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Begins: Aug 6, 2010
Date: Tue, Sep 7th, 2010
Entry Lat: 37.416282
Entry Lng: -107.97296
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Colorado Trail Map
Miles hiked today: 16.7
Miles from Denver: 470.9
Elevation: 8,520 ft
Segments 27, 28
Landmarks: Cape of Good Hope, Highline Trail, Indian Trail Ridge, Sharkstooth Peak, Taylor Lake, Snowstorm Peak, Kennebec Pass, Junction Creek
I guess I was expecting a boring ending to this trail. The San Juans were just so amazing, that I would have been perfectly content to walk on forest service roads the rest of the way. But the Colorado Trail had one last great, ridgewalking, panoramic day in store.
I was truly in no hurry today, knowing I would get to camp long before sundown. My mileage for these last two days is more or less set due to the fact that there's only one campsite that's about halfway that has water, which is about 17 miles. I am just hoping that its not already taken when I get there.
The day dawned clear and bright, which I was glad for but I was also wary today that the forecasted thunderstorms would come. I ate breakfast and still had one full water bottle left over from all of the water I hauled with me yesterday. It's a good thing too, because within a half a mile I passed the point where there was supposed to be a spring, and it was dry. Such a little thing could have made life very miserable for me, so I was very glad I took precautions.
Just as the trail was about to climb out of the trees and onto the ridge, I ran into two men from Alabama who were doing an 7 day section of the Colorado Trail. The one gentleman had been slowly doing one section after another for the last 8 years, and was finally set to finish on Thursday. This is not unlike all of those section hikers of the AT, who finally finish their goal after years or even decades of coming back summer after summer. I'm not sure I could stick with it for that long, so I'm glad I have the luxury to do this hike all in one shot.
The ridge walk today was spectacular, and up there with the countless others this trail has taken me on. It is called both the Highline and the Indian Trail Ridge. The mountains ahead of me and a little to the right, called Sharkstooth Peak just kept getting closer and closer as the trail took me up the spine of a separating divide of two river drainages. Behind me I could still see Rolling Mountain and the peaks around Molas Pass, and to the east I could still see the Grenadier Range.
The ridge went on for 5 miles, and just when I was ready for more, came the sign to turn left and down. Below was Taylor Lake, the first water source from yesterday, and a huge basin at 11,500 feet called the Cumberland Basin. I stopped for some lunch and water at the lake, while the sky turned into a solid overcast of ever darkening grey tones. I packed up and headed for Kennebec Pass, which was one mile away.
I am reminded of the Kennebec River in Maine, which you had to cross in a canoe because it was too dangerous to ford. It would be interesting to learn whether this pass was named for the Kennebec. Either way I like it, and it is just one more thing on this trail that has reminded me of something on the AT.
I camped about 7 miles down the big descent into Durango. I could actually see Durango for the first time from the top of the pass, which was very exciting. I am almost there! The trail drops from 12,000 feet just above Taylor Lake to 7,000 feet at Durango, in a little over 20 miles. The elevation profile is really something to behold. I dropped nearly 3,000 miles in just a few hours, and made camp about 14 miles out from the end.
Fittingly, a couple named who had met on the Appalachian Trail in 1982 came into camp and I had a nice conversation with them until it was dark. They have been hiking this same section through the San Juans year after year, and I couldn't agree more that it is the best part of the Colorado Trail. It was nice to chat with some fellow thru hikers, and we talked about shelters, trail towns, hostels and ice cream. I can't think of a better way to pass my last night on the trail.
The Colorado Trail is a 486-mile long-distance trail running from the mouth of Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver to Durango in Colorado, United States. Its highest point is 13,271-foot above sea level, and most of the trail is above 10,000-foot. Learn more: www.coloradotrail.org