Colorado Trail Segment 2: The Burn Scar

Day Hikes: The 9-5 Compromise

After backpacking Segment 1 the previous weekend, I was hooked on hiking another segment as soon as possible. Given my job and life situation, I didn’t (and still don’t) really have the energy-slash-willing hiking partner-slash-time to fill up 100% of every weekend with overnight backpacking sections between working full-time weeks. Thus, the underappreciated day hike. Well, probably not underappreciated by the general public. Probably actually the most appreciated by most people. But in terms of balancing a busy workweek, maintaining some non-hiking time on the weekend, and still making progress down a long trail, I was eager to test out the day hike.

The Stats

Segment: 2
Endpoints: South Platte River Trailhead to Little Scraggy Trailhead
Miles: 11.5
Type: day hike

The Journey

Despite what I said above, I still needed a willing hiking partner to accomplish this section. My rambling list of complaints about car shuttling on section hikes (see here) has a new item: it’s near impossible to shuttle cars alone. Alex (not highly interested in big-mile days) definitely didn’t want to shuttle cars on top of a long hike. Instead, he dropped me off at the South Platte Trailhead, drove himself to Little Scraggy, and started hiking “backward” (NOBO on the CT) to meet me somewhere near the middle. With that arrangement and his slower pace, he would do half his walking with me, but fewer miles overall. 

Back to the star of our story; me. When I set off across the Gudy Gaskill bridge around 9, it was cloudy. For whatever reason, the cloudiness made me a little nervous—not for rain, just for hiking mostly alone for the day. Things I’d never worried about when hiking with others, mainly mountain lions, were suddenly at the forefront of my thoughts. The lack of company on trail led me to hum and occasionally bang my trekking poles together to let nearby predator cats know that a melodic, metallic snack was approaching. 

Of course, I was nervous about the lack of other hikers until a single trail runner passed me, at which point I became more nervous about the human company than the animal. I expect many solo female hikers, especially when starting out, feel these types of nerves more often and more intensely than solo males. It can be difficult to remind the brain of the educated and cautious steps I take to be safe on trail, the general overwhelming kindness of other hikers, and the fact that lots of people backpack the whole trail independently. I reminded myself that I’m treating each section hike as a shakedown—both for gear and mindset—and told myself I could work through these nerves on some day hikes, and then level up to overnight and multiday treks.

Flying Debris Signs

Super reassuring trail signs.

After stress-striding up the incline away from the South Platte, I turned a corner to an impressive view of the burn scar, Segment 2’s main feature. As the morning went on, I passed the time counting the other people I saw. One trail runner in particular passed me at a near sprint, as I wheezed up the hill at a walk. I forced myself to slow down enough to maintain my breathing, and soon enough, I relaxed into a good groove.

The trail levels out after a couple miles into a rolling path through some trees and out into open meadows. I had to consciously remind myself to take water and snack breaks, which was harder to do without hiking partners. About seven miles in, I intersected with Alex and we ate lunch on a large boulder overlooking the hills. We hiked the rest of the way back to the car at the Little Scraggy Trailhead.

Alex at lunch

Alex at lunch.

I was pleasantly surprised by this section; I had a great overall experience hiking on my own and doing more miles than my typical day hike. The online reviews this section stress the lack of shade and water. But I didn’t mind the landscape and in fact, found it beautiful. Of course, I was a day hiker with no need to plan for the next day’s water, in early May- not a thru-hiker with a full pack in the heat of July. Regardless, I came off the trail buzzing for the next segment!

Segment 2 Views

The Gear

WOW does day hiking include a lighter load than overnight trips. No sleep setup, stove, or critter-proof food protection really cut out the pounds. Alex, do you mind supporting a slack-packed thru-hike?

Packs and Poles

Osprey Celeste 29L Backpack: For 90% of this backpack’s life, it’s dutifully carried my laptop, notebooks, calculator, and pens back and forth across my college campus. But for that other 10%, it has impressed me as a day hike. Segment 2 was no different. My only complaint is that the waist straps dig in after several miles, depending on the pack’s weight.

Hiking Poles: Many knee-problem-free hiking buddies have teased me about using poles, but my knees laugh in the face of your knees’ confidence.

Me on Segment 2

I’m wearing the Osprey Celeste backpack, not that you can see it.


Food: To make up for the convenience of single-use plastic-wrapped food when backpacking, I try to use reusable containers on day hikes. The day’s food volume was arguably the same as two days of smushed food in my bear bag. 

Water: When I started learning about thru-hiking gear and strategies one of the biggest shocks was the fact that many hikers carry plastic Smartwater bottles or similar. A group of outsdoorspeople, who you can generally assume appreciate the earth and want to protect and preserve its resources, using plastic water bottles?! I was mildly horrified. I understand the weight benefits, the easy of attaching water filters, that they’re obviously reused many times. Still, it was a bit of a shock, though I’ve started eyeing my 6.2 ounce Nalgene with more skepticism.

Trail sign on a tree

Trail signs were everywhere on this segment; it was awesome!

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Comments 2

  • Kim : Jan 14th

    My husband, myself and our Alaskan malamute Grizzly thru hiked the Colorado Trail in 2019. Fun reading your perspective. The burn area was our most challenging day. Close to 100 degrees on that day. Ran out of water. Couldn’t wait to get to the fire station to refill and rehydrate. Watched a few people give up on their second day. That encouraged us not to give up and complete our 5 week mission.
    Following your posts.


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