Milk Boxes and Christmas Mornings

It’s Christmas morning as I sit quietly with my cup of coffee. Always an early riser, I sit in a chair in my front room. If affords me a view of our Christmas tree and the world outside to the street in front of the house. This used to be my usual morning spot, but was replaced a few years ago by the room with a fireplace and a cozy recliner.

Today, however, I’m drawn to this room, and more specifically to the tree, adorned with ornaments that stir memories of my life. Not all of the ornaments but many of them have a story. Quite a few were given to me by my mother when I first moved to Colorado many years ago from Pennsylvania. Gratefully, some of them are dated, giving me a bit of insight to their history.

After our son was born in 1995 we began gaining ornaments that signified a family unit, I remember a few years ago, after our son left for college, Pam and I decorated the tree and Pam decided to not hang either the Batman ornament that had a photo of Ben or perhaps the shiny, awful Grinch ornament. I immediately texted him to tell him of this development.

“You put those ornaments on the tree!” he texted back, probably with some kind of threat of which I can no longer recall.

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Many ornaments have come from travels around the country and world. This creates a sort of map on the tree, going from the Grand Canyon to New Zealand to the Colorado Trail and various other spots. Oddly, we don’t have any ornaments from our time spent in Romania, which were two of the fonder Christmases of my life.

Then there is the stocking that my grandmother made as part of one of her sewing groups when she was still alive. It’s not particularly pretty, but it was crafted of material from graduation gowns where I went to high school. I can’t tell you the why or how around it, but it sparks memories from my hometown and my grandmother and I like that.

There is one ornament that takes me back to a seven year period of my life, of which I look upon rather fondly. It was the time that I was a milkman. I had left one part of my life, was married and had no college education. I’d seen an ad in the Denver Post for a home delivery driver and ended up being a milkman for seven years of my life, five with Royal Crest Dairy and then two more with Longmont Dairy.

It was a hard job. We delivered Monday through Friday regardless of weather and regardless of whether there was a holiday. If Christmas fell on a weekday, we delivered the milk.

It made for challenging times when my son was young. I had to finish my route and be home before he was out of bed, for little boys have a hard enough time waiting for Santa much less daddy to come home from being on the milk route.

Milkmen love the weeks before Christmas. They run the same route for a year, giving the best service that they can and reap the benefit during the week of Christmas when each milk box turns into a treasure box. Many would be filled with cookies, and quite a few would have a card. Frequently inside that card was cash.

My first year delivering milk I had a tough semi-rural route in a place called the Pinery, south of Parker, Colorado, nearly a 40 minute drive from downtown Denver where the dairy was located. It was 1993, before Ben was born, Pam and I having been married only two years. I think I pulled something like $1600 in tips that year and we had a Christmas like we’ve never had since, being young and foolish and having a good time.

It was during that first year that I delivered milk to a box and found this little ornament waiting for me. It was set up just like I have it pictured in this post. There was a five dollar bill nestled in among the little wooden milk bottles and I thought that was the neatest thing in the world.

The ornament has traveled to three different houses now and survived storage while we lived abroad. I’ve held on to that ornament for the past 26 years, a memory of a past life, with many interesting and sometimes crazy stories delivering milk.

This Christmas morning, now 54 years old, I become a bit more nostalgic and misty eyed looking at the tree. The history, stories and memories cause me to reflect upon a life lived and enjoyed, with many chapters yet to be written.

Merry Christmas!

Little Things

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m spoiled. I grew up in Pennsylvania where the winters were cold, damp and windy. Where the sun hid behind clouds for days at a time and a clear blue sky devoid of them was something to behold in its awesomeness and rarity. I’ve lived in Colorado 28 years now and I’ve become soft. So be it.

