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ADT JOURNAL: CHAPTER 28

Colorado Trail & Grand Junction to Loma, CO

This chapter comes to you courtesy of Maggie at the Apple Blossom Inn Bed & Breakfast in Leadville, CO who graciously offered her computer to write this chapter. Visit her website at http://colorado-bnb.com/abi. Also, thanks to Liz at Valley Office Supply in Grand Junction for use of her computer to finish the journal and to use her Internet connection.

July 6, Sunday
After doing some last minute food buying and eating a late dinner, we organized our backpacks for a 5 day hike on the Colorado Trail. The CT starts south of Denver in Waterton Canyon and crosses the Continental Divide 12 times before ending at Durango, some 480 miles away. The CT is described as some of the best alpine hiking in the entire United States. The ADT is co-aligned with the CT for about 120 miles, 60 of which we will hike in the next 5 days. For the other 60 miles, we utilized a bike route between Tennessee Pass and Mt. Princeton Hot Springs that parallels the CT. Our 60 mile hike will take us from Kenosha Pass to Tennessee Pass which will connect us up with the sections of Colorado we have already traveled via mountain bikes.

We drove from Grand Junction to Leadville where Tom & Gretchen had arranged a shuttle for us to Kenosha Pass. We were on the trail by 2 pm and managed to get 4 miles hiked before we camped near Deadman Creek. We passed several great views of South Park and the alpine meadows were filled with wildflowers. Since it was Sunday afternoon of 4th of July weekend, there were still lots of trail users on the trail. The CT is open to horses and mountain bikes and we saw about 20 mountain bikers in our 4 mile hike today. The trail does not appear to be adversely affected by the bikes as there is little rainfall here and the bikes cause very little erosion. Here, as in the rest of high elevation Colorado, we have been accompanied by tons of mosquitoes. They are so thick at times that we are driven into our tents shortly after dinner. Luckily, our tentsites were very close tonight so we could talk and play word games.

4 miles hiked

July 7, Monday
Morning is a special time on the CT as the cold keeps the mosquitoes under control until we can get on the trail. They are not a bother at all as long as you are moving. Our climb today was on well-built and well graded trail that was never uncomfortably steep. The CT is very well blazed and signed and the treadway is unmistakable. The guidebook in combination with the Trails Illustrated maps are excellent for planning and for hiking the trail. We ascended for 8 miles, first through aspen forest, then spruce and fir forest, and finally through open meadows to the top of the ridge at 11,800 feet. Last night we met Kevin and Wandering Bull (A.T. thru-hiker, 1995) who are also doing a week long hike on the CT. Since they are young and strong they started 40 minutes later than us this morning but passed us up and were waiting for us at the top where we ate lunch. We sat on the ridge and could see for miles in every direction. We are actually 600 feet above Georgia Pass which we can see far below us.

We have not worn these backpacks since hiking the River to River Trail in Illinois almost exactly two months ago. Perhaps some of our leg muscles atrophied or perhaps it's the high altitude, but Bill had a difficult day. Laurie seems to do much better hiking in Colorado than she does biking. Also, her shinsplint problem did not recur on the entire 60 mile hike. After 4 miles of downhill we camped in a beautiful spot near the Middle Fork of the Swan River. After dinner, a light rain shower chased us inside our tents.

12 miles hiked

July 8, Tuesday
Ah, a relatively easy day! We hiked 9 miles of downhill today crossing the North Fork of the Swan River and continuing down the Tiger Road to Colorado Route 9 and ending at the Goldhill trailhead. On the way, we passed two women from Denver and their dog (Chilidog) that we saw yesterday who are hiking the CT from Kenosha Pass to Durango. We could see the 12,000 foot peaks of the Ten Mile Range ahead of us all morning and we wondered about snow as they appeared covered with it. At the Goldhilll Trailhead we hitched a ride with a man going to Frisco and we went to the condo belonging to Ann and Dayton Chapin. Ann, if you don't remember from Chapter 25, is the sister of Gail Kowalski, one of our best friends from Lynchburg. Gail and Ann's nephew, Fred Gibson, is living here for a month. Fred is a world class architect who has designed buildings in several different countries. He is designing a new custom residence for Ann and Dayton on a lot that overlooks Breckinridge Ski Resort. Check out Fred's website at www.gibson-design.com.

In Frisco, we ran into a couple who had just day hiked (without heavy backpacks) over the Ten Mile Range. They spoke of places with heavy snow and they lost the trail in one place for a while, but they felt that we could make it through. We were encouraged and planned to do it. Later, on our way to dinner in Breckinridge with Fred and Daniella, we saw Kevin and Wandering Bull walking along the highway. We did a U turn to talk with them. They said they had hiked up to the snowline and decided to turn back because of the deepness of the snow. That's all Tom, Gretchen, and Laurie needed to hear. If these two young, strong, testosterone laden guys turned back, they sure as heck weren't attempting it. We decided to rent bikes tomorrow and ride the excellent bike trail between Goldhill Trailhead and Copper Mountain which circumnavigates the portion of the Ten Mile Range that we would not be able to hike.

9 miles hiked

July 9, Wednesday
The Chapins had 3 bikes in the garage that we borrowed so we only had to rent one bike. We first rode the paved bike trail to the Goldhill Trailhead and back to Frisco and then on to Copper Mountain and back, covering the mileage twice. There were quite a few other bikers and walkers along the trail, again reminding us of how health conscious Coloradans seem to be. This "get out there and exercise" attitude is promoted by the state who invests its lottery profits in the construction of recreational facilities such as bike trails. We think this is a great idea and we encourage our readers to write their government representatives to encourage similar programs in your home states. It seems to us that investment in projects that promote good health and fitness would eventually take some of the burden off of our health care system. The payback would probably be very worthwhile.

