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Colorado Trail: Days 1 - 9

The Colorado Trail is divided into 28 distinct segments. Each segment is characterized by its own features and mileage. Each post for the Colorado Trail is going to begin with a list of each segment covered in those days.

Segment 1: 0.0 - 16.6 (16.6 miles)

Segment 2: 16.6 - 28.2 (11.6 miles)

Segment 3: 28.2 - 40.7 (12.5 miles)

Segment 4: 40.7 - 57.1 (16.4 miles)

Segment 5: 57.1 - 71.7 (14.6 miles)

Segment 6: 71.7 - 104.0 (32.3 miles)

Segment 7: 104.0 - 117.8 (13.8 miles)

Segment 8: 117.8 - 142.8 (25 miles)

Segment 9: 142.8 - 156.4 (13.6 miles)

Day 1 - July 1st

Daily miles: 21.7

Official distance covered on trail: 21.7

Segments witnessed: 1, 2

I am so grateful for a partner who supports me in everything I do, even if he can't be a part of it. Mitch drove me to the trailhead this morning around 7:15. He hiked the first 2 miles with me, and then I was alone. Well.. not alone, exactly. When we arrived around 7:45, we already saw a bunch of people starting. I'd estimate I saw 30 people who either started today or yesterday.

The first 6 miles were too easy. And not in my cocky Hundred Mile Wilderness attitude. It was actually too easy. Relatively flat, basically a dirt bike path. Boring, but went by quickly. Then it really began.

If anything has been made apparent today, it's how out of hiking shape I am. And hiking mentality. I planned on another 2.5 miles, but I didn't feel like hiking for another hour, so I stopped. Still made my mileage goal of 20.25; if I hike 6 days on and take 1 day off, I have to average 20.25 miles to finish in 4 weeks.

Met a lot of cool people today! Snack Box is recognized widely on trail because he has a YouTube channel and most of his videos are tips and tricks for the Colorado Trail (this is his 3rd thru). Lady Scout thruhiked the Pacific Crest Trail last year, so we had a lot to discuss! At the end of the day, I camped by a father-son pair who not only leant me, but GAVE me their spare fuel canister because the one I brought from Mitch's pack, which we both thought had enough for 3 meals, ended up having just enough to heat the bottom of my pot.

Not much else to report yet. Just happy to be out here. Even if I still struggle at going uphill.

Day 2 - July 2nd

Daily miles: 23.5

Official distance covered on trail: 45.2

Segments witnessed: 2, 3, 4

Woke up at 5:00 and couldn't fall back asleep, so I just got up and got started hiking around 5:45. The uphill I was not willing to do last night ended up being pretty easy, and I had the first 5 miles completely to myself.

Got into Segment 3 pretty early, and finished 10 miles before 10:00. The terrain was really easy, which generally translates to boring. I hate lengthy uphills as much as the next guy, but usually if I can keep a 3 mph pace, it's probably not that interesting.

I've really been enjoying doing this alone. I can stay in a conversation as long as I want and duck out as soon as I feel like it. I can take as many breaks as I want, for as long as I want, and go on my own time. I took 4 20-30 minute breaks and one hour-long break today, and still finished well before sunset. Had breakfast with some college kids who have never hiked longer than a weekend before and dinner with an older gentleman who's doing the trail for the second time.

Got my first trail magic today right before beginning segment 4. Two guys named Steve and Rolf, who met doing trail magic last year, were set up, alongside a guy called Sasquatch, so it was like.. double trail magic. When I got to this intersection, I already knew I wanted to take a long break, so when I saw trail magic, I couldn't resist. All were fun to talk to, and they had some great advice for what's to come on the CT!

Today had some hefty uphills that shouldn't have been so hard, but they were. One of them, I'll credit the difficulty to the fact that I was doing it in peak afternoon sun, so I was just sapped. Still, hoping my old trail legs come back sooner rather than later...

Both days so far, I've avoided listening to anything while hiking. Yesterday was out of curiosity, today was to avoid being hit by mountain bikers. It really hasn't been bad, so maybe I'll see how long I keep this up!

As of now, my method of picking a campsite has been multiplying the day by 20 and saying that's the minimum of where I need to be. I would have stopped at the 40th mile, but there was no good water nearby before or after, so I hiked an extra 5 miles to get to this creek.

Day 3 - July 3rd

Daily miles: 19.2

Official distance covered on trail: 64.4

Segments witnessed: 4, 5

It's 6:20pm and I am all set up for bed. It is still light outside, and I could be hiking, but I am finally warm for the first time in 3 hours, and I'm not going to pass this up. Of course the rain seems to have finally let up now that I'm all cozy in my tent...

The day started out really pleasantly! The biggest climb of the day happened in the first two miles, so I'm glad I was able to get that over with on fresh legs. It reminded me of a lot of the AT: rocky, rooty, and there was no payoff at the top. Either way, once I got back down, I sat by this stream for awhile and ate breakfast while trying to warm up in the sun (my sweat had long cooled off and it was pretty chilly above 10,000 feet). I'm liking this new method of hiking a few miles before eating breakfast, then taking break after a few hours of hiking, and since I know no one is waiting for me, the breaks can be however long I want!

The next few miles went through this gorgeous meadow! The elevation map looked far worse than it was, so I kept waiting for the trail to get hard, but I was able to keep my sweatshirt on the whole time without breaking much of a sweat. Shortly after this climb, I got my first real view of the mountains I'll be in soon!

Around 11:30, I took another break at a stream, which allowed me to fill my water and eat lunch. I forgot how completely not hungry I am at the beginning of a thruhike; yesterday, I had to force myself to finish my second PopTart from breakfast for lunch, and the day before, my lunch was a single handful of Goldfish, but today, I was able to eat a little more than that. It helped that several people stopped for a break around this spot, so it was easy to mindlessly munch while talking. One guy called Pocket told me he's been taking really long lunch breaks to avoid some of the heat and get in some hiking while it's raining, and I think I'll be doing the same. Of course, hiking in the rain (when it's really raining) is one of my least favorite things, and one which I'd hoped to leave back in Maine.

And of course it rained a ton this afternoon...

Now it's a little past 8:00, and I'm definitely regretting not pushing a few more miles. Not that I need to.. I'm already ahead of schedule enough that I pushed back the town where Mitch is meeting me next weekend by 20 miles, and still only have to do 15 mile days to make it there. I just have been set up in my tent for so long, and there's still daylight, so I feel like I'm wasting this time. Just gonna try to have a restful night.

Day 4 - July 4th

Daily miles: 16.5

Official distance covered on trail: 80.9

Segments witnessed: 5, 6

Booked it out of camp this morning to meet my friend Matt at the road at 9:00. Highway 285 was 7.3 miles from where I camped, so I allotted about 3 hours. Took me about 2.5, so I took some stuff out to dry while I waited. Should have prioritized my tent...

On my way to the road, I saw between some tree branches a few sets of long brown legs. One was clearly an adult, one a juvenile. Maybe moose? Because of the positioning of the tree branches, the only way forward was to duck under, and they were so thick that you couldn't really see through them. I had just scoped out my plan of where to run if the mama moose charged from my approach when I saw a long tail swish. Just fucking cows. At least I didn't have to use an emergency escape!

It was so good to see Matt! Loyal followers may remember Matt as Scott/Oogie Boogie's friend who joined us for some of the AT. He lives in Fairplay, which is where I did my resupply. It's also the town the show South Park is based on, so I made him take a touristy photo with me.

After getting back to the trail, I only had 9 or so miles left for the day, so I was able to relax with it. Met a guy called Hobo Toes who thruhiked the Continental Divide Trail last year, and we hiked together for awhile. He showed me this thing called "recovery walking," where basically you just hike at a really slow pace so you're able to relax and stretch out a bit without stopping and taking a full break. I think I will be using this skill more often!

I decided to camp about halfway up Georgia Pass. All the comments in the guide app said the first half of the ascent of Georgia Pass is worse than the second half, so hopefully my morning tomorrow is relatively easy while still approaching 12,000 feet.

Got to camp around 3:15, and it started raining at about 3:05. These afternoon storms are already getting really annoying to me. I'm just tired of my stuff getting wet. It's 6:30 now and it's raining again, but my tent never really dried out, so I tried mopping up the excess water on the floor with my spare hiking socks, but it's still definitely not ideal. I'm trying to be really careful to only put my sleeping bag on top of my sleeping pad so the down doesn't get wet.

Day 5 - July 5th

Daily miles: 23.1

Official distance covered on trail: 104.0

Segments witnessed: 6

Woke up later than I wanted to, a little after 5:30. I know it's still early, but with two ridge climbs on the docket and afternoon storms pending, I wanted to make sure I was in the tree line when they came through. Still hit 10 miles before 10am, including coming over Georgia Pass. It was the first mountain pass on trail, and I was absolutely blown away!

For now, the trail is also conjoined with the Continental Divide Trail, so I'm seeing a lot of those hikers. Most of them are going NOBO from Mexico to Canada along the Continental Divide (New Mexico to Colorado to Wyoming to to Idaho to Montana) and are a few months in by this point.

