Waterton Canyon to South of Raleigh Peak Road
Day: 14.4 Miles
Trip: 23 Miles
It’s safe to assume that I won’t be seeing Josh and his girlfriend, Stephanie “Wrong Socks” again. Standing beside their tent, with a vaporizer hanging out of his mouth, Josh informs me that they plan on staying in lots of hotels during their thru-hike. I’m not sure what’s in that vaporizer, but it must be some good shit, because I don’t see any hotels out here.
By late morning, the trail offers vistas of what’s to come.
The future looks promising.
When I reach the ridge, above Bear Creek, I’m greeted by a dude that looks like he time travelled to the trail from a Led Zeppelin tour bus. “Hey, man! You hiking the whole thing?” Matty has a mop of hair that moves frivolously with the wind and an accent that suggests he rides surf boards for a living.
Matty and I stop on the bank of Platte River, to dry out gear that remains soaked from last nights downpour. There’s another hiker here, a man standing in the water with a makeshift fishing rod. Anthony tells us that he spent the past forty days hiking from Waterton Canyon to Mount Elbert and back again, a round trip that totals about 350 miles. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done with my life,” he says with a wide smile. I’m about to ask Anthony why he turned around, instead of continuing towards Durango, when he shows me the old, rusty can that he’s been using to boil his drinking water with. “I ran out of iodine tabs and found this can in the woods, so I just build little fires when I need to treat my water,” he explains. I decide it’s best not to question a man who’s been drinking out of a rusty can for an unknown amount I time.
Standing next to this river, smoking grass in my underwear, with two complete strangers, I come to a peculiar realization: I’ve left the real world behind, for a place called The Colorado Trail.
Matty and I head into “The Burn,” an area that was decimated by forest fires over a decade ago. The trail traverses this barren, lifeless landscape, for the next ten miles.
We play shade-hopscotch, for six miles, through “The Burn.” Moving swiftly, beneath the sweltering sun, we rest in the small patches of shade that this scorched landscape seldom provides.
Two of the four liters of water that I carried into “The Burn” are gone, within two hours. The trail passes the first grove of trees that I’ve seen, since we began playing shade-hopscotch, and I tell Matty that I’m done for the day. I’ll finish with this nonsense in the morning, when the sun sits low in the sky. Matty claims that he needs to get the next water source, continues walking, and melts into the horizon.