When I looked out my bedroom window this past Monday night in late May I commented to Mrs. Gibble, “It’s dumping snow outside!” The next morning there was four inches in my backyard in metro Denver. I read this week that on Engineer Pass in Hinsdale County the snow is ten feet deep. Again, I’m spoiled. I live in Denver, where the snow does not linger, but still, I longed for a day where I could at least plant some vegetables.

This Memorial Day weekend the weather finally idled, and while a cool breeze still blows, the sun was out yesterday and now today I can sit on my back porch scribing my thoughts. I planted my vegetables yesterday and most unusual for me, on a long three day weekend, I have not ventured to a trail, but have been exploring in the wilderness of my front and back yards.

We walk our dogs daily and each day upon returning to house #1347 I stop to tour my garden in front. I look to see what is blooming, “Oh, perhaps in a day or two, the gallardia will be open, orange now fringes its edges, hinting at a burst of color forthcoming.”

A few years ago I sat on my back porch in this very seat where I toil away now. My dogs were with me and both bolted into a run, gazing toward the sky as they raced to the fence mere yards away. Instinctively my head extended skyward as well, just in time to catch a Coopers Hawk flying west, snatching a dove in mid air and just as quickly disappearing. Had I really just seen that I thought to myself? The right place, the right time.

This morning as I pulled bindweed in the rocks surrounding my beds of flowers, a mundane task if there ever was one, for bindweed wins all battles, I thought back to that Coopers Hawk. If I happened to catch a glimpse of such a rare sight as this, how much am I missing by not spending more time in my back yard?

Touring my garden earlier today I spied the tiny lady bug in the photo at the top of this post. I got down on my knees, pulled out my phone and looked at her through the lens, adjusting the manual settings so that I could move into her tiny world. How big must these stalks of fringed sage look to her? She is amongst a jungle here in my perennial bed, protected from predators by the many leaves, petals, bark and greenery. Yet, she possesses something I will never have, the ability to fly, to soar high above her world for an aerial view of it all. I sit back in wonder at this wilderness I observe.

The pollinators are especially intriguing. Later in the afternoon I recline on the flagstone, now in the backyard, setting up for a photo of the many honeybees going to work on a Sunday in my catmint. The gentle buzz is soothing as I patiently wait for them to come in front of my face so that I can try to capture their amazing effort. “Please leave us be” they seem to say, “for we, too, have endured a long winter and we have much to do.”

For me, the tardy spring is little more than an inconvenience. For the pollinators and other wildlife it is life and death.

The return to more normal weather this weekend allowed me the opportunity to catch up on the yard work, to get some plants in the ground, sacrificing time afield in the foothills or higher mountains, making wonderful memories. Or so I thought.

When I am on a trail, or in the backcountry by a lake, or gathering in a view so massive feeling like I am the ladybug suspended in air, my soul sings. My heart is filled with a feeling of splendor as I take in the beauty of the world. But I realized today that when the sense of wonder found in my yard matches that found in the backcountry, I feel my heart and soul are better appreciating all things natural.

Staunton Jaunt

Just before Jamie shuts the car off in the parking lot I see the air temperature. 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The expected high is to be in the 40’s, but that will be after we finish. I’ve dressed for about a mid 20’s start so it seems as though I’d better generate some heat.

We embark on the Mason Creek Trail in Staunton State Park, a park of the Colorado State Parks system that gets better every time I visit. They groom the trails in winter allowing hikers, fat tire mountain bikes and snowshoers alike to enjoy the winter trails.

The trail is snow packed, but not quite icy as we move into the Mason Creek drainage. It’s evident that it had been above freezing yesterday as there are deeper frozen footprints, but not so many as to rut the trail out and make it difficult passage.

On either side of Mason Creek the mountain rises steeply. The temperatures must be in the single digits here. I’m layered properly on my torso, but can feel the cold air on my legs, having opted out of wearing a base layer. My cheeks catch the cold air and I wiggle my finger tips to keep them warm inside my wool mittens. After some time I can feel the cold permeating the soles of my trail runners. The cold affects the tendon in my left knee, causing it to be a little more stiff. It’s all perfectly acceptable, just awareness in my body but little cause for alarm. As we rise out of the drainage the temperature will warm and eventually we will be in the sunshine.

