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Begins: Aug 6, 2010
Date: Wed, Sep 8th, 2010
Entry Lat: 37.331298
Entry Lng: -107.902677
Entry Visits: 752
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Colorado Trail Map
Miles hiked today: 14.4
Miles from Denver: 485.4
Elevation: 6,960 ft
Landmarks: Junction Creek, Gudy's Rest Overlook, Junction Creek Trailhead, Western Terminus, Durango
It rained all night. My tent does a decent job of keeping me dry, but basically everything was a little bit damp, and it looked like it would rain more today. None of this mattered, because by the end of the day I would be dry, clean and sleeping in a bed with my stuff drying. Today was the last day on the trail, and my spirits couldn't be dampened. In fact, where normally I would be a little bummed about the rain because of the prospect of the following damp, chilly night in the woods, the fact that I was headed in to town freed me to appreciate the rain, the fog and the mist for the beauty it really provides.
About 6:30 am I awoke, and the rain had stopped. The thought that went through my head was that this was only a window before it would start raining again. I quickly got up and started packing, then joined John and Kathleen for some breakfast, the couple that had camped here. I was very excited about the fact that for this stretch, I had calculated the food I would need almost exactly, down to the last granola bar. After breakfast was over I had a bagel, three slices of cheese, a granola bar, a snickers bar and some bits of jerky left. I was headed out about as light as I could get, and I planned to make very short work of these last 14 miles.
The rain started up again, so I shouldered pack and headed out. The overcast clouds along with the rain had a really incredible visual effect on the woods, transforming them from the dry, dark place I came through yesterday to a vibrant, alive, fluorescent palette. The greens and yellows were very bright; the fall colors had come at these elevations to the underbrush and ferns. This particular forest had an almost shocking variety of plants and trees, more so than anywhere I've seen on the trail. Spruce trees lined up next to fir, aspen and ponderosa, in a very mixed manner. There were tons of low plants, bushes, yucca, wildflowers and grasses. All of it mixed together for one last great display as I strode closer and closer to my goal.
There was a four mile climb up out of the campsite, and from there the trail is all downhill. This entire segment is 20 miles long and drops from 11,600 feet at Kennebec Pass to 6,960 feet at the terminus. So basically it was all downhill. The rain stopped and started, started and stopped. I was moving fast to keep warm, and because I knew my mom was waiting at the trailhead, possibly with lots of food and maybe some hot chocolate.
My mom had driven down all the way from Sheridan, Wyoming to pick me up from the trailhead, a drive of two and a half days, and the last we spoke I couldn't really say what time I would be down there. I figured I could get a cell signal at some point from a lookout, which I did, and called and left a message.
Before long I came to Gudy's Rest, with just four miles left on the trail. Gudy Gaskill is the super-volunteer who was present at the very first meeting for the organization of the Colorado Trail Foundation in the 70's, and decided to make this trail her project. She toiled for decades, organizing volunteer trail builders, petitioning forest ranger districts and private landowners, and generally making the trail into a reality. She is what Myron Avery was for the Appalachian Trail, the person that made it happen. So it is a very fitting tribute that there is a bench overlooking the thick cloud that covered Durango far below, and a very poignant landmark telling me that I was almost done with this trail, this walk.
I arrived at Junction Creek Trailhead, and after a few minutes was able to connect with my mom who was waiting nearby. She was stocked with food, a warm car, and a tentative hug due to the stench of a wet smelly hiker, and we embarked for town and a four day adventure through Colorado, eventually back to Denver for my flight on Monday. I am blessed to have such a hitch into town and back to my flight! It will be a fun couple of days.
It is really hard to describe my feelings at this point about being done with this trail, but I do know that I am absolutely impressed with this trail and all the work that has been done, and astounded by the beauty of these mountains. The Colorado Trail is a "short" trail, but mile for mile has far more views and open scenery that anything back east, and the trail work itself is very impressive in most segments and is obviously a labor of love for those that built it. As a thru-hike, it is a really incredible experience, and has roads at all the right places for resupply. I would fully recommend it, even as a first trail to any thru-hiker, with the caveat that the dates should be chosen carefully around the weather. I really lucked out in the weather; I only had storms twice on high passes, and for the last three weeks I have had almost 100% clear weather, and just beautiful walking. Those that started three weeks ahead of me saw rain or thunderstorms almost every day. Because several 20 mile days were entirely above tree line, the weather is really critical and safety is a big factor.
It has been really amazing revisiting the world of a thru-hiker these last several weeks. I missed it so, and am really glad I had a chance to come out and do this. I have probably lost around 27 pounds, according to a scale I found in Silverton. Thru-hiking is the ultimate crash diet, however the trick is keeping the weight off. I am now off to re-entry to normal life, which will include conducting a tour in DC as early as next week, the same as I did two years ago when coming off the Appalachian Trail. I just know I'm going to hear complaints about the 100 foot elevation climb up the hills of Arlington Cemetery, and will most likely have a hard time sympathizing.
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