Take a Trek

Day 1: Signs of Sketch

Waterton Canyon to Bear Creek
Day: 8.6 Miles
Trip: 8.6 Miles

Normally, at the beginning of a long-distance hike, I get all philosophical about my infatuation with wandering through mountains for long periods of time. “What the hell are you doing with your life?” The voice inside my head often asks. “when are you going to settle down, get a real job, get a wife, and contribute to world overpopulation,” the voice carries on. The Colorado Trail (CT) doesn’t give a shit about traditions though. From the moment I lay my eyes on its dusty northern terminus, the CT demands that I think about the CT.

There’s an abundance of information pertaining to recent mountain lion activity, posted on the bulletin board by the entrance to Waterton Canyon. There are recent photos and a dreary message that warns parents to keep their small children close, less they be mistaken for cat food. Absorbing these words and images, I imagine myself wielding a trekking pole like a spear. It’s how folks dealt with predators in the old days, and mountain lions haven’t changed much, so the method should still be valid. Right?

Sketchy Mountain Lion Sign

Sketchy Mountain Lion Sign

I’m starting to get the hang of hiking, while periodically scanning the canyon walls for felines that could mistake me for a small child, when I come upon another sign. It seems that Waterton Canyon hosts a variety of rattle snakes. If they’re startled, while “Sunning” in the trail, they may freak out and start biting things. The sign seems confident that I’ll be able to dial 911 and stay calm, while I wait for help, if I’m bitten. Apparently, the creators of this sign didn’t get the memo about giant cats eating helpless-looking people

Sketchy Mountain Lion Sign

Sketchy Mountain Lion Sign

I don’t even want to think about the third sketchy sign that I pass, that one that informs me that I may need to seek higher ground abruptly, because i’m hiking through flash flood territory.

Entering Waterton Canyon

Entering Waterton Canyon

I have a brief conversation with a local mountain biker, at Strontia Springs Dam. The man, dressed in spandex, is enthralled by the idea of hiking 500 miles to Durango. This enthusiasm is appreciated, but I’m more interested in his knowledge of mountain lions in this area. “Oh yeah,” the man in spandex explains. “There definitely here. I’ve seen them.” Morbid fascination overwhelms me, and I ask if people ever get wasted by the cats. “Oh yeah, it’s definitely happened,” he explains. “The most recent incident I can think of was a kid that was trailing about a hundred yard behind his parents, in Rocky Mountain National Park.” I must look concerned, because the man in spandex proceeds to tell me that I shouldn’t have anything to worry about, since I’m a “big” guy. At 6’2″ and 169 pounds, I’ve been referred to as gangly, lanky, and goofy, on numerous occasions, but never “big.”

Waterton Canyon

Waterton Canyon

It seems improbable that I could come upon any more signs of sketch, within the first eight miles of my CT hike, but here in front of me now is a plaque commemorating the life of Leonard John Southwell. It seems that young John perished in a “hiking accident,” somewhere in this vicinity. I’ve decided that I don’t need to finish reading the plaque, when a short rumble erupts above me and rain begins to fall from the sky. Fortunately, the trail is already leading me towards higher ground.

Another Sign of Sketch

Another Sign of Sketch

I’m pleased to see that another tent has already been erected at Bear Creek, when I arrive. There’s no sense in swimming through a flash flood, while spearing mountain lions with trekking poles, and strangling rattle snakes, if I don’t have an audience.

Looking Back at Waterton Canyon

Looking Back at Waterton Canyon

Josh and his girlfriend are attempting to thru-hike the CT, for a second time. Their first attempt ended at the four mile mark, when Josh’s girlfriend got a blister. Apparently, she was wearing the wrong socks. I’m attempting to digest this information, when I notice that Josh is smoking out of a vaporizer and wearing a cotton t-shirt, with a large marijuana graphic on the front of it.

It’s raining. I’m going to bed.