Photo courtesy of Andrew King - D4 Productions

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CT - Days 10-12

Day 10
Start 7:00 A.M.
Cuba Gulch - Molas Pass 28.1 myles
9 hours 28 minutes - 3.0 MPH

With less than 30 myles separating me and my family I wanted to make quick work of this day, all the while enjoying the heart of the San Juan's.

I was more than happy to wake up this morning and get going. I don't think Paul had a problem sleeping as I heard his snore over the bugling elks several times. I left both wraps on my shins over night so they didn't balloon up on me... not sure if that was the right thing to do but it seemed to work out.

Paul getting ready to go above Cuba Gulch

Heading back up to the CT we passed our water source and now I wished I had taken a picture to show you this little trickle or better yet trough - animal prints all around. We had to trust the Steripen at this point because we were so high, water was scarce. Like I said before, could have been user error but I'm also not ruling out the device missing one little buggy. Who's to say this was the source of our Giardia but this is certainly a suspect spot. Thank goodness for that 10 day incubation period cause I never would have finished otherwise.

Now onto the rest of Segment 23. I was eager to show Paul the Hard Rock course and get into familiar territory.... come to find out later that the Hard Rock course runs on the old CT. Segment 23 was re-routed a couple of years ago so everything was unfamiliar to me although we were in the same vicinity as the course so the terrain looked the same. I think Paul my even throw his name into the HR lottery next year.

New signage above Maggie Gulch on the new Segment 23

Each day there was a special time for me on the trail (usually early on) when I would reflect on what I was doing and where I was at... today was no different. It was a very calming time in complete silence. And I know this sounds kinda corny but I felt like the trail was accepting me. At any rate, Paul and I were making good time up and down each of the top of the drainage's despite our 15+lb packs. I wanted to keep moving to get to my family early in the day so that I could spend some extra time. Paul wanted to keep moving because he still had to drive home and wanted to do so before dark.

Paul still pulling me along Segment 23

We arrived at Stony Pass and at the time I did not recognize it but the HR course goes right over Stony Pass either to Cunningham or Maggie Gulch, depending upon the direction. Stony Pass is the start of Segment 24 so a little less than 20 myles to go for the day. Segment 24 would be a good test for the ol shins as the last part was a severe downhill to get to the Animas River. But before then we traveled along a high plain (just about 12,000ft) for 10 myles when we finally diverted from the CDT and headed straight down into the Elk Creek drainage. I didn't realize how far down until after two hours and we were still going down.

The drop into Elk Creek

Shins held up fairly well with a few sharp pains here and there but fatigue started to really set in for the first time. I started to get a little loopy as we hit the Animas River, probably due to the fact that Paul and I only had minimal food the night before. We fueled up once we hit the bottom only to be faced with another 2000 ft climb, last one before Molas Pass so I was eager to get over it. Finally we heard engine brakes so we knew Hwy 550 was close. Rounded the last corner where Rick and the Darnold's were there to greet Paul and I. We had made it through the abyss and came out unscathed. Thank you Paul! You were extremely vital in getting me through the crux of my journey.

Paul and I at Molas Pass

As it turns out, my family had not yet arrived. They had fallen victim of a road closure at Wolf Creek and had to turn around and go back through Gunnison - 12 hours to get to Molas Pass. During that time as Paul waited for his truck and I waited for my family, we were treated with burritos from Steam and Steel coffee shop in Silverton. Eric and Lynn had come up to the trailer to say hello and check on my status - thanks guys. Finally the family arrived at 8 P.M. and all is good.

Day 11
Start 5:58 A.M.
Molas Pass - Hotel Draw road 31.8 myles
10 hours 43 minutes - 3.0 MPH

Today is a very special day, not only was my family back but my 10 y.o. son, Jaxon is going to do a segment with me. It doesn't get any better than that!

CT sign at Little Molas lake

My family is back and has recharged my battery. I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel with only two days left. Although the morning started a little rocky for me as I took a wrong turn at a junction above little Molas lake. There is a very nice, new parking area at little Molas with good CT signage but I somehow left on the wrong trail and took a right at a junction above little Molas that took me back down - minor detour... I headed back up and onto the hanging cliff area.

