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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