As I look at Jamie I realize just how cold it is!

One trail runner passes us, then shortly thereafter we hear voices and another pair moves past. Eventually we ascend into some aspens and the air temperature is much less intense. The trail dips and rises, winds and wends in and out of the aspens.

The sight of the aspens brings longing for summer days, sounds of hummingbirds and overnight backcountry trips. I reign in my anticipation, to not waste the day I have right now, a bluebird day, with clear blue skies contrasted by the bright white landscape.

Back home, even after the Bomb Cyclone a few days ago, I can see spring growth emerging and a neighbor’s crocuses blooming. But here, if one is to step off the packed trail, it’s at least knee deep snow at 9,000′.

At Staunton we’re still in the Front Range but not in the true high country. The big mountains have received an abundance of moisture this year, with every river basin in the state over 100% of average snowpack. This is welcome after the drought of last year and dreadful wildfires that ravaged significant portions of the state’s forest. It will be late June or even July until some of the high mountains are accessible.

Jamie and I pause in the aspens allowing the sun to beat upon our faces as we soak up the warmth. It is a windless day, which is absolutely lovely. Not wanting to posthole over to a log we opt to stand in order to take in a snack. Early on, I blew the line to my hydration bladder clear because it was so cold. I attempt to draw water through the tube and I feel like a kid trying to suck a thick chocolate shake through a straw, unsuccessful to draw any water through the tube. Some banging on my pack by Jamie and blowing back and forth finally breaks the ice dam free that must have formed, and I am able to take a drink.

Exiting the aspens we enter back into the darker timber. Not as many people have ventured here and I begin to remark that the trail is softer when my right leg sinks knee deep into snow. I do my own version of an Irish jig as I quickly step out of the post hole attempting to keep my balance.

I’ve been on this trail just once, I believe, and I was running at the time. So now, moving at a slower pace, and in winter, it all looks different to me. We comment how we’re hoping to intersect another trail versus having to backtrack when we finally arrive at the Old Mill, built here in the 1930’s. The old building stands defiant to the elements high on the mountain, nestled between the rocks that make up much of this park. I marvel at how they got various pieces of large equipment up here nearly 90 years ago. The resourcefulness and perseverance of the people impresses me.

We don’t linger long and venture lower on the Old Mill trail and intersect with a main trail that takes us back to the parking lot. Now there is much more activity with fat tire bikers, hikers and snowshoers. We have timed it right as the trail is now beginning to thaw out and muddy up when we arrive back where we started to a now full parking lot.

Reflecting on the morning warms my heart as we move into spring and the transition of longer days, blooming plants and more time afield. I look forward to many more trips this year, and hope to explore some new places as well.

Bomb Cyclone

I’d never heard of a bomb cyclone. It’s a new weather word to me.

One week into abstaining from social media and Mother Nature assists with a blizzard. We are currently without power so fortunately our gas fireplace is keeping the living room warm at 69 degrees.

I have a few isobutane canisters with a whisper of fuel in them. No good for backpacking, but perfect to heat water for coffee.

A new book arrived in the mail a few days ago. I should finish it today. It’s an account of Heather “Anish” Anderson’s record setting hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. It puts other books that turned into movies about the PCT to shame.

Enjoy your storms wherever you might be!

40 Days

My wife Pam has an iPhone, I have an android. Apple has a built in app that tells you how much time you spend on your phone. I was really glad that my Samsung had no such device, but curiosity got the best of me and I went searching for one.

Of course, it revealed that which I knew to be true. I, like so many of us, spend way too much time on social media. I am especially adept at killing large chunks of time playing Words With Friends. I only really play with two people, my sisters, who reside in Pennsylvania. I enjoy the daily check in, occasional chats and especially the competition with my oldest sister. But the app revealed just how much time I could spend on the game. With a ping that a play was awaiting I would move my attention away from what I was doing and find a word to put on the board.

