Easing into things

One reason not mentioned before for choosing to hike the Colorado Trail is that my brother Dan lives less than ten minutes from its eastern end, south of Denver. He was happy to provide support and was eager to even hike a bit of it with me. Easing into the hike became the plan. The Colorado Trail is divided into 28 sections. We would “day hike” the first two sections before I had to strap on the big pack and be self sufficient.

When the day to start hiking the Colorado Trail rolled around, I was expecting a bit of apprehension, but not absolute dread. However, that started building about two weeks out when my my left foot started hurting, esp my toes. A visit to a Podiatrist resulted in a diagnosis on a neuroma, or inflamed/ enlarged nerves in the foot. There were several possible treatments, but none included hiking 500 miles on the bad foot. The Doc was sure he could fix me up with some shoe inserts he would create on the spot. In fact, he described himself as the Picasso of Podiatrists. He was an artist; but rather than working in oils or watercolor, he worked in feet. I left with my inserts.

The day before I was to start driving west, I was back at Picasso’s, my foot only minimally better. A cortisone shot to the worst spot seemed promising. With 2 days to rest my foot during the drive, I was hoping for some relief.

The morning the trip was to start, I swung my feet to the floor, stood up and nearly dropped to the floor in pain. This wasn’t looking good. The foot felt a little better with shoes/insert on so I pulled those on and took took twice the recommended dosage of Alleve and the wonder drug, Anacin.

Dan was to drop me at Waterton Canyon, the start of the trail at 6 am, drive to parking 17 miles down the trail then start hiking my way till we met. Watching me limp from the car, he became concerned (an emotion he rarely shows) and decided to hike a ways with me.

The trail itself begins with 6 easy miles along the South Platte River, but the canyon scenery is gorgeous. As we walked the first couple miles, the foot improved to tolerable. Confident I was good for the day, Dan returned to his car and I began the relax and enjoy the beauty.


It wasn’t long before the first wildlife sighting as a herd of bighorn sheep make the canyon their home. With the sun shining and temps in the 60s, my day was improving dramatically.

Once at the end of the canyon, about 6 1/2 miles in, the trail starts climbing gradually through a pine forest. For several miles, switchbacks keep increasing the elevation to a peak of 7,500 ft at about mile 13. Through the higher areas there are views of the mountains looming in my future.

imageThe foot was holding up, but about this time I began to wonder, where the hell is my brother? (Cell service there is spotty at best.) A mountain biker was stopped along the trail and I asked if he’d noticed anyone walking my way. “What does he look like?”

I replied, “like me but uglier.” The biker stated, “Yea, I talked to him, he described you the exact same way.” Sure enough we met up shortly thereafter and hiked together down the long decline to the parking lot. We got glimpses of what the next day’s hike would be holding for me, a long climb into the area decimated by 1996’s Buffalo Creek Fire. After nearly eight hours of hiking though, it was time to ice my foot and get a good meal.