Total Miles: 639.3
We don’t give them much thought, but they sure are everywhere. Roads. Dirt ones, paved ones, gravel ones, long-since abandoned logging ones, and every other flavor of the road rainbow. Walking long distances gives you a new appreciation of just how extensive the totality of our road system really is when you take into consideration roads in all their forms and ages, many of them not having seen use of any kind in decades. There’s a reason Bill Bryson spent such a large portion of his book about hiking the Appalachian Trail, A Walk in the Woods, detailing the history of the US Forest Service as perhaps the single most prolific builder of roads in the country, dwarfing the scale of the interstate highway system in total mileage. So it comes as no surprise that we’d spend nearly the entire day on nothing but roads of all kinds.
The upside of so much road walking, and on very well graded ones at that (I’m looking at you, Montana), is that the miles came particularly easy today. Given the mountain goat effort it took in the Collegiate Peaks last week and the difficulty that lies a few days ahead in the San Juan range, none of us was complaining about having a few days of easygoing trail.
A dozen miles or so into the morning, we entered a huge, flat, treeless basin that sprawled for miles into the distance. Skirting along the edge of it, we could spot a pickup truck well in the distance parked alongside the two-track dirt road we now meandered along. As we got closer, a man appeared from the far side of it and began to arrange something in the bed of the truck. Finally near enough to make out the details, we knew we were in for a second dose of trail magic in as many days.
Trail Angel Gummy Bear had left his home in Denver at 3am to drive out to this remote spot and offer a cache of Gatorade, chips, and water to hikers passing by. Having section-hiked the Colorado Trail over a number of years, this was how he enjoyed staying connected both to that experience and to the hiking community. ￼
Leaving behind Gummy Bear’s unexpected little oasis, it was off to more road walking, first on dirt, then gravel, then dirt again before stopping for lunch just beyond a herd of black cows that were free grazing on the open range. With the weather in a constant state of threatening these past few days, we pitched a tarp to eat beneath in the event the gray clouds decided to do more than merely appear angry. It’s our own private dining room.
As the miles before dinner passed without incidence or excitement, it was time to erect the dining room once again. This time, it would not be for naught. The thunder that had followed us for the half hour prior was the first sign that we may not escape without a good rain lashing. Gazing out from under the tarp post-dinner, we could see the featureless grey wall of rain making its way toward us while the sound of delicate rain on the tarp slowly began to accelerate.
Opting to wait for the worst of the weather to pass, we hunkered down under the tarp for minutes that became an hour and then more. It was the heaviest, most consistent rain we’d seen in all our time thus far in Colorado. When it finally spent itself, it was after 7:30pm and we bolted off to try and find a place to hang our hammocks, fearful that another round of rain might be in the offing. It would take nearly another 4 miles before we could find our home for the night, after dark but having eluded another downpour.
Latitude/Longitude: 38.02451, -106.83590