Colorado Trail, Day 3: Getting into the Groove

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The alarm goes off at 5 this morning, but we don’t start moving until 5:20. We went to bed early enough last night, but it has been difficult to fall asleep these past two nights. It is still quite warm when we go to bed. Getting into the sleeping bags is too hot, but it’s not so easy to fall asleep without any covers. It is a definite adjustment coming from Iceland where we cocooned in our sleeping bags for warmth. I am sure that we will adjust soon, but, in the meantime, we toss and turn.

We are up before our neighbors, and we break camp as quietly as we can. Everyone is finally up just before we take off. Deirdre is suffering from bad blisters and says that she is going to take a few days off the trail to recover. We wish them all the best and head on our way.

We start off this morning by walking on the dirt road we camped next to last night. It is closed to cars, but it leads us to the Little Scraggy Trailhead and the beginning of Segment 3.

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Apparently, Segment 3 is very popular with mountain bikers, and it is easy to see why the gently undulating, windy trail would be fun on two wheels. So far, most of the bikers we have encountered have been very safe and respectful, and we hope that continues as we move ahead. Sharing the trail with bikes has some definite advantages. The CT is nicely groomed with gradual ups and downs for the most part, similar to much of the PCT, which was designed originally for pack animals. Horses are allowed here on the CT as well, so we are guessing that the grades must be somewhat similar.

Today, we walk mostly through the forest, and the shade is a nice respite from all the sunshine we had over the past two days.

Scattered along the trail are outroppings of large boulders that add some interest to the terrain. A couple of the more impressive ones have side trails leading to them, and it is fun to scramble up them for a better view.

There are lots of birds and even some flowers with butterflies today to distract us. Matt gets excited when he gets a Western tanager at close enough range to shoot with our little Lumix. We are not carrying any long lenses on this trip, so it’s the best that we can do for now. It’s cool to see the birds in the binoculars, but it kills us not to be able to get decent photos of these beautiful birds that we don’t see in the Midwest.

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Another curiosity today is the piles of dead wood in the shape of tee-pees throughout the forest. We assume that they are preparing for a controlled burn here, but we have never seen anything like this before to know for certain.

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We stop for a water/snack break at Tramway Creek. There is a campsite here with room enough for a few tents. It’s only noon, so nobody is here yet, but a campsite with water is a commodity on the CT, so it is likely to be full before the end of the day.

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We decide to press on another 3 miles to Buffalo Creek to have a late lunch and filter water for a shorter carry to our campsite another 4 miles up the trail. The trail is relatively flat and goes by quickly enough despite the fact that I think I have a blister forming on my heel. I keep reminding myself how good it will feel to dip my feet in the cold water, and that seems to be sufficient motivation. I will be able to check out what is going on with my heel then, too.

There is a camp here, too, and there are already a few campers setting up when we arrive. We head straight to the water and drop the packs next to an inviting pool. Matt heads upstream to make sure that we have the best spot and reports back that this will work. We take our shoes off and dip our feet in the chilly water, and it’s cold at first but refreshing once we get used to it. There is a blister at the base of my heel in a spot where I often get one while hiking. It usually turns into a callous, so I am just going to have to grin and bear it until it forms.

Once we wash all the trail dust off of our legs, we grab our lunch and find a spot next to the stream to eat. Within minutes, a solo male hiker, named Ryan, in is twenties comes up and drops his pack next to us. He has come from the midway point of Segment 2 and says that he is done for the day. Matt tells him that there are a few campsites up the trail and across the bridge, and he goes to check them out.

Before long, we hear someone shouting, and Ryan comes back with a man and his son in tow. Ryan pulls out his map and gives it to the man who appears to be trying to figure out where he is. Apparently, he and his son were on a group bike ride when they missed a turn and got separated from their group. He is all turned around and not really sure where he started from since he was just following the leader. He tells us that their two-hour ride has turned into four hours, and he is clearly agitated.

We ask if they have any food or water with them. They don’t and they clearly look dehydrated and dispirited, so we give them a Clif Bar, a bag of nuts and some crackers that we can spare. We filter water from the creek and help him try to figure out where they are, but none of us are from here, so we are not a lot of help. We are all out of suggestions when we hear a car driving up the road next to the creek. We make out a red Jeep through the bushes, and the man screams to get the driver’s attention. It is his friend, and they run off to try to flag him down. We assume they are successful because they don’t come back. Whew! They are lucky to have a happy ending after a scary day for them!

Ryan comes back just after the boy and father take off. He takes off his shirt and dips his body slowly into the plunge pool just below the falls. I could barely keep my feet in for more than ten seconds, so I am impressed that he can stay in there.

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We chat a little more while we finish filtering our water and packing up to go. Turns out that he lived in Chicago for a stint, and he asks us about some of his old haunts. Just before we leave, we get our first taste of a Colorado high. Ryan lights up a joint of marijuana as casually as you might light up a cigarette. I guess pot is legal here, but it still takes us a little by surprise.

The afternoon hike is 3.9 miles to a dry camp almost at the end of Segment 3, so we are each loaded up with 5 liters of water. There is actually a good bit of elevation gain in this section, but we are feeling alright after our rest break and crank it out. Matt spots what he thinks is a coyote, and he finds a bird’s nest hidden in a dead tree. He is loving this.

Our camp is right beside the trail, and it even comes with a resident chipmunk. We arrive at 4:30, which is definitely on the earlier side for us. We set up the tent and have some fun relaxing, reading and catching up on the blog and our photos.

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A young couple who appear to be backpacking pass by, along with a teenage girl riding a big white horse with a German Shepherd in tow. Besides that we are all alone and have another idyllic night in the backcountry.

Day 3 Trail Stats

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Starting Point: Dry campsite, mile 27.5
End Point: Trailside camp near stream, mile 40.2
Mileage: 12.7
Segments: 2 & 3
Date on Trail: July 3, 2018

8 thoughts on “Colorado Trail, Day 3: Getting into the Groove

  1. Wow! I found myself getting anxious reading about the bicyclists separated from their group… was very happy to read a happy ending! The world should operate more like bikers and hikers on the hiking trail… sharing food, water, assistance and courtesy. People are so polite and helpful! ….Laughed outloud reading about your first “Colorado High”… too funny! Take care of that blister and stay safe! Can’t wait to read about tomorrow’s adventure!

  2. On another subject: both of my arms hurt from my shots, which is by way of saying that I am done with them!!!

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