Thru Hiking the Colorado Trail – Prologue

Growing up in a rural area of southwestern Pennsylvania certainly lends itself to these types of things. And by these things I am referring to what some might consider to be a crazy trek across 500 miles of mountainous terrain.

You see in southwestern Pennsylvania a lot of people don’t seem to mind standing out in the cold rainy snowy weather to watch a football game or hunt for deer. Maybe that doesn’t seem normal in your part of the country or world, but it was normal to me.

I grew up in a family full of hunters and my uncles actually owned an archery shop for awhile. My dad was a purist who used a recurve bow while my uncles embraced the latest technology that was to found in using compound bows. Needless to say we all spent a fair amount of time in the woods.

I was also a boy scout growing up. Besides racing pine wood derby cars we also spent a weekend every year at a local state park camping out and learning all kinds of cool outdoor skills like building fires. For some reason, the other boyscouts chose me to start a fire at the fire building station (you only got three tries to get an award for the station). You would think any boy would jump at the chance to start a fire, but maybe they just recognized that I spent a lot more time outdoors than they did. One of my proudest achievements came years later as I was starting a fire in some of the wettest coldest conditions possible. It took about an hour if I remember correctly, long after everyone else gave up, but our group really needed a fire that particular night.

The idea for this trek comes from another well known trek called the Appalachian Trail. Everyone knows someone that has done it, but no one had hiked the whole thing in one season themselves. It took on a mythical quality for me. I heard stories spoken about these people who hiked the whole thing and I figured they must be something really special.

It became a dream of mine to one day hike the AT (Appalachian Trail). But like most big ventures it got put aside for other priorities. You know the ones I speak of. Career, family commitments, etc. Nobody really gets 6 months off of work to hike a trail. So you do it when you are really young or old and retired. The “really young” part of my life has already passed me by, and the “retired” part of my life is a long way off, if it ever really comes.

Dreams don’t really die though. They take different forms. For instance, it has been a goal of mine to eventually visit all 50 states of the U.S. I am currently at 48 states with Hawaii and Alaska left over. To a certain degree this goal is easier than hiking the AT. I spent about 11 days driving up through Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. And I have visited the rest of the states for various degrees of time. Years spent in Colorado and Pennsylvania. Hours spent in South Carolina just to check it off the list. Sorry South Carolina…

Which brings me to this coming summer. Every year I usually spend about 2 weeks of the summer traveling. When I first arrived in Colorado I spent a lot of time exploring every part of it. Over the past couple years I have been neglecting it for other destinations.

Something else really got me thinking about hiking the Colorado Trail this year though. My job requires me to be present during the months of July and August (prime backpacking months) so June is my travel month. The problem with hiking the high country in Colorado in June is the leftover snowpack. Snowpack in high elevations makes crossing the area difficult and navigating the trail near impossible. June also carries with it a chance for snowstorms at higher elevations.

This year however, the snowpack has only been about 50-80% of the yearly average. I have been watching the snow depth gauges closely and this year’s snowpack makes it look like hiking some of the high country in May might even be possible.

Put it all together and you have a smaller, but perhaps more beautiful, cousin of the AT that is doable for me without quitting my job or taking an extended leave of absence.

For comparison the AT is almost 2,200 miles and takes most people 4-6 months to complete. The Colorado Trail is roughly 500 miles long and by going a little faster than normal I plan to finish in a month. To go a little faster I have started doing a lot of research into the lightweight backpacking philosophy…

This is part of the “Through Hiking the Colorado Trail” series…

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