Day 23 – Out and Back

At home out and back hikes are (in my opinion) boring. You see the same thing (probably trees) twice. But out here in Colorado I’ve found the trail is so different each time.


I still get so excited every time I see wildlife out here. A deer on the trail is better than a deer in your driveway somehow. And that’s just the similar wildlife to home. I would have to say my favorite wildlife so far is the pika. They are in the rabbit family, but smaller with mouse like ears and no tail. Kind of like overgrown (but so much cuter!!!) hamsters. You can hear them calling to each other across the rocks with high pitch squeaks and catch glimpses of their furry butts as they dart into the rocks.

The marmots are entertaining to watch, but they are really just the mountain version of a ground hog. They stand on their hind legs looking around and chase their friends. Most memorable was a fat one chasing his friend up a slope, who gave up halfway and decided to have a snack instead.

Ptarmigan are interesting on their own, since you never see them until they move. Their camouflage is just that good. They look just like a rock. But when they have babies with them, we stop for minutes to watch. Ptarmigan are whatever the opposite of helicopter mom is. They wander around doing their own thing and don’t really seem that afraid of people. They let out the occasional peep to give the babies a heads up and listen for a baby peep in return. Mom wanders around and the babies eventually wander after her.

The View

At home the view looks the same both ways. That because most of the views in the Mid-Atlantic region of the Appalachian Trail are the same. A ridge line, green trees, dirt, and a parking lot or road. Maybe a creek or river if you are lucky. But here in Colorado I am so focused on making it up whatever mountain is in front of me, I don’t look behind. Walking back the trail, I see all of the mountains, saddles, lakes, and scree fields I missed. The trail here really does look different going the other way. (Except the mesa top with endless grass covered rolling low hills – that one felt exactly the same!)

The Rocks

Generally I don’t find rocks all that interesting at home. My choices are usually gravel or rocks buried in the dirt. In Colorado the rocks just hang out on top of the ground. Or they are the trail. Or the trail winds through a field of nothing but boulders. If you add that to the fact I spend much of my day looking at my feet, rocks suddenly become a big part of my day. The metamorphic mix with the igneous with random sedimentary in between. My favorite was a section of schist we crossed in the afternoon. It looked like we were walking on glittering silver. There were sparkles under our feet and all along the mountain. The next day, in the morning, they had changed back to dull grey rocks.

The Weather

The Colorado Trail is all about that weather whiplash. Freezing at night, burning at noon, and stormy all afternoon. What can be a hot, sweaty uphill can be a chilly run downhill trying to escape the hail on your way back. Maybe I should be above this, but the weather effects my mood. A section I may have disliked on the way out (hours of cold rain??) becomes a totally different experience in the pleasantly cool hours we get in the morning. By hours I mean exactly two. 8 am to 10 am is usually cool. Its not freezing cold anymore and not yet blazing.

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