The Colorado Trail…

SUBMITTED SEPTEMBER 2017
byΒ LOLO

 

Dear Forrest,

I wrote you once after I had first read your book, The Thrill of the Chase (probably 4 or 5 years ago) and I mentioned how I was thinking maybe your treasure was in Wind River Canyon but that it most likely wasn’t and I was just ready to return to the place I grew up for a visit. I believe I was living in Hamilton MT when I sent that email.

A couple of years ago I I took a road trip from Denver to Glacier Park with no intent on finding your treasure but to let my imagination run and see if cruising through the Rockies (my forever home) would inspire some new perceptive on your words. I had an amazing time, but I didn’t even bother trying to figure the clues out – I just enjoyed myself. Since that trip I have been on my quest to summit all of Colorado’s 14ers and I have to say I haven’t spent anytime deciphering your poem…until this last journey….

I just finished my first long distance thru-hike, The Colorado Trail. 486.4 miles hiked in the last 6 weeks. It was the most spectacular gift I have ever given myself. The first 100 miles felt brutal but with every step I got stronger, faster, and could hike 20 + miles a day with no problem by mile 200 (the human body is an impressive machine). I reached mile 396.6 standing at 12,657ft elevation on the Continental Divide looking down towards the headwaters of Elk Creek and seeing the reminiscence of an old mining cabin perched in the valley below – and I thought to myself, I wonder if Forrest has ever ridden his horse or hiked from Stoney Pass to Molas Pass, because if he hasn’t I think he would fall in love – just as I am right now.

So now here I sit two days after finishing the trail, reading your poem for the first time in a long while. Both of your books and Flywater lay on the table beside me and I thought I should email you some pictures of my adventure and thank you for inspiring me to stay out there in the wild – exploring and creating my own treasures of memory. I hope this letter finds you well!

Stay wild,

Lolo

Continental Divide

Continental Divide again

Elk Creek before Animas River

High Point Colorado Trail

The Colorado Trail

Camping Above Tree Line For Days

 

 

90 thoughts on “The Colorado Trail…

  1. I guess “not far but to far to walk” doesn’t apply to you Lolo…. very impressive. I can only imagine the scenery you absorbed… hats off to ya.. πŸ™‚ stay wild. Until next time… see ya

    • You know I didn’t think about that – I’ll never find the treasure now…everything I think of will be walkable! The thing I walked away with most from this trip is gratitude. My heart is filled by so many acts of kindness and generosity of strangers who held out helping hands. I have a new intimacy with mountains, flowing water, wildlife, ecosystems, and an understanding that sometimes you have to climb really high in order to descend into untouched wild rivers and valleys of the Rockies. I highly recommend this trail whether you do it in segments over many years or thru hike – it’s worth it. The San Juans made me a better person!

      • Lolo…what a grand adventureI can’t imagine life without the San Juans…so glad you were able to experience the majesty and beauty of theses rugged and remote mountains. Think about becoming a Trail Angel! It’s a blast and a great way to pay it back, pay it forward. Also, the 14ers are way overrated, IMO. The 13ers are far less crowded and way more fun. Give them a try.

        • We have already started planning how to leave some trail magic for next year’s group! Our trail angels filled us with more love and gratitude then some experience in a lifetime. Picked up three hitch hikers and opened my home to 4 people already in first week. I will be paying it forward until I die! This will be my first winter season on the 14er quest so not too worried about trail traffic for now! 13ers are up next! Happy Trails!

      • Lolo we live vicariously through your journey. I for one would love to read of your mountain trek beginning to end. It sounds as if you would write from your soul and that’s what is so beautiful.

      • @Lolo….Everything! Food! What do you eat, how do you cook, what do the horses eat? The weather, any fears? Animals? Lightning? Do you pack any self protection? Batteries? Cell phones? Maps? Water purification? Permits? Washing up? Did you feel like giving up at times? Will be fun to read your journal/link….thanks!

  2. Sounds to me like you found the true treasure that Forrest wanted us all to seek. Thanks for the wonderful words you have shared with us.

