested himself before flying across the country. I 100% think he made the right call, but it’s a bummer all the same that he’s missing the first 100 miles of the trail. Alas, I’ve heard those are the least exciting 100 miles anyway!

Day 1 (Mile 0 to 7)

Ibex and I had a rather exciting first few miles on trail. I only have a month off of work to hike the entire thing, so we’re on a bit of a tight schedule. Because of that, we started out at Waterton Canyon about 5:30 pm on my last day of work for the next month. If you’ve never hiked in the evening, let me recommend it. It is hands down my favorite time to hike, because aside from it being a bit cooler and there generally being fewer people on trail than in the middle of the day, this is the time of day when so many wild animals come out! Just in the first seven miles of the trail, we saw a bear (who was taking a little dunk in the river), several bighorn sheep, a tarantula being dragged away by a wasp (to feed its babies, apparently!), and a small owl. Absolutely magical.

Day 2 (Mile 7 to 16.6)

Our second day was less exciting in the wildlife department, but we were rewarded with wild raspberries and thimbleberries galore, and we were able to camp out near the South Platte River. After hiking through 100-degree weather our first two days, a dunk here was most welcome.

Day 3 (Mile 16.6 to 36.1)

And on day three, because we read that the first 10 miles up from the South Platte River trailhead were exposed, dry, and absolutely brutal in the heat, we opted to set our alarms for 4:00 am and begin our day by the light of our headlamps. Neither of us are morning people, but one FarOut commenter said he was so overwhelmed by the heat that he threw up all the water he’d downed during that section! That was enough to convince us to arise a bit earlier than we were comfortable with. And honestly, it was very worth it. As I was taking down camp in the morning, I saw three stars shoot across the sky. The pre-dawn hiking was extremely peaceful, and we got the most exposed areas of the day over with before it got unbearably hot. And, we completed our first 10 by 10: 10 miles by 10 am! (We never did this on the Appalachian Trail because… again… we are not morning people).

So far, the CT is treating us well! I can only hope it continues.

If you’d like to follow along on my journey, check me out on Instagram and YouTube. And I will of course be posting updates here on The Trek as well!

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