• Brandon A. Kelone

The Colorado Trail: Day 2

Updated: Sep 25, 2018

I don’t even know how to put words to how beautiful this trail is. Yesterday was a short day but even those few miles that I was able to cover in the little time that I had after being dropped at the trailhead at 4:30 were enough to make me fall in love with it. I was hesitant to be too jovial about the trail yesterday on account of the fact that I only made it about halfway through the biggest climb that I’ll see between Durango and Denver, but now that I sit here tonight with that climb well behind me, I can say that I have no regrets about starting in Durango and heading northbound. I will say that it was a climb getting up there, but my legs were fresh from several days of rest prior to starting the hike and the training that I put in over the last few weeks has really paid off. I feel strong, fresh, and able. 


This morning I started meeting my first thru hikers, all headed TO Durango, and many of them remarked at how few northbound hikers they had met along the way. It seems that my choice to hike north has put me in a smaller group than I had even realized before today. There aren’t a lot of people out here hiking this trail in the direction that I am, but I still don’t quite understand why. My only sadness in hiking northbound is that I’ve met a couple of really cool hikers (Kingpin and FireLegs in particular) who I could see myself spending more time with if our paths were headed in the same direction. That said, I intentionally came out here to spend some time by myself, and I think that hiking it in the way that I am is going to provide that. 


In terms of the trail itself today... I don’t even know where to begin. The climb up from 9,000 feet this morning towards 13,000 feet was challenging, but the abundance of beauty over those miles was absolutely awe inspiring. I think that if I were smiling any bigger I would have surely been arrested. I don’t think that it's legal to have any more fun than what I was having out there today. Seriously though, once the trail broke above the tree line the views of the mountains to the south and west were absolutely breathtaking. 


I had a small snack at an old gold mining shack that was probably haunted by the ghosts of some old prospectors, talked with a few day hikers, and made my way to Taylor Lake. When I saw Taylor Lake on the map, I got an idea in my head, but wasn’t sure that I’d follow through with it until I arrived there. When I arrived however, I knew that I had to do it. And so I promptly scanned the horizon for other hikers (not well enough though, as some others joined me soon after), I removed everything that can be called clothes, and I jumped my white, naked butt into what I expected would be far colder waters than they turned out to be. Note to self—when you see another lake like that, you’re doing it again! I only recently within the last year or so developed the appreciation that I now have for skinny dipping in high mountain lakes, and every time I do it I wonder how it could have taken me so long to realize how awesome it is. 


After I swam around for awhile and started filtering some water, two hikers and their dog joined me and we talked for maybe ten minutes. I easily could have stayed longer and enjoyed their company, but I wanted to make miles. They were both primary school teachers from Texas, and I really enjoyed their company. 


Something that I have to say I have changed on this trail: The trail is still young, but I have yet to put headphones into my ears. Instead I’ve found myself so in love with this land that I’ve just been present and enjoyed the hike. Honestly I haven’t even had the desire to put in music or podcasts. Maybe later on in the trail, but so far I’ve really enjoyed listening to the sound of the mountains. 


As for wildlife today, I saw several hawks, some chipmunks, a couple of pika, my first few marmots, a deer, more butterflies than I could count, and a few dogs... dogs don’t count, do they? That’s okay though. One of the dogs that I met was super friendly and was kind enough to let me scratch behind his ears for awhile. It reminded me how much I miss having a dog and how in the future I’m going to have to find a trail dog to bring out to places like this. 


I found a small seep of water with some other hikers huddled around it around 5pm and although I could have made it to the next water source without stopping there, I figured that it wouldn’t hurt if I rehydrated before moving on. While I was thinking that, I decided to go all in and make dinner, drink a bunch of water and fill up my empty liter while I waited for my dehydrated macaroni and cheese to cook. While there I met two southbound hikers named Kingpin and FireLegs who made for some really great conversation. They invited me to camp with them, and I have no doubt that the company for the night would have been nice, but it was still early and I wanted to cover about five more miles before setting up camp, which is exactly what I ended up doing. Those last five miles were really special. The sun was setting into the remaining smoke from the forest fires that have only recently been extinguished, so it made for a cherry pink glow that filled the horizon and lit up the tree line in every direction.

 

I ended up finding this place to set up camp right as the final light of day slipped away. As I write this it’s come to my attention that I’m at a much higher elevation than I was last night and that the evening will be pretty cold. I feel like I have proper gear for it though, so with that said, I think that I’m going to bundle up into my sleeping bag and see if I can get some shut eye. 


Looking forward to the days and miles ahead! Hopefully there will be more lakes. 


Wormwood.