Self portrait above South Mineral

I saw several hunters early and they were really surprised to see me, and dare I say a little pist that I scared their trophy bull elk away. More to come on hunters. Rolling along above South Mineral basin where I had been previously while waiting for HR to start, then to a high saddle, and finally down across Cascade Creek.

Cascade Creek

I made my way into Bolam Pass road and as I did I literally broke down. There were signs everywhere! Jaxon's class had all participated in making poster signs for ME. Why it touched me so deeply was that not only were they supporting me but they were supporting Jaxon - it meant a lot.

A few of the posters

Coupled by the fact that I was nearing the end of my journey, I now get to spend time on the trail with my son, so needless to say I was a little emotional. Certainly the highlight of my trip! Jaxon and I had been talking about this 11 mile segment for months and he was pumped to do it. He had already done 16 myles a month before on segment 4 so his confidence was high.

And were off!

And just like before, Jaxon was a chatter box making it easy to have a conversation with him because I just had to answer yes or no - a true professional pacer. We saw some amazing scenery but in addition we saw our first sign of bears. This spooked Jaxon a bit so the conversation seized for awhile and he stayed right on my heels. But as we made our way over Blackhawk Pass he got excited all over again with his sense of accomplishment.

Fresh bear prints

Jaxon and I sitting atop Blackhawk pass (12,000 ft.)

Jaxon knew he was close so we picked up the pace a bit and even ran for a while. About 3 myles from Hotel Draw road, Rick and Hampton (dog) met up with us and walked fast the rest of the way in. Just over 3 hours after I picked Jaxon up we had finished at Hotel Draw road where I was surprised to find my parent's waiting as well. I'm really proud of Jaxon and I hope this is one of those things that he will not only remember forever but will also give him an appreciation for the wilderness.

Day 11 in the books

Day 12 - FINAL DAY!
Start 3:40 A.M.
Hotel Draw road - Junction Creek 42.1 myles
12 hours 6 minutes - 3.5 MPH

There was a lot of excitement in the air but also a sense of sadness as this epic journey draws to a close.

As I settled into bed around 7 P.M., I really couldn't believe I was gonna do it! But I wasn't done yet so I had to re-focus and concentrate one more time. And make no mistakes. I felt like I had just shut my eyes when I was awakened by thunder and lightning. Not just any ol thunder and lightning in the distance but lightning striking right around our trailer. The kind that comes straight down and you see hit the ground with a vengance. I did not dare look at my watch to see what time it was, just don't let my alarm go off right now.

Thank goodness that ferocious band of clouds passed by the time my alarm went off because the first segment I would tackle (27) is on a ridge line, exposed for almost the entire 20 myles. The guidebook even talks of escape routes just in case a storm hits, great!

As Rick and I left the trailer at 3:00 A.M. it was still spooky out with clouds, mist, and wet everywhere. I'll admit it, I was scared. But I knew there was no way around it. It is what it is and I can't change it. What made things even more difficult was the fact that the trail intersects a myriad of old logging roads at least 7 times in the first 8 myles. I wasn't taking any chances of getting lost so I ripped out the pages of this segment in the CT guidebook. I had been reviewing the guidebook every night so I knew it was very good on details. In addition, Rick drove the road and met me at the first 5 road crossings until the road was no longer safe to travel. We parted ways, still 2 hours from light so it was a little unnerving to say the least.

What made matters worse was that the wind was blowing hard on the exposed ridge line making visibility less than the distance to my feet. My headlamp was catching the mist and clouds and nothing else, kinda like your car's headlamp in a fog bank. I literally had my head straight down to pick up the trail and as I did so I ran head first into a big green Army tent! A TENT right on the trail at 4:30 in the morning!! Talk about a scene from the twilight zone. I shook my head and laughed and walked around, not only the tent, but a huge camp for hunters. Ironically, later in the morning Rick had somehow spoken to the campers down at Hermosa Creek where we had camped and the campers inside the tent were a little more spooked than I was. They thought their buddy was sleep walking again.

Finally! The light of day

The trail was soggy and I have every bit of rain gear on hoping for the light of day to come. Finally just after 6, I could see out in front of me again and the storm appeared to be lifting. Just about that time I snapped the photo below of I what I consider the most beautiful section of the CT.

