I’ve been scoping out the Colorado Trail for many months with the idea of hiking & biking one segment at a time. This week I took my first steps toward completing the 486-mile CT as I tackled Segment 2. Now I know you’re asking, “What about Segment 1?” I chose to start with Segment 2 because among the segments nearest to Boulder, it’s the shortest (12 miles each way) with the least elevation gain (2,500 feet). It was a place to test myself and rediscover how well I function on bigger day-long outings. It’s been at least 7 years since I tried anything like this distance/elevation and I wasn’t sure what to expect from my body, which is not getting younger. Thankfully, all my parts held together. I took breaks, brought plenty of calories to maintain energy, and slowed down my pace to take pleasure in the experience. I was very tired by the end but I loved the whole thing: following an amazing trail through incredible changing scenery.
I started early, leaving Boulder at 5am and driving my truck to the other end of the trail (my turnaround point) arriving at dawn, with just enough light to find a hiding place in the woods to secure my mountain bike. With the bike stashed, I jumped back in the truck and navigated the dirt roads that took me to the start of Segment 2, located near the confluence of North and South forks of the South Platte River. I began hiking a little after 7am.
Conditions were HOT, above 90 degrees from 11am onward. I brought over 140 ounces of water (36 oz in a Nalgene bottle stashed with my bike at the turnaround point, so I didn’t have to carry all the water all the way). By day’s end I drank all but about 16 oz.
I don’t know if it was the time of year or that I was out there on a Wednesday but I saw virtually no one on the trail all day. In one sense it was invigorating to feel so alone and remote, but I was also found the experience startlingly eerie. Maybe I just need to get reacquainted with being alone in the wilderness. I saw one couple on their bikes at mile 8; one woman on her bike at my turn-around point at the Little Scraggy trailhead; and that was it for 5 hours hiking and 2 hours biking. At the very end, when I got back to my start point, I saw about a half dozen hikers in two separate parties who were just getting started on Segment 2. I believe trail magic is a real thing, but it requires other people and was not available this particular day.
|Sept 7, 2022||East-to-West (hike)||West-to-East (bike)|
|Distance||11.7 miles||11.7 miles|
|Elevation Gain||2,564 feet||806 feet|
Fire and Scars
In May 1996 a human-induced fire burned nearly 12,000 acres of the Pike National Forest, including most of the western half of Segment 2. The fire torched a campground that had been located here, and it dramatically changed the character of the landscape. Once a walk through a pleasant pine forest, today large sections of Segment 2 have expansive views, but no shade. Now 26 years later the forest still has a long way to go. These areas are revegetating with small grasses and plants, and I did see some new young pine trees in lower-lying places. I’m not a forester, but my guess is it’ll be at least another century before this place begins to feel like a forest again.
What I Liked Best About Segment 2
Quartz Stones. One section of the trail passes an old quartz mine. Parts of the trail was littered with pink and white stones. Totally unexpected and beautiful.
What I Liked Best: Close Runner-Up
Judy Gaskill Bridge. Segment 2 starts by crossing the south fork of the South Platte River. The bridge is a steel truss pedestrian bridge. Super cool. When I finally returned to my starting point, I enjoyed hanging out beneath the bridge splashing cold river water over face, neck, arms and legs. I felt mighty positive vibes emanating from this bridge.
What I Liked Least About Segment 2
The trail itself is nearly 100% single-track, which sounds awesome for biking except the trail quality is very sandy and loose. Fine for hiking but more treacherous for biking. Even though most of the biking was downhill, it was not often comfortable because I was usually sliding in the loose dirt.
Bring moleskin! Having this in my pack saved the day (or at least, saved my heel from a painful blister).
Slow down! Giving myself permission to take breaks, even on the bike ride, made a huge difference in the quality of my experience.
So, will I attempt another segment?
The romantic side of me says, Heck Yeah! That was amazing. The pragmatic side says, Heck No! That completely worked me. Between the heat, the distance, and the elevation, I’ll need at least a week to recover before attempting another segment. (wink)