The End of the Trail

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485 miles from Denver to Durango, Colorado, through some of the most rugged and most spectacular wilderness in the state.  28 segments ranging from 11-23 miles long.  And Tim and I walked it all.  Last week we completed our final segment in the long journey, a remote 21-mile stretch from Kennebec Pass north of Durango, to Hotel Draw, south of Silverton.

Tim and I started hiking the Colorado Trail eight years ago, working off one segment at a time, many of them with his wife Diane. We would often take two vehicles, park one at each end of a segment, and hike toward each other, then drive the opposite car back home or to base camp. After we finished all the easy ones, the remaining segments were harder to reach, some accessible only by horrific rugged roads out in the middle of Absolute Nowhere. But each hike was an adventure, each segment full of amazing scenery, and it just got better and better.

And I sure dictated a lot of new stories and chapters along those miles. On this latest hike, Segment 27, I did four chapters of a great new project (one I haven’t even announced yet)

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I drove out to Durango a day early (about a six-hour drive) so I could spend a day holed up editing BLOOD OF THE COSMOS and also to join fellow writer Blake Crouch (WAYWARD PINES) for dinner at a fine Durango microbrewery restaurant. Tim arrived the following day near sundown (we had just enough time to drive out to the actual terminus of the CT in Durango…we had done this section several years ago, but we wanted victory pictures! See above.) Then we got to bed early after setting the alarm for 4:30 AM.

Tim drove north toward the Purgatory Ski Resort and Silverton, then worked his way out to Hotel Draw, where he parked the car for me to pick up at the end of the day. And he started hiking.  I enjoyed a second cup of Keurig coffee in the room, then drove off to the other end of the segment, south and west out of Durango, then 14 miles up an absolutely awful road … one we remembered from the last time we were there, doing the adjacent segment of the trail. But by the time my Expedition made it to the top of Kennebec Pass, at a little before 7 AM, the sun was bright on the mountains and beautiful for miles around.

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After making sure my moleskin and blister bandages were properly placed, socks adjusted so there were no lumps, hiking boots tightened (I had 21 miles ahead of me!), I gulped a Red Bull from the car and headed off, hiking stick in one hand, digital recorder in the other.

We are usually out of cell-phone range, often out of walkie-talkie range, but strangely on this hike we managed to have text access on our phones, so we were able to update each other on our progress.  I took a lot of photos. I think this was truly one of the most beautiful segments of the entire Colorado Trail. Wildflowers everywhere!  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. At one point, I even heard a distant group of coyotes howling in a full choir.

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At this time of year, we got hit with heavy rain, and there was a downpour (hail included) right about the halfway point when Tim and I met up on the trail…which was also right around lunchtime. We were both wearing our rain ponchos (which kept us nice and dry, but made it impossible to have a nice lunch, or even get our snacks out of the backpacks!)  I hiked another two miles before the rain stopped enough for me to get out my lunch.  Fortunately, I had sunny skies for the rest of the afternoon, but an even worse deluge hit Tim as he covered the trail I had already finished.

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Finally, after more than ten hours, I was getting closer to the end of the segment, listening to an audiobook (THE DEVIL’S EYE by Jack McDevitt) on my iPod as I trudged along with very sore feet. And then I spotted my car parked on the Hotel Draw 4WD road. Some of the best scenery I saw all day!


After reaching the car, I changed into clean socks and soft shoes, a dry t-shirt, drank some water (all while moving very slowly), and headed back to the hotel. It was still an hour drive back, but boy did that shower feel good! Tim was behind me, since he had been forced to hunker down for an hour in the furious storm, unable to keep going, so I went out to a celebratory steak dinner [still moving VERY slowly and stiffly]. Tim checked in that he had made it back to the Expedition parked on the top of Kennebec Pass and was toiling his way back down the horrendous road.  I was back at the room when he made it home—and we had cleverly prepared the day before by getting a growler of IPA for me and a growler of Amber for Tim. So we could just relax and enjoy our microbrews, exhausted but victorious!

If you’d like to read more of our hiking adventures and anecdotes, check out Tim’s new book TALES FROM THE TRAILS, published in eBook an print from WordFire Press. I wrote the introduction, Tim wrote the stories. Print at amazon and Barnes & Noble, eBook for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and all other formats.

FINAL 1425 TFTT Cover