Cape of Good Hope - Segment 27

This was a magical section! Still on the ridge line so no up or down, just meandering single track with lush green undergrowth. If you are ever down in South West Colorado, you need to see this section! It made all the morning turmoil worth it.

Almost to the end of segment 27, I found myself fighting back emotions. I wouldn't let myself go there yet because I still had 20 some odd myles to go, it wasn't over yet and neither was the scenery.

Taylor Lake - almost to the end of 27

I arrived at Kennebec TH and couldn't hold the emotions any longer. It was my time to let it all go and realize I had accomplished what I set out to do. It was even more emotional than my first Hard Rock finish. But just like I've done at Hard Rock, this was a time to celebrate by myself and then when I actually finished I could celebrate with those who made it possible. It was a very special moment sitting on top of Kennebec pass crying while I reflected on this amazing trail... such a baby.

Onto the last segment

Whew! Crying takes a bunch of energy. I'm tired now, drained of emotions heading down to meet my parents at the bottom of Kennebec Pass. I was a little early but I learned from before and gave my dad a two hour window. Sure enough my parent's were there. WITH Pizza! I forget the name of the pizza place in Durango but it was good! They put it on the engine to heat it up so it hit the spot. A couple slices, a Coke, shed all the rain gear, and I was off.

My parent's at the last pit stop

I had about 16 myles to go and I was running good. I actually ran all the way down to Junction Creek crossing, which is about 5 myles, without stopping. I had those end of race endorphins going now but just as quickly as they arrived, they left without warning. I started to become a bit dizzy as I climbed out of Junction Creek so I slowed up and took some calories.

Down, down, down, in and out of valleys until I finally saw a sign for Gudy's rest. I saw a picture of Gudy's rest in the guidebook and couldn't wait to see it in person and take my picture on it. In my mind, that was the end.

Me on Gudy's rest

Now it was time to see the family and celebrate. As I made my way to Junction Creek I heard whistling.... I knew it was Rick making his way up to meet me. Man! I lost it again. I couldn't help it because I knew the time and effort he put into this trip just so I could succeed. I could not have done this without Rick and the success of this epic journey is just as much his as it is mine. But I share the success with all those people who supported me in one way shape or form.

And finally to the end where my wife and family have decorated the finish line at Junction Creek with everything under the sun that says "40". Yes, I am 40 on this day and I have just accomplished the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I will never forget it. But make no mistake about it, I have not changed - only refined.

40?!?! Really??

My family at Junction Creek

Rick and I at Junction Creek

"Your true character is revealed by the clarity of your convictions, the choices you make, and the promises you keep. Hold strongly to your principles and refuse to follow the currents of convenience. What you say and do defines who you are, and who you are... you are forever."

And now onto Carver's for a T-shirt and a Colorado Trail Nut Brown Ale. Here's to you - my family and friends - cheers!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

CT - Days 7-9

Quick update: As some of you know, I've been pretty sick the last week and the test results are back, I have giardiasis. No need for me to explain the symptoms but if wanna know what if feels like then take your worst moment in an ultra AND TIMES IT BY TWO! I'm not kidding! Like I said before I used a device called a Steripen but apparently it missed this one, little bug. Could have been user error but the water was sketchy to begin with. And as Paul puts it "So far the SPOT has been spotty and the Steripen, well, shitty.

Day 7
Start 5:58 A.M.

Marshall Pass - Hwy 114 35.6 myles
9 hours 38 minutes - 3.7 MPH

Waking up this morning, I had some doubt if I could continue this journey as the shin hurt for the first time before starting the day. Harsha and I started almost right on schedule and it was cold - probably upper 20s at almost 11,000 ft.
Harsha and I in the cold morning

I had scouted out this section on my way down to Hardrock and even camped in the same location as Rick parked the trailer. The first 5 myles of Segment 16 were high on a ridge line with great views. Sure was nice having some company and we even had Harsha's dog (Babu) to clear the trail in front of us. The night before I had put a dual badder (almost 100 oz) in for the first time because the CT book showed virtually no water all the way to Hwy 114. The sun came up over the ridge and immediately we felt the heat, it was gonna be a hot one so the extra fluid will come in handy.

