Living the High Life on the Colorado Trail

When reaching mile 183.5 on the CT, right after Twin Lakes, where I last left you, the hiker has a choice of following either the Collegiate East route or the Collegiate West route, which was added to this trail system in 2012.

They are named so after the names of various peaks along the way, such as Mts. Harvard, Princeton, Oxford and Columbia.  Together, these two routes form a 160-mile loop, a multiday hike that is growing in popularity.  The thru-hiker, however, chooses between one of the two.  Not having read the fine print too closely, I chose the western route based on the glowing reviews of the stunning scenery. Each day there is a major climb of a pass that takes one’s breath away, but the views that are revealed as the hiker finally reaches the crest of the pass are truly stunning, something one never would have seen from a car.  However, the steepness of the passes each day and the higher altitudes (between 10,000-12,000 ft each day) really made me doubt my abilities.  I’m blaming it on the lack of oxygen for my slowness, and I’m sticking with that excuse.

Anyway, tomorrow I will return to the trail after today’s zero day in the charming town of Salida (pronounced “sah-lie-dah”), with only a few miles left of the CW to complete before I have three days in slightly lower altitudes and what I assume will be fewer challenging passes.  I’m glad I chose the western route, but it was humbling both in the staggering beauty of these mountains and the challenges of crossing over them.

Meanwhile, let me share some of the amazing things about these six days in the “CW.”  In an effort to shorten this post and get out and enjoy walking in this charming town, let me generalize.

There were amazing passes crossed over every day.

The mountains and trail certainly presented their challenges.

I began starting at an early hour most mornings, to avoid being on top of the passes during the afternoon thunderstorms. The trail is really beautiful at these early hours.


Lots of sweet lakes were seen.

Remnants of log cabins were passed, which made me wonder who had built them and what dreams they represented.


There was still camping, which I certainly enjoy.  The new thin foam pad that I had ordered was delivered to Twin Lakes, which greatly increased the warmth provided by my air mattress.

There were rides with delightful strangers and CT shuttle drivers who took a risk picking up and transporting a strange looking woman who didn’t smell especially fresh in their car or their camper.

Wildflowers continued to be in abundance, even though a few small signs of approaching fall made themselves known.

Critters were seen.

There was one zero day tucked in the middle of these six days of the CW, both as a preventive action to ensure continued physical success and to keep the weight of my food lower with more frequent refills of the bear canister.  These two nights and one day were at the delightful Cottonwood Hot Springs near Buena Vista, where I truly enjoyed meeting and staying with others in the women’s hostel.


There was a relatively quick typical afternoon thunderstorm that I waited out huddled among some lower pine trees on the hillside, in my raincoat and rain skirt, with my tent’s groundcloth draped over me as a minimalist tarp.

I have enjoyed my time yesterday afternoon and today at the darling Salida Hostel in one of the ten bunks in their large coed bunkroom.

I have three male companions, but that certainly doesn’t bother me.  The adjoining bathroom gives me all the privacy I need.  As is typical for the arrival and zero days, I was very busy.  First and foremost is claiming your bed, then a nice hot shower and putting either clean loaner clothes or your rain gear while throwing your clothes in the washer and dryer. When the clean clothes are available, a quick trip to Safeway or City market provides welcome fresh food for the short stay. Supplies are taken care of, such as refilling the ziplock that contains toilet paper, throwing out any trash such as TP and other items, flushing sediment out of the water filter, filling the bear canister with a fresh supply of dehydrated food, repairing anything that needs help, charging all the electronics (two battery packs, headlamp, the Garmin InReach satellite communicator, phone), airing out the sleeping quilt and tent if necessary.  Very little time to kick back and relax!  However, I do always find time for a nice long session of yoga at least once.

I’m now sitting at Salida’s public library, which has become my favorite place in many towns to do my blog.  A keyboard is so much easier to use than a Smart phone.  I also find a library a lovely note of civility and cleanliness after  a week of wading through mud and streams and crawling in the dirt as I get out of my tent.   Also taking much of my time today has been finding future rides between the trail and two towns that I very much want to see again:  Saguache, where my grandparents lived, and Creede, where my family lived during two of my elementary school years.  By searching FB groups and finally calling the sheriff departments in each town, I finally found a taxi service for one town (coming from quite far away $$) and a woman who just likes to help and read my plea on the Creede Helping Creede facebook page.  Yay!  I’m very excited about these upcoming trips down memory lane.

That pretty much sums up my past week.  I am now in the second half of my journey with 28 out of 48 days behind me, my body continues to perform very well, I sleep well in my tent and feel renewed each morning, have met such nice people, both hikers and townfolk, and the weather has been very good for the most part.  I am grateful.

I look forward to sharing with you again, probably in a week as I finish up my visit to charming little Creede.  Thanks for continuing to come along with me!

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Comments 17

  • Mary Jo Peairs : Aug 23rd

    Ruth, You are truly ruthless – hiking rocky trails in extreme high altitudes and dodging thunder storms. Take Care my friend.

