The map below shows hikes that I have posted. Double click to zoom in on an area. Click on a hiker icon to discover great hikes! Red stars indicate long distance hikes.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Colorado Trail Adventure Conclusion

Writing a conclusion to such an amazing journey is difficult. First, I would like to thank the many individuals who have helped make this hike a success: the Colorado Trail Foundation and its many volunteers and trail crews, the amazing trail angels, those who helped with my resupplies, Mom and Dad, those who gave me rides into/out of town, the maintainers of the Colorado Trail Friends’ Yurt, the many hikers and other users on the trail, those who provided resources and planning advice online, and those who offered prayers on my behalf and those who followed the adventure.  I learned that there are so many nice people still in the world today. Most of all I would like to thank God for creating such beautiful country and protecting others, my family, and me throughout duration of the journey!


I hope in some way the summary of this journey may be of assistance to you, whether you plan to actually hike the trail or simply enjoy experiencing adventurers through the adventures of others.  I’m not much about reflecting while out on the trail as some people envision hikes in the wilderness.  I simply find pleasure in long walks through beautiful terrain.  The life of a hiker is so simple: wake up> intermix hiking, eating, water treating, picture taking throughout the day>go to sleep.  Repeat until the next resupply stop.  Then repeat again and again until the journey is complete!   

The Colorado Trail offers so much!  From the lofty peaks to open fields to dense forests to the beautiful lakes and wildflowers there is so much to see! The trail is difficult to compare to my other long distance hikes on the John Muir Trail and Wonderland Trail.  I noticed several differences:  the use of bikes/motorized vehicles and walks on forest service roads, water availability, and more extreme weather.  While some of these differences may be viewed as downsides to the trail, they can’t take away from the magnificence of the trail!  I like the fact that the trail can be shared by many different types of users. Finding water was occasionally more challenging, but overall I was able to do just fine with a little planning ahead.  The weather also provided another level of difficulty to avoid being caught up high during a storm.  In some areas there simply isn’t anywhere to go for miles!  I just continued walking but never felt that close to lightning. Others on the trail had scarier experiences. All in all the Colorado Trail is one of the finest trails in America!

One of the questions I heard frequently while on the trail was: “Why didn’t you start in Denver?”  While I see the value in thru-hiking an entire trail from end to end, I also find value in creating my own personal journey with alternate routes.  Having read online that the trail near Denver isn’t quite as exciting as down in the San Juans, I decided to skip out on the first six segments and add in hikes in the Weminuche and Uncompahgre Wilderness Areas along with hikes to the top of several 14ers.  I do miss that the fact that I didn’t have the chance to fully appreciate the divide by walking all the way to it, but maybe someday in the future I will have that opportunity.


When I try to think ways that I would change my trip, not much comes to mind.  This is most likely due to proper preparation and adaptation before and during the hike.  My gear held up well with my shoes and Dri Ducks rain pants fairing the worst.  I had a reasonable diet that for the most part appeased my appetite of hiker hunger.  I do somewhat miss not going for the northern section of the Weminuche High Route above Elk Creek, but that zero day was sure special!


There’s not much else to say. I’m sure the memories of this hike will be with me for a long time and if I forget, hopefully I’ll still be able to find what I have written here! So until next time, I encourage you to go out and experience some beautiful nature! It’s most likely closer than you think!


Colorado Adventure Part VI: Ouray/Uncompahgre Loop

Days 23-27: August 11-14

Drive to Oury/Bear Creek and Horsethief Trails (Uncompahgre Wilderness)

Distance: ~20 miles Overall Total Distance: 453 miles

Highlights: Mayflower Mill near Silverton, beautiful scenery on Highway 550, Pizza in Ouray, Comfort Inn’s comfort and breakfast, Bear Creek National Recreation Trail, cliffs above Bear Creek, Grizzly Bear and Yellow Jacket mines, Uncompahgre Wilderness, Horsethief Trail, Wildhorse Peak, sheep, beautiful scenery above treeline, climbs to high alpine passes, Bridge of Heaven, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park


23. Comfort Inn (Ouray)
24. Yellow Jacket Mine
25. near Dexter Creek
26. Comfort Inn (Ouray)
27. Grand Junction
As mentioned earlier the Mayflower Mill was very interesting.  Here’s some additional information about it:

Mayflower Mill

Arrastra Basin

Ouray is known as the Switzerland of America.  We found some good pizza to eat.  The breakfast at the Comfort Inn was exceptional with lots of options.

