Continental Divide Trail Journal – Part 3: Colorado

Contiental Divide Trail Journal – Part 3 : Colorado


August 29th – On the divide in Colorado

1350 Miles
4 States
22.5 miles per day overall average
60 days on the CDT
3 pairs of shoes
...and who knows how many Snicker bars.

The raw stats of my hike does not  give the whole story of this

How do you explain what it is like to see wild horses gallopping in the
desert? The feel of the cold rain on your face? How to put in words the
elation  of finding a cold drink put out for you on the trail?

A hike on any long trail is more than just miles hiked total and
average daily miles. The hike is about laughter shared with friends while
hiking. The hike is about seeing the alpenglow on the mountains. It is
about making the long climb to the crest of the ridge.

This journal and my photos convey a small part of what it is like to
journey on the Continental Divide Trail. The majority of what I feel and
experience is inside. Memories I will have for a long time.

Today, I crossed into Colorado. I am now in the mountains I call home.
Over the years, have had many wonderful experiences and memories in
these mountains. As my journey continues, will have more memories to look
back on fondly.

Sept 5th – Indian Peaks Wilderness

The past few days have seen me hiking around areas I know well. When I

was on Bowen ridge and looking down at Grand Lake and then seeing peaks

I could pick out by sight, knew I was back "home".
Their is a certain thrill thru-hiking in places I have been before. So

many memorable adventures have been done in the places I am passing.

Could remember exactly where a favorite photo was taken. Saw the turn

for an off-trail hike taken three years ago at this time of the year.

And many, many other places that brought back similar memories.
How close I am to home was emphasized as I was walking into Grand Lake.

A car pulled up… and in the car was a friend from Boulder! Bryce has

done the AT, so my appearence was not too shocking.
At about that time, we saw five other thru-hikers who came into town

maybe twenty minutes after I did. The bulk of the southbounders were in

Grand Lake all in front of Bryce and Lima's car!
Tonight I am twelve miles from a trailhead that is only about 45

minutes away from where I have made my home. Looking back at previous

entries, it is very apparent how happy I will be to see my friends. Will not

deny it!

Several friends are meeting me tomorrow with the promise of a steak

dinner cooked right at the trailhead.

Any wonder why I can't wait to see my friends?!?!
It is good to be home. Home in the mountains I love. Home with friends

I am anxious to see. And then off be home on the trail.

Sept 6th – 4th of July TH, 1:30 PM

I am sitting at a picnic table at a trailhead I haved used many times
before. Looking at a trail runner power up the trail, and a Subaru just
pulled up with two Labs. Even saw a "Free Tibet" bumper sticker on one
of the cars! No doubt of where I am now!

Have four hours to wait at this trailhead. As a thru-hiker who loves to
walk all day, having time to do nothing is an odd feeling. Going to
make a lunch of my Ramen, label some photos and do some minor pack
repairs. After that? Try not to get too anxious about the wait and just enjoy
the sound of the brook, look at the golden aspens on the mountain side
and enjoy the time I have to relax.

There is a phrase in Italian - "Dolce far niente". The sweetness of
doing nothing. As I wait for the next few hours, plan on enjoying this
quiet time.

(Now if only I had some sausage and peppers, a loaf of fresh bread, a
bit of cheese and some wine instead of Ramen! Could really enjoy the
"sweetness" Italian style...)

Sept 8th – Boulder, CO

(Warning to any readers..this entry is a long and rambling personal

entry. You have been warned!)
Spending time where I live while doing a thru-hike is an odd

experience. Went to a few of my favorite places, ate much food and saw many of my

Stopped in Indra's new office to say hello to my former co-workers.

Stopping in made me realize how much they had become part of my life as

well. Working for a small company that is laid back, it is easy to think

of the people as friends.
Went to my outdoor group's meeting and gave a quick "trip report". Felt

so happy to share the trip with everyone. More than a few comments were

made about my beard!
Able to stay with my close friend Nahum and his girlfriend Patricia.