We got to the point were I had been previously and just about that time the trail turned bad. Severe downhill, completely ripped up by ATVs, and rocks, rocks, rocks. It stayed this way for the rest of the segment up on a ridge line so I was forced to bandage up left shin and pop 4 Advil - seemed to take the edge off going downhill. The only time I didn't feel the shin was hiking uphill and there wasn't much on this section.

Down through the rocks

Making good time, nonetheless, we finally got off the ridge and entered some open area that was a nice change. Harsha and I stopped a few times to eat, collect our thoughts, and really take a step back to realize this amazing place we were in - simply amazing.

Nice open area with views

Harsha was a great pacer in that he was always talking to me to get my latest status and even running ahead to take some great pictures. Thanks Harsha.


The day went on, in and out of the canopy of trees and up and down ridges when I started to notice that my right shin was not normal anymore. I had probably been compensating with my left so much that it put too much stress on the right. Great! As a precautionary measure, I had put K-tape on both shins before leaving and whatever it does, it's better than nothing. At this point, I just wanted to be done for the day but not to push too hard to create a deficit for tomorrow. Thank goodness the trail cooperated with a nice meandering single track and then a slight dirt road in the end. Rick had driven part way up the road and I was very surprised to see him because we were a little early and he had a big drive from Marshall Pass to Hwy 114. For the first time on this journey I was doubting my start in the morning.

But I knew better than to jump to conclusions so I took it one step at a time by getting back to get cleaned up, take care of the shins, eat, and then eat, get stuff ready for tomorrow, eat again, go to bed, and then see what the morning brings.

My typical "first" serving

Day 8
Start 3:53 A.M.
Hwy 114 - Spring Creek Pass (Hwy 149) 55 myles*

18 hours 23 minutes - 3.3 MPH

After a night discussing options with Rick and Paul we decided to make a push all the way to Spring Creek Pass.

It was a real early start this morning, in fact I don't think I slept a wink. Up to this point in the journey I had not slept good at all, but last night was particularly bad with me worrying about everything. Paul had drove in around 5 last night and had been keeping tabs on me through my SPOT (phffft) and through Rick Hessek so he knew a little about my shins.

Originally I had planned on spending three days with a pack, with this day getting to San Luis Pass (~40 myles). Because access was minimal (at best) I knew Rick would have a tough time with a 5th wheel and also knew I would be tired at this point, making a 50+ day real tough. We discussed it and came to the conclusion that the extra weight on my back would make my shins worse than trying to go an extra 15 myles.

With both shins wrapped Paul and I were off. The nice thing for me was that this first segment (18) was relatively flat and gave me a chance to warm up. On the flip side, Paul was fresh and fast. We actually ran the majority of the first 6 myles, having a pace near 4.5 MPH. I did the best I could to stay upbeat to Paul about my situation and he did the same with his mentoring.

Paul running away from me early in the day

I had only one issue trying to find the trail with a sketchy unmarked intersection up to this point, make this two. And a big TWO it was. Not only was it a big day but we could ill afford to make any mistakes. We were running good on some nice sections when we arrived at Saguache park road. My Garmin said 16.7 myles and the data book said 13.8 for the end of this segment at this road. No signs on the road to go left or right but the data book said we should turn left. We went up the road about a mile and then Paul went even further to reduce my traveling - no confidence markers at all! To top if off, the data book had elevations at certain points that were not consistent with my Garmin. (As a side note, I called the CTF when I got home and they indicated that the new 4th edition data book is incorrect and they didn't catch it until the book had been shipped).

This book doesn't make any sense

We finally got to a road that was mentioned in the data book -FS 597, but it was telling to go the opposite way. Thinking the book was faulty we went up the road anyway and now I resorted to the GPS way points that Christian loaded into his watch. I asked it to take me to the nearest way point and it was the first way point of Segment 19 at 0.5 myles - no way! We had already traveled 3 or 4 myles and it was looping us back around. We ignored it and went left instead, cause it seemed to be the right way. Out in the middle of nowhere we met up with some hunters from MN and they indicated seeing signs down around the corner, they were right and we felt like we had only gone an extra 3 or 4 myles -whew! That was until we hit a sign for the original FS 597 (about an hour later) that we had been looking for..... I looked down at my GPS, we had gone in a great big 5.8 mile circle in almost two hours and now we were back to square one. Whacha gonna do?? Well, put one foot in front of the other and forghettabout it.