My dad and I had originally planned to hike the 4 pass loop near Aspen around the Maroon Bells.  After he discovered it had over 10,000 feet of elevation gain, he reconsidered and decided that this near loop near Ouray would still be spectacular but somewhat easier.

This is where I think my dad got the idea for the route:

While probably easier than the 4 Pass Loop, this was still quite the climb.  Right away the trail climbs some 2000 feet up to the mines in four miles.  While on the way, I believe a random coincidence. I think I saw Onion, the guy who gave me a ride from Lake City to Spring Creek Pass, out running with his dog.  He looked like he was having an intense run so I didn’t want to interrupt him, but if so, I wish I would have said thanks again for the ride!

The Bear Creek Trail was unlike anything I saw on the Colorado Trail.  The trail was simply blown out of a cliff with dynamite back in the day for the miners.

Bear Creek

At the Grizzly Bear Mine there was very deep mine shaft that was all locked up.
Grizzly Bear Mine
A quality thunderstorm blew in and we decided to wait it out under some trees.  Some day-hikers told us they were going to a cave near the trail.

We arrived early, a little after noon, at the perfect campsite near Yellow Jacket mine.  I soon fell asleep until 6.  My dad took some pictures of a marmot in its hole. There was a bunkhouse still standing at the mine.

Yellow Jacket Mine


The next day we continued to climb up to the Uncompahgre Wilderness.  I’m so glad I had
the opportunity to visit this area.  Colorado just has so much to offer!

Uncompahgre Wilderness

We walked past a massive flock of sheep and then beside beautiful Wildhorse Peak.
Wildhorse Peak

After climbing another pass, we set up camp near Dexter Creek.  It was a beautiful
campsite and I took the time to climb up to higher peak to get an even bigger view.
One of My Favorite Meals!
My dad wasn’t feeling all that well (maybe altitude sickness and/or overexertion) so the next
day I did all I could to help him lighten his pack.

We still had two big climbs, one to the Bridge of Heaven which probably had the best
view on this entire loop.

Bridge of Heaven


After a 2000 foot descent we were soon met up with my mom who was waiting on CR
14.  My backpacking adventure in Colorado was complete.
The next day we stopped in Montrose, CO and I had the opportunity to visit a
national park I had never heard of, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  While I
have never been to the Grand Canyon, this canyon certainly compares. It just comes
steeply out of nowhere!  We visited the visitor center which had a very informative movie
and took in the many lookouts from the road on the rim of the canyon.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park


Colorado Trail Adventure Part V: Little Molas Lake Trailhead to Durango


Days 19-22: August 7-10

Little Molas Lake to Durango
Distance: 73 miles               Total Distance: 433

Highlights: zero day at condo between Silverton and Durango, little Molas Lake, some of the finest trail in the San Juans, Twin Sisters, meeting Jo, Tiago, and Tessa again, meeting a bunch of trail runners from Durango out on a supported run from Little Molas Lake to Durango, Blackhawk Pass, meeting new CT thru-hikers: Brian, Kittens, and Moonbeam; Indian Trail Ridge, Taylor Lake, Kennebec Pass, Junction Creek,  Gudy’s Rest, Southern terminus of CT at Junction Creek Trailhead

19. Condo between Silverton and Durango
20. near Hermosa Peak before FS Road 149
21. up on the Indian Trail Ridge
22. Condo between Silverton and Durango

I had a very relaxing zero day at the condo!  I don’t even think I went outside once.  I sat inside on the pull out couch and watched ESPN replay the same shows and ate cherry ice cream.  My mom made some excellent pasta for dinner.
I got dropped off at Little Molas Lake so I technically missed some of the CT between the two lakes.  
The last 3 days flew by!  The scenery was spectacular but I’m having a tough time remembering it all.

I passed several hikers heading toward Molas Pass.  The first two were section hikers who unfortunately had had to make the tough decision to bail on their hike to Durango.  They had experienced terrible weather, but with over 400 miles of experience on the Colorado Trail, I’m sure they made the right decision. I hope they have the opportunity to return and finish off these last few beautiful miles to Durango.  I also met a gentleman just starting his journey northbound after considering hiking the CT for quite some time!
My only zero day on the trail was probably the ideal one to have as I missed out on some nasty weather.  The weather the last three days to Durango wasn’t all that bad.  It did get fairly cloudy and there was slight rain the first two days.  During the last ten miles to Durango I probably experienced the worst storm of the trip with intense wind and cold rain, but I was down in the trees so lightning wasn’t much of a worry.
At the Engineer Mountain Trailhead I met up with Jo, Tiago, and Tessa. Jo was joined by her friend.  Unfortunately, I passed Jo, Tiago, and her friend after a short conversation and didn’t see them again.  I ended up hiking with Tessa for most of the day.

 Near Bolam Pass I met a group of runners from a Durnago running club who were running all the way from Molas Pass to Durango. They were probably high school age and appeared to have a close bond.  If I lived in this area, I’m almost certain I would become a participant in trail running the mountains!

Blackhawk Pass had a great view! There was some sort of chimney rock like mountain to the north.  I had an extended break and ate a bunch of food.  While taking in the view, I met Brian, a CT hiker I had not met before.  He was hiking with Tessa.  A few minutes later I met Kittens and Moonbeam, also thru-hikers.
Blackhawk Pass
A short distance after Blackhawk Pass is Straight Creek.  It’s the last water source until Taylor Lake which is a distance of 22 miles, probably the longest waterless stretch on the CT.
My shoes barely made it!

One of my favorites: Natural Peanut Butter with Honey with Nutella mixed in!
All five of us hikers spread out pretty quickly.  Brian was moving fast and wanted to make it to Taylor Lake, which was my goal as well. Kittens and Moonbeam were considering a night hike all the way to Durango.  I hiked some with Kittens who told of his experiences on the AT.
It was a long day and by the time I got up on Indian Trail Ridge, I was getting tired.  I took out my phone and to my amazement I had 4g LTE.  That meant I could use Facetime so I called my parents and brother.  They were able to see the spectacular view, and hear the booming thunder overhead.
Indian Trail Ridge

I decided to forego Taylor Lake that evening as the trail appeared to go even higher up on an exposed ridge and the clouds were especially dark up there. In addition, I wanted one last morning up high with beautiful morning light.


Taylor Lake was one of the best lakes on the entire CT.  Brian had camped there and was taking a relaxing morning.  There were no signs of Kittens or Moonbeam so maybe they did the night hike after all!
Taylor Lake

The trail descends a lot toward Durango. We experienced our last big views of the journey.
First Junction Creek Crossing
Then the huge storm came in and I saw some of the muddiest bikers I have ever seen!
There was one last view at Gudy’s Rest but I was too cold to do more than stop for a picture.
View from Gudy's Rest
Near Junction Creek, after descending all the switchbacks, I ran into another CT hiker just about ready to complete the trail.  He was actually going to camp right near Junction Creek for the night, so I took some time to talk to him.  Turns out he hiked the John Muir Trail in 2011, the same year I did.  He had almost completed the Collegiate West.
The last couple miles were pleasant walking along Junction Creek.  The rain had stopped and there were a few day hikers out on the trail.
Within a short time I saw my Dad and I knew my journey on the Colorado Trail was complete!  Brian was waiting at the trailhead with his girlfriend and she gave me some of her amazing cookies!  Thanks so much!
My dad took a few pictures of me by the sign and that was it!
Southern Terminus of the Colorado Trail

Later that evening we went out for some great food!  I was so exhausted I could barely eat, even though I was extremely hungry!
While my Colorado Trail adventure was complete, there was more adventure to come.

About Me

I've been born and raised in the great state of Michigan. I recently graduated from physical therapy school. I enjoy being active, playing sports, and running. Backpacking has become a great interest as it is a physical challenge that provides many rewarding views and experiences. I strive to make a difference in the lives of those encounter in every day life, on the trail, or even just on this blog. May God bless each of you. Now go find an adventure! It's only a few feet away!