When you are used to seeing someone at least once a week, there is much

catching up to do!
Also had many lunches, get togethers and dinners with other people,

too. Was not long enough!
The happiest part of the visit was finally meeting Avery Zapin. Josh

called me "Uncle Mags". Marni and Josh both encouraged me to hold Avery.

Never held someone so young before. I am close enough to the Zapins

that being called "Uncle Mags" did not sound odd. Besides, every Jewish

boy needs an honorary (and a bit crazy) Italian uncle.

I would be lying if I said it is easy to leave town. I have a life for

myself here; one I enjoy. The thru-hike has been a wonderful

experience. Every day is something new.
I come form a cultural background that emphasizes family and community.

Growing up, was one of sixteen grandchildren on my mother's side of the

family. All the cousins,grandparents aunts and uncles lived within ten

minutes of each other. Used to think this environment was stifling.
Hiking the Appalachain Trail eight years ago, and my later move to

Colorado, was a way of branching out from this upbringing.
The Pacific Crest Trail confirmed how much the love of wilderness is a

part of my life.
This trail? The love of wilderness is there. Can't believe how

fortunante I am to live in nature every day. But this trail also has shown me

how much those values I learned long ago are very much part of me. The

sense of a strong community has been created in the place where I now

What was seen as stifling when I was in my teens and early twenties is

now seen as a richness that not every person is able to experience.
What does all this mean? I am happy to be completing the CDT. After

this trip, though, trips that last weeks rather than months may be in my

future. I love my close friends like family. Be they in Rhode Island or

Colorado, they are an important part of my life.
But the love of wilderness is equally important to me as well. I need

the mountains, the rivers and the forests. Need to be in them and not

just admire them from afar.
I really need to find a way to balance a sense of wanderlust, a need

for nature and this need equal need for community. As with many long

journeys, more questions have been posed than answers.

September 12th – Silverthorne, CO

Autumn has always been my favorite time to enjoy the outdoors. The

weather is cool and crisp. The nights are pleasant for sleeping.
In Colorado, autumn also means skies that are an intense blue,

mountains covered in yellow aspen, and mountains covered with the first snows

of the season.
The snow on the mountains is also a reminder how winter is not far off

and that it can snow at any time in the Colorado Rockies.

When I hiked the divide on Sunday, visibility was quite bad. Had to

bail to a lower route and climb to the divide the following day.
Colorado in autumn wil always be one of my favorite ways to spend time

in the outdoors. This time of the year also has reminders winter is on

its way.
As I hike further south on the divide will enjoy the ridge walks, the

changing leaves and the long views. Will also hope autumn lasts a little


September 13th – UPDATED MAILDROPS

Plan on finishing this trail on November 1st. Make my trip last an even
4 months!

Here is my updated ETAs for my maildrops:

Pagosa Springs (picking up bounce bucket) 9/28
Ghost Ranch 10/4
Cuba (picking up bounce bucket 10/7)
Pie Town 10/17
Doc Campbells 10/22

September 14th – Leadville, CO

The weather has been very typical of Colorado fall. Cold and snowy one

day, Indian Summer type weather the next. Warm days with clear blue

skies, limtless vistas. The kind of day where it is an absolute delight

to hike.
As the month progresses and I hike deeper into the higher elevations of

southern Colorado, my fingers are crossed for more Indian Summer like

Currently, I am on the part of the CDT that coincides with the Colorado

Trail. For the next two-hundred miles the grade will be easier, the

trail will be well marked and will not have to do constant checks with my

map, compass and guidebook. I enjoyed my journey on this stretch two

years ago; suspect will enjoy this stretch again as part of a longer


During my hitch into Leadville, the person who gave me a ride commented

how great it is that I am able to live a life where my dreams can be

persued. A friend e-mailed me and commented how it is great I pursue my

own happiness. A cousin e-mailed me as well and said it was nice I am

living my dream rather than the "American Dream" that she is living and

not overly happy with currently.
All these comments made me think.

