Colorado Trail - round 2
How time FLIES when you are....working.
I've gotten a bit behind...maybe more than a bit....I hope to remedy that. We left off last time with a solid thunderstorm rolling into camp.
Post-storm morning chores. It was definitely more bark than bite! The best kind of storm when hiking.
Looking down the valley as the sun peeks over the ridge. Quite the contrast from 12 hours earlier.
Headed up through a gorgeous valley. The air was chilly and felt great!
Cruising into the sunshine.
Split rail running through the trees.
Another shot back through the valley....dirt road meandering through.
Moving into the full sun. I was happy for my long sleeves and had. Nothing feels worse than lathering sunscreen onto an already-grimy body.....so I opted for the sun clothing. It was definitely the right choice for me.
Red flowers. I'm sure they have an official name......probably 'red flowers.'
Camp Four in yet another beautiful valley! It was nice to get out in the open sun though it was pretty hot. Jacob and I hid out in the shade of the scrub bushes until the sun dipped below the ridge.
Sunset on the far side of the valley.
Happy boy at the end of the day! I always enjoy the evening downtime in the tent.....a time to just lay and relax for a bit.
Look at all those bears!
Jacob leading the charge.
One of many gorgeous aspen groves we had the fortune to stroll through. They're such a treat every time.
Kenosha Pass! We needed to resupply so it was hitchhiking time. I've hitched a ton in my time along the Appalachian Trail and I'm pleased to say that the experience in Colorado was great! We secured a ride into town within 15 minutes of thumbing....and got back out of town in under five!
These had pizza, but not for long.
Post-pizza...pre-grocery evaluation of our stock. Three rules of resupply runs....
1. DO NOT go into the store hungry (trail hunger and life hunger are very disproportionate) unless you enjoy a wickedly heavy backpack coming out of town
2. DO plan ahead so you can repackage your resupply in a hiking-conducive manner
3. Buy a piece of fresh fruit! Eat that mofo while you're out in front of the store reloading your pack.
Work smarter...I wished the cart would fit on the trail.
I always recommend asking the store employees if it is okay to bring gear inside. Some places don't like you to (which I desperately don't like....not a fan of being separated from my pack....but I understand and respect it if that's the policy). It is polite and helps build a positive rapport between hikers and businesses. It may come as a surprise.....but some places aren't terribly fond of furiously rank backpacks being toted throughout their shops. Yum.
A town run calls for beer. How convenient that the grocery store had a brewery right next door.
I love you.
I spy with my little eye.
We watched this storm roll into Fairplay and dump buckets of desperately- needed rain onto the Colorado landscape.
Guernsey Creek Campsite - we shared this gorgeous meadow with two dudes from Mexico who had flown up to bikepack the CT. Bikepacking is like backpacking, except you're on a mountain bike. The Colorado Trail is a prime location and draws a number of enthusiasts. It's not something I've tried yet, though I'd like to! I'm a cyclist and mountain biker as well so I think it would be a fun trip. Plus I have much of the lightweight gear already.
Another shot of our camp at Guernsey Creek. We were tucked into the aspens on the edge of the meadow. There were a lot of flies here, but thankfully the mosquitos weren't much of a nuisance.
Yellows near the Guernsey Creek campsite.
Moving along. It was an unusually dry summer in the Rockies so coming across a stream with such a great flow was a real treat.
Great views of Mt. Guyot as we approached Georgia Pass.
Flower pic for my mom.
Jacob and I in the meadow near Georgia Pass. We had been leapfrogging a nice family and we traded photography duty here while they were stopped for a break. It was a gorgeous day to hike in the Rockies!
Mt. Guyot - 13,370 feet. The CT doesn't go up to the summit, but we enjoyed the views of the peak under the bright blue sky for much of the day.
Georgia Pass - 11,598 feet
Endless views as we rounded the bend at Georgia Pass. I finally had to force myself to stop taking pics and just hike.
Sharing a portion of the trail with the Continental Divide Trail. That.....is pretty sweet!
You just walked through it bro.
Drying out the leftover condensation from the tent fly at lunch. Though the humidity is very low, the cool overnight temps create enough moisture to warrant spreading out in the sunshine.
Another mountain stream tumbling over fallen logs. Clean and clear.
This is a thing that happened. Everyone in camp got a solid laugh out of it!
Camp at North Fork Swan Road. There were quite a few folks here tonight but there was plenty of space for everyone to spread out. We had a great time eating dinner together and chatting about the trail, food, and life. All the good vibes.
Crew. We had a fun night camping out with these diverse folks! Can you spot the bear-bag photobomb?
Pretty big tracks here! Maybe elk?
