Sunday, December 8, 2013

Colorado Trail Adventure - Final Day

  • July 7, 2013
  • Start - 7:00am 
  • End - 11:00am 
  • Distance - 7 mi. 
  • Segment - 9 (7 mi.)
Back at Copper Mountain, I had called Tanya and told her I would stop at the Timberline Lake Trailhead in Leadville on my last day. That would be the pickup spot at 2:00pm today. With only seven miles to go, I felt no rush to wake up early and hit the trail. She had mentioned she might leave straight from church, so there was hope she might arrive by 12:15 or 12:30pm. 

It rained again last night, but thankfully there was no thunder/lightning.  This morning was cold, wet, and frost covered the ground. When I emerged from the tent, my mosquito friends were there to greet me. Lovely. Don’t they sleep? It wasn’t nearly as bad as the night before, but I definitely was not going to be hanging out long at all. One cup of coffee. Breakfast. Breaking camp. I was getting pretty good at this routine. I just wish everything wasn’t so wet.

It was a chilly night!

I started down the trail much earlier than planned, but such is the way things go in Mosquitoville. It was clear that if I ever do this again, having a solid plan for mosquitoes would be my number one planning priority. I moved at a pedestrian pace as I entered the Holy Cross Wilderness. I passed a huge group of campers breaking camp, and didn’t see anyone else until the Timberline Lake Trailhead.

Finishing segment 9.  Starting my final 7.5 mile stretch to Turquoise Lake.

There were lots of ups and downs in this section with several magnificient views.

The highlight was probably the numerous lakes I passed. It hit me that I hadn’t seen any in all the previous segments! There was one a few miles from the trailhead that had a very cool campsite next to the lake. I’d love to go back there and camp. As I got closer to the end, views of Mt. Massive became more prevalent. I also got a great perspective of the Hagerman Pass Road and Sugarloaf climb that is part of the LT100 course.

Moments later I could see cars parked at the trailhead and the final steps of my journey came and went. Done!

The last 200 feet!

DONE.  116 miles in 4.25 days.
I walked out to the road to call Tanya, but when we connected, the quality was poor. I thought I heard her say she was on I-70, but later would learned she hadn’t left home yet! I walked to Mayqueen and found a shaded picnic at the Butcher Boy day use area. The next task was to completely clean up in the lake/river. That felt amazing and cold! And it worked to remove all the dirt, bug spray, sunscreen, and sweat from my hair, legs, and arms. Back at my table, I journaled, ate, and fiddled with things until I got antsy thinking Tanya might not have gotten my message to meet me here instead of the trailhead. So I made the mile walk back. No car there. As I returned to Mayqueen, I saw her pull in as I walked down the lake road. Huge bummer! A mile later I was back at Butcher Boy and the hugs began! Such an incredible feeling to see my family.

Bouncing with excitement!

Look!  I even got a finishers medal.

Ah, shade.

Five days with no shower and she still loves me!
We hung out and played in the water for another hour or so. Then it was back to Copper to pick up the car and head straight to Hacienda Real in Frisco for - mixed fajitas! Yum!

This trip was a whole lotta heaven and little bit of hell - and I wouldn't change a thing. I discovered there is something magical about the backpacking experience. In many respects, it’s just like the joys and trials found in ultrarunning, but in many other ways it's not even close to that experience. You can’t compare them on all levels. Being alone was at times perfect. It gave me space, freedom, peace, solitude, and a chance to live in the present and chase any thought that came to mind.  After a day or two, I began noticing things about my surroundings and that awakening provided nonstop entertainment.  The only moments I would classify as boring, were the times I was stuck in my tent.  Most days we are simply too rushed to see and appreciate any of this.

I have a new appreciation for all the conveniences and comforts we have.  I certainly enjoy sitting on a cushy couch instead of a log or rock, but I know that I don't need these comforts to be happy.  Wants versus needs become very clear after a multi-day experience like this.  That is one lesson learned during the trip.

It would be special to share this kind of experience with others, especially my family. I have a new love for the CT and backpacking. As soon as I figure out a solution to the mosquitoes (can you say Deet?!?), I’ll be back to planning my next adventure on the CT.  There are many more segments calling my name and they only get better as you head south and west.  I'm sure I'll make it to Durango someday, but I'm in no rush.  Time is a gift and spending this resource on the trail is an investment with huge returns.


  1. Appreciate the write ups ... definitely pondering them over! Great stuff. Nothing like a week on the trail to give a perspective grounding.

    1. Hope you get to spend a good chunk of time on the trail next year!

  2. Thanks for writing these up and sharing, Woody! It's great to read about a new hiker's perspective. I definitely recognized a lot of the scenery from my own thru-hike of the CT in '07. In fact, I'm pretty sure you camped in the exact same spot we did right after Copper Mtn. Sorry about the mosquitos! They usually aren't that bad in Colorado, but we had a pretty wet summer in the mountains... Even though the mosquitoes usually aren't so bad on the grand scale of things I do remember we switched out our tarp for a tent for the rest of the journey when we made it to Leadville.

    1. Yeah, I was definitely a rookie out there, but that's what I loved about the experience. Didn't know much and just had to figure things out. I loved the groove I got in and felt each day got easier to handle the logistics. I can only imagine what that would feel like after a few weeks. I saw someone with a tarp for a tent and couldn't believe it. I'm definitely not that hardcore yet!

  3. Awesome write up and thanks for sharing! Its not even winter and I'm already missing summer time in the mountains. Especially after this frozen week we've been experiencing.

    1. Yes, it was therapeutic to work on these posts last weekend when it was 2 degrees out. Only about 5-6 more months until we can get back out there. Boo.

  4. Yay for bear sightings! This was a great series about a great trip. I read them all while stuck on the tarmac at O'Hare during a raging blizzard and freezing temps. What a great escape from the confines of United economy class! And I didn't even have to apply bug spray. Best of both worlds in my book.

    Can't wait to see what you come up with next year.

  5. Thanks Chris. I'd love to see a CB CT photo journey.

    Christmas last week was kind to me. I received several crucial defensive tools that will equip me to handle those skeeters. I'm ready!!