Monsoon Season: Segments 1-2
At 7 a.m. on June 28th, 2021, my co-walker/friend Mary and I were dumped from a friend’s car onto a shockingly suburban trailhead: Waterton Canyon. The beginnings of the Colorado Trail.
486 miles loomed ahead.
We swung our big backpacks over our shoulders as we exited the car, and reached back in for our trekking poles, each of us 30 pounds heavier with the extra weight. We hugged Aubrey – a childhood friend of Mary who had let us stay the night at her house and drove us to the trailhead – and took our first steps toward Durango: not knowing what the trail held ahead.
Eyes forward, we began our trek. A big moment, the beginning of an unknown. Three steps in, I look at Mary. We lock eyes. And then we start laughing. A lot.
“What are we even doing?” we both gasp between laughing fits. Walking 500 miles? Why?
After the laughter, we start walking. 486 miles to go.
The first seven miles of the Colorado Trail are easy. They are up a canyon on a graded dirt road, along a stream that serves as Denver’s water-source. Those first miles flew by as Mary and I walked, trekking poles hitting the ground; we talked about our intentions for the trail, and everything else. Five miles in we stopped and ate breakfast: Justin’s peanut butter, of course. The only people around were local runners and us.
I told Mary I only wanted to do 10 miles that day. By 11 a.m. we’d done 8, by one, at least 12. We ended at 3 p.m. after 16 miles and an uneventful first day. The skies opened up as we set up camp and we ended the day soaking wet. We boiled some ramen, hung our food and crawled into our shared two-person tent by 5 p.m., absolutely tuckered. As we fell asleep, alone and cold and tired, I wondered: is this how the whole trail is going to be?
I wasn’t sure if I was sold.
We woke up early (like… 5 a.m.), as one does when you go to bed at 5 p.m., and packed up, grabbing our bear bags we’d hung the night before on the way down the hill. There was a vault toilet promised in .2, and I was not going to miss this opportunity to avoid digging a hole in the woods. The morning was dry – after a full night of rain – and we walked through fog that was moving up the forested mountainside, up from the river at the bottom of the valley.
We descended to the small river and utilized the toilet. As I was waiting for Mary, I met our first true, recurring trail-friend: Zen. Zen and I got to talking and I quickly found out he was an engineer who had spent 2 years at the South Pole, and had also walked both the AT and the PCT. Immediately I thought Zen was pretty cool, and when Mary got out of the bathroom and began chatting, I could tell she agreed too. We continued walking, hoping we’d see Zen again, and headed up the first hill of the day to a large burn-out area where we were looking for a place to eat some breakfast and dry off our soaking wet gear.
And this, my friends, is where Mary and I peaked for our best “drying off place” of the entire trail: we found the largest rock you’ve ever seen, in the full SUN!, overlooking miles of golden mountains covered in wildflowers. We laid out our wet sleeping bags, tent, rainfly, and packs and boiled some water for oatmeal with peanut butter. On the speaker (JBL Clip 3 – highly recommend!) we jammed my playlist and looked over the view.
It was absolutely glorious.
We packed up and started walking, winding our ways through burnt out areas from wildfires, and began to see the beginnings of the big views that Colorado is so known for. Mile after mile passed slowly, and Mary and I would walk fast for a bit and then stop to rest, criss-crossing with the people around us. We stopped for lunch at a firehouse to fill up our water and enjoy the shade after a long, tree-less burn area. After lunch we continued pushing, my feet absolutely killing me but the small interactions with our fellow hikers keeping me going. at about 2 p.m., somewhere in the middle of the woods, we come across a dirt forest road and a sign:
Trail Magic, to the right, – Caveman
I look, and down the hill there is car and a whole hoard of hikers, mostly faces I had begun to recognize. Mary and I, with rejuvenated spirits, head down the hill and find a large cooler full of ice cold sodas waiting for us. Our first trail magic! And dang, did it feel good! Around the truck was Zen, Pine stick and Morrow – two 70 year old men who we’d been criss-crossing with – and two redheaded sisters from Idaho. We all sat and chatted, and then pushed on together, enjoying the views over the deep green mountains, until about 18 miles in where Mary and I set up camp along a small stream, cooked, cleaned, hung up our food, and went to bed.
456 miles to go.
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Hiked a portion of the CT with Morrow in 2019. Tell him Daddy Longlegs wished him Happy Trails! Enjoy the beauty of the CT…it’s magnificent