CT Day 1: Waterton Canyon trailhead to dry campsite at Deckers Rd. near Buffalo Creek 27.3 miles
This morning was an early wake up. I woke up at 4:28 am just two minutes before my alarm. I had a somewhat restless sleep and probably only got about 3.5 hours at best. I forgot to take my CBD oil to help with my sleep and to avoid having dreams, so I had some unwelcome dreams which made me feel a little antsy to get on the trail.
I took a Lyft over to Red Stripe’s hotel and drank my smoothie on the ride over there. I then filled up with water at her hotel since I realized we wouldn’t have a water source until about 10 miles in. With the dry air, the altitude and the insane heat as of late, hydration was top on my list of things to be on top of.
I was so excited to finally see Red Stripe! She also was up until about 1:30 am getting her stuff ready as she drove from CA and had some work stuff to take care of. She made it to FedEx just before 10 pm to mail her resupply boxes!
We hit the trail and the first 6 miles were easy gravel road walking along the South Platter river. It was absolutely GORGEOUS and it was nice to have a gentle warm up. We decided early on we would try to make up our 9 miles from yesterday that we didn’t do plus the 18 planned for today and shoot for 27 miles. There was a good water source at mile 17 and then no water for another 10 miles, so we figured if it was slow going and we were tired we could just stop at 17.
We cruised and chatted and caught up on life post AT and shared anecdotal stories from our AT hikes. We were both SO appreciative to have one another since we both understood how difficult the AT really is. We make such great hiking partners. We hike at extremely similar paces which has been wonderful because we both sometimes experienced a feeling of always trying to catch up to our hiking partners who were faster. It’s also just so refreshing to share this type of experience with another woman.
We took a mid morning break and ate a snack and hit the trail again. We couldn’t believe we had crushed over 9 miles before 9 am! We finally got down to the river at noon and had already hiked 17 miles. We both felt great and spirits were high. It had just started to warm up, but our shade spot by the river was perfect and we soaked our feet and splashed our bodies to cool off. After a nice, long, leisurely lunch break we hit the trail again at about 1:00 pm. We had 4.7 miles of climbing and the trail was extremely exposed (maybe due to a wild fire)? After about two miles of hot climbing, we finally got some cloud coverage, and then some wind, and because we could see for so long we could tell we were going to encounter one of those Colorado afternoon thunderstorms. Then we heard the thunder for about an hour. The temperature continued to plummet from 90 deg to probably 65. Finally we felt a few rain drops so we stopped and got rain jackets out and put our pack covers on.
For the next 2.5 miles we somehow skirted around the thunderstorm and just missed it, only getting a tiny drizzle which was welcome reprieve from the heat. When we got to our high point for the day (7,780 ft) we took a little break and relaxed as the sun had come out again and we had a beautiful view all around us.
After we left our afternoon break spot we only had 5 more miles to go until we reached the firehouse with a spigot (Or next and final water source). Those last 5 miles were extremely exposed and desert like climate. We met some mountain bikers that said that section is usually scorching hot. We got so lucky with more storm patterns surrounding us being chilly air and cloud coverage. It was just the right temperature to be in shorts and a rain jacket and we never got too much rain. We always had dry patches on our rain jackets, which was a good sign. We were so fortunate to have these storms shade us through a typically very hot and exposed section.
The last 3 miles dragged on and my body was definitely feeling the mileage and the weight of my pack. My pack weighed 25 lbs with food and water which was probably about 7 lbs heavier than it did in April when I hiked the Smokies with Jamie. We traveled so light (no tent) and Jamie carried quite a bit of the shared food in his pack, making my pack super light. 25 lbs is still a very respectable weight, especially considering I have some luxury items (the SPOT tracker, two sunscreen sticks, incense for mosquitoes and three pairs of socks - probably only need two). My feet were sore, my hips quite tender and bruised from my hip belts, and all the muscles in my legs were saying hello loud and clear.
We finally got to the firehouse and it was still raining for the first few minutes but then it completely cleared up. We decided to cook dinner there since there was an easy water source and there was a bench to sit on! Everything about our day had felt so luxurious and perfect. We could not have asked for better trail and weather conditions - nothing really got too wet and if it did it was dry within the hour. We were both commenting to each other that we probably never would have done 27 miles on Day 1 with anyone else. We both trusted each other immensely as hiking partners and we knew we could do it. The trail was so easy (as far as technicality is concerned). I never once stepped over a fallen tree or had to be careful with a rock or my footing. The trail was “Hollywood trail” and it made the miles fly by.
When we left the fire station we walked about half a mile to a camping area, set up our tents and were in our sleeping bags, changed, warm, and dry before 7:00 pm. We were both looking forward to getting a lot of good sleep tonight since we were both running on hardly any sleep and just threw down 27 miles out of the gate. Red Stripe had just finished 160 miles around the Tahoe rim trail, so she was acclimated to the altitude, had her trail legs, and her back and hips are used to her pack. I felt a little unprepared starting with such a big day, but it flowed so well and we got most of the lower elevation region behind us so we don’t have to be as concerned with the heat moving forward.
I took some magnesium and CBD before bed to help me fall asleep and hopefully give my muscles a chance to recover some. I was so grateful to be horizontal so early to catch up on much needed sleep as well.