1000 miles and a thank you. Change of plan. A roadtrip. Steamboat Springs, Colorado! What’s next.
1000 Miles and a Thank You
It feels pretty surreal to be able to give a 1000 mile update. That’s 1600 km for my Aussie readers. In my mind all I’ve really been doing this whole time is a series of 100 or so mile hikes between town stops.
I want to send a long overdue thank you to Andrea and Canyon Sports Therapy. I’ve been hesitant to declare any kind of victory over my body because I didn’t want to do so prematurely, but now that I’ve made it 1000 miles it’s definitely a victory in my book, regardless of what happens next. Andrea worked with me for about 6 months 2-3 days a week all of last winter and spring, in fact right up until the week before I left for the trail in June. My gait was totally screwed up when I went in to see her with a knee injury and my motor control over some of my key walking muscles, the glutes, took a long time to get working properly. Andrea got me moving properly again though, if you look at the images below of me walking from the front and side view, the left-hand image is before I started PT in December and the right-hand image is when I finished in June. On the front view you’ll notice that before PT I had a 5 degree hip tilt and my knee rotated in 6 degrees, and on the side-view you’ll notice that when my leg was at its fullest extension my knee was still 11 degrees off being straight. Without Andrea’s help I absolutely wouldn’t have made it this far, in fact I probably wouldn’t have made it past Glacier National Park. Thank you Andrea!
Change of Plan
I’ve made the decision not to hike the whole trail this summer. Instead I plan to hike as much as I can of it, without sacrificing the experience I want to have. I want to hike the most scenic route even if it’s longer. I want to stop and relax at pretty lakes. I want to see Colorado in the fall. I want to take lots of photos. I want to stay in my sleeping bag a little longer if it’s a really cold morning. I want to set up camp before it’s dark. I want to continue to enjoy my town time. And I want to do all of that without calculating how many miles I’ve sacrificed or how much time I’ve lost in doing so.
There’s a number of factors that led me to this decision. Firstly, there’s the realization that while I may get through the whole trail this year, I also may get snowed out in southern Colorado/northern New Mexico. Secondly, I really want to travel through Colorado while the fall colors are out. Thirdly, I don’t want to hike Colorado in October, it will be wicked cold even if it’s not snowing. And finally, I absolutely don’t want to rush through beautiful stretches of the trail like the Wind River Range and Colorado and trade scenic sections of trail for shorter less scenic alternates.
For me this year it’s never been the goal to necessarily hike the whole trail, although that was an option, rather the goal was more to stay out here for 5 months without getting injured. The two can definitely co-exist, but not with the kind of experience I want to have.
I started thinking about all of this after leaving Yellowstone National Park and by the time I reached the Wind River Range i’d made up my mind, I will skip to Steamboat Springs in northern Colorado and hike south from there, then come back in a future year and hike the Wind River Range, the Great Basin Divide and finish my CDT hike in Steamboat. I’ve already knocked out 160 miles of 500 mile Wyoming, so that leaves me with 340 miles of Wyoming and 60 miles of northern Colorado to finish another time.
Decision having been made, I needed to get myself from Pinedale, Wyoming to Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
I got in to Pinedale from the trail at about 6 p.m. and by 8 p.m. the plan was finalized for getting myself to Steamboat the next day: at 8:45 a.m. I had a ride up north to the Jackson Hole Airport, at noon I had a rental car booked, by 7 p.m. or so I would drop the car off at Steamboat airport, and then finally at 7:30 p.m. I would get a shuttle into Steamboat Springs. Good plan, right?
I woke up at 7 a.m. to a text from WiseMan. I hadn’t heard from WiseMan for a couple of weeks or so, he wanted to let me know that he was calling it for the season and finishing up his hike in Rawlins, Wyoming. He was driving to Steamboat today and then on to Breckenridge after that, before flying to Seattle on Saturday. “You’re driving to Steamboat, today???” I responded, “I’m trying to get to Steamboat today!!!”. What are the chances of that! I think I’ve mentioned in the past how much I love the randomness of events on the CDT, well, this is certainly one of them.
We talked on the phone and decided to meet at the Rocks Springs at noon. Rock Springs is a town 90 minutes south-east of Pinedale and 90 minutes west of where WiseMan was in Rawlins. I got a ride down to Rock Springs and met WiseMan at the Starbucks there. Ah, boy, it was so good to see him again. It seems like a long time ago that we were hiking out of East Glacier together into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. So much has happened since then that it’s almost hard to compute it all.
WiseMan had agreed to drive a van from Rawlins, WY to Breckenridge, CO for another hiker who was section hiking that stretch of the CDT. Apparently when she handed over the keys she said, “there is this one thing, sometimes if it’s hot out the engine stops working, if you wait an hour it starts up again, but it’s only done it a handful of times.”
Well, it must have been hot in Rock Springs because as WiseMan pulled into the parking lot the van broke down. We grabbed lunch while we waited for the van and started catching each other up on everything that’s happened since we parted ways in The Bob back in June.