My spiritual journey at this point of my life is largely a personal one. I have my beliefs, my faith and I try to do my best to live my faith without putting it in people’s faces. I strive for compassion, understanding, trying to keep my mouth shut (which is a huge challenge), listen better and not judge each person that comes in my path. For I feel there is an overabundance of judging in the world these days.

So for the next 40 days I’ve taken social media away. I’ve been doing a lot more reading in the last year and look forward to even more of it in the coming weeks, especially without the distraction of Facebook, etc.

I’ve also been away from writing for much too long. There are no adventures looming immediately in my future but I am eagerly looking forward to this sense of a spiritual retreat, an opportunity to reflect more, to be a better listener, to pick up the phone and actually talk to my sisters and to detach from e-stimulation.

“But”, you say, “now you are posting on your blog, which is linked to your Facebook account and such.”

Yes, there are the links that announce that I may have written something. But it will be good for me to not see if someone “likes” what I have put out into cyberspace. It will be beneficial for me to not respond to a comment or even know if one has been posted. (Of course, I welcome comments and likes on the blog!)

I look forward to rambling on here about life and my thoughts. I intend to take more walks in my neighborhood and in the hills, if spring ever decides to show its face here in Colorado. In a few short weeks it will be one year since a dear friend passed away. I want to honor her by thinking about how she still impacts my life each and every day. I want to be more present for Pam and for Ben, especially before he spreads his wings and moves into his own space in about a month. Life trickles on, like a mountain spring emerging from a hillside. I’ll try to do a better job of following the flow and seeing where it leads me.

Walking to Durango, the Trek Comes to a Close

Scanning my campsite in the dark, my headlight shines in the area where I am packing my gear up for the last time this trip. I walk down the trail, having rested for longer than any time of the last ten days, with exception of my zero day in Lake City. I make my way to Indian Trail Ridge proper just as the sky brightens through the trees.

I am rewarded with serenely beautiful, warmly lit skies to the east. My decision to wait a day is confirmed as a good one. It is calm, it is peaceful, it is perfect. The undulating trail is stout enough to cause me to breathe more deeply at times. I stop frequently to capture the light on the ridge, at times jogging back and forth on the trail to get the best images that my phone will allow. It is at times breathtaking and heart rending. The day dawns on me figuratively and literally. This is my last day on trail and like so many before me have said, it is bittersweet. I am more than ready to be with my family and comforts of home, but will miss the time alone on trail and waking up to such beauty outside my tent door.

I make much better time than anticipated and descend down to Taylor Lake. There is nobody camped there, to my surprise, and I stop to filter some water, have breakfast and my morning coffee. Within 20 minutes I am off again finishing segment 27 proper and embarking on the final 21.5 mile segment. I climb through Kennebec Pass and again am moving downhill toward Durango. I’ll descend 6,557 feet by the time I reach the end of the trail in Durango.

Having cell service, I take the opportunity to call Pam and Jamie to let them know my ETA. I cross Junction Creek numerous times and am in shade for the whole morning. It was cool at the start of my day and I haven’t needed much water. After twelve or so miles I stop to take another break, eat something and reflect.

I cross a nice bridge over Junction Creek and then begin what will be the last climb of the Colorado Trail. I’m

fifteen miles into my day and have a four mile climb before the downhill to the end. All of the descending has caused the tib anterior muscle in my left leg to get a little angry; what some might call shin splints but it actuality is just an overused muscle issue from the long downhill stretch. It’s annoying and affects my gait a little bit; one last surprise that the Colorado Trail has for me before I finish.

13.3 miles from the end and about 16 miles into my day I stop to filter water for the last time. I fill both 23 ounce bottles that I have and deem it enough to carry me through roughly a half marathon. I make a note on the Guthooks app about the water source. “Good flow if you have a scoop. Maybe enough to carry you home! Almost there!”

