Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Day 1- Here We Go... Again

Saturday August 01, 2020
Junction Creek Trailhead(0) to Stealth Camp(6.6)     6.6 miles
Total Miles: 6.6
Elevation: 9,102 ft

Like most people I have had to deal with a change of my summer plans due to COVID-19. To be more specific, COVID messed up my spring plans of thru-hiking the Arizona Trail. I was actually supposed to work this summer, but I have been furloughed until December. The resort I work for canceled all events for the summer season. Since I am a Banquet and Events manager I suddenly found myself with a whole lot of extra time this summer. I have spent the last few months car camping close to home and waiting to see what would happen with lock downs and community stay at home orders. About six weeks ago I began to feel comfortable with thruhiking the Colorado Trail. Stay at home orders have been reduced in the mountain towns along the trail and most towns are open for tourism. I made the decision to hike based on the fact that I only live a few hours away from most parts of the trail. If the worst happens and towns begin to close again I can have my friends support me along the way and completely skip towns. I’m skipping grocery stores all together and have mailed myself food resupply drops for the entire trail. I’ll trying to limit how much I come into contact with the general public. I’m hopeful that COVID-19 will not effect my hike. 

With all of my free time this summer I have purchased a lot of new ultralight weight hiking gear. I decided that before starting an almost 500 mile journey I should test some of it out ahead of time. I decided to hike the first 40 miles of trail. I started at the southern terminus in Durango and hiked to an area called Hotel Draw. Hotel Draw is located on the mountain range directly behind my house. Now when I start at the northern terminus in Denver I can hike home. I’m more than a little stoked to be able to do this. It makes the logistics of getting home post trail easy. I’ll be able to take a 10 mile side trail and walk to my front door. This will also be my first time hiking SoBo (South Bound). 

The first 42 miles of trail was an eye opener. Stay at home orders were more like stay close to the refrigerator orders. I have put on a bunch of weight and gotten out of shape. Here is an interesting fact for you: the first 42 miles are almost all uphill. I definitely readjusted my expectations for daily mileage. 

Chunky Yoda at the Southern Terminus of the CT

The start of the trail, in Durango, is about 2 hours from my house in Rico, Colorado. Luckily, two of my friends were headed that way for a wedding and I was able to hitch a ride. We grabbed lunch at a taco joint close to the trailhead. I agonized over the decision of having a margarita with my tacos. In the end I made the poor decision of indulging in some tequila goodness. I just can’t enjoy a smothered taco without a spicy margarita. After lunch we had an easy five mile drive to the trailhead. This is the first trail I’ve hiked where getting to the trailhead to start my hike has been easy. On the AT my parents drove me to the trailhead and my dad will tell you that it was a hard and scary drive. When I began the PCT, trail angels Scout and Frodo shuttled me to the start of the trail. I don’t remember it being a difficult drive, but it was long. The CDT was a very difficult 4x4 dirt road. Luckily, the CDTC provided a shuttle so I didn’t have to deal with it, but it was 3 hours of being bounced around in a truck. The Colorado Trail is only five miles off of Main St. 

My friends dropped me off at little after two o’clock. I thought I would easily get in 12 miles that day and I was hopeful I would get in 14 so I could camp next to water. “The best laid schemes o’  mice an’ men” seems an apt quote. As soon as we left the restaurant a thunderstorm moved in. I’m not opposed to hiking in the rain, but I really didn’t want to start this section soaking wet. By the time they dropped me off the storm had passed and I marveled at my luck. Unfortunately, after hiking about 1.5 miles an even bigger storm rolled in. It appeared that the force was not with me today. For some unknown reason when I packed my pack I didn’t have my rain gear easily accessible. I had to almost completely unpack everything to get to my rain jacket. I hiked about another mile in the rain with thunder echoing off of the canyon walls. As I came around a curve in the trail I saw a cave and thought that seemed like a good place to take a break. Little did I know that the storm would pick up in intensity and I would be stuck in that cave for 2.5 hours. From my position in the mouth of the cave I watched hail and lightening pummel the area I was in. The cave was a very fortunate find. 

View from the cave as it began to clear

Beautiful flat trail leading up to my cave

While waiting out the main part of the storm I lost valuable time and miles for the day. I figured if the trail could stay flat and easy for awhile I might still be able to get my miles in. The days are still long and I had a big lunch so I didn’t plan on cooking dinner. My new plan was to hike until a little bit after dark so I could camp next to a water source. Yeah, did I mention that I was fat, out of shape, and the trail was all elevation gain. I struggled through the next 2.5 hours and just put one foot in front of the other. I stopped checking my mileage and just planned on going as far as I could with the remaining daylight. I did see a lot of SoBo hikers that were just finishing their thruhikes. Another fun fact about the Colorado Trail (CT) is that you can bike the trail. As I result I saw quite a few bikepackers that were also finishing the trail. 

Nice view from Gudy’s Rest after a 750 foot climb

The bench pictured above is called Gudy’s Rest named after the person who conceived of the CT. I briefly had cell phone service there so I fired off a text to my dad to let him know that I had started hiking. This would prove to be a good move since my personal locator beacon (PLB) did not work tonight. My family never received my ‘All is Well’ message that I send out every night. For those of you unfamiliar with my blog, I carry a Garmin InReach PLB. This little gadget allows me to communicate with my family and friends via satellite. Every night when I make camp I send out an ‘All is Well’ message so they don’t worry. If an emergency were to happen I can send out an SOS message and search and rescue can find me. It really is a nice little gadget to have for safety and peace of mind for family and friends. I’m carrying a different version this year that is half the size and weight of the one I carried on the AT, PCT, and CDT. Other than the small hiccup I had tonight with it, I really like it. 

Garmin InReach Mini vs. Garmin InReach Explorer

After hitting Gudy’s Rest it finally stopped raining and the sun came out briefly. I was able to keep hiking until my rain jacket was dry. It was starting to get dark and I was still gaining elevation which limited my camping choices significantly. All I could do was keep hiking and hope that I found something relatively flat. I think I went another mile before I finally found a little stealth spot right off of the trail. There was no water source close by, but I still had enough water to get me to the next source tomorrow, 6.5 miles away. If I had to cook dinner then I would have likely run out of water.  Part of the new gear I’m testing out is a new shelter. My old tent, a Zpacks Solomid, was really starting to show the accumulated miles of the PCT and CDT. I never imagined I could find anything as light as it. The Solomid only weighs 15.5oz and was the perfect size for a solo hiker. On the CDT I hiked with a guy named Z. He introduced me to the world of tarping. When done correctly tarps weigh less than tents and allow for many different setup configurations. I didn’t think I was ready to jump right into the world of tarps, so I went with a tarp tent. A tarp tent is basically a tarp that is in the shape of a tent. I decided to purchase a Zpacks Hexamid Plus w/ doors. It is basically the same as my old tent minus the floor and bug net. The best thing is that it only weighs 4.34oz with a few easy modifications. I absolutely love how light it is and time will tell if I love using it. I only set it up once before tonight to test it out. As a result it took a little bit more time to set up than my old tent. I imagine after using it a few times it will go faster. By the time I got set up it was dark and I was exhausted. I ate a few granola bars and went to sleep. I’m pretty sure this is the fewest miles I have ever hiked on day one. I can only hope that the miles come faster tomorrow. 

"All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination." - Earl Nightingale


  1. I look forward to following another hike, even if it’s short. Enjoy😘

  2. You have the most positive approach ever. Thank goodness for that cave!