Posted by: Talie Morrison | August 31, 2015

THE COLORADO TRAIL

The Colorado Trail

As most of you know, in the summer of 2012, I hiked across the Pyrenees – 508 mountain miles.   I had so much fun that I wanted to see if I could do something like it again (not getting any younger here!).   So I thought, “Instead of going somewhere across the planet, why not do a long hike in my own backyard!”   Thus, I came up with the plan to hike the Colorado Trail.   I had originally said I would hike it to celebrate my 70th year.   But thinking about age: when you turn 1 year old, you have already lived 1 year – so if I have already had my 69th birthday, I must be in my 70th year!   Why wait?   Here is the description of the trail:

The Colorado Trail is Colorado’s premier long distance trail. Stretching almost 500 miles from Denver to Durango, it travels through the spectacular Colorado Rocky Mountains amongst peaks with lakes, creeks and diverse ecosystems. Trail users experience six wilderness areas and eight mountain ranges topping out at 13,271 feet, just below Coney Summit at 13,334 feet. The average elevation is over 10,000 feet and it rises and falls dramatically. Users traveling from Denver to Durango will climb 89,354 feet.

It sounds just like something I “needed” to do!   🙂

I didn’t get home to Colorado from my India/Nepal trip till mid-June, so I only had about 3 weeks to prepare for this long hike!   There was a lot to be done: getting all my gear together, finding 6 friends who would re-supply me, putting together 6 weeks of backpacking food in 6 weekly packages, ordering new boots, getting books and maps to follow, etc … the list just kept getting longer and longer.   My original plan was to give myself 2 months to complete the trail – but life got in the way beginning and end of the hike and shortened that to 6 weeks. I figured if I started on July 13 that would put me off the trail on August 24th.  Let’s see: 42 days for a 485 mile hike that comes out to averaging 11.5 miles a day.   I guess I can do that (especially on days that are mostly downhill!!) I am definitely not a fast walker (especially with a full pack on and especially on the up-hill), but I will have all day every day to do those miles.

Everything pretty much “came together” in my preparations.   The one big item, which was a worry, was my new hiking boots.   My old ones definitely were not up for a long mountain hike!   I had ordered the boots in plenty of time, but it seems that there was a “snafu” on the shippers end and throwing in 4th of July didn’t help.   It would have been nice to have a couple of days to “break in” those new boots – but that didn’t happen! The new boots showed up at noon on the day I was to leave Crested Butte at 4 pm.   Whew!   At least I got them!!!  And thanks to the miracle “Glide” (blister resister), I never got any blisters!

GrayJay (my trusty truck) needed a new timing belt, so I left her with the mechanic in Crested Butte.   My final re-suppliers, Tom and Karen Jensen, had agreed to drive GrayJay to Durango 6 weeks later so I would have “wheels” when I got off the trail!   How sweet is that!!

The rest of my transportation arrangements were to take the free bus from Crested Butte to Gunnison, spend the night at Tom & Jan Rickert’s home and then take the 6 am bus to Denver (actually to DIA).   Tom was one of my re-suppliers, so I also had a week’s worth of food to drop off with them.   Everything worked just according to plan – and I met my son, Craig, at DIA that afternoon.   Craig was attending a Landmark Education weekend seminar, and he had asked me to be Course Leader Support (one of my favorite things to do) – and that was one of the things that took a week off the original time.

After the weekend with Landmark, I gave Craig my “city clothes” to take back with him (I wasn’t about to carry them 485 miles on my back!).   My niece, Heather, and her husband, Grady were also in Denver and had agreed to pick me up and get me to the trailhead at Waterton Canyon.   Thus with all the preparations and logistics completed, I was on the trail at 6:30 am on July 13!   Whew – now all I have to do is walk 485 miles to Durango! 🙂

Heather and Grady joined me for the first 8 miles as we walked up Waterton Canyon to “Lenny’s Rest”.   Then they said “goodbye” – and I was on my own.   That first day I ended up doing 16 miles (now that’s a good start), but I was pretty pooped by the end of the day!

I’m not going to make you wade through descriptions of 41 (I ended early) days of hiking all day – but thought you might like some of the highlights and descriptions of a typical day.