The trail to Copper Mountain was along Tenmile Creek which made for a pleasant and scenic ride. After returning to Frisco, we caught a free bus back to Copper Mountain with our backpacks. This left us the afternoon to chill out. When we reached the post office, who should we see but Rob and Melina (the cross country hiker/bikers who have done much of the ADT) who are also hiking the CT right now. Also there were several other hikers who we knew — The Tandem Teachers, Hob & Deb McConville (two hikers that we had met on our 1987 A.T. thru-hike) along with Cree, Julienne, and another hiker. All were on the CT. It was great talking to others who could speak the same language and to catch up on everyone's adventures.

22 miles biked

July 10, Thursday
We got an early start today as we had to hike 10 miles to get all the above treeline trail behind us by noon, when the thunderstorms often arise. The trail ascended Guller Creek for 6 miles to 12,000 foot Searle Pass. On the way up the creek we caught up with the Tandem Teachers and Cree. Cree is only 20 years old and she has already completed the A.T. and the Superior Hiking Trail and is now hiking the entire CT. We spent the rest of the morning hiking with them and talking some more. In several places we walked through snowfields for a hundred feet or so. By the time we reached Searle Pass we had already been above treeline for a mile and the vistas were absolutely breathtaking. The exciting wide-open expansive terrain continued for the three miles between Searle and Kokomo Passes. The Morgans and we just raved about the scenery. For Laurie and Bill, it was the finest alpine experience we have had in the United States. We then descended for 4 1/2 miles down to Camp Hale, the site of World War II training for the army. During the war, up to 15,000 troops lived and trained in these mountains. They were the US's only ski and rock climbing outfit. These men would go on to fight in the mountains of Italy. By the time we camped we had covered 17 rugged miles and we were beat. The 7 of us all ate dinner together at a table in a Forest Service group campground. Again — more fun conversation. Now to bed!

17 miles hiked

July 11, Friday
We were able to sleep in until 7 am because we only had a 7 mile hike out to Tennessee Pass to complete our hike on the CT. We passed more Camp Hale remains and followed a long open valley. When we got to the pass, we were picked up by Dave, owner of the Top of the World Cyclery in Leadville. This was prearranged and we used our cellphone to contact Dave who arrived in just a few minutes. In Leadville, we checked into the Apple Blossom Inn where we luxuriated with tea by the fireplace. Although it is mid-July, the afternoon temperature here was only 53 degrees. Cree joined the Morgans and us for dinner at the Columbine Cafe.

7 miles hiked

July 12, Saturday
As Maggie fixed us a wonderful breakfast she kindly let me use her computer to write this chapter of the journal. Tom and Gretchen drove us back to Grand Junction. We said our fond good-byes to them and as they drove away we were feeling sort of alone again. We really enjoyed their company for the past week. We checked into our motel and retrieved our panniers from the motel's storage room. Next, we went to the Bike Peddler, owned by helpful Kurt and Pam Lane. Kurt had serviced our bikes and stored them in his shop for the past week. Bill had some new pedals installed as his original ones had started to self-destruct. We also bought our Amtrak tickets (see tomorrow's entry for details).

July 13, Sunday
Well, we saved the best ride in all of Colorado until the very end. The ADT goes through Colorado National Monument using the Liberty Cap, Black Ridge, CCC, and Monument Canyon Trails. This route totals 19 1/4 miles and would have taken us almost 10 hours to hike not counting the connecting roads to and from Grand Junction. This would have been difficult for us in the canyon's heat in the 90's. We chose to ride our bikes on the 23 mile long paved Rim Rock Road through the Monument. This road, built by the CCC between 1933 and 1942, climbs 2000 feet up through weathered sandstone canyons and around the rim of numerous canyons with shear drop-offs of 500 feet or more. Rock formations with weird and fantastic shapes abound. Numerous turnouts provided opportunities to ride to the edge of many canyons for great views of high redrock walls and rock formations. We stopped at the visitor center and watched a nice slide show. The ride down was exhilarating and we passed through two more tunnels blasted through solid rock. We exited the park and rode into Fruita. We then rode 6 more miles west to the Loma Boat Launch and the east trailhead of Kokopelli's Trail. This reconnected us to the point we had ridden from back on June 17. We covered the miles easily today. An early start and our expanded lung capacity after miles of high altitude hiking and biking helped.

Finally, we have finished our ADT mileage in the state of Colorado and we have connected up a continuous route from Cape Henlopen, Delaware to Dewey Bridge, Utah. While in Colorado, we have crossed over 12 passes or high points of 10,000 feet or greater in elevation. By our Data Book, we have covered 3,453 miles; 468 miles on foot, 12 miles on horseback, and the remainder of 2,973 on mountain bike. Bill's bike computer indicates 3,217 miles which includes all the extra miles to camps, towns, and other side trips.

We have been concerned from the very beginning about biking across Utah and Nevada with extreme heat and rough terrain. The owner of a bike shop in Moab told us "No one rides in Canyonlands in July and August!". So, we will board Amtrak tomorrow afternoon and head to Reno, Nevada. We'll resume our ADT adventure at Virginia City, NV and make our way across the Sierra Nevada mountains and California and hope to reach Point Reyes, CA by August 8th.

54.5 miles, 11.7 mph, 4 hours 36 minutes 3,217 miles biked.

© Copyright, William & Laurel Foot, 1997, Lynchburg, VA.
The Happy Feet

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