Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Colorado Trail: Day 1

Hiking the Colorado Trail was something Robyn and I planned to do all year. After moving from Arizona to Colorado in early June and securing new jobs, it seemed hiking some 25 miles per day on the trail might be a relaxing break from the previous two months.

We planned to leave on a Sunday morning from Boulder and arrive at the trailhead by bus so we would not have to leave our car at Waterton Canyon for an extended period of time. There was a bus scheduled to leave from the Table Mesa bus stop at 4:45 am and take us to Denver. From there, we planned to transfer buses and make our way to Littleton where the bus would drop us about a mile from the trailhead.

Things didn't go to plan. We were at the bus stop at 4:30, but the bus never showed. That bus must not run on weekends, even though we had quadruple checked that it did. We waited until 5:15, not wanting to admit we had a dilemma and an ominous start to our 485 mile hike. Robyn and I walked the mile back home, trying to make light of the circumstances, but we both knew our trip might be delayed for a day. We called a taxi service to see if they could take us, but they were going to charge us more than $100. After a brief thought about hanging out for the day, Robyn and I both looked at eachother and knew that we couldn't wait. We were both too excited for the journey to be delayed, so we picked up the keys to our truck and drove the hour to the trailhead at Waterton Canyon. We started the Colorado Trail at 7:40 am on Sunday, June 28th, with a goal of completing the trail in 25 days.

The first six and a half miles of the Colorado Trail are along a forest service road winding up the South Platte River, eventually turning uphill past the Strontia Springs Dam. From this reservoir, water is diverted to the Foothills Water Treatment Plant via a 3.4 mile underground tunnel. We covered ground quickly in this section, walking by a mile marker on the road every 20 minutes. Everything felt good.

The trail then soon turned to single track with some moderate climbs and views of the surrounding mountains. The wildflowers quickly appeared, with Blue Columbines dotting the trail around the stream banks. By the time we reached Judy's Bridge over the South Platte River after 16 miles, we both realized that our pack's straps were not padded enough. My shoulders were being cut into and my lower back was being rubbed raw. Robyn said she was experiencing the same thing. Sitting under the bridge while a light rain fell, I cut strips of my ridge rest sleeping pad and strapped them under our shoulder straps. I then secured them with most of the duct tape we were carrying. Robyn came up with a good idea to also tie our fleece jackets around our waists under our hip belt to prevent the pack from rubbing our lower backs.

While sitting there cutting up my sleeping pad, a thru-hiker named Keith came by and introduced himself. He planned to hike to the Top of the World campground that night and we told him we would be close behind. Robyn and I both hoped to meet up with Keith again. He had plans of hiking the trail in around 23 days, so we knew his itinerary must have been similar to ours.

With our newfound padding, we headed into the Buffalo Creek burn area of segment 2 where we would try to hike 6 miles before calling it a day. Fortunately for us, the whole afternoon was cloudy, which kept the temperature down. This section would have been much more difficult if it were sunny because there were long stretches with no shade. When we left the South Platte, we also entered a 13 mile stretch with no water, so we were carrying a gallon each and prepared for a dry camp on night one. We hiked for a few hours, cooked some dinner, then hiked a few more miles. The sleeping pad shoulder padding that we were using and the fleece jackets worked amazingly well. Without them, it would have been painful going.

We covered a total of 23 miles on the first day. We both went to sleep feeling good about what we had done and enjoying ourselves while exploring our new home state on foot. Robyn and I hiked slightly more than I had planned for the first day, and I figured that might mean very sore legs in the morning...

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