We continued on, enjoying as much of the beauty as we could but in the back of my mind I was doing quick math. We were gonna be done way after dark no matter how fast we went. Originally I had a goal of getting off the trail everyday before dark, well throw that one out the window. After Eddiesville TH the worst was yet to come as far as ups and downs.

Gotta love the name!

Paul and I were entered a section that would remain above 12K for most of the next 25 myles but it was absolutely stunning. Both my shins were starting to have sharp pains when I was descending for long periods of time so we frequently had to stop. I was still climbing good but for every up, you gotta go down

Near San Luis Peak

8 more miles to go and it was nearing dark when we happened up a sheep herder. Just a young kid with a big rifle. Come to find out he had been up there since July 10th - no wonder he made his way over to talk to us. I'll leave it at that and let Paul tell the rest of the story about helping sheep over the fence...

A look at one of the descents

The last part of this segment went on forever. It was dark and thank goodness flat but we were nearing 9 P.M. and at this point I didn't think I would see another day of the Colorado Trail. My shins were severely swollen and now constant sharp pains in both. We knew we were getting closer because we found a pack of batteries that Rick had left on the trail. Finally we made it just after 10 P.M. and just like every night before Rick was there tending to our every need. We had a hot meal, cold Coke, and ice for the shins ready to go. I am truly, truly thankful.

I'm sure my body language said it all but neither Rick or Paul said anything. Like before, go through the routine and see what the morning brings. If it's a go tomorrow then it'll be a late start for sure.
*60.8 myles today because of the detour

Day 9
Start - 11:00 A.M.

Spring Creek Pass - Carson Saddle 27.6 myles

9 hours 31 minutes - 2.9 MPH

Legs are swollen; thinking about compartment syndrome and the remoteness of the stretch we are about to tackle in the San Juan's for the next couple of days.

Obviously it's a big decision day. Paul later told me that if he had to make a guess at the time he would have guessed that I was done. I slept until 8 A.M. which was very nice seeing that I'd been up by 4:45 A.M. every morning since the start. My first few steps were taken very gingerly but I was surprised to not feel any worse than the night before. I elected to pack my pack and take it for a spin up and down the trail. No sharp pains, a 15 lb pack, and a baggie full of Advil and it was go time!

Rick and I before heading off for two days

We made final details of an emergency plan (if needed) and we were off. I knew Rick was worried because waiting and not knowing is the worst. I felt like we were heading into the abyss and if we returned we would be hero's - not that this is the case but that's what it felt like.

Heading into the Abyss - The San Juan's

The San Juan's are arguable the most beautiful mountain range in the continental U.S. I have come to love this place through my running of the Hard Rock 100. I was eager to show Paul parts of the course and some of it he already knew through the San Juan Solstice course but nonetheless stunning all the way through.

Paul early in the day with a storm approaching

We quickly passed the yurt and got onto the San Juan Solstice course and being familiar we knew how far it was to Carson Saddle. It was cold up on that ridge line with a storm approaching so we wanted to make quick work of it. Paul was pulling me along as best as he could but I couldn't manage anything better than 3.4 MPH. We made it to the high point of the CT at 13,200 ft, snapped a couple photos, and got down into Carson Saddle for lunch.

High point of the CT @ 13,270

Originally we were to make it to Carson Saddle and stay the night but it was only 5 P.M. and since we had daylight we continued on. We checked the sketchy data book for possible campsites and because we were so high they were limited. We had our choice of a site about 5 myles into the next segment or almost 10 myles, we elected for the second one. This would even up the days with packs around 28 myles each. And because my family was coming back I wanted to make Friday a short(er) day.

