Colorado Trail Day 1: 500 Miles to Go


Daily Neet Beat

It’s all about the number 5. It took us 50 minutes to fly from Durango to Denver. We began our 500-mile hike along the Colorado Trail and, we plan to finish in 5 weeks. Simple, right? All we have to do is “walk” along the spine of the Rocky Mountains. Ha!

Our first resupply and rest (or “zero”) day will be in Breckenridge in 8 days. I may not be able to post until then but it depends on cell reception and apps. It is 104 miles away and seems so far right now.

Map of the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango
Sandi Kohrs and her husband Matt were so kind to let us stay at their house and Sandi even picked us up from the airport. It felt weird getting one way tickets to Denver. Ray and I were joking on the plane – “now all we have to do is walk back home”.  It is a strange feeling to think about leaving Denver on a hike and 5 weeks later walking in the door of our house.
Sandi drove us to the Waterton Canyon Trailhead which was about a 20 minute drive from her house and on the edge of Denver.  Sandi, Kerry Cataldo and Sabrina Hicks were so kind to see us off on our adventure. It felt nice to have someone cheer us on as we left.
Kerry and Sandi with Ray at 0.0 miles and the start of our hike in Waterton Canyon
We start bright and early at about 5:45am. The Waterton Canyon trail follows a dirt road next to a river which leads to the Strontia Dam. It is popular with mountain bikers, runners and hikers.
Waterton Canyon is a wide gravel road along the South Platte river. It is the first 6 miles of the Colorado Trail
Cedar Waxwing protecting it’s nest on the South Platte river

After 6 miles, the Colorado Trail leaves the road in the canyon and starts switchbacking up through a forest and climbs up to ridge and then switches back down to the South Platte river and valley. We climb up about 2,000 feet and back down about 1,400 feet in Segment 1. We are both feeling pretty good for the first day. We had planned to camp right at 16.6 miles right before reaching the South Platte River trailhead and Foxton Rd 97 but it is still before 1pm so we keep going.

We get to the South Platte River Trailhead which starts Segment 2. There are many people at the river probably because is popular, close to Denver and a Sunday. I am used to hiking where the farther in you go on a trail, the less people you see. This does not seem to be the case for the Colorado Trail as most segments (there are 28 total) start at a trailhead or road and end at a trailhead or road.  Good for resupplies, or if you want to do the trail segment by segment over time, but not as good if you hike further to be alone or get a wilderness experience. We are, of course, still close to Denver so that may be part of it.
We collect 3 1/2 liters of water each from the river as it is the last reliable water for 13 miles and we will be dry camping tonight. 3 1/2 liters of water equals another 7.7 lbs added to our packs and we start climbing out of the valley with additional weight, 16.6 miles behind us, and the heat of the afternoon. Tiredness begins to set in but we want to find a campsite that is not so hot and open. We stop at 4pm and find a beautiful spot on a ridge with a view of Rayleigh Peak. Life is good and it feels great to be out watching the sunset.
Heyder pincushion cactus (Mammillaria heyderi) growing near where we camped. There are only 13 pincushion cacti in the United States, all of them uncommon or rare.
Our camp the first night with a view of Rayleigh Peak

Just the Facts:
Total Miles: 20.5
Cumulative Miles: 20.5
Trail Segments: Start at Waterton Canyon Trailhead, through South Platte River Trailhead into Segment 2, Segment 1 (16.8 miles) and 3.5 miles of Segment 2
Camp elevation: 7305 Feet
Elevation Gain: 3568 feet
Elevation Loss: 2253 feet
Weather: sunny cool breeze in the morning but got, hot and dry across the burn area in the afternoon.

One comment

  1. I am just back from trail crew repairs on Collegiate west segment..cooler hiking coming soon…enjoy, you will be out of the suburbs soon😎

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