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[CDT-L] CDT questions (1 of 3)

Hello Jim (Owen) -

You asked:

>...Now for the important stuff -- the CDT. Tell me about it.
>When were you out there?  where?  trail conditions?  resupply?  
>were you in the Routt NF blowdown area and how bad was it?  
>anything else you can think of?...  

(Note to CDT-L'ers: this question was asked as a result of a posting on another list...with Jim's permission, we are taking the discussion to the CDT place!)

I worked for the summer with the Elkhorn-High Adventure Base (backpacking and rock climbing "outfitting/training" operation on the Ben DeLatour Scout Ranch) which is near Red Feather Lakes in northern Colorado (in the mountains above Ft. Collins).  Base camp was at 8,000' and we were up/down to 10-11,500' all summer.  Was a little tired of showing other folks how to backpack...decided to do some myself while I was out there <g>.  

I used Tom Jones' book (Colorado's Continental Divide Trail).  Started hiking on 16 Aug and went south from Section 1 (about 3 miles above the WY/CO border) thru Section 24 (Cottonwood Pass road, near Buena Vista, CO).  Finished in the early afternoon of 15 Sep.  Comes out to a little over 400 miles if you don't count all the wandering around lost... 

Weather was fantastic! Only got weathered off the trail twice...once at Berthoud Pass and again at Twin Lakes (both times the clouds were so thick that I couldn't find the trail).  Have to admit that I didn't fight the weather too hard...spent one "off" day in a hot tub at Winter Park and the other at the neat Inn at Twin Lakes eating great German cooking <VBG>.  I had planned to do the side hike up to Mt. Elbert (Segment 23), but I arrived at the (north) CT/Elbert junction about 4 pm and folks coming down said the top was completely socked in with 30-40 mph winds blowing sleet around (would be willing to also call this a weather-off, but I am guessing that arrival-time also had something to do with it <g>).  

I got so used to having clear weather that I started staying up high all day (no afternoon thunderboomers!)...only got caught a couple times.  In general, virtually every morning (except the two days that I played hooky) was clear w/bright sunshine.  Most of the afternoons had plenty of clouds, but only a few days had storms anywhere near me.  I do believe that I lucked out - the few maintainers/Rangers that I met all complained of a lot of rain earlier in the season.

Many of the seasonal streamlets had water and there was even a puddle or two up high.  The guide book predicted the dry stretches nicely (there often was even water in the "might be dry" spots).  Only came near snow once...I had to walk off-trail to it for a photo-op <g>.

I didn't carry any maps other than the guidebook.  In retrospect, I would have had a lot more peace of mind (I like being able to figure out where I am!) and would have saved a few miles if I had also carried at least the TI maps.  I will admit to often having had fun trying to get by with only the non-contour maps in the guidebook...and I also must admit that I found it quite convenient to be going south in a guidebook written for southbounders <g>.
I did get lost real good a couple of times, but I have to blame my lack of attention (to my progress) more than the book.  Once I let myself keep contouring around a high-angle loose talus slope (getting worse and worse), just because I refused to believe that I wasn't where the "trail" was reputed to be (hey...I was only ONE mountain off!).  I finally got real when I realized that I was only going to continue the way I was going if I sprouted pinfeathers and flew!

I suspect that my main land-nav problem was my solo status...I missed having a good partner to argue locations with!

The CDT reminded me a lot of the higher parts of the PCT.  The stretches where the CDT and the Colorado Trail overlapped reminded me a lot of the AT (much better maintained, more folks, and lower elevations).  I saw few horses, but saw a few places with a lot of hoss-damage.  I saw only a handful of dirt bikes and ATV's, but saw a LOT of damage from them in scattered locations.  There were WAY too many mountain bikers just north of Brekenridge.  A surprising number of the high miles had no trail at all...kinda nice...would have been nicer if I had been carrying contour maps for land nav <g>.

Saw few people and most of them were on the CT.  Saw no other distance hikers (thru or section).  Doing a quick count, I would give it more mountain bikers and hunters than hikers...with a few OTR types thrown in.  No cattle anywhere (even on the driveway at the start), one big flock of sheep.

Saw less wildlife than expected (goats, raptors, ptarmagan, marmonts, a few deer, a couple elk, a nudist on a sailboat...no bears or lions), but saw a BUNCH of grand views.  Caught some great sunrises and sunsets when I made camp above treeline.

I will continue in my next message - "CDT questions (2 of 3)"

- Charlie II  AT (MEGA'93)
             PCT (Mex@Can'95)
         Chipping away at the CDT

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To:            Charlie Thorpe <charliethorpe@worldnet.att.net>
Cc:            CDT-L@backcountry.net