I continue the short climb but am acutely aware that it is much warmer now. I’m now at an elevation of 9016′ and as I continue to descend the landscape changes around me. Junipers begin to dominate the scene, along with a pebbly trail and more arid climes. I spy a horned lizard, the first that I have ever seen. He obliges for a photo or two.

Horned lizard

Before I top out on the uphill section I meet a woman having a snack. She is finishing the trail today as well, having section hiked it over a few years much as I have. She is only the second hiker I have seen today and we congratulate each other on our endeavors. She is yet one more interesting person that I have had the privilege to meet on the trail. I bid her goodbye and am grateful for the encounter, buoying my spirits.

I top the climb and begin the last ten miles home! I snap a photo of my watch and figure with a good pace I can knock this out in three miles. It is 1:05 pm.

A much smaller horned lizard

But now it feels really warm, much warmer than anything I have experienced in the last week. I had not counted on the effect of the lower elevation and the increasing heat, while certainly not hot, it is much warmer than I have been used to. I decide to stop, take a break and air my feet out. I relax, with my socks and shoes off and even attempt to catch a little nap. Pam, Jamie and his son will be walking in to meet me but I don’t expect to see them before the last four miles.

Further down the trail I’m now consuming copious amounts of water, far more than I have at any other time. It feels really hot now and with about six or seven miles to go I have consumed the last of my liquids. I intentionally slow down because I don’t want tot have a bad experience here at the very end. There is one more water source, but I think I will see Pam and Jamie before that.

But now I am beginning to sidle along. My speed has dropped considerably and I just don’t feel very good. I think to myself that I have come 225 miles in the last ten days, I am merely five miles from the end and I am beginning to flounder. My pride takes a hit and I worry about the woman behind coming up on me as I walk around in a stupor. I keep checking my watch to determine where I am at on the trail. I hope to see Pam and Jamie at Gudy’s Rest, a bench at an overlook that commemorates the “mother of the Colorado Trail”, Gudy Gaskill.

I get to Gudy’s Rest and have a seat. It is am impressive bench, big enough to lie down on, it begs me to take a nap and I toss off my back and decide to just sleep for a little bit. As I drift off, I begin to hear voices below me, a woman’s voice. Pam! I hop off the bench and strain to see down onto the trail below me. I can see the trail on the other side of Junction Creek but it is too steep directly below me to see the switchbacked trail where the voices are coming from. I hesitate to yell down below and instead quickly don my pack and grab my trekking poles.

I have been instantly rejuvenated and think to myself, “I only have four miles to go! Get off your ass and get moving!” It is the motivation I need to finish this thing out. Moving quickly down the trail I hit one switchback and then another. I can hear Pam’s voice and then Jamie’s, I think I even hear the higher pitch of Jamie’s son as well. Tears begin to well behind my glasses and I get a little emotional at the thought of seeing the three of them.

Finally, I see them as they being to come up the trail and we are all moving toward a switchback where we will be reunited. Except it is not them. It is a man and woman hiking up the trail on a day hike. Ugh. My spirits are deflated. I immediately put on a fake smile, “Why hello! It’s a beautiful day isn’t it? Enjoy your hike!” And as I pass them, my emotions change from one of elation to feigning agitation. “Where in the hell are they? I need some water and food!”

But, alas, another half mile and I now see them in the flesh, sitting on the trail. And I am so glad to see them. Jamie has really cold water in his backpack. As I sip out of his Camelbak tube I don’t think I have tasted such good, clean, fresh, cold water before. Pam has snacks for me, I hug her and I plop down on the trail next to Jamie’s son. It feels so good to eat, drink and see my friends and wife.

From here on out it is a day hike with friends. The last three miles take longer than I would like. I don’t yearn for more miles, to have it last forever, today, I just want to be done. As we finally come to the end of the trail I have been thinking about how I will have my photo taken at the trail head for the traditional photo commemorating finishing the Colorado Trail. I decide to do handstand.

Note: It is now weeks after I have finished the trail as I write this. I began this trail with a group of people and finished a large portion of it by myself. Over the past few years I have done more and more solo backpacking. Going solo is such a different experience than hiking with others. This past Labor Day weekend Pam and I backpacked segments 9, 10 and part of 11 going from Tennessee Pass to Twin Lakes Village. I hope to accompany both Pam and Jamie as they too, complete the Colorado Trail.

Recounting my trip via this blog has also been an enjoyable experience for me. I think now about this trail and I don’t think I am done with it. I often think about “my legacy” and what I will leave behind once my days trekking this earth are done. Unfortunately our relationships that we build over our lifetimes diminish once we are gone. We have memories and oral history but they disappear over time. For me, I feel my writing is a way to preserve my history and experiences. So with that, I would love to write a few books before I am gone. I think one may be about a northbound thru hike of the Colorado Trail, taken more slowly, more intentionally. Another would be about trekking in Romania, another place I love and would like to explore more, visiting villages and getting to know people in different parts of a country that I love.

All of this presents some serious challenges, risk of perceived failure if nobody gives a damn about a book that I might write and changes in my life in the near future. But it is fun to think about. Happy trails to all of you and thanks for reading along about my adventures.

Professor Nature

Autumn officially arrives in eight days. I took the photo above pausing to rest and reflect, in the mountains of Colorado, while pursuing elk during archery season. The three weeks of the season thus far has proved incredible. I’ve seen or heard game every day except one, afield this season.

I’ve had to relearn to slow down, to be still, to listen, to observe, to be intentional but not predictable. I’ve bugled back and forth to bull elk and been in a staring contest. Each day the elk outsmarts me means an additional day observing an amazing world.

Sure, I could observe nature without hunting, but I would not stay afield until dark. It would mean missing out on the beauty of a bull elk’s white ivory tipped tine as I catch his face in my binoculars.

I arise at 4:00 am to walk back into the Aspen forest in the pre dawn light. I wait and listen for a bull to bugle first and give away his location. He remains silent, forcing me to walk noisily in the forest. So the game goes, me learning new lessons by living in his world for a short time.

So too, have I learned new lessons from bears, deer, turkeys, pine squirrels, grouse, bees, ants, crickets and grasshoppers. I’ve witnessed the Aspens morph from chartreuse green to brilliant orange to golden yellow.

In my 53rd year I am grateful for a worn but healthy body to continue to be taught by mother nature. Spending much time outdoors in different recreational activities every year offers a multitude of perspectives. In this I pray I function better in comunity with my own species, the human race. My wish is to learn and never know it all, for how mundane and boring would that be?

Summer Clings Like Raindrops

Raindrops settle on Aspen leaves,

A breeze may send them to earth,

The leaf soon becoming bronze,

It’s job as a shelf finite.

While high up on mountain peak,

Snow already forms,

Relentless in its pursuit,

To hasten autumn days.

While summer clings,

Like drops on an Aspen leaf.

Day 8 – A Ridgeline Walk and Orphan Butts!

I have slept well because I don’t remember much about it. This drainage is supposed to be loaded with elk according to things I’ve read, but I have not seen nor heard wapiti since I arrived here last night. Just like elk…they are hard to pattern.

I get an early start, but I don’t really know why. After speaking with Jerry Brown last evening I change my plans for my last two days. I am just 47 miles from Durango. Originally, I planned to go 23 miles a day plus some change. It would be a great relaxing way to finish the Colorado Trail. But, the trail changes you and you learn to adapt. One does not act overconfidently on this trail. I heed the advice of Jerry meaning I’ll go just 17 today. Which also means I’ll want to cover 30 the final day; it will be a challenge right up to the end.

Up I go for just a 6/10 of a mile in the dark, ascending Blackhawk Pass. I’m rewarded with another pretty sunrise to begin my day. I only go another two miles and I have to stop to get more water. This water stop presents my biggest decision of the day. I potentially will not be able to get water for 22 more miles; meaning I may need to make my water last all through today and tomorrow morning until I get to Taylor Lake. There are potentially one or two sources. My two resources refer to them as “seasonal spring source”, “sometimes find water trickle on trail” and “a small seep”. This did not inspire enough confidence for me to risk only traveling with 46 ounces of water, so I “camel up” and fill my Platypus container with two and a half additional liters of water.



Sunrise from Blackhawk Pass


This puts a challenge into my “short” day and I move on. The good news is I only have to go 15 more miles and my day is done. I’m looking forward to the short day and not thinking about the long day that will come tomorrow. I have plans to get to a nice camp, read, nap and eat. I am excited!



The photo belies the vertical nature of the trail


It’s an uphill trek for the first part of the morning, then most of the way is a really cool ridge walk. I had looked over this particular section of trail on topographic maps because of the reputation of Indian Trail Ridge. I have had the words of David Fanning from his book, Voices of the Colorado Trail, (I highly recommend this book) running through my head for the last day and a half. In David’s words, speaking about lightning on the exposed ridge, he says, “I once spent a terrifying 45 minutes in a lightning posture, preparing to meet my maker on this ridge!”

But I’m miles from that area and for now I have tremendous views to my left which is looking east into large green drainages and then heavy timber of the San Juan National Forest. Directly to my right and the west all I can see is heavy timber, and I walk the ridge line between the two.


east ridge

Miles of views like this looking east off the ridge walk


I have posted a topo map of the ridge below, if you find interest in such maps it is interesting to look at. Looking at the map later I see that I was literally walking the county line between La Plata County and Montezuma County. Who knew?




I’m struggling a bit as I reach the ten mile mark. As per usual, after a solid but strenuous effort the previous day, I’m feeling less than stellar. The additional five and a half pounds of water handicaps me a bit. I toss off my pack at one of the beautiful overlooks and make myself some mashed potatoes and a cup of coffee. I enjoy sitting on my little seat pad and leaning up against a log, relaxing during my mid morning break.

The calories and break do the job and I’m feeling better as I move on. I keep my eyes on



the skies, knowing that their is a forecast for heavy rain right in the area where I plan to camp. I’ll be low enough that I may get wet, but I’ll be safe. I keep scanning the terrain in front of me trying to get an idea of what Indian Trail Ridge will look like. What I have pictured in my mind will likely be different from what it is really like. All morning I wrestle with the name Indian Trail Ridge, often thinking of it as Indian Ridge Trail. It’s embarrassing how many times I pull my databook out to re-check the name.

Another name that I have had a lot of fun with since last evening was Orphan Butte. Connie, the woman that was with Jerry last evening, told me that they were planning on camping there tonight. All morning long I shout out loud “Orphan Butt” and then I laugh at my own juvenile joke. I find it even funnier because I worked with orphans for two and a half years in Romania and saw my share of orphan butts! “Orphan Butt, Orphan Butt” I yell, which at any other time would be ridiculous but since I’m here all alone I can act in a childish fashion when I want to. I guess I’ll never grow up!

Sure enough, I come along the trail just east of Orphan Butte and while I do not see any orphans or butts, I see a ton of coyote shit. It’s so thick that the Colorado Trail must be their personal highway. It’s frequent enough that it smells like dog doo along this part of the trail in particular stretches. And as I look at Orphan Butte, I’m a little disappointed. The name is better than the landmark in my opinion.

The clouds begin building overhead now as it gets close to 1:00. I come to the “seasonal spring source” and wander around in the swampy area. There is definitely water here but most of it is in the form of a spongy mess. I go back and forth and then find a little pool where I can dip my scoop so that I can put it into my Sawyer bag to filter. My scoop is actually a tennis ball container that has had the top cut off. I love this little piece of equipment because it came from my wife, Pam, an avid tennis player. I have had it for years now. Every time I use it I think of her and it always brings a smile to my face. Once done, it works as a great container for both the rolled up bag and my filter, fitting right into the side pocket of my pack, next to my water bottle.



I fill the bottles in a hurry and realize that I probably did not drink enough water up to this point of the day. But it was a quandary because if I had drank copious amounts of water it would have left me short for dinner tonight and my first eight miles tomorrow. The skies continue to darken, preparing for the beatdown that will occur shortly. I’m pleasantly surprised because this whole area is still heavily timbered, not exposed. If I can get to the campsite and set my shelter, I’ll be in good shape. It’s 4/10 of a mile and 210 feet uphill on the switchback trail. I’m hauling ass now, really wanting to have camp set before a big old storm lets loose. It feels really good to huff and puff up the switchbacks and I’m shortly at a nice campsite, higher up from the dampness of the water below. A nice fir tree provides good shelter in addition to my tent and I’m safely in camp before the storm.



After a rough start, the shelter performs admirably for the trip


I read, I nap, I giggle at the fact that I am done for the day and lounging in camp. There is a bright flash, then there is a violent crack of thunder; ear splitting loud. I contemplate putting in my ear plugs, but it’s sort of cool. I feel safe here, so I’m not concerned about that. The rain sprinkles but never pours. After some time it stops and I make myself dinner.

I walk out to the overlook which is a 270 degree view of the area that I came through earlier in the day. I see two other tents and talk at length with a couple who has been section hiking the trail for a few years and will be finishing in a few days.



Panorama from the Overlook




Sun battles clouds


After sitting out at the overlook for a time, I walk back to the CT proper and go a tenth of a mile to another “seep”. This water source is not as good as the one further back the trail, but I play around and form a pour off using a small triangle shaped rock which acts as a tiny spout. It would require patience, but one could fill a bottle here in an emergency. I make a note in the Guthooks app regarding what I’ve done. Who knows, perhaps it will aid another traveler in a few days or a week if it continues to rain.

Once back at my tent I count the remaining calories that I have for tomorrow’s 30 mile finale. I have 2200 calories if I eat everything I have with me. I really need to finish tomorrow or I’ll be foraging for food! I shoot a note off to Pam to please bring along some snacks. She and Jamie will be hiking in to meet me tomorrow.

Meddling about camp I don’t see a woman twenty yards away. “Are you Matt?”

I reply that I am and I realize it is Connie from last evening. She looks different not being crouched down inside a tent. “Jerry and I were wondering all day if you made it across Indian Trail Ridge. He thought that you might because you’re pretty fast.”

I laugh out loud, “No, I listened to Jerry’s sage advice and decided to camp here for tonight. I’m wise enough to listen to experience!”

“Oh, I’m not telling Jerry that, it will go to his head! Were you up here for that storm? It was intense.”

I tell Connie that I was and that it was not too bad. She makes her way back down the trail the half mile to where she and Jerry decided to camp for the night, below the Cape of Good Hope. They want to be able to get up and off Indian Trail Ridge first thing in the morning, as is the case with all of us camped here.

The interactions with the other people on the trail adds to the whole experience of being here. Moving solo brings about a completely different experience than partnering with another person hiking the trail. But not having much interaction would make it a much lonelier experience. When I run into people on trail or retell stories at home and relay to them I have not seen anybody for nearly a day, they think it to be a wonderful thing. And while it sounds nice, most have not spent days primarily alone in the wilderness. I crave the solitude at times, but also am a person of community as are most people at heart. There are very few people that do well without any social interaction. We truly do need each other and being alone for long stretches reminds me of that fact. While I may be able to exist with an independent approach on trail, I appreciate the differences and diversity in people, and each of them have something to teach me, if I am wise enough to listen to their story.