Another easy day

Day 2 began with Dan dropping me off at the South Platte River Trailhead. At that point, the trail is at an elevation of 6,100 feet. It quickly begins climbing out of the river valley, lush with Pine trees into a huge area still scarred from a fire that burned 18 years earlier. Along the way, the section rises to about 7,800 feet, significantly surpassing the highest point on the Appalachian Trail (6,600). The trail will stay above that mark for the rest of its length.

With the trees burned off, the experience was quite a bit different, but not bad. Wildflowers were abundant. As the miles passed the wildlife began to show itself as well. far from being desolate, the area contained numerous butterfly’s, chipmunks, rabbits and deer.

image

Stopping for a break, the only noise was the breeze on distant mountaintops, at least until some hummingbirds began working nearby flowers and added the propeller like sound of their wing beats. A deep blue sky completed the relaxing scene.

As I neared the end of the day’s 11 mile section, I once again met up with my brother. As we neared the car, thunderstorms began forming to the west and were heading our way. Luckily we finished in time to wait out the storm at a local brewpub. The last two days of mountain hiking followed by a couple beers and a comfortable bed has turned out to be a pretty good plan. However, all good things must end and tomorrow the real work of this trip begins.

Great base camp, but time hit the trail with the backpack

Great base camp, but time hit the trail with the backpack

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.

Sheep

Sheep

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.

Let’s get physical.

I like to think that, physically, I’m in good enough shape to hike the Colorado Trail. I ran (slowly) two marathons last year, one of them in Colorado’s Front Range. I also finished a few triathlons this spring. However, as I’m planning on backpacking across 8 mountain ranges while on the wrong side of 50, I thought it best to get a checkup first.

After initial pleasantries, the first thing the Dr said was, “Your neck looks big.”

“Thanks Doc,” I replied, “I have been working out. I’m thinking my shoulders and chest might be a little bigger too.”

Apparently what he meant was that my thyroid was enlarged. He said I should get an ultrasound right away as enlarged thyroids will turn cancerous on you. He asked if there was any family history of thyroid issues. I replied, “Not really. Other than my mom had her’s removed, and my dad’s mom actually died from her thyroid. Oh, and my brother is on thyroid medication. Other than that though, no history at all.”

“Get that ultrasound ASAP.”

“I’m all over it Doc.” (As soon as I get back from the hike.)

Later in the physical the Dr asked about my drinking habits. I responded truthfully; that I rarely drink a lot, but do have a beer or two nearly every day. Satisfied with that answer, he switched subjects to my prostate health as he pulled a glove on. “How often do you get up during the night to go to the bathroom?”

I replied, “Last time I didn’t have a drink before bed, I slept straight through till morning, no problem.”

“Well, in that case, no need to check; your prostate is fine,” he stated as he peeled the glove back off with a sigh of relief that nearly matched mine. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the last time I didn’t have a drink before bed, it was 1997.

So the bottom line is; looks like my health is assured. Let’s get ready to hike.

Ready to hike. Does my neck look weird?

Ready to hike. Does my neck look weird?