Colorado Trail Day 2

I felt pretty sore when I woke up, but the campsite I had was a wonder to wake up to. I chugged a bunch of water as soon as I was out of my tent, close to a liter since I still had a liter and a half left of the four full bottles I had carried from the fire station. 

I packed up camp. First my sleeping pad goes into my pack, folded up in a rectangle to go along my back and make a “frame” for my frameless pack. Then my down quilt is stuffed into the bottom of my pack. Then my insulated sleeping booties, then my inflatable pillow, sleeping bag liner, hat, gloves, rain jacket, spare pair of socks, and wind pants. I toss the one gallon ziplock I use as a ditty bag out of my tent and there is now nothing inside. I get out, pack my tent into its stuff sack, and slide it in vertically. Now I heat up some water for coffee with my titanium camp pot and isobutane stove. 

While the water heats up I organize my food and eat a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter. I remove four bars, two Bevita breakfast cookies, a Cliff Bar, and a Probar. Those bars go in the bottom pocket of my pack for easy access while I walk. 

The water now has some visible bubbles, so it’s hot enough. I put two packets of instant coffee in my Camelback insulated water bottle with a Nalgene lid and dump the water in. I put the rest of my food into my cube shaped food bag, which will go on top of everything else inside my pack. Into my pack goes the pot and stove, ditty bag, inflatable massage ball, and my puffy jacket. I am not feeling as cozy and warm anymore, and this compels me to move faster with only a pair of shorts, my hiking shirt, and a fleece on. 

The food goes in and the pack is instantly much heavier. But, I now only have 20 ounces of coffee as liquid weight, so it is not as heavy as it was last night. I put the pack on and start hiking for the day. It is 6:45 and the sun is starting to come up.

I come to the creek where Scot and I camped just a week ago on our Bikepacking trip. I fill up one bottle of water, knowing that the dry section is over and I no longer need to carry very much. I see the Lost Creek Wilderness sign. Leaving Buffalo Creek. 

Last time I did this segment was in early May, when I postholed to my knees all the way up the hill into the meadow above, then discovered my car’s radiator leaked when I got back the next day. This time was better. 

I climb up from the trailhead and quickly find a group of 6 middle aged men with giant backpacks. They are hiking from Waterton Canyon to Kenosha pass, on their third day in. I recognize the spot they’re in as the one with the best cell reception until Breckenridge, so I stop to make a quick instagram post. I let the world know I’m alive and well. 

They ask me about my pack and the weight of it and I tell them I made it myself. I’m met with the usual “wows” from that and the fact that my pack is so small. Somehow it comes out that I only started yesterday. They leave the cell reception spot before me, one of them “see you soon” as they do. 

I quickly pass them once I start moving again. 

I reach the top of the climb and I’m in the beautiful meadow that the Lost Creek snakes through, periodically disappearing only to reemerge again. 

The afternoon through the Lost Creek meadow was magical, as usual, and I think back to my first ever backpacking trip through this meadow. That time I had a 50 liter pack with a whole bunch of stuff strapped to the outside! That was my first backpacking trip, ever. Those early backpacking trips seem so long ago–when 10 miles in a day seemed like a lot. 

I listened to an audio book all afternoon, American Wolf, a book I started reading before this hike. I quickly found a spot where I remember camping on my first backpacking trip. I could feel the memory of needing to camp by this creek, because there wasn’t very much other water around. 

At that water source I meet two girls who are also thru-hiking. They’re very nice, and seemed surprised by my energy level. “I’ve hiked this trail before,” I tell them, as if that explains anything. But I think it does, in some way, because our brains don’t do well with uncertainty, and I certainly knew what was ahead. I grab a liter of water and keep on walking. 

I eat gummy bears all afternoon and finish the audio book, thinking of this meadow in another time, when wolves lived here. I think of a lot of things this afternoon, as I do most afternoons while hiking all day. See, when you hike all day, you have a lot of time to think, but I find my brain really gets active after I’ve been hiking for half a day. 

You hike all morning, thinking about whatever–the beauty of a tree, the state of the world, or how hungry you are (once you’ve been hiking long enough that will become your baseline thought). Then, after you’ve stopped for lunch and recharged with a nice break and food, and cold instant coffee if you’re me, you walk the afternoon away. Your thoughts race in all sorts of fun directions, especially once the pure sugar is introduced to the brain. 

I hold off on eating candy until after lunch. Between the hours of 2 and 6 p.m. I tend to mostly eat gummy bears. I eat one every 5 or so minutes, and chew them slowly. I chew gummy bears and think about large predatory dogs, living in the den they inevitably found in the rock outcropping over there. 

The wolf pack could have just made an elk kill, by this time in the summer even the puppies born in the spring would come out from their den to feed on the kill.

I am interrupted from my reverie. I have reached the end of the valley and am reentering the trees. I cross a gate and start going downhill through pine forest. I go down for what feels like a long time, the trail is smooth and steep, so I start to run a little. Now I’m at a creek, the last good one until after Kenosha Pass. It’s 6 o’clock and I’ve hiked 27 miles, so I stop, fill up a water bottle, and sit down to decide if I’ll camp here tonight or go a little farther. 

I sit in the dirt, drink about half a liter of water. This dirt is soft, a little too sloped to camp on, but great for a lounging on. I’m laying in the dirt, deciding if I’m going to camp, the answer is obviously yes. But, I have to find a better spot in the area to set up for the night. I elevate my feet on my pack and drip water into my mouth slowly. I am hungry for dinner. 

The two girls that I saw at the last water source arrive and see me laying in the dirt, “Are you going to camp there?” one of them asks. 

“Not right here, too slopey” I say, while pointing to a cluster of aspens 100 feet downhill I was just thinking of walking towards, “I was about to go check out those trees, it looks like it would be flatter down there.”

Well, it was flatter down there. We found a wonderful campsite, sheltered from the non-existent wind, a short walk from the creek. After setting up our tents and cooking dinner, a third hiker shows up and asks if he can camp with us. I have never camped with so many strangers on the Colorado Trail, this must really be a busy year. 

I feel really good now, getting ready to go to bed after eating my dinner of rice and beans. I wonder if three miles less really made me feel less tired, or if it’s the fact that I hiked 30 miles yesterday with only one break and today I took three. I stopped and stretched a few times throughout the day too. I fall asleep to the sound of a gently flowing water. 

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