Prepping for the Colorado Trail: 8 Fears I Have Heading onto Trail
It has been almost a whole year since I departed on my first ever thru-hike, an end-to-end of the Long Trail in Vermont. On the Long Trail, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into. I had never done something like this in my life and I was going into it alone. A big jump from city living, and in a few short days on the Long Trail, my life was forever changed. I met a family of people who enjoyed the same passion for the outdoors and wanted to challenge themselves past the cookie-cutter condition they were caught up in. I was doing the same.
The Long Trail was not only the most physically challenging, but if not more so, the most mentally challenging thing I have ever done. It gave me a reason to keep pushing myself and to keep pursuing the things I am passionate about.
This year feels different.
This year, I feel more confident in my abilities and less afraid of what life in the woods will look like. I mean, I’ve done it before right?
I’m feeling more grateful, that my body allows me to be able to set out on an adventure like this, as I am aware not everybody has this chance.
I feel stronger and more prepared, and yet, I still hold onto some deep-rooted fears going into my new adventure. The Colorado Trail brings different scenery, different weather changes, and a more remote setting, all of which can be scary for an East Coast based thru-hiker.
So here we go – things I fear on the Colorado Trail and how I plan to approach them (any advice is welcome here!):
- The Snow. I know everyone is sick of hearing that it is a high snow year, but this is something that can seriously change a thru-hike and I want to be prepared. It’s something that needs to be taken seriously. Being from New England, I am used to snow, but this in no way makes anyone an expert at hiking over a snowcapped peak in the Collegiate range in Colorado. I am prepped with microspikes and weather appropriate clothing. I am also prepared to traverse higher than usual river crossings. If need be, I might have to make a flip to avoid high snow areas. This is something I am going to need to take one day at a time on trail, but I feel like I am prepared for whatever the trail has to offer.
- The Elevation. I mean this is a no-brainer, but going from sea level to 14,000 ft is a big jump. Not to mention doing it within a week or so span. Preparing for the elevation change can be difficult and I am doing as much as I can to prepare myself accordingly. Morning hikes and stair master at the gym will help me, but I think it is going to take a few days to weeks on trail to really adjust. High elevation brings exposed peaks and different oxygen change. Other fears I have in association with this can be found below.
- The Sun. The last time I hiked in Colorado, I got one of the worst sunburns I have ever had in my entire life. This comes with little shade and high elevations, making the mountain the grill and me the kebob. I am preparing for this with more sun protection including sunscreen, hat, glasses, and UPF clothing. I am not taking any chances.
- The Altitude Sickness. I am very prone to motion sickness, which has me worried that the altitude won’t take any pity on the weary. I am hoping acclimating in Colorado for a few days prior will help me adjust a bit more.
- The Lightning. Yes, I am aware that lightning storms happen basically everywhere; however, the Colorado Trail lies very much above tree line most of the time. The exposed peaks, especially midday, can be cause for concern. Hiking early and getting in as many miles above tree line in the morning will help.
- The Mountain Lions (and other animals). I know this is a risk for any hiker anywhere, as we are encroaching on their homes, but a fear of mountain lions is lingering in my head. I have read a lot about these animals and I am hoping I will not have to encounter them. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. I will hold my ground or back away slowly. I will maintain eye contact and try to appear larger. I am prepared to do whatever I can to keep myself safe from these creatures that feel so foreign to me.
- The Mountain Bikers. I am completely aware of the fact that thru-hikers share the Colorado Trail with mountain bikers. While I think it is amazing that you can enjoy this trail in a multitude of ways and am excited to meet a slew of people biking the trail as opposed to hiking, I still have hesitations with it. I think that being on the trail it will become easier to share the trail and not fear getting run over or hit.
- My Body. While I do my best, training for a thru-hike can be difficult. In order to save up for a thru-hike, one generally has to work a lot beforehand in order to be able to take month(s) off to backpack. Long work days make training more difficult, and in turn, I am less physically prepared than I want to be. It is not enough to just hope that my body and legs will be able to adjust, but rather put in the time to prepare my body for a hike like this. I know I am young, but even healthy bodies can fail at times. I will take the first week or so on trail slow and steady, in order to allow my body time to adjust to the altitude and the terrain.
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