This moss was almost a neon green

My shins were holding up fairly well and it doesn't hurt that the scenery is spectacular. It always seems to be a lot longer to go when you don't know where you're going than if you do. This was the case for Paul and I as darkness hit us around 8 P.M., we knew based on time that we were close to the second campsite. But how close? We almost walked right past it in the dark but the data book and Paul's sharp mind saved us. We had to go down Cuba Gulch about 1/4 mile to find the campsite and the data book had a very vague description at best. We found it and the first thing I did was send an O.K. message with my SPOT - I hope it worked this time... I later found out that it did work. After that I immediately started up the stove for our meals - we were hungry! But this time for a meal we wouldn't get pampered by Rick, it was Backpackers Pantry and it would have to do. We are still above 12,000 ft and probably the only flat spot all around (probably the highest I've camped).

After eating Paul and I settled into our own bivy sacks. I put on every ounce of clothing that I had because at this altitude I knew it was gonna get cold. I never got cold but I did not sleep a wink! During the night there were elk all around us bugling. I was so uncomfortable, shifting from side to side all night long because of the hard ground - I couldn't wait for the morning and get going. Morning came and I went down to get water at our nearby source, it was a trickle at best AND big animal prints everywhere...

Through 9 days - 391.2 myles

Guess you kinda know where I'm going with the water and animal tracks but stay tuned anyway

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CT - Days 4-6

Sorry for the delay but I've been a little under the whether for the last few days so no energy to think or write, let alone get out of bed. At any rate, ON WITH THE ADVENTURE...

Day 4
Start 5:56 A.M.
Timberline (May Queen) - Clear Creek 34.5 myles

8 hours 28 minutes - 4.0 MPH

With this day I'm entering new territory as far as mileage is concerned. My only previous experience up to this point was a 6 day, 150 mile stage race in the desert. "Let's see how the body holds up because the mind is strong" is all I kept thinking about.

It was really cold to start, as always at May Queen in the dark - probably mid 20s this morning. Aric Manning drove out from Utah to join me for the next two days and I was pretty excited to share some time on the trail with long time, good friend. Ironically as we started up the trail, it was the same exact time that I would have been there if I had been running the Leadville 100 so everything was quite familiar to me. The trail was just as rocky as where Rick and I had left off yesterday but no surprise. Rick Hessek was kind enough to meet us at Hagerman road to take any additional clothes and lights, which we obliged as we climbed out of the freezing zone.
Rick at Hagerman road - nice bedhead

Now it was onto a part of this segment I'd never been on. We passed straight across powerline road and slowly descended into a very nice, lush section. We crossed several cross trails leading back down to the Fish Hatchery so I was comfortable where we were at. Up to this point the trail had been marked exceptionally well but as we came to our final Fish Hatchery trail crossing about 8 myles into the segment there were no clear markings for the CT. Aric went in every direction looking for the familiar CT marker but to no avail. Finally we came back to the intersection where we found an old broken sign partly behind a tree that indicated CT. What made it more difficult was that the trail seemed to go through a very nice campsite.
Familiar CT confidence marker

The next part of this segment we skirted around Mt. Massive and finally dropped into Half Moon trail head. Aric and I were now running good, slightly downhill and enjoying a beautiful warm day on very familiar territory.
Aric enjoying the sunlight at 10,000 ft

Starting out from Half Moon is a bit of a climb but still familiar as it's still part of the Leadville 100 course, it's always my favorite part of the Leadville 100. I was really enjoying myself with all the fall colors almost all the way to Twin Lakes when I realized Aric was no longer behind me. I waited for a bit and then continued on, drawing arrows in the dirt at critical intersections. Come to find out, Aric was starting to have trouble with his Achilles again and was really nervous about it rupturing. He was forced to call it a day about 18 myles in - good decision Aric as the Achilles doesn't repair itself at all.
Beautiful Aspen section above Twin Lakes

After descending down near Twin Lakes it became very hot and exposed. I was drinking and eating good so my running was still very comfortable. I knew the trail had to get along side Twin Lakes but I didn't know what the trail looked like. Well as it turns out if you've never been on this part then by all means don't bother! It's a 3 mile straight shot all the way to the dam - hot too! Thank goodness Rick Hessek and Bill Dooper met me at the road crossing before this 3 mile section to refuel me because I would have run out of water. Finally I reached the dam where my crew was waiting for me. I was a bit overdue so my mom and dad were a bit worried. Actually I told them the wrong time (slight miss calculation) when in reality I was traveling in good time - around 4.2 MPH. At any rate they were there with breakfast burritos and Coke ready to go and I was off.
Bill Dooper, Rick and Jill Hessek, Mom and Dad at Twin Lakes

