• Brandon A. Kelone

The Colorado Trail: Day 4

I think that I’m starting to settle into the trail a bit. Those first few days are full of emotions that make this experience feel like a new relationship in more ways than I can even begin to express. It’s exciting, it’s exhilarating, it’s confusing, it’s all of the things that you can’t put into words. But after some time it just becomes a comfortable bliss. That’s where I am today. I’ve become used to waking up in my tent and walking all day. I’ve become used to the beauty, but it hasn’t lost its luster. If anything, I’ve come to accept that it cannot be described as easily as I want for it to be. I'm starting to remember that part of thru hiking is to immerse oneself into the ineffable.  

I woke up this morning after a very sound sleep. It took a couple of days for me to become used to sleeping on an air mattress on the ground, but last night I slept very soundly. I wish that I had slept for longer, but my only excuse is that I was up too late writing and going through my pictures from the day. I also had a broken tent pole that I had to fix. It took some time, but I got it done. Oh, and it took me awhile to filter water last night because the place that I was filtering from was barely a seep. So when it was all said and done it was almost 11:30pm when I finally went to sleep. Then I woke up right at about 7am, so I didn’t sleep nearly as much as I would have liked to. But I needed to get an early start so that I would have time to get into Silverton for resupply, so at dawn I woke up, made tea, and started hiking after I’d broken down camp. The early morning miles of the trail were fairly easy up to Cascade Creek where I filtered water, got a workout in, and had a snack, but after that the trail climbed several thousand feet up to a high mountain pass. I actually didn’t mind the climb that much. I like mountain passes. I like being above the tree line, and the trail gave me exactly that today. 

The pass itself was absolutely incredible. I couldn’t get over the colors and the beauty. Once again I was lucky to encounter a pass with good weather, but I don’t know how many more I’ll get before the weather turns bad. I already feel like I’ve pushed my luck a bit, but I also count my blessings. 

Not long after the pass I found a small pond that was at around 12,000 feet elevation, but I promised myself early on that if I found a lake and the weather was good that I’d use it as an opportunity to go skinny dipping, and this one was no exception. I can’t say that I regret doing it (quite the opposite really), but damn it was cold! Still glad that I did it though. Swimming like that makes me feel free and alive. 

I have to remark that I’m quite grateful to have chosen to hike the trail northbound. Hiking NOBO gives me so much isolation on trail. I have yet to meet a single other northbound hiker. Although I meet bikers and hikers from time to time every day, I have yet to see any of them heading north. So we exchange our pleasantries and go on our way and I’m back alone, just the way that I wanted it to be. It’s not that I don’t like people, but I’m just so happy to have this time to myself in the mountains. I suspect that I may meet other NOBO hikers later on, but for the time being, this has been perfect. 

After the mountain pass swimming episode, I continued on my way, watching the clouds and expecting some rain, but it never came... or at least it has not come yet. It was around this time that the lack of sleep started to hit me. I found my first lull of the trail. I was still enjoying it, but I could feel the lack of sleep catching up to me. I stopped by a stream and had some electrolytes and just a little bit of caffeine; that seemed to be just enough to wake me up and get me going again, because from that point forward into the day, I felt quite good. It may have been however that I was counting down and looking forward to reaching my first resupply point of the trail. 

It was about 19 miles from camp to Molas Lake. I had been promised that it would be a good lake for swimming, and it did not disappointment. The water was so much warmer than that high mountain pond, and were it not for my need to get into town for a resupply, I suspect that I could have spent the rest of the day there splashing around in those waters before tiring of it. In hindsight, that was really the first true “lake” that I’ve found on the trail. I’ve found other “lakes” but really they were just small ponds. Other hikers have promised that I’ll find many more along the way to Denver though. 

It was also good to have that lake for the sake of my hitch into town. I always feel guilty hitch hiking into a resupply town when I smell like I’ve been in the mountains for a week. I hadn’t planned all this trail-side swimming as a means to stay clean, but I’ve been blown away at how good I've felt as a result of regularly jumping into the waters. It’s really made a difference on how good I feel out here overall. 

It only took me about fifteen minutes before I was able to get a ride into Silverton. The town of Silverton is cute, but much smaller than I expected it would be. The people here are nice, and the town is tucked into some really beautiful mountains, but there’s not much here in terms of a resupply. Mostly I just bought fruit and nuts and some oatmeal, but I’ve been told that I’ll find a lot more from my next resupply town which is “Lake City.” I expect to find Lake City in about three days. My dilemma is that I’ve been told I need to arrive at the road to Lake City at 12:30 so that I can catch a ride into town easily (there's a daily shuttle from the pass to town that departs at that time during the summer months). It’s about 60 miles away, so I’m figuring that if I can do 30 miles tomorrow (that’s a big day in these mountains...), and 25 the day after, then I will only need to get 5 miles that third day before noon. Then I’m planning on staying in Lake City at the hostel for a day to refresh, go through photos, and get some rest. 

Presently I'm sitting here in a little cafe in Silverton writing this. I would actually go back to trail right now, but I want to finish charging my backup batteries so that I don’t have to worry about keeping my electronics charged over the next segment. That, and they have a pretty good lemon-chicken soup here... they also have avocados on the menu, and although they're too expensive (everything's too expensive in this town), fresh cut avocados are indescribably scrumptious after a few days of trail bars and dehydrated meals!

Anyways... Loving the trail to death. My only sadness is that it won’t last forever, but being out here has completely reinvigorated my desire to hike the CDT next year, and it reminded me why I come out to these long trails to begin with. I absolutely love it out here. 


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