More purple lovelies.
The signage on the CT was so superb.
Descending into Breckenridge
Jacob leading the charge as we approach town.
Looking down over the outskirts of Breckenridge. There were some storm clouds building off towards the west so we stayed conscious of the weather and hoped to dodge the rain before we got into town.
Two dirty dogs! We got to the highway before noon and caught the bus into town to get my pickup.
Home sweet Toyota! I always prefer to hike TO the vehicle rather than from it on a long-distance hike. This adds a great element of flexibility to the hike since you aren't scrambling to meet someone for a ride....which is can be complicated by poor cell service, weather delays, or physical hiccups along the way.
Post-hike rewards! Broken Compass had some tasty brews which we made short work of. There were also lots of dogs in the brewery....bringing joy....and masking the scent of two whipped hikers. Remember I'd mentioned storm clouds? The skies cut loose while we were inside the brewery. Perfect timing if you ask me.
After heading back into the Denver metro and chiseling off the layers of trail funk, it was time to celebrate the hike with more beer! Golden City Brewery is one I've visited a couple times before and been quite pleased. It is very quaint.....based in an old house tucked into a quiet neighborhood near Clear Creek. It is Golden's "second largest brewery." I love that marketing.....because the largest brewery in Golden....is Coors. Ha! (GCB definitely gets the gold medal for beer though!)
Enjoying the sunshine at GCB.
Meeting the Yeti at Great Divide Brewing Company. So many tasty beers here.
Finally we landed at Black Project for some excellent sours to round out the trip.
The first leg of the Colorado Trail was definitely enjoyable! I look forward to picking back up at Breckenridge and cruising through the Rockies again soon!
As always....let me know if you have any questions about anything outdoors....hiking or otherwise! Always down to chat.
Colorado Trail - Round One
I'm usually not one to brag...but Colorado looks good on me.
As you may know, I finished the Appalachian Trail last summer after spending 17 years piecing together sections from Georgia to Maine. Hiking has molded my life in a plethora of ways and serves as a great reset for me from school year to school year.
It was time for a new project.
The Colorado Trail (CT as you may see it referenced) meanders through the Rockies from the southwest side of Denver to Durango. Ranging from 5,500 feet to over 13,000....the approximately 485 mile trail features a variety of terrain, fauna, and no shortage of jaw-dropping views. As my buddy Jacob says...it is "easy on the eyes."
I couldn't agree more.
Waterton Canyon lies on the southwest edge of the Denver metro and is the eastern trailhead for the CT. Kickoff was at 7:30am on Saturday. I was so fortunate to join forces this year with my buddy Jacob! A fellow band director in a neighboring district to mine, Jacob is an experienced backpacker and has actually hiked a portion of our trip several times before. He's also a killer runner and a fellow vegetarian. I had no doubt we would pair up well together although we had not yet had the chance to hike together.
I was absolutely right.
Pace, routine, food/water stops, inappropriate jokes, bark-rattling burps, and shared appreciation for the outdoors abounded. It felt like we had been hiking together for years.
I was happy to get to start fresh together and look forward to picking up more sections of the CT as a team!
Getting ready to crank up! The weather on Saturday (and actually for the entire hike) was choice.
Headed up the canyon. The first 6 miles are along this dirt road. It was actually very pleasant to hike here. We were able to walk side-by-side, converse easily, and look around without having to watch feet. Quite a few folks were out (it was Saturday of course) running and cycling as well. I never felt overcrowded though. We all love the solitude the outdoors provides....but it is important to remember that areas that don't get used....sometimes get forgotten. That doesn't always end well for wilderness gems. So....sharing the outdoors with good stewards doesn't bother me too much...solitude is usually achievable regardless.
Canyon shadows. It was so pleasant to hike in the cool shade.
Exiting the canyon and merging onto single track trail. No sign of bear....although this is definitely a sign....of bear.
CT marker being reclaimed by a tree.
The trek out of the canyon was a gentle incline and eventually brought us up and out into some higher viewpoints.
The first night's camp was at the South Platte River. Being as hot as it was, we made short work of setting up camp, and made a beeline for the water.
I've mentioned the term 'lowgiene' in some of my hiking posts before. Gifted to me by my buddy and way-back climbing partner Gordon.....it is a term of endearment for those of us who enjoy the outdoors. It's just like hygiene...except....less.
The water was fantastic; lots of silt in the river from some previous (and scarce this year) rainfall the day before we started; and frigid!
I loved it.
We found this golden nugget of happiness down by the river! After a swim of its own...the single Hamm's was chilled down and ready to mingle.
Jacob taking the first lap.
