Colorado Trail, Here I Come

The Anticipation is Killing Me

The days tick by. The anticipation grows. So close now I can almost feel my feet on the trail, my pack on my back, my trekking poles in my hands, the petrichor post afternoon storm. The culmination of nearly a year’s worth of planning is less than a month away. My heart pounds just thinking about it. Excitement pinks my cheeks and I have to focus on belly breathing to reign in my blood pressure and return myself to calm. 

In between, I battle with my anxiety and depression, dissatisfied with the lot life has dealt me time and again. I stim and chew my fingers until they bleed. I need to get out of the city. I need to put my feet to dirt and put the concrete and asphalt behind me. I need…

Red Rocks Open Space

You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid

I’ve been hiking on and off for decades and while it’s been a passion at times, it was often a passion hard to pursue when it was — life stuff, school stuff, work stuff, health stuff, family stuff, friggin’ humidity and asthma stuff. Other times I couldn’t stand the idea of being outside in the buggy, muggy mess that is the Southeastern United States.

In college, friends would invite me camping and I would balk at the very idea: why would anyone want to be out in the tick infested woods? Looking back, it probably had something to do with the ticks as much as it did with the humidity. (One of those friends has Lyme Disease and was often in and out of the hospital due to complications.) I’m a bug magnet and it had put the fear into me.

There was also some serious trauma about doing something my parents wouldn’t approve of… To this day my mom freaks out when I tell them I’m going on a hike or climbing a mountain; and my dad lectures me about safety and how I’m irresponsible or what I am doing is stupid and just generally disapproves of my interests. I learned, for my own sanity, not to tell them what I’m up to. 

My 3rd 14er

Burgeoning Obsession

In my early 30s, I learned about thru-hiking, peak bagging, and long trails — stuff I never knew existed. I don’t even know when and who it first was that introduced me to such tantalizing adventures. Adventures I feared I would never have because I was tied down by a house and a demanding 80-hour a week job and animals and expectations. I wanted those trails and mountains, could taste them. Yet they always felt just out of reach…

Then last year, after new trauma upon new trauma, I couldn’t take it any longer. I sold everything and moved West — where there are few bugs, almost non-existent humidity, and over 1,200 miles between me and my former life — and the world opened up. I began to pursue all the things.

Snowy day, meet river.

A Thru-Hiker’s Dream

Everyone dreams about hiking one of the Big Three, myself included. Almost all the articles and YouTube videos about thru-hiking seem completely focused on them — though it appears to be diversifying more in recent times to include a few lesser known long trails.

Let’s face it, the Big Three are Big Commitments and few will ever hike one of them in full let alone all three. Not everyone can be Dixie. (Though most people could be Kyle — just kidding, Kyle’s great, too.) That’s not to say you shouldn’t try. If you have the time and the money and are willing to commit to months on the trail and thousands of miles, then by all means, do! I wish I were you.

I’m not ready for that. I don’t know if I ever will be, but I want to be. Given my breathing problems with humidity, the AT is not even on my radar, but I could see myself tackling the PCT or CDT. I refuse to dwell on that yet. Baby steps.

For now, I’m setting my sights a little shorter. I’m setting them on the Colorado Trail.

Clueless, Clued In

Before I moved to Colorado, the only thing I had heard about the CT was from a commercial where the guy calls a Gearhead about his boots. You know the one: “I’m about to thru-hike the CT and my Teton boots just bit the dust.” As the Cumberland Trail is not complete — in fact, the start of it at Signal Mountain was in such disrepair when I tried to hike it, it was incredibly scary to even get on — and probably never will be, I doubted that was the CT he was talking about. What was this CT that I had never heard of for it to be mentioned in an outdoor company’s commercial? I looked it up.

Signal Mountain. Cumberland Trail starting point. So much for that.

The More You Know

If you’ve never heard of it (as I hadn’t), here’s a brief introduction: 

The CT, or Colorado Trail, is a multi-use trail that travels between roughly Denver and Durango. In total the trail (including both East Collegiate and West Collegiate routes) covers 567 miles. From the Colorado Trail’s official website, “The Trail passes through six National Forests and six Wilderness areas, traverses five major river systems, and penetrates eight of the State’s mountain ranges.” It was built in 13 years (between 1974 and 1987, opening the Collegiate West route in 2012 — marrying the CT and the CDT through the western side of the Collegiate Peaks) with the help of thousands of volunteers. The Colorado Trail Foundation touts the trail as “mile for mile the most beautiful trail in America.”

