Photo courtesy of Andrew King - D4 Productions

Friday, September 18, 2009

CT - Days 1-3

Day 1
Start 2:58 A.M.

Canyon - Long Gulch 57.6 myles

13 hours 34 minutes - 4.1 MPH

My alarm went off at 1:00 A.M. Seems like my head just hit the pillow but obviously I wasn't able to sleep with all the excitement about the epic journey ahead.

We picked Brian Fisher up from his house and made it out to Waterton canyon in plenty of time for the media trucks and reporters to file a report..... HA! Not a soul to be found except for me, Brian, and my wife. Really kind of eerie with the stillness of the night, the temps were probably in the high 60s with a partial moon.

Brian Fisher and I at Waterton Canyon

Brian and I hit the 6 mile road leading up to the single track with lots of conversation about the families and life in general. Finally up to the single track we snapped a couple pictures and we were off on a segment that Brian and I have done a million times, although it was nice in the dark because it seemed different. I was really glad Brian was there because a bear had been spotted around this part a few weeks before (later I found out that a CT thru hiker had shot at a bear two weeks before, more to come), and all I had to do was out run Brian to survive. Brian had done Leadville 100 just a week and 1/2 before so I knew he had tired legs. It was pretty much uneventful the rest of the way to the Platte River where the sun finally began to come out.

Heading into segment 2, it's a burned out area from a fire about 13 years ago so it was completely exposed. Thank goodness we were there before it got too hot. Again, pretty uneventful as we made it to Buffalo Creek in just over 6 hours. We were both starting to feel it a bit as we were running the majority of the morning so far.
Burned out Segment 2 at sunrise

Segment 3 is a rolling section in the pines that is heavily used so the trail is easy to follow. Not a soul out there, which just added to the beauty. We stopped a few times to eat and fill the water bottles. I was using a SteriPen that zaps the water with UV light to kill any bugs. For the first, three segments there is not much climbing at all so Brian and I were cruising pretty good but knew segment 4 would be different.
The long, gradual grind up

Thank goodness my brother Eric and nephew Jacob met up with us at Wellington lake road to refuel us - 42 myles and a much needed 20 minute break. At this point we were close to 5 MPH but knew we would slow down with all the climbing in segment 4. I'd never been on the lower part of segment 4 but by the profile I knew we'd be going up for a while. Sure enough it seemed like we climbed for 3 hours straight, gradual but relentless. Finally into the Long Gulch but Brian and I were whooped. I had been on this last part with my son so with it being familiar it didn't seem as long. Finally finishing at 4:30 P.M. The thought started to creep into my mind, how am I going to do this all over again for 11 more days?? But the doubt began to subside as my crew refueled us, in addition to Brian's parents having a couple frosty beverages and plenty more food.
Jaxon carved his name in a tree last time he came to this segment

Day 2
Start 5:44 A.M.
Long Gulch - Gold Hill 47.3 myles

11 hours 1 minute - 4.2 MPH

I was really nervous getting out of bed this morning; Was I gonna be sore? Was there anything broken? To my surprise I felt great with no stiffness whatsoever. Probably more stiff from sleeping on the hard ground in the tent.
Jacob almost to Kenosha pass

It was really cold to start with frost on everything. Jacob and I bundled up and hit segment 5 running just to warm up. It takes a general downward direction for the first 7 myles until a river crossing. This was another segment I had never been on but I knew from the profile that we had to climb up to Kenosha pass. So shortly after the river crossing we took a general upward direction with some stunning views toward the top. For the first time in two days we ran into some hikers that had been on the trail for 5 days and only traveled 30 myles. Needless to say they were stunned when I said I would be in Durango in a week or so. We finally got up to Kenosha pass where Eric would pick Jacob up and I would travel the next segment alone. Thanks Jacob.
Eric and Jacob at Kenosha Pass

Now for the longest segment of the entire Colorado Trail, just over 32 myles to Gold Hill. I had been on this segment before, completing it in just over 5 hours. Different story today as I would be happy with 8 hours. This segment goes up over Georgia pass (stunning!), down to the valley, and then one more climb to get into the Breckenridge valley. Rick Hessek was scheduled to meet me with 13 myles to go but I was way early so rather than wait I put up a couple of streamers to say I had gone through. On the next climb it got really hot and I was running low on water. For anyone else going through this section be aware there is no where to get water so stock up before you start the last climb. I finally started downhill where Rick had driven around and started running up from the end. I was completely out of water so I drank the rest of Rick's and made it into Gold Hill, hot and weary. I drew comfort in the fact that I would be staying the night at condo in Keystone - a nice shower and soft bed. Very timely in that the next day would be the toughest as far as climbing is concerned.
Georgia pass in the distance

Day 3
Start 4:42 A.M.
Gold Hill - Timberline 51.8 myles
14 hours 0 minutes 3.7 MPH
Atop 10 mile range on day 3

With 3 stout climbs and almost 10,000 ft of elevation gain I was happy Rick Hessek was with me today. This would be a true test with over 100 myles already on the legs. First up was 10 mile range and because I had been on this section I knew what to expect. It took Rick and I just over 3.5 hours to get to Copper Mountain with some amazing views on a clear, crisp morning. His wife Jill met us to refuel and take some of our extra clothing. Now were off for a very long climb up over Searle and Kokomo passes. Again stunning beauty and not a cloud in the sky. As we approached Searle pass we passed a cabin that was absolutely amazing. Turns out it was Janet's cabin, part of the 10th mountain division cabins. It's about 9 myles above Copper Mountain with nothing around - great idea to take the family on a backpacking trip for the weekend. Now onto Kokomo pass then downhill for a good 6 myles. 9 hours into our trip and finally to Camp Hale, started to feel a bit tired but I knew we had one more climb to Tennessee Pass. We made up without much trouble and as we neared the road we came up one of the coolest things of the trip - The Magic Box! It's a box set out by the Leadville Hostel with a bunch of goodies for CT and CDT thru hikers. It had been stocked the day before so if was full of every thing from fuel to beer to freeze dried meals - amazing!
Janet's Cabin

Rick and I near Tennessee Pass

The Magic Box

Shortly after crossing the road to what we thought was Tennessee Pass, a car came across honking as if they knew us.... They did. It was Aric Manning who was driving in from Utah to help pace tomorrow, what a coincidence. Aric refueled us with tons of food and we were off. Shortly after we ran into the major portion of the crew who had walked down the trail a couple myles to meet us. It was Rick, Bill Dooper, Nicole, and Jaxon. We spent the next 1/2 hour chatting, getting caught up, taking pictures then we were on our way with what would be the toughest section yet.
My family at Tennessee Pass

Dave Horton had told me about the up and down nature of this next segment (9) but what I didn't remember was how this up and down segment was riddled with ROCKS! Rick and I were already tired so we wanted this day to be done. Running/walking on rocks with tired legs is no fun at all. We complained this whole segment. Beautiful as it might appear, we didn't enjoy it. We finally pulled into Timberline (May Queen) just after 6:30 P.M. I wasn't too happy because I knew it was a quick turn around for the next day. What was saving me mentally at this point was the fact that it was a short day (34.5 myles) tomorrow. I ate like a pig that night; a couple double hamburgers, pasta, Twinkies, cup cakes, cookies, and at least 4 Cokes.

Up through the first 3 days my body is feeling good with no major aches or pains. I have also been able to stuff my face with a voracious appetite. Stay tuned tomorrow for days 4-6 of this epic adventure.

Through 3 days - 156.7 myles
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