Trail Update: Segments 15-19

Segments 15 and 16: 29.5 Miles

These were the Segments of the Bikers. The CT, unlike the AT, is not strictly a footpath. Plenty of bikers attempt a thru-ride of the CT featuring some alternate routes around wilderness areas. They’re typically very considerate; one even gave me a trail magic apple my third day on trail. One thru-biker put it best when he explained: “You have to be a masochist to a certain extent to enjoy thru-hiking. To enjoy thru-biking in these mountains you also have to have a good amount of adrenaline junkie in you.”

Usually when bikers pass you there’s more than one and they tell you how many are behind them. As I climbed over my biggest ridge of the day and started the steep descent into the forest, I heard a bike coming up behind me. I jumped off trail quickly and they whizzed by shouting, “There’s a group!” I wasn’t sure what to make of that exactly. Until 15 more bikes zoomed past me in succession. That is a LOT of bikes. As I hiked on, I caught up with the group multiple times. We were playing adventure leapfrog; and I was thoroughly outnumbered. Finally, after three rounds of catching up and letting all 15 bikers pass me, I caught up for a final time at a trail junction where they were splitting off from the CT. One biker called out, “You sure you don’t want to change trails? We could do this all day!” I laughed and thanked my lucky stars I was finally free of the whizzing and zooming.

Segment 17: 20.4 Miles

Cows, cows, and more cows! As much as I love the company while hiking, I was reminded of a lesson I learned with Legs. We accidentally spooked a herd while climbing over a pasture fence on the AT. About two dozen cows started bolting down the hill, across the trail we were only a few meters from. We were thankful to have not been caught in the middle. In talking to another hiker recently, I learned that talking or singing to herds of cows will make them less likely to spook. Cows don’t mind humans; most associate us with food and not fear. It’s the backpacks and hiking poles that get them riled up.

I kept all of this in mind while I started hiking through miles of connected meadows and pastures, and started talking to the groups of cows I passed. They typically returned my, “Hey cows, good morning!” with a long stare, sometimes a resounding “moooo” that would echo along the valley. There were calves lying in the middle of the trail; and where there wasn’t, there were cow patties. One of the more negative aspects of sharing the trail with pasture lands; all the water sources smell like cow poop. Thankfully I only had to dehydrate myself until Legs met me at a trailhead, just in time to save me from an impending thunderstorm.

Segment 18: 13.8 Miles

I’ve been in bad weather before, but Colorado really seems to have it in for thru-hikers. I was on an old gravel road and had been playing leapfrog with two other hikers when I felt a couple of drops fall on my head. If there was an Olympic event that valued the speed with which I can prepare myself to hike in the rain, I’d take the gold. I was back to hiking in no time, all of my layers and electronics safely tucked in my pack and my rain jacket already making me sweat. Then the hail started.

I’ve been through plenty of hailstorms, but none like this. I quickly ran to hide under a tall pine tree and thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t exposed on a ridge. Knowing how ridiculous Colorado weather is, I figured the storm would pass within a half hour. Even in the midst of the craziest hailstorm I’ve ever been in (not to mention cold, wet, and really in need of a burger), I couldn’t help but smile. I was exactly where I wanted to be.

Segment 19: 13.7 Miles

As much as thru-hiking makes me feel strong and gives me confidence, it sure humbled my intelligence in this segment. It included a lot of open plains and walking through cow pastures. One aspect of that is opening and closing various gates as you pass through. Some are less intuitive than others.

I abruptly came to a barbed wire fence crossing the trail and it extended as far as I could see in any direction. I poked at it for a few minutes before referring to Guthooks, a navigation app on my phone that allows other hikers to leave comments along the trail. The first comment I saw read, “gate smarter than me. jumped it.” As much as I hate to admit it… gate smarter than me. I tossed my pack over the chest-high fence and army crawled under the bottom layer of barbed wire. I’m curious to see how Legs does when he gets his turn on “Are You Smarter Than A Gate.”

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