In 3 days time, there was a month’s worth of business to be addressed. In typical chaos style my world exploded before, miraculously, coming back together in one final, frenzied push; shirnking down to the size of a back-pack. Manageable.
Thursday night I flew down I-70, yammering manically into the phone, too excited at the time to register that all that elevation being lost was to be regained; on foot.
That night the Browns opened their georgeous home to us, as Courtney and I shook down gear and filled water bottles to the tune of a Nat Geo program about the AT; you know, just to get my blood pumping even faster. Then, one last night of bed sleep.
The next morning J dropped Lotus and I off at the head of Waterton Canyon, the official start to the Colorado Trail, which has been closed more often than open in recent years dues to ongoing repair efforts from a forest fire some years back. Our start date happened to be the only day open that week. I assumed it was because they knew I wouyld be coming in that day, but it turns out it was because there was an endurance equestrian race going on. It also turns out that where there are Horses, there are Horse Flies. And those suckers hurt!
Either way, we started up along the sunny canyon road, thrilled by the figures and forms in the 1.7 billion year old towering red walls and rock spires. Experimented with our echoes across the river and up the canyon, and were most of all pleased by the relatively cool summer morning and easy 40 ft per mile elevation gain. 6 miles in we passed the 243 ft tall Strontia Springs Dam and so, out of the land of “easy morning bike ride” and into the climb.
The service road gave way to rocky uphill ATV track and I quickly realized the most constant companions out here will be mountain bikers. The ATV road quickly gave way to single track and trees; finally, I was home, and sharing it with Lotus, for her first overnight backpacking trip! The trail decided to ease her into the sport with a climb climb, steady climb. Dodging horses (horse flies) and weird homeless dudes at the start of the trail, we climbed from one paltry water source to the next, meeting other thru-hikers to-be along the way.
Stopping for the night at a small dry camp amoung a leaning rock outcrop, we first went about taking a very serious nap (12 miles by 4:30 pm is nothing to sneeze at!) before exploring the views then settling down to cook dinner. As we discussed whether a tattoo would appropriately commemorate long trails, my stove glitched and I torched my fingers trying to save the pot. A few seconds later, it happened again, and I again grabbed at the hot metal. Heck, who needs tattoos when the trail herself with brand ya!
At about 10 that night, as we lay sweating on top of our sleeping bags with the fly off the tent, strange lights whizzed around the bend in the trail. A gang of night cyclists, out training for an upcoming endurance race. The stars sparkled infinetely as the light from Denver hung hazily in the darkness.
The next morning our dangerously low water supply was topped off by a returning warrior cyclists and so we marched out along a forrested mountainside, which gave way to a narrow ridge with vistas of untold canyon folds and the unique hoo-doos to come.
We dropped 2000 of the 2500 ft gained the day before but the reward of soaking tired feet in the South Platter River and J’s welcome with bottles of cool gatorade and snacks made it more than worth it. As we lounged in the last of the morning cool, I absorbed the love and energy of friends, to better propell me through the 12 mile stretch of burn area that was to come.