On September 5th, I drove with friends, Anita and Lila, down to Turquoise Lake near Leadville, CO, to join Laneha on the Colorado Trail. I’ve mountain-biked part of the CO trail, I’ve backpacked, I’ve hiked, but through-hiking for several days is a completely different experience. The first two days, Anita and Lila joined us for 10 miles of the trail and a Mt. Massive summit. Then, they returned to work and our little group shrank to two girls and their dogs.
The good: it was BEAUTIFUL! Just when it seemed like we’d climbed forever and not seen anything new, we would top a ridge that opened into a huge valley of pine trees, changing aspen, streams, and lakes. The views were breath-taking and unexpected. Colorado, I learned, has so much more for me to explore. On the list: Twin Lakes/Leadville, Salida, Hope Pass, Cottonwood Hot Springs.
The bad: we walked for an entire day in rain; we camped on a seemingly sleepy pass (13,140 feet), only to learn in the deep of night that the wind had changed directions and become belligerent. I woke up at regular intervals to watch the tent roof come within a foot of my face. After that day, the wind never seemed to give us any rest. Fall and its chill had officially come.
The ugly: through hiking for more than 5 days is more than a fitness challenge. Between days 5 and 7, Anita (currently getting her psychology PhD and former adventure trip leader) told me that people usually struggle with their thoughts. I didn’t really think it would happen to me in such a beautiful setting with so much to admire, but it did. It’s amazing what miles of hiking will bring to mind and force a person to recognize. I now understand why so many people use through-hiking as therapy. Whatever emotion or thought is there, there’s no one to blame, nothing to act as a distraction, no reason or use in complaining. It is what it is, and the choice was mine to make it what I wanted.
So, I ended on 95 miles (Laneha on 130 miles; click to read her blog on the experience). After 95 miles, we stayed and soaked at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. It was an absolutely amazing way to end the trip. I was happy to have experienced it and would like to do more miles on the trail – maybe during summer months when the passes aren’t quite as cold.