I would wake when it started getting light outside (about 5:00 am in the beginning of the hike – more like 6 am later in the hike).   I spent about half an hour doing some back adjustments and stretches before I even got out of my sleeping bag.   Then I started some water to heat (on my tiny alcohol stove) while I packed up my pack.   Of course everything that came out the night before had to go back in!   Then I could have a nice hot cup of tea before I started hiking usually about 7 or 7:30 (I didn’t do an actual breakfast).

After 2 hours of hiking, I would stop for “first lunch” (even if it was 9:30 am!).   That consisted of jerky, dried fruit, and nuts – and it was a nice chance to take my pack off for a few minutes and sit down.    Then after another 2 hours of hiking, it was time for “second lunch” – pretty much a repeat of first lunch!   I tried to stop every two hours for food or snacks during the day – it was something to look forward to and a nice break for my feet.

End of the day stopping places varied.   Sometimes I planned where I would stop – either according to mileage or water source (usually water source!).   Sometimes they were established campsites (where someone had camped before) but oftentimes I was just wandering off into the woods looking for a level spot.   I would have liked to use my hammock for this adventure, but there was a worry about being “above tree line” which would make the hammock difficult.

Once I stopped for the day, the first thing was to set up my tent.   Sometimes I was racing an afternoon thunderstorm, or even setting up in the rain – but often there was plenty of time to set up and start dinner (again on my tiny alcohol stove).   A warm dinner (consisting of a dehydrated dinner) and a cup of herbal tea, and I was ready for bed! “Good grief, Talie – it is only 7:30 pm – you can’t go to be yet!”    Thus it was a struggle to keep my eyes open till about 9 pm when it started to get dark.

I carried the Colorado Trail Data Book which gave me a wonderful description of what was coming up on the trail.   Thus I knew when I would be passing a water source (I purified all my water with a Steripen), trail junction, dirt road, etc.   It also showed me what kind of elevation gain I could expect!   There were several places along the trail that were pretty dry and I might have to go 22 miles between water.   Luckily for me it was a relatively wet spring in Colorado, and even though I did have some dry sections, I was able to get water along the way.  I think I went 12 miles a couple of times with no water.

The wet spring weather also made for an outstanding summer display of Colorado Wildflowers.   It was beautiful!   (Of course, the mosquitos loved the moisture too and were still going strong when I got off the trail on August 22nd!)

Some of the highlights were, of course, the beautiful mountains and flowers; the awesome other hikers I met along the way; trail angels who came and picked me up and took me to their homes to get a shower, laundry, a real meal, and a night in a bed; stopping at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs; and all my wonderful re-suppliers who brought my week’s food along with “freshies”. I had many beautiful sunrises and sunsets, rainbows, and mountain vistas.   I saw deer, moose, squirrels, pikas, a pine marten, lots of wood peckers and blue birds, gray jays and Rocky Mountain blue jays (luckily no bears).  And I was extremely pleased that my 69 year old body was strong the whole way!

I did the whole trail solo (I love solo backpacking), and I met many new friends along the way!   Several times, I was camped near other hikers, but usually I found my own little campsite in the woods or by mountain lakes.   The trail has an amazing mix of forest and alpine areas – and all of it is beautiful!   At the end of the trail, I had lost 17 pounds (some of which I think I have already put back on).   My trail name was Tadpole (thank you, Raven Wells, for giving me that name back in 1992).   And when I met younger hikers along the way, I gave them the Tadpole Blessing: “May you have blue skies; may you have level campsites, and may you be still doing this when you are 69!” 

I finished the trail on August 22.   I had a couple of days to “regroup” – it was pretty nice reconnecting with GrayJay and my hammock system!   Then on the 27th, I was on a plane from Albuquerque to San Diego.   I had an important “date” to see my grandson, Gates, get his Black Belt in Karate on August 29th.   I was a very proud Talie/Mom!   What a great way to complete a great adventure!

 

 

 

Steve, Gates and Chanda - At the Black Belt Ceremony

Steve, Gates and Chanda – At the Black Belt Ceremony – YEA!

 

 

 

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