I tagged in and took over for a bit. There is something magical about an unexpected cold beer in nature on a hot afternoon. Man was it good!
Speaking of hot afternoon....this is what a bag of chocolate-covered raisins looks like on such a day. As the sun and temps dipped, it conglomerated into a chocolatey raisin brick. Still got the job done.
Taking in the sights on day 2. I switched over to the long-sleeved shirt to dodge the sun as we knew the exposure would be high that day. I ended up sticking with this plan for the remainder and was beyond happy I did. It worked great, never made me hot, and allowed me the luxury of skipping the sunscreen bath. I'm not a big fan of putting more goop onto my already dirty self. Eww.
In the mid 90s, a massive wildfire moved through this area of the CT, leaving an open and barren area. It's unfortunate, but did allow for some tremendous views. We spent most of today hiking through the burn scar....hence the long sleeves and hat.
More views of the burn scar.
Heading into a little oasis of Aspens in the burn scar. There were many more to come throughout our hike!
Far in the distance you can see the North Fork Fire Station. This is a critical stop as there is very little water in segment 2. They offer a water spigot for hikers to refill and take donations as appropriate to keep the department up and running. We were happy to reach the station on this hot day and tank up.
Fire crews had their work cut out this summer....there were active wildfires throughout Colorado. Though we did see some distant smoke, we were fortunate to not have been affected. Thank you to the firefighters who have worked diligently to control the burns.
Some thundies building in the distance. These came into play later in the evening.....bringing some light hail at our campsite.
Camp at the end of day two. This was at Tramway Creek. It was a good water source! Not large enough for a swim this time, but flowing well, clear, and cold of course.
Just before starting dinner, the rain moved in. It kept up for about an hour and delivered a dose of light hail. Nothing to worry over, just an evening thunderstorm in the Rockies. We both relaxed and dozed in our tents before reemerging for dinner around 8:30pm after the rain stopped. A forced break isn't necessarily a bad thing!
Catching some early morning rays on day three. Jacob and I were on the trail most days before 7:00am. In fact, our latest start time was day one at Waterton Canyon. It's nice to be up early and knock out some mileage before the sun really starts making its presence known...around 10:30am or so.
Flowers for my mom. A large amount of my mom's photography consists of up-close shots of flowers. I don't have the same touch that she does, but I give it my best! Not sure what these were, but they were pretty.
Trail junction near Buffalo Creek. The signage on the CT is superb. I was impressed at the consistency of maintenance throughout our hike. It's interesting to note that there are far fewer blazes on the CT along the trail itself. However, even deep in the woods and far from roads, if there was an intersection to be marked, it had a sign....and the signs were actually legible! Kudos.
The tree in the center is likely a beetle-kill victim. Regardless, I love this shot because it 'feels' like Colorado to me....greens, browns, and blues.
Upon entering the Lost Creek Wilderness Area, hikers approach a kiosk and are asked to register before moving forward. This is pretty standard procedure, doesn't cost anything, helps deliver funding to the areas by being able to track actual usage, and also can serve as a safety line in the event a hiker was to go missing. While Jacob was filling out our info (one card per party)....I rummaged around in the box at the kiosk....and found a Schrute Buck. One photo with Dwight K. Schrute was all I needed to find the motivation to carry on! I graciously left it in the box for the next hiker to enjoy.
Tall Aspens agains a blue sky.
As a treat this year, I packed some kalamata olives! They were a nice salty treat to have at lunch and I upped the ante by eating them with a pocketknife. Safety third.
Hide-and-seek in the wilderness.
Photo model in the Lost Creek Wilderness. I smelled really good here.
Into the great wide open...
....under them skies of blue
Camp three was at the Brookside/McCurdy Trailhead Junction. We had this expansive valley to stare at all evening. "Easy on the eyes...."
A view upstream in the valley. The water was just perfect.
Splish-splash! It was fill-up time. Did some extensive splashing here as well. The water was so refreshing!
The million-dollar view from my tent. Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 UL. This sucker is bomber!! LoveLoveLoveLoveLove
Another out from around the trees. I was happy we made good time and were able to enjoy this area for several hours.
Notice the clouds building....?
I'm a sucker for treetops against blue sky. Gets me every time.
A view of the castles, the valley....and the changing skies.
Did I mention the skies were changing?!?
Lets get ready to rumble!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Despite the ferocious thunder, ominous skies, and gnarly wind...this storm actually ended up just skirting us. It rained pretty steadily for about an hour...maybe more, then let off. We talked to some other hikers the next day who got some pretty wicked hail, but overall it was mostly bark rather than bite. Sometimes you dodge one.
