It’s been a while

Last year I suffered a huge loss that’s knocked me off balance. My son, Chris (aka Topher), died in July. Although I’ve done some road trips since his death, I just haven’t had it in me to write blogs about my travels.

I plan to start blogging again, though. Next month a good friend, David, and I are going to spend a month on the Colorado Trail. He’ll be through hiking. I’ve tried that before and discovered that I couldn’t handle the backpack weight across my lower back and hips, even though I made every effort to be an ultralight backpacker. Through hikers have to carry everything with them—food, water, fuel, dishes and cooking equipment, clothing, tent, etc. I learned in my one aborted attempt at the Colorado Trail eight years ago that it just doesn’t work for me, given all my arthritis and bursitis.

So David suggested that I go with him but that I not try to through hike. Instead, I’ll drop him off at the first segment (hiking with him for five or so miles, then turning back to the van while he continues on), then I’ll take the van to the end of that segment. We both bought Garmin InReach Explorer devices so we can track and send messages to each other even when we have no cell signal (which will be most of the time). My hope is that I’ll know when he’s within four or five miles of my campsite so I can hike out to meet him. The next day, I’ll hike out with him again when he leaves, then return to camp, then move on to the next segment. Repeat for each segment of the CT until I pick him up at the end, in Durango.

This plan has quite a few advantages. David can through hike without worrying about carrying so much water, food, and fuel. I’ll be able to hike every day but will only have to carry my Camelback and a few small items. David will have a camp to return to at the end of each segment, where I’ll have a hot meal waiting for him and he can take a hot—albeit short—shower with my fancy new shower setup (which hasn’t been tested yet; I hope it works!). He can have a hot breakfast before setting out. He won’t be in camp every night, since many segments will take several days to hike. And there are particular segments that I can’t get to, in which case I won’t see him for close to a week until we can meet up at the next vehicle-accessible segment. We’re going to play it by ear. Our hope is that he can hike all the segments from Twin Lakes down to Durango. And while he’s hiking all day, every day, I’ll be doing my own hikes where possible, painting rocks, reading, and just enjoying the peace of the beautiful Colorado mountains.

For those segments that will take him several days, I’ll drive to the nearest town (sometimes that’s quite a distance) to resupply food and water. I have water containers that hold a total of 32 gallons, but since I’ll be washing clothes and we’ll be taking occasional showers, that isn’t going to last. So I’ll have to get water whenever I can.

We’ve been planning this for 3/4 of a year, and I’ve been investing in some items I wouldn’t typically use on my solo trips. I made a shower curtain setup that attaches to the side door of my van, and I bought a solar-heated shower bag to go with it. I also bought an awning so that I’ll have shade in those areas where trees are sparse. I bought a good-sized table that rolls up compactly and two study camp chairs. I borrowed my son’s two-burner propane Coleman stove. I’ve added more storage to the van and got a new solar-powered fan and a small USB-powered evaporative cooler for those hot nights. I also bought a rooftop carrier bag because I just don’t have room in my van for all the items we’re going to need for such an extended time away from home. I’m prepping food, too. I’ve been dying green chile in my dehydrator because neither David nor I can live more than a few days without chile.

Our biggest fear is that the fire season will be so bad this year that we won’t make it all the way through. The year of my aborted attempt, David and his friend Keith, who were with me on that trip, were only able to continue on for about a week after I stopped, due to severe fires that closed a lot of the trail segments. I’m trying to be optimistic, but with the severe drought conditions in Colorado, they’re predicting that the fire season will be worse this year than in previous years. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

We have a backup plan, though. We’re both big fans of Deadwood, and if we have to abandon the CT, we’ll head over to South Dakota. I was there two years ago and loved it, but David has never been. There’s a lot of camping and hiking in the area of Deadwood and Spearfish, and in the Badlands, so we’ll spend some time doing both there. I hope it won’t come to that, but you have to be prepared for every eventuality.

My Garmin device will track me every 10 minutes while we’re gone, and I’ll share that information on Mapshare. But I don’t want to make it public. If you’re a friend and want the URL and password to keep track of where we are, send me a message and I’ll give it to you. We will be starting out sometime between the first of July and the 15th. Whenever I have a data signal, I’ll try to upload my blogs, which I can write when I’m sitting around camp. David is a fantastic photographer and is going to take his good camera equipment (he won’t be hiking with it, though!). We hope to have some nice photographs when it’s all said and done. I’ll be posting my typical cell phone photos with my blogs, but after we get home, I hope to have some higher-quality photos to share.

So that’s it. See you next month!

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