On to the last mountain to climb and then I was done for the day. I was really looking forward to being done early today to spend time with the family and get a good rest. I pushed the pace a bit but with 3500 ft left of climbing I knew not to push too hard to cross that invisible red line. I crested the last hill and who comes around the corner?? The ever-present Bill Dooper. It really wasn't a surprise because he had been meeting me on parts of the trail all the way through the Leadville valley - very nice indeed. That night at the trailer there were several people visiting which almost brought a tear to my eye because they were all there in support of me. I wish I had taken a picture.
Bill Dooper above Clear Creek

Day 5
Start 5:47 A.M.

Clear Creek - Chalk Creek 41.3 myles

10 hours 50 minutes - 3.6 MPH

The night before I walked to the bathroom and noticed a little something on my left shine bone - didn't pay much attention to it, just rubbed it.

All the family, friends, and food the night before was enough to recharge my battery for this day that included 3 very stout climbs - about 8300 ft of elevation gain. I left this morning all alone, which was something new to me and unnerving in the darkness. I was happy to welcome light as I neared the first climb and a herd of Elk welcoming me to the top. It was a quick descent off into a very nice little valley where I saw 3 different backpacking groups firing up their camp stoves. They looked at me a little funny because I was dressed in shorts and virtually came into their "remote" location out of thin air. No one asked questions and I was off to tackle the second climb.

It was on this second climb that I began to notice this "little something" work it's way back into my shin. In my conversations with Dave Horton he had warned me of a condition called Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome or Shin Splints and the minute I felt discomfort to stop and loosen my laces to where my shoes would almost fall off - I did that and it seems to relieve some of the discomfort. But now I was concerned about how bad it could get and what would it feel like going downhill. I was relieved to finally get over the second climb and be able to go downhill without any discomfort at all.

I made it over to North Cottonwood creek in very good time (despite the two climbs) where Rick and Aric were there to meet me. They refueled me with candy (Snickers - mmm good) and water. I had not planned to see them there but it was a very nice surprise indeed. Aric was headed home and sent me off over the next climb with words of inspiration - I needed that. While they had been there they saw another thru hiker by the trail name of Mr. Miserable (real name PJ). He was a post man from New York doing the CT for the second time. As it turned out, Rick later befriended him and invited him to dinner that night at Chalk Creek. Rick had offered to take his external frame pack so that he could get up and over the next climb fairly quickly to make it to dinner. Come to find out PJ hit a hail storm chasing me and had to return down. Strange turn of events for Mr. Miserable but he was there to greet me as I arrived at Chalk Creek. He had skipped the section with a ride from Rick but overnight elected to have Rick take him back and do it. In addition, Rick had also shuttled a couple other thru hikers around up to this point.

So now for me I had made it over the last major climb and was descending down into Cottonwood Hot Springs (avalanche TH) where I would meet my parents who promised hot burritos. Slight communication error as far as exact location so I waited at Avalanche TH for about 20 minutes and then went on after leaving my streamers that I had been there. About two myles up the trail I saw my parents in the rain waiting, they were probably waiting in the right area but the data book was a little mixed up for me. At any rate, hot burritos, Gatorade, Coke, and I was off - very much needed.
My parent's at the burrito cart in the rain

Last section of the day was one climb out of the valley and then rolling hills for the remaining 12+ myles. Beautiful section with fall colors

Nice section with fall colors

I had been pretty fortunate up to this point as far as rain was concerned but now with thunder and forming clouds all around I thought I would get drenched - not a drop from the time I left my parents all the way through Chalk Creek. This rolling section was to be a good test for my uncooperative left shin... turns out whether I was making it up in my head or not, it was getting worse and more noticeable. I was no longer able to run without discomfort either up or slightly down. The severe downhill hurt it the worst. Having the shin nagging at me made this section take forever! But I finally made it to the chalky white cliff area that I was familiar to be Chalk Creek. I thought I was close when I saw Bill Dooper but he said I was still 4 myles out and all on asphalt.
Bill at Ridge Runners Ranch