Coming down the mountain exposed all my body's current weaknesses. I had a hot spot on the ball of my left foot that I felt turn into a blister, and just as I decided the pain was getting sharp enough to address it at my next break, it popped. And I heard it. Rolled my right ankle pretty badly, and I'm able to walk fine now, but I still feel it when I twist my ankle certain ways. So.. with pain in both feet, the rest of my day was set up to be just great.

After my first 10 miles, I took a quick break to refill my water and mentally prepare for my next climb. I ended up talking most of the way up with a guy called Strike Zone, who fortunately is very adept with lightning safety, so I was very grateful to be with him as the afternoon storm came early. We also were in the tree line the whole time, so that definitely helped. When the rain stopped, we took a quick break for lunch.

I decided to do some recovery walking to get past the next 7 miles. Ended up doing maybe 4 or 5 miles that way before the rain really picked up again, and then I tried to walk as fast as I could. Again, grateful to have been in the trees, because a few of the lightning strikes were 1-5 miles away.

Somewhere in that period, I hit 100 miles! Took me 10 days on the AT to hit the same mile marker. Not as ceremonious this time around, unfortunately.

A lot of people I knew were going into Breckenridge, and I didn't really want to go. There's a free bus that comes by the trail on every :45, so I at least joined them in the bus stop to try to dry off a bit. The shuttle came, everyone else got on, and I stayed. Ideally, I wanted to hike the next few hours and position myself well for tomorrow's big climb, but the cold was getting to me. When two female CDT hikers, Waves and Flame, came by, looking to get into town, I decided to join their hitch to at least briefly get out of the rain and eat warm food.

At the Thai place, we all kinda convinced each other to get a hotel room. Unfortunately, being Breckenridge, all the hotels were stupid expensive, and all the hostels were booked full. We were just debating trying to look further out in Frisco when a woman offered to let us stay for free in her rental unit, but unfortunately it was all the way in Fairplay, so we couldn't justify how far from the trail that would be.

As we were huddled discussing options, two guys walked by and, noticing our backpacks, asked if we were thruhiking. The Colorado Trail is a thruhike, but not nearly as long as the CDT, so it felt weird joining their response, but we all said yes. That's like if, on the AT, we'd picked up a guy doing the Long Trail in Vermont, and we were all lumped into the same group. Anyway, one of the guys mentioned he'd hiked the AT last year, and I told him I did too. When I told him my trail name, he said "No way, I know that trail name! I saw it tagged in like half the shelters I stayed in. You drew it with arrows, right?" Which I did! His trail name is Prophet, and he started April 1st, so I never met him on trail, but I can't believe he knew who I was. He then asked us, "Do you guys need anything? Laundry? Water? A place to stay?" So.. here we all are (along with another CDT hiker called Velveeta) in Prophet's living room, laundry done, food and drinks enjoyed, ready to go to sleep. On a couch that's dry!!! Prophet and I had a ton of fun recounting AT memories, and we both gawked at the stories from the CDT hikers.

I'm nervous about tomorrow. I'm planning on just getting over the mountain to Copper Mountain Resort, but that entails a 9 mile uphill hike and a very steep down. Everyone else I know is going to slackpack over the mountain and shuttle back to Breck to retrieve their stuff, but I don't want to deal with those logistics, so I'm just going to suffer. Even though it'll be a short day, it'll be a tough one.

Day 6 - July 6th

Daily miles: 13.8

Official distance covered on trail: 119.3

Segments witnessed: 7

Ok, maybe I'm a little jealous of everyone who slackpacked. But you know what? I did it with all my stuff, and I'm okay. Snack Box, the 3-time CT-er who runs a YouTube channel primarily about the CT, says that it's faster to slackpack and shuttle both ways than it is to haul all your stuff over that mountain, but I'd go as far as calling that fear-mongering. It was hard as hell, don't get me wrong, but it was also doable.

The first free bus out of Breckenridge came at 6:45, and everyone on it was a thruhiker. Definitely a little later than I'm used to, but I was on the trail just before 7:00.

The first several miles were not only doable, but relatively easy. Just a pleasant stroll out of Breckenridge. It didn't get hard until about 3 miles left in the uphill, and then it was HARD. The terrain was steep, and the altitude was above 11,000 feet, so I felt like I could never fully catch my breath. From way far down the mountainside, I could see how high up the switchbacks went, and I never felt close. It was so frustrating, and it was the first time this trail I felt like crying.

The views from the ridge were beautiful - the first ones to make me audibly say "wow!" Took about a 15 minute break at the top, and then I was too cold to stay still, so I continued to the downhill.

