Colorado Trail Part 1
LightHeart Gear owner Judy Gross is currently thruhiking the Colorado Trail, sleeping in her LightHeart tents and seeing some fantastic views! Here's her personal account of life on the trail:
Saturday, August 13th, 2016:
What I consider the first third of the Colorado Trail (CT) is done. Denver to Twin Lakes, or about 177 miles. This first part of the trail is close to civilization and you can be in town every 3 or 4 days. The trail starts in Denver at 6000ft and gives you a chance to develop an altitude adjustment; there are plenty of tough ups and downs to wake up your trail legs and your trail lungs! The high passes are also spectacular, as is the Lost Creek Wilderness.
Unlike the Appalachian Trail, the CT is a multi-use trail and so much of it suited for mountain bikes and horseback. The bikes can be annoying, but they are not overly so, and several sections of the trail go through designated wilderness and so they are bike free. I actually met an older guy with two horses that is doing the entire CT and he was kind enough to carry my pack on his horse for a mile or so at the end of a long day!
Since I've thru hiked this trail before, I decided to skip the first 28 miles through the Waterton Canyon, aka 6 miles of flat dirt road, and Section 2 which is 10 miles of burned forest. Those sections are HOT & DRY, and there is no redeeming value for me. So Krewzer and I met Sparky (my 2 hiking buddies!) at the start of section 3, which begins at the Little Scraggy Trailhead. The weather this time around has given us more rain than previously, but it hasn't been anything disastrous (though we did have a brief but intense thunder and lightning storm a few nights ago!).
Our first town stop was Breckinridge, we stayed at the Fireside Inn Hostel and did a slack pack over to Copper Mountain the next day. The weather was superb: clear, sunny, perfect temps and the views always stunning. Someone asked me why I was hiking the Colorado trail a second time when there are so many other trails to hike – I don't think I could ever get tired of some of these views, and the only way to see them is to hike the trail! After Copper Mountain, you hike up to Searle Pass and on to Kokomo Pass. This is one of my favorite sections. The views just don't stop. Prior to Breckenridge, you hike over Georgia Pass which is the first time the CT takes you up to the Continental Divide and to 12,000 ft. Even in a cold misty rain it's such a stunning place to be with Mt Guyot soaring off to one side. As you approach Georgia Pass, you enter the tree line zone at about 11,500 ft. Tree line is one of those magical areas that appear to be manicured, landscaped gardens.
After Breckenridge we hiked to Leadville and on into Twin Lakes where I am tonight. The trail passes the trail heads to Mt Elbert – the tallest mountain in Colorado – and Mt Massive which is second tallest at 14,421 ft. We passed numerous day hikers heading up to bag these peaks and the weather was picture perfect again – clear skies all day with just a few puffy clouds late in the afternoon. Krewzer and I took the "short cut" trail down to the twin lakes store and ended up having to bushwack a bit but finally re-found the trail, and then we took another short cut across the west side of the Twin Lakes and forded a few shallow streams. Tonight we are camped right at the base of the climb to Hope Pass. The saying goes that once you climb it you "hope you never have to do it again". Well, I may be a glutton for punishment because I'm climbing it again tomorrow! The trail rises about 3,500 ft in 3 miles. That's pretty steep with precious little oxygen to be had and heavy packs as we are 6 days from our next town stop.
Nighttime temperatures have dipped down to the mid 30's. Daytime temps feel like they're in the upper 90's but probably not really that high. Water is plentiful along the trail as there is a lot of snow in the higher altitudes still. More to come!