You beauty!

I was spell-bound: here was an imminently doable trail close to my new home. I needed to hike this trail. Needed to. My mind was set. Goal: thru-hike the CT… before I turn 40 (which will be next spring). First thing was to get acclimated, get settled in my new home, climb a few 14ers, hike a few trails, get used to the terrain, the altitude, and then plan. Boy did I plan.

You Know! The Plan.

I’m not fool enough to think I can plan the hike down to the most minute detail. That’s not how these things work. Besides, what fun would that be?

What I could do, however, was research the most up to date information on the trail, gather links to the SNOTELs I would need to refer to for current snowpack conditions along the trail, download the FarOut app and trail map, design a planned route in the app, dial in my gear… I might not be able to plan my every step, but I was sure as hell going to try and plan what I could.


What I learned from all that planning? Food is the hardest thing to plan, full stop. I’ve had enough experience to know what gear works for me and what doesn’t (we’ll see how that assumption holds up after 500 miles), but I have a love/hate relationship with food. I love food, but I hate deciding what to eat… and I’m horrible about eating when I’m on trail. I have hated all the prepackaged hiker meals I’ve ever tried.

I have one month to figure food out, divvy it out, and send what needs to be sent. This is the bit I’m the most anxious about. Not the trail, not the almost 500 miles via the Collegiate West route, not the bears or mountain lions or other assorted varmints, not hiking solo. I’m anxious about the food. Go figure. If you have suggestions for a picky eater with IBS, please feel free to share them! I have a dehydrator and I’m not afraid to use it!

Bane of my existence.

Yeah, but Why?

I am hiking the Colorado Trail because…

  1. I want to challenge myself.
  2. I love my adopted state and its beauty.
  3. I am never more at peace than when I’m on a trail.
  4. I need to do this for me and my mental well-being.
  5. My trauma doesn’t get to define me.
  6. I’m ready to discover who I really am.
  7. I am ready.

So there you have it. I hope you’ll come along with me on this journey and get to know this almost-40, neurodivergent, hearing impaired hiker with cPTSD and its friends and enjoy the promised beauty of the Colorado Trail.

Happy hiking!


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Comments 8

  • JT Simmons : Jun 1st

    Hello fellow ’23 CT thru-hiker and blogger! Best of luck to you on your adventure! When are you starting?

    • Amy : Jun 1st

      Well hi again! Thank you and again to you as well! I’m hitting the trail on the 28th. How ‘bout yourself?

  • Michelle : Jun 4th

    Thru hiked the CT in 2019. Annie’s white cheddar mac n cheese with added green chilis ended up being my favorite meal. I made huge batches before hand and dehydrated it. Only having to boil water for dinner when tired was nice. In the 15 minutes it took to rehydrate I’d stretch. Dehydrating food causes a lot of flavor to be lost, so adding or bringing spice is a must!

    • Amy : Jun 28th

      Thank you for the wonderful tip! I didn’t do Annie’s but I made my own. And I completely believe you on the spice thing. Got that on lock, too, thanks to your suggestion. Thank you again!

  • Jennifer McMahon : Jun 15th

    Best of luck and enjoy it. I hiked it last year at the age of 55 with my 25 year old son. I’m heading back in about a month to hike the Collegiate Loop solo.
    The CT is beyond description and I cried tears of joy and wonder on many occasions!
    Buen camino!

    • Amy : Jun 28th

      That’s fantastic! I am so utterly excited to do this. Thank you and maybe we’ll run into one another in the Collegiates 🙂

  • Stephanie : Jun 22nd

    I help build trails on the CT and CDT joint sections and proud of my Pulaski and bridge building team skills. I have hiked some sections of the CT/CDT and it’s everything they say it is. Please stay warm especially in the San Juan which can get cold at night and watch out for lightening and thunderstorms early afternoon in August. I agree, CT is perfect distance. Stay safe and have fun. I hope to be hiking some sections of PCT this year in SoCal.

    • Amy : Jun 28th

      That is so amazing! Thank you so much. Definitely familiar with the CO afternoon storms. (The spring was BOOMING. Have hardly heard thunder so loud in my life.) Hope you enjoy your PCT sections. Thank you for your work on the CT/CDT sections and your tip about the San Juans. I’ll make sure to have some extra layers for that part of the trail.


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