Running the next 4 myles on the road was simply too much for my shin to handle so I was forced to walk most of it. This asphalt section must go! Probably the worst part of all the CT. The private land prevents from descending directly off the hill but rather wind around on a longer road. Finally to Chalk Creek with my patient crew. But how much damage had I done and what will I feel like in morning? I immediately got into the river up to my knees and iced my shins a couple times. I then elevated and wrapped them for the remainder of the night. I was sad for two reasons; 1. my body was starting to betray me, and 2. my family would leave tomorrow to get Jaxon back to school.
My crew at Chalk Creek

Me and my boys the night before they went home

Day 6
Start 5:51 A.M.
Chalk Creek - Marshall Pass 35.1 myles
9 hours 34 minutes - 3.7 MPH

My family was going home today but at least they would meet me at Hwy 50 before they left. Hwy 50 also marks the halfway point of the journey.

Well I woke up this morning with minor discomfort so I elected to wrap my left shin loosely. On the first climb out of Chalk Creek it seemed to help as the discomfort was minimal. I was extremely happy at this point. Now I was entering a section that was relatively flat for the next 8 myles so another test to come with the wrap - seemed to be fine too. All right, feeling confident now! This flat section was very pleasant as the sun began to rise, first hitting the tips of multiple fourteeners to my right.

Nice flat, open section with fourteener's in veiw

Now for the last few myles of this segment I was hoping to pass by quickly as I was to meet my family at Hwy 50 but I had one climb and two descents before that. It was on the first severe descent that my shin started acting up. I took 4 Advil to take the edge away and that seemed to help. Finally I looked down upon Hwy 50 and ironically I saw my crew arrive into the check point.
Hwy 50 - Half way point

I got into Fooses lake where I knew my crew was waiting for me.... wait a minute where are they?? I looked into every pull out and could not find them so I decided they had driven up the 2.5 mile road to the official Fooses TH. Sure enough that's where they were waiting with Coke and cinnamon roll in hand. It was really hard for me to leave and just nearly broke down. But I knew as long as I kept going they'd be back on Friday to meet me. I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and hope my body wouldn't rebel anymore.

My family at Fooses Trail Head

Last climb of the day is a doozy - up to Marshall Pass and join the CDT. I had been on this section and up to this point think this section is the most beautiful because of the meandering lower portion and views on the upper portion. I met a few other hikers on the way up; Tyler who had been out on the trail for 30 days (full beard and all) and another fellow who was backpacking from Hwy 114 to his home in Breckenridge. He knew Helen Cospolich real well so I said to say hello. I told Tyler who was headed my way that if he made it to Marshall pass for the night we would feed him with plenty of Coke (Coke seemed to be a favorite on the trail). I proceeded on at my pace and made it to Marshall Pass in decent time. Some amazing scenery along the way.
The climb up from Hwy 50

The colors starting to come out up high

Remember I had told you in the previous post that someone had shot at a bear in Waterton canyon their first day out on the trail? That someone was Tyler. He made it to Marshall Pass that night and told the story of shooting at a cinnamon colored bear two times to help a nearby camper out. The bear was into this guys backpack and had stomped on his tent, the guy yelled out to Tyler who had a .357. The bear did not flinch as Tyler shot one time in the air and one time in the general direction. They both got out of there and that was that. I'm wondering if this is the same bear that Dave Donaldson saw while he was running the Roxborough loop about a month ago?? Anyways Tyler told stories about who and what he was doing, ate, and then was on his way. While I was visiting with Tyler, Rick had gone down to Pagosa Springs to pick Harsha, my pacer for day # 7.

But before Rick left, he was there to greet me as he was everyday in every way. Here is an image I became familiar with and would pretty much bring tears to my eyes as it was such a welcome sight.

Rick ringing the cow bell at Marshall Pass

Through 6 days - 267.6 myles

Stay tuned to find out how the shin thing worked itself out... or not.