Thanks for starting out on the start of the journey! Check back soon for another post to continue the trip.....feel free to share the link, and spread the word.
Most importantly.....go outside.
The month of April is a bit of a gateway for those of us here in Oklahoma. The Arts Festival takes place in downtown Oklahoma City, which somehow guarantees much-needed rain showers every year (the state fair somehow has the same mysterious climatological effect in September), severe weather season kicks into gear, gluing residents to their news station of choice on many evenings, and if you're a teacher like myself...state testing takes place as the school year barrels it's way to a hectic close.
But....as we roll into April each year, most folks remember one date; April 19th, the infamous day in 1995 when a Ryder truck packed with explosives was parked in downtown OKC, left to sit for a short time, then violently exploded....decimating the Murrah Federal Building and tragically ending the lives of 168 innocent people....because some crybaby whack-job was upset and needed to make a statement.
We have a statement for you sir....it is two giant collective middle-fingers.
Since 2001, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon has been held annually at the end of April, drawing thousands of runners, volunteers, and spectators. It's an event not to be missed. I was fortunate again this year to have the physical ability to run, and don't take that lightly. It was another half-marathon on the menu for me (I ran the full in 2014...after a strep diagnosis...and perhaps will again one day....hopefully with a clean bill of health).
Like all good runs, rides, and road-trips....the day started eeeaarrrlly.
After securing a parking space downtown for the Tacoma, I headed over to my church where the doors are open for runners to gather themselves and prepare for the race. St. Paul's has been a staple for me since moving to OKC in 2006. I'm thankful for our clergy and congregation. The church took heavy damage in 1995, as we are located only a couple of blocks north of the bombing site, now the location of the memorial.
Pre-race visit. The starting line is just to the west of the memorial.
Lining up in corral B just before the race. The race starts out going south. The official start line is where the bright light can be seen.
Looking back north at the start. The entire event draws roughly 24,000 runners. That's a lot of snot-rockets.
My buddy Daniel was also assigned to corral B. He's a speedy dude and we had talked before about meeting up a the start. I was looking down at my phone to send him a message when I felt a thump on my shoulder. We were standing side-by-side before either of us realized it! The guys in the background were excited to be a part of the photo.
Headed north towards the state capitol. Yes, we have an oil derrick directly in front of our capitol building...I won't get into that. But....it does make for a fun shot! I don't have many photos from the run itself....because I was busy....running.
Headed up Gorilla Hill. The street here is lined with gorilla-themed 'stuff'....folks dressed up....and LOTS of bananas! The street just past the crowd always looks like a banana truck turned over. I definitely had a banana....which sat nicely on top of the beer I had about mile 5! (Thanks John, Red Earth Brewers, and MENT Apparel!)
Kicking through the finish. I set a PR (personal record) for my half-marathon time (1:38:56), scraping four minutes off of last year's time, so I was a happy boy! I also felt like I had been beaten on with a broom handle.
The festive finish line! The vibes here...are good.
My buddy Jacob also ran the half and DESTROYED it. His time was stupid-fast. Dude....congrats!
Also got to catch up with my friend Jen at the finish! This girl runs....and runs, and runs. I was surprised she was standing still long enough to take a photo! Bonus...she's a fellow teacher (as is Jacob.....as is Daniel!) We must all need to be runners in case we have to flee the kiddos! Ha!
Another homie! Hunter (grey shirt) was coming into the finish on his first full marathon! Kudos my friend....hope you got some ice afterwards! Ouch! (He did excellent and....surprise....is also a teacher)
Now over to the kids marathon finish line! My dude Chandler completed his kids marathon downtown. The kids run 25 miles on their own throughout the spring, then complete the final 1.2 downtown. His time has improved all spring and he's really enjoying running. Congrats my friend...I'm impressed!
My sweet friend Kendra (and Chandler's proud momma!) has also taken to running and is digging it! She and her husband Adam have been SUPER supportive of Chandler's running habit! Kendra came through the kids marathon with Chandler and has been helping him log miles while picking up running herself. Way to go!!
How about we put some sunglasses on that kiddo!
This girl was dressed like a pineapple. I don't know her, but if she's cool enough for a pineapple suit, then I think she's a winner! (Thanks for the photo and the laughs!)
Post-run yee-haws were held at Twisted Spike Brewing which is just a block or so off the finish. How convenient! They also hooked up the finishers with a free pint glass.
The Taco Nation bus was also out front serving up the yums. I was a good boy and only ate one, instead of seven....like I wanted.
The weather was choice, the race was energetic, the friends were plentiful, the beer flowed, and the vibes....were good. Offering much love and respect to those lost, their family and friends, and those who risked it all during the rescue. We always run to remember.