The downhill was almost worse than the uphill. It was so steep, I HAD to run at some points to keep from falling. And it just kept going. My knees were aching by the end for the first time in months. The downhill ended at Highway 9, and there was still a 1.5 mile walk to get to Copper Mountain. Instead of doing that bit, I just hitched a ride. 6 minutes in a car vs. 45 pointless minutes on foot, getting from a highway to a bit down the road.. Definitely no regrets.

Got to Copper by 1:30, immediately went to the nearest bar/restaurant to the trail, and stayed there til around 5:30. By then, a bunch of other hikers had gotten there, and they let me join in on their airbnb plans for the evening. I was very glad to stay inside, as the rain was coming down in sheets by the time it was dark.

Day 7 - July 7th

Daily miles: 19.0

Official distance covered on trail: 138.3

Segments witnessed: 8

Today's definitely been my favorite day on trail so far!

Even though I was inside, I still woke up around 5:30. Out of the 8 of us staying at the airbnb, 2 were doing the Breckenridge to Copper monstrosity since they zeroed yesterday, 4 were zeroing today, and 2 of us (me and a guy called Bubbles) were moving on. It's the first morning I've hiked with someone else. We were quickly joined by a girl called Double Dip, and the three of us hiked together all day.

Our big task today was the 6 mile hike out of Copper through a couple mountain passes. The climb wasn't that bad, and the views were amazing even before getting to the top!

The first pass we hit was Searle Pass, and it was nothing short of gorgeous. Every hiker and biker took a long break up there just to admire our surroundings.

On our way to the next ridge, I was just grinning the whole time. Every turn showed us something beautiful. Even if it was the same mountains, it was a different and wonderful new perspective. That stretch is probably the most content I've been since starting the CT.

The second pass was Kokomo Pass. Double Dip even downloaded the Beach Boys song on Spotify so she could blast it when we got there. The three of us had a little dance party (because how can you not jam to that song?) before moving on.

Unfortunately, there was another pretty sizable descent, and we were all hurting pretty badly on it. My knees are ok, but the downhills expose every pain in my feet. At least it was pretty!

On the plus side, we got into the tree line just as it started to get dark and grumbly, and we stopped to put our pack covers and rain jackets on not 30 seconds before it started raining. And hailing. We got a good amount of hail there. But it cleared up pretty quickly, so it was sunny when we stopped for lunch.

The rest of the hiking day was very relaxed. We were done by 4:30, and we never got more rain. We hung out until about 7:15, which is later than we've recently been able to, since it was dry. We only retired to our tents so early because of the bugs.

Tomorrow, Mitch is coming to pick me up for his first visit! Just gotta get through tomorrow's hike, then I'm zeroing Saturday to give us some time together :)

Day 8 - July 8th

Daily miles: 18.1

Official distance covered on trail: 156.4

Segments witnessed: 8, 9

Today shouldn't have been as hard as it was. I think that's what made it so hard - expecting it to be easier. Lots of steep ups and downs.

The beginning was actually really easy, though. Finished the first 8 miles of the day in about 2.5 hours, so maintained a solid 3 mph pace. It was pretty level, and at one point, I checked my guide app every 3 minutes to make sure I was on the right path because it felt too simple.

The highway 4.5 miles in is where most people catch a hitch to Leadville, but since I'm zeroing tomorrow, it felt pointless to waste so much of the day today, so I went another 13.6 miles.

Those 13.6 miles were a MAJOR pain!!! Well, not all of them, but most of them. Huge amounts of incline and decline in small amounts of mileage made for a tough afternoon, especially in peak heat. At least we didn't get any storms!

The view coming over the final ascent was breathtaking, and I took a late lunch break there to soak it in.

All I had left was 2 downhill miles before sitting at a trailhead for over an hour waiting for Mitch to pick me up. So I guess the beginning and end were easy enough, but the middle was extremely challenging.

According to my app, these first 8 days and 156 miles have brought with them over 28,3600 ft of ascent and over 22,600 ft of descent. No wonder my feet are so sore!

Day 9 - July 9th

Daily miles: 0.0

Official distance covered in trail: 156.4

Segments witnessed: none

Man, I love a good zero! Although I've really walked about 7 miles all over Leadville doing all my errands.

After a lazy morning, Mitch and I drove to a nearby trailhead that intersects with the CT to do some trail magic. (Set up some hammocks and treated ourselves while we were at it.) First time being on the other side! Everyone was so grateful, and we had so many lovely conversations. I should get to that trailhead tomorrow.

Looking forward to a restful evening before getting back to the trail tomorrow!


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