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Oldmanoutdoors.net | Ramblings from the wilderness and semi-wilderness | Page 28

On My Own

Day 3 began with a longer drive as I am getting further from Denver with each hike. Today will also be different as instead of a 5 lb daypack, I’ll be carrying everything needed to get to Frisco, CO, 5 days distant.

Driving out to the Little Scraggy Trailhead, we passed a bull elk, waiting to cross the highway. The animals may have been out, but people were not. Arriving at the trailhead at 6:30, we were the only car. The sky was absolutely clear, but it was only 42 degrees. Maybe I should have packed that long sleeve shirt.

The trail was void of other hikers as well, but again the scenery did not disappoint. Climbing to still higher elevations, I walked through alpine meadows filled with Wildflowers and huge stands of aspen trees. Walking quietly, I startled multiple deer.

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Throughout the crystal clear morning, I got numerous views of the still bigger mountains awaiting me to the west. Several still had quite a bit of snow on them. Maybe I really should have packed that long sleeve shirt.

The weather was a repeat of the day before, with thunderstorms building up in the afternoon. There was no brewpub to escape to today though. Luckily, I was able to hike into the Lost Creek Wilderness Area as I had planned, set up camp and eat dinner before the lightning and rain started pounding. The temperature is dropping and lightning is hitting all around. I normally use my fleece for a pillow, but instead I’m wearing it. Should make for an interesting evening.

Day 4. Cool and clear weather. The trail started climbing in a hurry this morning, gaining over 1,000 feet in elevation in a couple miles. It was like taking the stairs at the Carew Tower (or other 50 story structure) twice, with a backpack, and with 30% less oxygen than normal.

On the climb I ran into two other thru-hikers, Eric and Virginia. They are actually going to skip the section from Kenosha Pass to Salida to avoid any snow. They’ll pick up that section later in the summer. I may wish I had that long sleeve shirt yet.

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After the climb, the trail entered a beautiful wide valley with a crystal clear creek running through it. It was perfect timing as I was running low on water. No matter how good the water looks, I do filter it however. After getting the water I followed the trail upstream. A small herd of elk crossed the creek in front of me. I assume the filter can handle elk pee. The valley continues for several miles and I noticed at least 6 beaver dams on the creek. I really hope the filter handles beaver poo as well.

The day was going to be a long one as I planned to go 18 miles. I was tired and limping when I arrived at the area I was to camp. There were only 2 flat spots around and surprisingly both were taken. There was nothing to do but keep walking. Hungry as I was, I began eating trail mix while I walked. Not paying attention, I rolled my ankle on a rock, crashed to the ground and to top it off, damaged my camera. Not my best moment. On the bright side, my twisted ankle took my mind off the foot. As my knee was bleeding, it was time to break out the massive first aid kit. An alcohol wipe and bandaid took care of most of the issue. I’ll have to be careful going forward. The first aid supplies are now half gone.

Good as new

Good as new

After limping another mile or so, I spotted a small flat area (there are less of them than you would imagine) and called it a day. Total distance for the day was 20 1/2 miles.

The Weight

Take a load off, Fanny

Take a load for free

Take a load off, Fanny

And (and) (and) you put the load right on me
“The Weight” by The Band
Who would have thought there was a song about fanny packs? Maybe there’s some other meaning to the song, but I’m going with the need to avoid heavy packs, fanny or otherwise. In my experience, carrying too much weight may be the surest way to have a miserable trip, or even not finish. This is especially true on a long trip like the Colorado Trail. So, I’ve worked hard, and spent significant sums, trying to keep my pack as light as possible to insure that it load feels right on me.

Actually, spending money on lighter gear is the easy, and fun, part of getting a lighter pack weight. Dropping a couple hundred on a new pack saved me over 2 pounds before I even started filling it. Spreading more money on a new tent, sleeping bag and air mattress knocked off another 3 pounds or so. As a bonus, the new stuff packs up smaller, which helps to make up for the fact that my new lighter pack can’t hold as much as my old version.

About the time I bought a titanium spork, I realized I had reached the end of buying my way to a lighter pack. Any more savings was only going to come from increasingly tougher decisions.
Sure, it gets cold at night in the mountains, but do I really need a fleece and a long sleeve shirt? Shivering doesn’t weigh anything; leave the shirt. On the other hand, sawing the handle off the toothbrush seems a tad extreme for the weight savings. Skimping on toilet paper to save an ounce seems to be a fool’s choice as well.

On shorter trips, the pack typically contains a flask (or possibly 2). For this trip I made the (heart wrenching) decision to travel alcohol free, saving over 2 pounds. A much smarter approach will be to binge drink when I reach towns. (Note to self: rewrite the previous sentence before posting. Don’t believe the wording shows me in the best light.)

Of course, with the hike being entirely within the state of Colorado, there is a lighter, legal option for a Rocky Mountain High while out on the trail. However, I plan to steer clear of the weed shops for a number of reasons, not the least of which is weight related. I’ve spent quite a bit of time and effort picking meals and weighing out snacks so I have just enough to get by. I expect to be hungry fairly often as it is. A good case of the munchies could prove disastrous for my rationing plan.

Gorp ration on the scale

Gorp ration on the scale

However, if my writing becomes unintelligible at some point, or worse a final post says something┬álike, “dude, check out this selfie of me with a bear cub in my arms,” You’ll know I’ve fallen prey to “reefer madness.”

Anyway, the pack and gear is tipping the scales at 21 pounds. Add 4 days of food and 2 liters of water and I’m hauling 31 pounds on my back, hopefully not too bad when I put the load right on me.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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