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[CDT-L] Colorado - 1997 (part 6)
- Subject: [CDT-L] Colorado - 1997 (part 6)
- Date: Thu, 20 Aug 1998 18:31:51 -0400
- Reply-to: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the wrap-up on last year's trip - I have the persistent feeling
that the lists might be down so I might have to send this again later.
Let me know if you don't get it. :-) In any case, we'll keep trying
until we get it right. We'll start sending the Montana journal out (in
pieces) to CDT-L on Monday. We'll be out building new trail in
Pennsylvania this weekend.
Jim & Ginny
August 14 - Rock Lakes to Wolf Creek Radio Tower - two ways - 10 miles
Total 159 miles
August 15- Friday - Durango again
Ginny: Yesterday we drove up to Wolf Creek Pass where we were supposed
to end our hike. There's a dirt road to a radio tower/lookout area that
has a good trailhead that saved a 1000' climb to the CDT. From there we
walked about five miles to the Divide beyond Rock Lakes. A thunderstorm
developed (of course), so we turned around and headed back to the car
amidst lightning, hail, rain, hail, thunder, hail - well, it was a quick
return and we didn't even get all that wet since all the showers were
brief. It was nice trail, mostly in spruce forest. A group of high
school students, whom we met at the trailhead, had been working on it
for four weeks, doing a lot of waterbars and filling in eroded spots.
We saw fresh snow covering the mountains to the south. Although short,
it was a nice hike. Jim's cough returned, so we decided not to try any
more hiking. Instead, today we drove west and north out of Durango on
the scenic highway route - about 235 miles through desert, plateau,
alpine mountain, old mines and other interesting terrain. It was really
beautiful. I had forgotten how much red rock there is around here. We
did a brief visit to Telluride (claustrophobic tourist glitz, but a
pretty setting) and a much longer wander around Silverton (tourist shops
and lots of hotels and restaurants, but wide dirt roads and a sleepier
feel to it once the daily tourist trains have gone back to Durango.) We
took lots of pictures as we drove around, taking our time. Ouray was a
nice town too, but we didn't spend any time in the shops there - another
time maybe. We had a good, though tiring day. Now we're back at the
hotel, trying to decide between sleep and ice cream.
I'm not ready to go back home yet. Seeing all the beauty today
reminded me of all the places we have yet to explore. I've done a lot
of thinking about the reality of a CDT thruhike. Bailing out early
might have meant an end to that dream, so I had to think about how much
I wanted it, when faced with the reality of long distance hiking.
Eleven days was exhausting, am I ready for 15 times that? But there is
so much beauty out there. Fact is, I am happy on the trail, despite the
rain and cold, sore ankles, no showers, perpetual pasta dinners, endless
climbs, sunburn, puffing and panting and a too heavy pack. So much
world out there - so little time to explore it all. It isn't an easy
life, but it is a fulfilling one.
Jim: Not much to say for the last couple days -- it's been a good time,
although not what we came out here for. The trip to Chama, Alamosa, etc.
was an unplanned bonus and gives us a much better idea of what the
reality of the CDT will be. And it WILL be different. There's an
ambivalence in my attitude - I don't know whether I love this country or
hate it. The CDT was both more and less than I expected - more rain,
more mud, more problems with the altitude, more beauty than I could
absorb, less sunshine, gentler grades (Thank God). In some ways it
scared me - it's bigger, more awesome, rougher and more elemental than
anything in the East. And more so than I ever imagined. And I ran into
spiritual challenges of a sort that I haven't had to face in a lot of
years. But I also know that I'm addicted to it now. Both Ginny and I
realized before we even got home that we had changed. For one thing
we're even closer to each other than we were before - and that's hard to
imagine. But there are other, less defineable changes in our attitude
and outlook. Eventually we'll figure them out, but it'll take some
time. Overall - it was a really good trip, I'm glad we did it ' and the
"Flight of the Spirit Eagle" is on course for '99.
Postlude - Summary/Lessons Learned -
Of the 11 days we spent on the trail, we slept at elevations greater
than 9000 ft. for all but one night (that was in Lake City) and at 11000
ft. or more for 7 nights. The highest elevation on this section of
trail was 13100 ft. but the trail dips below 11000 ft. only 3 times in
For the first 5 days we averaged 11 miles per day, the next 6 days we
averaged over 15 miles per day with no serious back, knee or foot
problems in evidence. The conclusion is that in the absence of the
HAPE, we'd have finished what we started out to do. This leads to the
rather obvious conclusion that avoidance of HAPE is a necessity for
completion of a CDT thruhike. When we watched the McVeigh's CDT video
neither of us really understood why Carol McVeigh had pulmonary problems
after she'd spent months on the trail. Now we understand all too well
and HAPE research is very high on our priority list. And we were both
taking 250 mg. of Diamox - we should have been taking double doses.
