A Challenging First Week in Colorful Colorado
At the border of New Mexico and Colorado there was a barbed wire fence that was bent over, touching the ground. It was easily stepped over as I passed the wooden sign indicating the trail’s entrance into Rio Grande National Forest. No official state sign, but still a joyous moment to be walking out of New Mexico after beginning my journey at a different barbed wire fence 31 days ago.
The change was more sudden than expected, and within a day out of Chama I was in a glorious, peaked-filled, wonderland of mountains. During the second day, I figured out why it’s called “Colorful Colorado.” Even after a dry winter, the trail was often a marsh at lower elevation while flowers forced their way through the mud. Snowmelt trickled down the path and I rarely carried more than one liter of water at a time with multiple stream crossings every hour.
The trail quickly rose to a cruising altitude of around 12,000 feet and the views got better each day. Cairns were stacked tall and the snow-covered mountain peaks scraped the bottom of the clouds. On my second day in the South San Juan Wilderness, these clouds gathered well before daybreak and looked down on me with a deep ferocity that morning. Packing up camp quickly, I strode off as the thunder started rumbling over the ridge that lay in my wake while snow flurries and sprinkles started floating down from the sky.
The weather caught me by surprise and forced me to take a lower-elevation route, descending below tree line and well beneath the clouds. The storm lasted all day, confining me to my tent for 18 hours. After 14 miles of running through the rain that morning, I set up my tent just past noon during a break in the rain to get in some dry clothes and to protect myself from the weather. A good reminder to always pack plenty of food and that miles in Colorado may not always be as easygoing as those in New Mexico. This state will hold its own set of challenges and I am excited to see what lessons await me farther down trail.
Currently, I am in the midst of a week off in Durango. I am waiting on a few packages in the mail (new sleeping pad, new shoes, waterproof socks) and my body needs rest as I have shin splints acting up in my right leg. My hosts are great friends of mine and I am beyond grateful for their hospitality. After two days of sitting on the couch with bags of frozen corn on my shin, I am finally getting antsy enough to do some walking around downtown today! It’s also my 26th birthday so that’s another reason to not spend the whole day on the couch. Stay woke, Durango!
Thanks for reading. Peace and love
“I want to do my traveling while I’m young and tough.” — Edward Abbey
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.