    • Ruth Morley : Aug 23rd

      I am! Thank you, MJ!

  • Val Prevish : Aug 24th

    Wow! Your travels look amazing, Ruth. Very impressive as usual. 🙂 Good luck with the rest of your hike! I’m jealous.

    • Lori McCrossin : Aug 24th

      Hi Ruth! I am in awe of your abilities and a little envious too! We just returned from 1 year helping our daughter who recently gave birth to twin boys with a toddler as well, in Israel. I’m so out of shape physically and exhausted and really want to get back into hiking.( I did manage tonstay On Dr. Essys program 95% of the time. )It may take a few months before I’m physically ready again to hike because I haven’t really exercised like I should since April.
      You really make hiking look effortless. Even with all the challenges of high altitude and weather.
      I will be 60 years old this October and I’m making a promise to myself to start hiking upstate NY with my son who has been hiking for years with his kids. I’m sure he will go gently with me in the beginning.
      Your photos are absolutely breathtaking. Thanks for sharing this great adventure with us.
      I look forward to your next post.
      Enjoy and stay safe.
      Keep on trekking!

      • Ruth Morley : Aug 24th

        Lori, I remember that you have just finished a super busy year helping with the little ones. You must be tired! Be kind to yourself and work into your hiking gradually. Enjoy the process of seeing improved fitness, bit by bit. Hurray for you for not just giving up! It will come. And super congratulations for managing to maintain your healthy way of eating. It’s unfortunate that junk food is so easy and fast to get. But you didn’t! Bravo! One last thing: use a lot of positive self-talk. You’ve given a great service to your daughter, you eat a super healthy diet and you’re on your way to getting physically fit again. Be kind to you.

    • Ruth Morley : Aug 24th

      Hi Val! Thank you for following my journey. These mountains certainly are impressive and the Colorado Trail Association (?) does a fantastic job getting volunteer crews out there maintaining and improving
      the trail. I’m especially impressed by the number and quality of the bridges. Im trying very hard to truly “be in the moment” each day, because I know I won’t repeat this journey. I prefer to continue to have new and difference experiences.

  • Lynn Rennert : Aug 24th

    RUTH, oh my goodness we met you last week on the American Basin Trail and it was such a delight. We have been discussing your trek and telling everyone about you! This morning your article populated on my flipboard!!
    Good hiking!! We look forward to following your journey!!
    Best to you!
    Lynn and Casey

    • Ruth Morley : Aug 24th

      Lynn, thanks so much for following through and checking out my blog. I enjoyed our conversation. These treks are certainly about the outdoor experiences, but I also get so much out of meeting and sharing with other hikers (and bikers on the CT). If you’d like to hear more about my way of eating , hiking and dehydrating all my trail food, feel free to check out several podcasts on YouTube I had the honor of appearing in recently : Plantstrong, Chef AJ Live (twice) and Julie Gayheart. It has been a lot of fun doing those!

  • David Wittkamp : Aug 24th

    An informative and enjoyable read. Your photos and captions provided me excellent insight. You are a true adventurer!

    • Ruth Morley : Aug 24th

      Thank you, David. I’m not exactly blazing trails through the forest, but I do enjoy these outdoor adventures. I appreciate each day, since I’ve had to leave trails injured several times. I’m being especially proactive this time with more frequent rest days, although I’m not really tired. My goals: enjoy each day and arrive at Durango uninjured.

  • Jon : Aug 24th

    Glad to hear the new mat gave you the extra warmth. Sounds like it’s going to be more important with each passing night!

    • Ruth Morley : Aug 24th

      So true! It will get cooler soon, but I sure hope to see the aspens in their golden autumn glory.

  • Tara Pease : Aug 25th

    Ruth, I am in awe of your hiking travels!!! Love your blog and photos. Look forward to reading the next blog of your hiking adventure. Safe travels! Best, Tara

    • Ruth Morley : Sep 7th

      Thank you, Tara, for following my blog. It pleases me that others enjoy it as much as I enjoy rehashing my days’ adventures.

  • Ruth Morley : Aug 27th

    Hi Tara! Thanks so much for going to the trouble to find my blog and actually read it! I really enjoy writing it as my own journal and sharing it with others, hoping it inspires others to get out and move in nature. Yesterday I reached mile 300 and am so pleased how my body has cooperated. I have to say that it’s the food that has helped me recover so well each night. I look forward to my final 2 1/2 weeks. I’ll miss the clean air and wide open spaces.

  • Julia Kinlaw : Sep 6th

    Hi Ruth, You are half way; making great progress. I join everyone else in appreciating your blog detailing your adventure in the clean air, sunshine and rain of the most beautiful mountains. It brings me great joy to be there with you!!! Julia

    • Ruth Morley : Sep 7th

      Thanks so very much, Julia!! Thanks for joining me.


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