Summer is upon us, and we are all set for another season full of fun adventures. As I write this, Matt is driving a group of high school students to an organic farm in the mountains of West Virginia for a service trip, and I am finishing tidying up our house for our summer renters who will be here in just a few hours. I still have one more week until school is out, so I am staying with one of our dear college friends for the next week. And then we are free!
So, where are we headed this year?
The Colorado Trail
The summer of 2018 will see us attempting to complete a thru-hike of the Colorado Trail. If all goes well, we will begin at the Waterton Canyon Trailhead near Denver on July 1st and end in Durango some six weeks and 485 miles later! This will be our longest backpacking adventure to date, and we are excited for the challenge, although it looks like it is shaping up to be a bit more difficult Colorado Trail year than normal.
How come? Colorado is coming off of one of their lowest snow years ever. Of course, this means that most high alpine passes should be snow-free by the time we arrive. No sketchy, snowy passes for me?!?! Hooray!
But, unfortunately, the trail gods giveth, and the trail gods taketh away. No snow also means that many segments of the trail are bone-dry. We joined the Colorado Trail Facebook group, and there is a constant stream of posts saying that good water sources have been non-existent in many places.
We are not opposed to carrying extra water if we have to, but we also realize that no access to water means no water for cooling down our aching feet or steaming heads, no water to swim in (and clean our stinking bodies), no pretty waterfalls to photograph, no amazing alpine reflections to capture and—dear God—rationing camp coffee. Doing the CT without any water will definitely be a different experience, that’s for sure.
That’s OK. That just might be the type of hike it is going to be, but there is another, more serious issue that is totally out of our hands. With drought comes the threat of fire, and this is no joke. Unfortunately, there are already two fires near the Durango-end of the CT that have closed off the last seventy miles of the trail for the next several weeks. We are not sure if it will be re-opened before we arrive, meaning that we may not be able to complete the trail if we do make it that far.
Colorado typically has a summer monsoon season with daily afternoon thunderstorms that may help resolve the situation on all fronts before we even get started. We are hoping that is the case, not only for our sake but for all of the people in Colorado who are living in danger of fires. If not, we will go as far as we can and then figure out a good Plan B for however much time we have left.
The Colorado Trail is touted as being one of the most beautiful long trails in North America, and, whatever the outcome may be, we are looking forward to getting back to Colorado and spending some time taking in some of our country’s most gorgeous alpine scenery. We’ve visited Colorado a few times over the years, backpacking the Silverton/Ouray area and the Four Pass Loop near Aspen back in 2012 and most recently the Chicago Basin on our way out to California to hike the John Muir Trail in 2016.
We are especially excited this time, as our hiking buddies Rob and Amy who we met in Tanzania when we finished climbing Kilimanjaro and later hiked with in Ladakh, India, live in Durango and are planning on joining us for the last leg of the trip. We are crossing our fingers that it will all happen.
A Return to Iceland
As mentioned earlier, we are not starting the Colorado Trail until July 1, so between now and then, we are headed back to Iceland for a short 10-day visit to one of our very favorite places on Earth. In 2012, we spent six weeks driving around the island, and we seriously fell hard for this amazing little country. Seriously, who wouldn’t?
If the surreal volcanic landscapes, thundering waterfalls and enchanting glacial lagoons weren’t enough for you, then the plethora of natural hot springs and the opportunity for close-up puffin encounters might just do the trick!
We only have ten days this time, so we are going to return to some of our favorite spots, including the Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs in the Westfjörds and Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon on the South coast. We are also heading back to the beautiful Snæfellsnes Peninsula where we hope to head into the mountains and do some hiking to tune up for the Colorado Trail.
Speaking of hiking, we are also going to do the Fimmvörðuhál Trek between Skógar to Þórsmörk, stopping overnight at one of the mountain huts operated by Ferðafélag Íslands (Iceland Touring Association). This is the trail that goes between the Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull glaciers, and, even though you probably can’t pronounce either one of them, the latter probably may look somewhat familiar. That’s because underneath all that glacial ice lies a volcano, and this was the one that erupted in 2010 and sent European air travel into a tizzy for almost a week. Hopefully, things will be on the quieter side while we are there.
Mother/Daughter Trip to South Africa
To top it all off, I’ll be taking my annual end-of-the-summer trip with my mother after Matt goes back to school, only this time we are going international when we head to South Africa. You may recall that Matt and I were just there visiting Kruger National Park in December. We had hoped that my parents would join us on that trip, but it just didn’t happen for one reason or another.
My mother is the whole reason that I love nature, animals and seeing wildlife, and the whole time we were there I kept thinking how much she would love being on safari and seeing all of the amazing African wildlife for herself. She will be turning 79 tomorrow (Happy birthday, Mom!), and I insisted that we needed to go there this summer.
This will be my fourth visit to South Africa, and I can’t wait to show my mother Kruger National Park. She is going to absolutely love it. My great hope is that she will love it so much that she will want to go back with my father in the near future. We shall see!
It’s all very exciting, and I can’t believe that summer is just around the corner. But, before we go, we are going to attempt to publish a trip report from one of our European hikes from last year, the Peaks of the Balkans. This 10-day adventure through Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro was full of dramatic landscapes and quaint, bucolic charm. We are excited to share it with you.
There. We said it. That means we have to do it, right? Stay tuned!