What is the "American Dream"? Is it just a house in the suburbs and a

"good job"? Or is it something more?
Over the years, people have come to this country from places with less

opportunities. Places where choices were limited.
Americans' ancestors left their home country to come to this country. A

place where life has many choices. Where opportunities, unheard of back

in their home countries, abounded.
And I think that is truly what the American dream is about. The

opportunity to choose a life that is about pursuing a dream.
The "American Dream" should not just be about the pursuit of material

goods. The "American Dream" should be about pursuing each person's

individual dream. And that dream is chosen by each of us.
By taking these long journeys, I'd like to think I am pursuing my own

dream. Living the American Dream of opportunities and choice. To have

the opportunity to hike a long trail. To make the choice to spend a

summer wandering. To make my own version of the "American Dream" a reality.

September 20th – under my snow covered tarp

Fall is a short season this year in Colorado. The aspens peaked early.
The weather has been colder earlier. And the mountains are receiving
snow on a regular basis.

I camped below the snow covered Hope Pass the night of the 16th. The
temperatures plummeted to single digits that night and the wind was
relentless. To use some technical terminology, I froze my ass off.

The following day, I went over Hope Pass and made the decision to
follow the old Colorado Trail route rather than the CDT. Followed the CT
until it joined up again near Monarch Pass. The CT had the advantage of
being 2000-3000 feet lower..and warmer! The CT and CDT hooked up again
yesterday, just in time for some great fall weather.

The weather only lasted one day, though. Now it is snowing. Made the
decision to again go lower and take the Creede route. I will miss a good
part of the San Juans, but I really don't want to be above treeline so
much during this fluctuating weather.

The CDT is about versatility. And adjusting my hiking plans as I go
down the trail is a large part of this versatility. I would have prefered
to hike the San Juans, but my larger preference is to not walk in
whiteout conditions.

September 23rd – Crested Butte, CO

The thru-hiker network is an amazing one. Through emails, voicemails

and on-line forums, word was out that several CDT hikers were bailing off

the divide due to an early season snow storm and holing up in various

towns near the divide.
Disco and P.O.D. are from Crested Butte and managed to get into town.

They put out a mass email inviting all CDT hikers to wait out the storm

in Crested Butte. With the help of former ATers, PCTers and CDTers, a

total of eight southbound CDT hikers managed to get into town and have a

warm and dry place to bail out of the storm that hit the divide.
The past two days have been wonderful. People I have not seen in a

while were seen again. Met several thru-hikers who have done other trails

in the past and were wonderful hosts. The bond among those who hike the

long trails is a strong one. If a hiker is in need, the homes and

hearts are opened up.

Tonight, we had a an impromptu get together in an apartment in town.

Much food, conversation and laughter with people who all share a common

bond: walking the long trails and loving all that these journeys entail.

These trails are walked for the journey itself. All the experiences and

memories that come from many miles of walking in the mountains. And

some of these memories are with people we meet on the journey. People we

will always have a bond in common. People who help make the trip such a

rich and rewarding experience.

September 28th – Pagosa Springs, CO

The trail poses many challenges. Route finding. Steep climbs. Unpredictable weather. And the challenges demand flexibility in dealing with them. With all the snow up in the high country, did a combo of roadwalks, trails and jeep roads to Wolf Creek Pass. Not my ideal route, but one that worked under the circumstances. Stopped in the ranger office in Pagosa. They were extremely helpful and friendly in providing information. Though, was a bit embarassed when they insisted on shaking my hand! In any case, the rangers said there was still two feet of snow on the divide, but melting rapidly. Will have to make a "game day decision" and see if I continue to walk jeep roads to Cumbres Pass or attempt the divide. Suspect will attempt the divide, but drop lower if I find the snow causing difficult going.

Colorado has proven to be my most challenging state due to the weather. But these challenges are what, in part, makes a walk on the divide so memorable and rewarding. If these journeys were easy, I doubt they would have the same meaning for me.

Go to Part 4 – New Mexico

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