• Brandon A. Kelone

The Colorado Trail: Day 3

There is so much that I want to say, and only so many words in the English language to try and capture it all. I guess to put it briefly, I feel like these last three days have felt like falling in love again. It’s been a long time since I could say that I was really in love, but being out here brings me back to that feeling. It’s absolutely ineffable. 


This morning I ran into a hiker going to Durango who, like many—though not all—I met yesterday were emotionally done with the trail and who wanted to go home. I’ve met those going south who are still happy to be out here and you can see it in their eyes that they are still loving it, but many of them are burned out at this point. The guy I saw this morning couldn’t say much other than the challenges that I had ahead of me. I wanted to remind him that I did not come out to the Colorado Trail because it was the easiest option in life for me at this time, but I refrained. I told him that I look forward to the challenges, and he bid me well and went on his way. 


When I was hiking the PCT and in Cascade Locks, the day before crossing into Washington I remember meeting another hiker who was headed south. My attitude was very different then. I remember telling him that I couldn’t imagine being in his place and thinking about all the miles he still had to go, but the way that he saw the trail was very different than I was seeing it. He told me that I had it all backwards. He said that as soon as we finish the trail, it’s back to the real world. Neither of us had come out to the trail to be in the real world, he reminded me, but I couldn’t quite get it to sink in then. My attitude was so different back then. Then there’s the line from Billy Goat who said “The last one to Canada wins.” I had heard that quote before even hiking the PCT, and I am lucky to say that I had the honor of meeting Billy Goat on the trail, and he told me exactly that. But I guess there is a difference between understanding what it means and actually embracing it for yourself. It wouldn’t be another couple of years before I came to appreciate being out here like I do now. Maybe it’s easy for me to say that since I’ve had such great weather in these first two days of the Colorado Trail, but we’ll see. I’d like to believe that there will still be a smile on my face once I arrive in Denver, and if that smile is gone, I hope it’s only left me because I’ll have to come to terms with the fact that the trail has come to an end. 


I should note that this morning was my first morning feeling the stiffness from being on trial for the miles I’ve been out here and sleeping on an air mattress rather than a bed. I don’t think that I want to stay at many hostels or hotels though. I want to make this trail as much about the trail as possible and avoid the comforts of the “real world” to the extent that I can. Also worth noting is that after dinner tonight I started to get an ache in my right foot. Nothing serious, but it reminded me of the PCT. Hopefully it starts to subside with time. 

My first ten miles this morning brought me to the end of what’s supposed to be the worst waterless stretch of this trail, but from hiking in Arizona, I didn’t find the 20 miles to be all that bad. Actually in the last two miles of it I met two elderly hikers who were hiking the trail in sections, and had just come out to see about the conditions of the trail after the fire. They offered me water, and I asked in jest if they had any beer, to which the old man enthusiastically said that he did. I felt somewhat bad telling him that I was only kidding and that I don’t actually drink, but I appreciated the gesture. I would have stayed and talked with him longer, but the flies were eating me alive while I stood there with the two of them, so I carried along on my way to Straight Creek where I was able to get cold water and a cold shower. Pouring a bucket of ice cold water over your head is a lot more effective than a cup of coffee in waking up the soul, and a rinse of water made me feel a million times better than I already did, which I wouldn’t have even thought possible, but there you have it. I also used the water from that creek to clean my hiking clothes, so after an hour there or so, I went back to trail, fresh, clean, and alive. 


I cannot even begin to put words to the colors of this state. I have been to Colorado a few times over the years, and I’ve always found it funny that the “Welcome to Colorado” sign says “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” but the sign is in a drab brown color. Now I get it though. It’s to contrast the truly unimaginable colors that this state has to offer in its landscape, it’s vegetation, it’s skies, and its wildflowers. I was absolutely blown away by it all today, and I’m nervous to even look at how many pictures I must have taken. 


Late in the afternoon I found a small pond, and I don’t even know what it was called, but I have now come to a full acceptance that part of my time on this trail means skinny dipping whenever the opportunity presents itself, and I’m glad that I did it there. Not only was it another cleaning that leaves me here in my tent quite clean and happy, but it refreshed my soul. It also put me by that pond long enough to let the sun sink down a bit on the horizon and cast a beautiful reflection off its waters. One thing that was kind of funny was that although I was completely alone during my swim, right as I hopped my naked butt out of the water, some dude came wandering down the trail. He was cool with it, and we made small talk as I dried myself off and became more decent by putting on some clothes. He asked if there were any fish in there, but I doubted it. He was with a group of bikers just about a mile up the way, and after I packed up and continued on, I realized that there were a whole bunch of them. They had built a big camp fire and were all huddled around drinking beer. They let me warm my hands by the fire and I introduced myself, remarking that it was nice to meet that other dude again now that I was no longer buck a** naked. I’m still not sure if that was just extremely awkward or just funny, but I don’t really care, because soon after I went on my way. 


I ate a meal maybe three miles up from there above the tree line while watching what may have been one of the most impressive sunsets of my life. Since there is still residual smoke from the fires, the sun was a neon pink for almost two hours, much like it was last night, but the difference between yesterday and today was that I was high enough on the trail that I could actually see it all. Pictures will never do it justice, but at least I tried. I would have set camp there and watched it reside below the horizon but I wanted to get to a place with water, which is where I am now. It isn’t a lot of water, but there was a small enough seep that I could fill up my liters and have some for tea in the morning. 


I’m in love with this trail, and I’m unendingly grateful that I’ve had good weather these last three days. With a little luck I’ll be able to get into Silverton for a resupply tomorrow (maybe a shower???), and then hitch back into the trail before sunset. I toyed with the idea of pushing through to Lake City, because I probably have enough food to get there, but this way I’ll be a little more comfortable over the next few days. 


Wormwood