Another Two Segments on the Colorado Trail—30+ Miles

As a great cap for the summer season, Tim and I drove down to the mining town of Silverton deep in the San Juan Mountains to do two more segments on the Colorado Trail, 20 miles and 11 miles, two days in a row. It was spectacular.

We arrived in the rain and fog, and the weather report didn’t look great…but it took a lot of timing and planning to set this up, so we were going one way or another. Besides, my previous two weekends had been swamped with lots of people—75,000 at DragonCon and 80,000 at Salt Lake City Comic Con—and I really wanted some quiet, alone time in the mountains. Unfortunately, being crowded with all those people inevitably exposed me to the con crud, so I was about to hike over thirty miles in the mountains while sick and coughing.  And that was not ideal either…nor was the weather.

But, it was a hike in the beautiful mountains, so that made everything worth it.

The first morning we got up at 5:30, got ready to head out before dawn. In the rain and fog. We drove both cars to the western end of the segment, left one car, then drove to the eastern end of the segment up a rough 4WD road, forded a wide, deep creek, climbed uphill until even the Ford Expedition couldn’t go any farther. We walked the rest of the way up the road to start the 20 mile hike back to where we had parked the first car.  For the first few hours, we hiked in the rain—not a downpour, just a gentle constant rain, with a lot of fog masking the view. We wore our rain gear and gloves and pressed on.  But then the clouds cleared, and we could see what we’d been missing.

I was dictating new chapters in the next Dan Shamble, Zombie PI novel, SLIMY UNDERBELLY. It was a real delight to be back in that fun and hilarious universe.  I did three chapters that day.

It takes a long time to hike twenty miles. In late afternoon we passed through an area that had been burned in a raging forest fire in the late 19th Century, but still hadn’t grown back. We finally made it back to the Little Molas Lake trailhead after the sun had set and the light was fading.  We arrived back in the little town of Silverton after 8:30 PM as the last restaurant in town was closing, but we got in just in time to get a hot meal.  Then back to the room to clean up and get a good night’s sleep for the next day’s hike of 11-mile Segment 26.

Another early start before dawn, and off again to a much clearer day.  We were sore, tired, but ready for the next segment. The terrain in this part was gentler, more rolling and forested. I dictated another three Dan Shamble chapters as well as my brief stories for this year’s Tales from the Trails calendar (which Tim and I produce with our photographs).  We had some fog, and a brief rainshower, but overall a great day.

At the end of the hike, I reached the offshoot trail to where the Expedition was parked. Tim was only ten minutes behind me, and I got to the car, changed into my spare dry shirt, slipped out of my hiking boots and into clean socks and tennis shoes. But Tim didn’t arrive. I waited and waited, long past when I expected him.  Though I was tired from the two days of hiking, I strapped on my pack, got my hiking stick, and trudged back up the trail to find him. I imagined he was hurt, had broken an ankle, had slipped down a steep slope alongside the trail.  I knew where I had last seen him (we had taken pictures), and he wasn’t far behind me.  But there was no sign of him.  I found a hunter’s camp and asked two guys there; they had seen us hike past earlier, but no sign of Tim now.  I had gone a mile and a half back up the trail, so I turned around and headed back.

I worked my way down the trail, still searching, and then I reached a spot where I finally received a text message on my phone. Normally, there was no signal, but Tim had sent a text and it finally got through. He was still on the well-marked Colorado Trail, but hadn’t seen me in a long time.  Turns out he had overshot the offshoot trail to our car and kept going for about two miles, along the segment we had hiked the previous day (but didn’t recognize the scenery because it had been foggy and rainy the first time!)  He got my answering text telling him to head back, and I hiked to the offshoot trail to meet up with him. That was an extra couple of miles each we weren’t expecting!  But we were safe, though tired, and had another adventure under our belts.

We made it back to Silverton early enough this time that we had several restaurants to choose from (we settled on the Handlebars Saloon), and I treated myself to a T-bone and a locally brewed amber. I did do a little editing on the laptop in the evening, but I was just too tired to concentrate.

Next morning, Tim left early to get home, and I stayed to do a little work on the computer, had some coffee in a Silverton coffee shop, then headed out for the leisurely 6-hour drive home through the mountains.  During the trip and the hikes, I dictated 12 chapters in SLIMY UNDERBELLY, definitely a successful few days.