Dyer and Riches: CDT Thru-Hikers
"It's that Colorado rocky mountain high
I've seen it raining fire in the sky."
John Denver, Rocky Mountain High
The storms in Colorado's Rockies are something to behold, especially when you have front row seats for the show. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, we didn't see anywhere near the usual amount of storm action that those mountains are famous for. In the 80-something days to date, we've hiked in the rain less than half a dozen times. And even then not for more than a couple of hours. I guess we've been extremely lucky with the weather.
As we made our way through New Mexico, we increased the mileage gradually. When we hit the big mountains of Colorado, we expected the daily average to either decrease a little or at best to stay about the same as in northern New Mexico. To our surprise we found that the miles came easier than we'd anticipated. Although Colorado is certainly harder work than New Mexico, the days and miles slid by more quickly. I think the awesome beauty of the mountains, with their thousands of peaks filling the sky as far as you could see, must have been enough to keep our attention. The walking just took care of itself.
The constantly sloping trailuphill to downhill to uphill many times a dayhelps to add variety. The top of the uphill sections give you a nice target for setting short-term goals. Designating the top of a pass as the next food break is always a good motivator (all you have to do to encourage Simon up the tough sections is dangle a Little Debbie fudge brownie in front of his nose). There were many times when we wished we could slow down and just kick back on the sunny side of a pass all day and watch the world go by, but in order to keep our hopes of making it to Canada alive we needed to keep the legs turning. To make the most of the daylight hours, and to get plenty of miles in before the afternoon storms that never really came, we tried to get up early and walk fairly late into the evening. This allowed us enough time to take plenty of short breaks (one or two per hour). So although we moved through Colorado at a fairly rapid pace, it's not as if you move so fast that you don't have time to enjoy and appreciate the amazing surroundings. When your speed is limited to your walking pace, it's hard for things to go unnoticed, except perhaps the occasional trail intersection!
The number of other hikers you bump into on the trail is certainly greater in Colorado compared to New Mexico, but we were still quite surprised to find relatively few people out enjoying the high country. Whenever we ventured into a town for resupply, there seemed to be no shortage of tourists about. I guess many folk prefer to look up at the mountains rather than down from them.
One thing about the high alpine areas that really impressed me was the wildflowers. It's impressive enough that they can actually survive up there, but they also position themselves to create some of the most spectacular flower arrangements you'll ever see. I remember thinking as I walked by some of the best examples that even the best gardeners could never top Mother Nature's own handiwork.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication