Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Colorado Trail: Reflections on a 500-mile Adventure (Part 2)

The hike was beautiful today—passing through aspen groves and densely vegetated riparian forests.  At lunchtime we reached 10,000 feet and emerged from the forest into an alpine meadow.  We ate a leisurely lunch despite rumbling thunder and took a short nap. 

When we woke, we continued up the valley for another couple miles until we found a picturesque campsite, nestled just inside the forest fringe.  Richard set about repairing some of his gear while I soaked my feet in the icy stream.

After dinner we took a short walk in a high meadow and watched the sunset.  We have gotten some good glimpses of snow-covered peaks to the west.  We should reach them in a couple days and cross the Continental Divide.  On our way back to camp a huge moon came up over the Rampart Range, surrounded by a curtain of pink clouds. 

A gentle rain is falling on our tent now, and thunder occasionally rolls above us.  I’m tired and will have no trouble sleeping.

Yesterday was a big one—24 miles of hiking.  We came out of the Rampart Range early in the morning and crossed Kenosha Pass, arriving at the base of tall mountains around lunchtime.

The moon has been nearly full the past couple nights, and as we hiked we began dreaming of crossing the Continental Divide under the light of a full moon.  It was a steep hike to timberline, and we reached the divide around 9:30 at night.  The moon was bright over the eastern plains and Rampart Mountains, and now and again the sky lit even more as lightning danced across the face of some storm far to the east.

On the far side of the divide we caught the last pink glimpses of sunset and saw the lights of Breckenridge below.  We put on our warm clothes and lay on our backs, looking up at the sky, dreaming and talking for nearly an hour.  It was cold, beautiful, and unforgettable.

Eventually, we shouldered out packs again and staggered another five miles before reaching a river to camp beside.  Before sleeping I went to hang the bear bag.  The moon was full and high above the forest, dropping a fantastic, sleepy light into the woods.
Dawn felt early today, and we were slow to motivate.  We ate a breakfast of oatmeal and hot coco then began our final ascent of the Ten Mile Range.  When we reached timberline the scenery was spectacular—steep rocky peaks and alpine meadows with delicate wildflowers.  The wind was cold and tried hard to toss us like dead weeds.

Richard and I were both chipper this morning and spent the first hour of our day conversing as if we were two old ladies from upstate New York.  We named our alter egos Georgie and Marge, and I image they will stay with us for the rest of the trip.

At midmorning we reached 12,000 feet and Searle Pass, where we stopped for water and soaked in the expansive view of cathedral peaks.  We continued through the alpine tundra to Kokomo Pass, and as we came over the ridge we spotted a huge golden eagle taking flight and soaring above the mountains.

We are now camped beneath Kokomo Pass—undoubtedly our most spectacular campsite to date.  We spent the afternoon reading and enjoying the views.  Sunset was perfection.

Up next:  A friendly marmot, an angry beaver, and a bearded cowboy... 
Until then, go get some mud on your feet!  And check out this really cool organization called the Children and Nature Network.  I'm working on a new series focused on the benefits our children experience when we help them connect with wild places... coming soon.

Read the whole series:  Part 1  -  Part 2  -  Part 3  -  Part 4

J.S. Kapchinske is the author of Coyote Summer.