• Brandon A. Kelone

The Colorado Trail: Day 1

Updated: Sep 25, 2018

How do I even begin? It’s a very rare day that I’m ever at a loss for words, but here I am not quite sure how to put it on the page. I’m overwhelmed with all the feelings of being back on the trail. It feels so familiar on one hand, but at the same time it’s been so long since I’ve been out here that it feels foreign. In more ways than I can count it feels just like I remember thru hiking to be, but no two rivers are ever the same, and although I can feel the resemblance between this path and those that I’ve walked in the past, I also see the differences. 


The biggest difference I feel, although it could just be that it seems this way on account that this was my biggest challenge of today, is that there are a lot fewer campsites on this trail than the trails that I’ve walked in the past. Or maybe it’s just that my memory has failed me, but finding a place to put my tent was not one of the things that I expected would occupy so much of my worry today. I hate to even say that "worry" is a word that I can use this early in the trail, but it was a bit of a logistical problem to find a place to camp tonight. I found a really nice place to camp about a half hour before sunset, but about 2 miles ahead my map read “end of climb,” and I had expectations of maybe finding a clearing and a good place to watch the sunrise tomorrow. Needless to say that wasn’t the case. I doubt that I’m the first person to pitch a tent where I’m situated presently, but this isn’t a place where a lot of people have camped in the past. To tell you the truth, I feel lucky that I even found this site after wandering through the dark for an hour. 


But I’m getting ahead of myself. I hate to start this off by talking about the one logistical challenge that I faced on this first day of the trail. That’s not fair to the trail, nor is it fair to my experience out here so far. 


I should probably back up to the trip here. 


Jen picked me up at Whole Foods this morning a little after 8am and it was around a 280 mile drive through the Arizona desert and eventually the Colorado mountains to reach Durango. We had a quick lunch at a natural foods store, that has amazing breads (note that I don’t really eat breads, but the hike ahead justified the extra caloric intake, and I’m glad that I had the treat; it was magical in almost all senses of the word). From there it was an easy 15 minute drive to the start of the Colorado Trail. 


The first three miles or so were fairly flat and followed a beautiful stream (Junction Creek). I met probably a dozen day hikers, most of whom had dogs. I even remarked to one of them that I felt left out as the only person on trial who didn’t bring a pup along, but funny enough that was the last time I saw a dog today. 

After the three mile mark the trail crossed that stream that it had been following and began its climb up to what I was told would be a treacherous gain of elevation... it was not. I’m still only at about 9,500 feet (started at around 7,000), so I have a lot of climbing to go tomorrow before it’s all said and done, but so far I’ve found the grade of the trail to be very manageable and the tail itself to be very easy to follow. 


Mostly the weather has been great. I did get about thirty minutes of rain around sunset with one strike of lightning hitting about 1.2 miles away from me, but nothing too threatening. It was just enough rain to make me grateful for my new favorite piece of equipment—my ultra lite umbrella. It’s an amazing addition and I can’t believe that it took me so many miles to finally bite the bullet and bring one along. That thing is amazing. Anyone on the fence about getting one, JUST DO IT!


With the little bit of cloud coverage there was an amazing buildup to the sunset. Although the sunset itself was nothing to write home about, the half hour before the actual setting of the sun gave me some spectacular views of the Colorado mountain skylines that were highlighted in an orange and pink hue. It made me grateful to have brought the camera equipment along that I have. I don’t know that pictures are going to do it justice, but I'm happy to be trying. 

After the climb began I only encountered three bikers, but no one hiking. The day hikers whom I met early in the trail said that they met other thru hikers, and many of them remarked that I was going the “wrong way” since almost everyone on the Colorado Trail hikes from Denver to Durango and not the other way around, but I’m grateful to be taking a different route. I hope that it provides me with more time to myself on trail. 


Overall the day has been a true walk in the woods. I’m not yet high enough to have broken out of the treeline, but I believe that tomorrow will bring me up into the true mountains where views will be a bit better. Even with these trees all around however, I’m loving this trail. It feels good to be in a tent tonight rather than a bed. It feels good to not have to think about life or work for at least a month from now. It is exciting to think of all the miles that I have ahead. It’s exciting to think about the possibilities and challenges ahead.

 

One thing that I do want to end on, and hopefully this reminds me to bring it when I get to my first resupply point, is that I forgot to bring herbal tea. I really do like a warm drink at night, and in trails past that used to be hot chocolate with a shot of whisky. I don’t really drink anymore though, and the thought of a sugary drink before bed sounds like a terrible idea these days. But a hot tea would be amazing right about now. So I have that to think about over the next couple of nights. If that’s the worst thing that I forgot to bring however, I’m doing pretty well I think. At least I have black tea for breakfast in the morning. 


It’s good to be back on trail. I’m in love with it out here, and I don’t want for it to end. So for now, I'm going to crash and look forward to a full day tomorrow.

 

Wormwood.