Week One in Colorado: Coming Home to the Trail

It’s amazing how easily it is to return to the trail. Even though I had never stepped foot in Colorado before this week, as soon as I started walking I felt at home. The way my pack felt on my back, the rhythm of my trekking poles, and the friendly “happy hiking” from other hikers. It really does feel like coming home.

Miles Rolling By

The first leg of my hike has been surprisingly easy. I started putting in high mileage right off the bat, and aside from the normal aches and pains, the big miles have flown by. In the first five days, I have covered more than 100 miles. On day two, I hiked 25.5 miles. I didn’t start averaging this kind of mileage on the Appalachian Trail until I was weeks, if not months, in. This is definitely a testament to my fitness level now compared to my fitness level two years ago. Running a marathon definitely gets your legs used to miles. Aside from my current strength, my pack is also a lot lighter than it was at the beginning of the AT. These are the two main factors that allowed me to push right into high mileage so easily.

A Flatlander at Elevation

My biggest concern starting out on the Colorado Trail was how my body would react to elevation. I’m from flat Chicagoland, and I’m pretty sure the highest elevation I’ve ever been at is at Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. Clingmans Dome is still well below 7,000 feet. While I haven’t reached the higher part of the Colorado Trail yet, I got up above 11,000 and didn’t feel any effects of altitude. I was, however, extremely careful about staying well hydrated.

Clockwork Weather Patterns

I heard that Colorado gets afternoon thunderstorms, so I expected to encounter some rain and thunder. I did not understand that they mean thunderstorms every. single. day. The mornings have all been beautifully crisp and clear with not a cloud in the sky, and every afternoon, like clockwork, the sky clouds over and opens up. Most days it rained lightly for around 15 minutes, and I could hear thunder to some degree for longer. On day three, I hiked in my first hailstorm. The little ice pellets stung my bare arms and I got so cold I was afraid to stop hiking. While I survived with my limited clothing, I did decide to purchase a long sleeve shirt, and I will probably get some long pants before going into the higher elevations. The extra weight will definitely be worth it the next time I encounter a hailstorm.

Onward and Upward

After a brief rest, a shower, and some clean clothes, I’m excited to get back on the trail. However, I will be slowing down my pace a bit to relieve my aching joints. It’s bizarre to think that I am already almost a quarter of the way through. It will be nice to hike shorter miles and soak up all this trail has to offer.

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