High mileage days, heavy packs, the cold and wet, the lack of sleep and
insufficient acclimatization time all contributed to our downfall, as
did (probably) the resupply excursion into Lake City.
There are no shelters on the CDT - and the weather can be extremely
unpredictable and violent. Without a tent or at least a tarp, we'd have
had a date with the Search and Rescue people - and a medevac
helicopter. It ain't the AT.
The water is ALL contaminated. Anyone who doubts that is welcome to
their medical bills. But don't say you weren't warned. In fact, it's
contaminated enough that we clogged a Pur Hiker filter in 11 days. That
puppy's on its way back to Pur - it has a one-year no-clog guarantee.
Nor is the treadway related to the AT in any way. Much of what we
encountered was either rock or running water or mud, churned up by the
horses and other hikers and occasionally by dirt bikes. We've been home
for a week and our boots still aren't dry. There are sections of dug
trail and there are sections of stock trail that are in really good
condition, but there are also sections of trail where there are multiple
paths, some of which are tremendously eroded. Regardless of what anyone
else says - horses and mountain bikes DO tear up the trail. But not
nearly as much as dirt bikes.
Snowpack - is NOT necessarily gone by mid-July as some would have you
believe. I have a whole lot of pictures of Ginny crossing snowpack
that's 4 to 5 ft. deep and covers 100 yards or more of the trail - in
early to mid-August. The worst snowpack was only 2 ft. deep and covered
no more than 12 - 15 ft. of trail - but a slip would have meant a 400
When the sun was out we burned. When the sun wasn't out we were wet.
Sunscreen is a necessity - as is good rain gear.
The maps may not have been all that accurate with respect to the trail
location - but they DID tell us where we were - when we paid attention
to them. Our problems occurred when we weren't paying attention.
Guidebooks - we met one man hiking a section of the CDT who didn't even
know there was a guidebook. Even with 2 guidebooks and the maps it's
easy to get lost - lots of stock trails, unmarked side trails, erosion
gullies, game trails, etc. A guidebook is a necessity unless you just
like wandering the high country.
Wind - is a constant. Sometimes a gentle breeze - sometimes a force
that tried to blow us off the trail - sometimes just enough to rattle
the tent and wake us up at night. But it's always there. The old
cowboy song - "They call the wind Moriah" - it's not just another pretty
song, it's another expression of reality.
Acclimatization time - requires at least 10 days, full acclimatization
can take several months. Most tourists can make do with 3 or 4 days
acclimatization - but they won't be playing at 12000 ft. - they'll be in
Durango or Lake City or Creede, which means somewhere between 6500 and
8700 ft. It's just not the same ball game. If we had taken it easy for
a few days before beginning our hike, we'd have had fewer problems. One
day simply isn't enough.
Down vs. synthetic sleeping bags - before this trip we were seriously
considering getting down sleeping bags. After sleeping in a wet (or
semi-wet) tent, sleeping in the clouds and dealing with rain, fog,
hypothermia, morning condensation, frost, wet boots, bogs, etc. for 11
out 13 days, we were very happy that we brought synthetic bags - even if
they were worn out and falling apart. There won't be any new down bags
for us - we're looking for new synthetic bags.
This is a summary of the weather we encountered while we were hiking -
Morning Noon Afternoon Evening Night
1 sun clear clear
2 sun cloudy, rain sun rain rain
3 cloudy rain sun rain rain
4 rain, fog rain sun, sprinkles Thunderstorm fog
5 fog cloudy sun, sprinkles clear clear
6 sun sun rain rain rain
7 fog sun, sprinkles sun, sprinkles clear clear
8 frost/sun sun, sprinkles sun, sprinkles clear clear
9 sun rain rain, hail rain rain
10 rain cloudy sun then rain sun clear
11 freezing sun then rain sun then rain clear clear
14 sun Thunderstorm, hail, rain
Treeline - is sometimes a long, long way down. Much of the CDT is on
the Divide - and it can be many miles and hundreds of feet of elevation
loss to get to someplace with trees or any sort of protection from
really bad weather. There sometimes isn't an easy way out.
Livestock - we had to learn to live with them - or go home. This is
THEIR home and they've been there a lot longer than the hikers. In
reality, we only ran into cattle once and sheep twice - and at least
once we were grateful for the horses on the trail ahead of us - they
kept us on the right trail. So did the sheep.
The Bald Eagle that we saw hunting near the road to the airport south of
Durango - he was a sign -- we'll be back.
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Date: Sun, 23 Aug 98 20:35 EDT
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