The van started up just fine and we were off to Steamboat, a short 3 or so hours of driving time in front of us. Well……….. that’s not exactly how it turned out, in the end it took us 10 hours and an overnight sleeping in the van to get there. The van got us about 20 minutes east of Rock Springs before it broke down on the side of I-80. WiseMan steered it over to the shoulder of the highway and brought it to a rest. He popped the bonnet, or hood as it’s called in American, and we started the timer. It was a really hot day and there wasn’t really anywhere for us to go wait while the van cooled off, so we climbed into the back of the van, opened its windows and got out a deck of cards. Definitely the most bizzare place I’ve even played a game of cards! We were only sitting about 4 feet from the traffic lane and so everytime a semi rocketed by us at 75 miles an hour, the van would rock from side-to-side, and we would breathe a sigh of relief that it rocketed past us and not into us.
After waiting an hour we were on our way again, woohoo, let’s get to Steamboat! The excitement lasted all of a few minutes before the van’s engine cut out again. Lucky the brakes and steering still work! Once again WiseMan steered the van from 60 miles an hour to a rest on the side of the road. We climbed into the back and started up another game of cards.
Another hour went by, we’re on our way again! A few more miles conquered, another breakdown. This time WiseMan steered us down an off-ramp and to a rest stop. By the time we left this stop it was 8 p.m. and the air was finally starting to cool off. Sure enough, the van ran fine in the cooler air and got us the rest of the drive without so much as a hiccup.
We stopped by Hobo Hot Springs in Saratoga Springs and had a nice long soak in the 104 degree water. Geez it felt nice! On the road again and at about midnight we crossed the Colorado state line! Welcome to Colorado I chimed, woohoo!!! We called it a night at 1 a.m. (or should I say we called it a morning?) when we reached Rabbit Ears Pass, a short 30 minute drive from Steamboat Springs. We dug out our sleeping bags and made some room in the back of the van to sleep. I was pretty excited to be in Colorado so it took me a bit to shut my mind off and fall asleep. Steamboat in the morning!!! Yay.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
I love Colorado. I love Steamboat. I lived and worked here for 5 winters and a couple of summers between 1999 and 2004 and it stole a piece of my heart forever. If it weren’t for my time in Steamboat, I probably wouldn’t be living in the US, working in the ski industry or hiking the CDT. It changed the course of my life pretty dramatically.
Steamboat is just such a darn cool place. You’ve got the ski area at one end of town and historic main street down the other. There’s cool little coffee shops and restaurants everywhere, girls are more likely have a dog leash in their hand than a handbag, everyone wears Chacos and if you were a recently arrived alien, you’d probably mistake the Subaru as being the only car on planet Earth.
My friend Trish Sullivan had offered for me to stay with her when I made it to Steamboat so I got in touch. I’ve known Trish longer than anyone else in the US, she’s actually the one who hired me to work for Steamboat Ski Resort back in 1999. I was 19 and in my second year at university in Australia. Steamboat, along with many of the other large US ski resorts, was in Australia recruiting Aussie university students to work their summer break in the North American winter. I saw a flyer on a noticeboard about the job fair, went along and before I knew it Trish had offered me a job as a cafeteria attendant at one of their on-mountain cafeterias. This set my life on a whole different trajectory to the one it was on. Five seasons, many different F&B jobs, a Level 2 PSIA certification, a guy, thousands of bottles of beer and tequila later and my life had changed forever. I graduated university and wasted no time putting my degrees to good use by moving to Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah where I skied powder at Alta by day and worked at the Snowpine Lodge by night. I wonder where my life would have led me had I not seen that job fair flyer, met Trish and come to Steamboat?
I had a really nice long rest in Steamboat, together with the travel down here, it was 6 whole days of no trail and hiking! Long story short, the owner of the van took it back in Steamboat and so WiseMan hung out here for a couple of days before flying out of Denver. Mostly we just wandered around town and ate a lot of gelato. The first afternoon we arrived we actually got refused service at a restaurant. We walked in with our backpacks on and I was holding my well worn USPS bounce box, and the staff looked at us but wasn’t going to serve us, we must have looked homeless or something. Ha!
I bought a new tent! The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL Mtn Glo, it was the protype for this new model and so they sold it to me for $200 instead of the usual retail of $430. While I love my Zpacks Solplex I wanted something warmer for fall in Colorado. I will get laughed out of the hiker community for this, but it’s got a set of led lights in it that I can hook my battery pack up to! At the weight penalty of an extra ounce i’ll have light inside my tent now! Very cool Big Agnes, very cool! On warmer nights I can even set it up without the fly or partial fly only for a view of the moon and stars. It’s still an ultralight product, but does add an extra pound or so to my base weight.
I’m cautiously optimistic also that I’ve found a new pair of shoes that might be the ones! It’s a pair of the Pearl Izumu N3‘s, they’re wide, have maximum cushion and so far fit very comfortably. We’ll see!
Aside from that I ate (the highlight being an incredible meal at Hazies, thanks Christina!), slept, spent time with Trish and Mike, became best friends with Pepper (their very adorable dog) and hung out at coffee shops writing my blog and catching up on Snowbird work. I got to say hey to Kelly and Steve at Creekside Cafe, chatted to Wann at Mambos and ran into Ron from Sundog at the grocery store. It’s been a really nice long break! Ahh, it’s great to be back in Steamboat, albeit for a short time. Thanks Trish and Mike for your wonderful hospitality and great company!
Colorado in the fall! Woohoo. Let’s get this party started…
Thanks for reading.