    • For me the greatest treasures lay in the memories of experience. I hope to be walking these mountains until the day I die. To keep living they say you just have to keep moving…so hopefully my chest is far from full!

  3. I thought y’all were going to get me a cup of coffee from ff. Where’s the SB you talked about? ; ) I thoroughly enjoyed reading the newest post, The Colorado Trail, but the icing on the cake would be seeing the SB with a hot cup of coffee from ff. : )

    • I will say my perspective on what the clues mean evolved and changed with every 50 miles. If you asked me about treasure new and old one day, I would tell you mining camps, and if you asked a few days later, I would tell you memories of a place both old and new…if you asked me about heavy loads and waters high a month ago I would say a bridge crossing, if you asked me today, I would say the pack on my back, and that many times you have miles of elevation to the next water source. Far, but too far to walk, I thought a lot about horses on this trip…I thought about how much land I would trade for just one horse before the invention of a car…a horse would be what I would work the hardest to acquire if I was born in a time passed. From there it is no place for the meek – we walked through 6 wilderness areas and I was thinking about my trail stewardship mindset and how I would have to not be obedient to the rules I follow if I really wanted to go off and explore these areas. Those were a few of my thoughts.

      • Oh yeah and warm waters halted every time I hitched back out of resupply towns…i yearned for warm water most mornings…but the only place on the trail I found it was Mt. Princeton Hot Springs.

  4. Great pictures, Lolo! I am indeed very jealous of your awesome trip! The Colorado Trail is something I’ve always wanted to do myself. Finding the time to actually do it has always been the sticking point with me. I’m hoping I can get a friend to at least do it in pieces with me via shuttle-day-hikes, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen this year (I’m frittering away most of my hiking time this season on this dang Chase! πŸ™‚ )

    Good luck on hitting your goal of summiting all the CO 14ers! That would be yet another awesome lifetime achievement. My count is up to 32 and I think that’s where it’s going to stay. The remaining ones are too scary for me! πŸ˜‰

    • I joined the Colorado Mountain Club to build my mountaineering skills and help dissipate my own fears – great community.

      As far as hiking the trail, we started as a pair but ended as a herd. You become a family, a community out there, taking care of each other. Our tribe consisted of a Scottish couple and there 3 hired horses, a couple from Illinois, and a solo female hiker from North Carolina. We started as strangers and ended as a family crossing the finish line together. You won’t be alone out there even if you start solo. Not sure how to add a photo of the tribe at the finish line on comment threads….but it exists. Also if you join the Colorado Trail Thru-Hike 2018 group you can join other solo hikers planning their trip! Highly recommend! Lolo

        • Are you asking for my user name, LoLo – It’s my adult nickname short version of my real name. Much better than my childhood nickname, Booger…I will let you guess where that came from!

          • LOL. Yes—LoLo is much better.

            My nickname is “nick”—something my dad thought of while shaving.

            OK—-I stole that from a movie. lol

      • You run into some of the nicest people in the world while hiking. I’m glad to hear that you found such a fun and supportive group to join you on the long journey. Sounds most excellent!

        And I can’t agree with your recommendation more on the Colorado Mountain Club. I joined up when I first moved to Denver and it was a great organization. I met a lot of very cool people who are still my hiking friends today. I only took the WTS class and joined a bunch of CMC hike trips, but ebbed of when I moved to Colorado Springs, as the chapter down here is much smaller. But anyways, the CMC rocks! πŸ™‚

  5. What an adventure my friend. I salute you!! For me, an old man with a heart that goes pitter-patter at an accelerated rate every once in a while – anything above 8,00′ is a challenge – and you hike almost 400 miles reaching altitudes of 12,000′ + W O W Again I salute you sir – JDA

  6. Wow! Congratulations! Did you happen to meet a guy on the trail, he’s a friend of ours, John from CA? Tall, dark, handsome, (LOL) was hiking for a time with a high school kid he met on the trail? He’s 60, looks in his 40s, probably from hiking so much. John just got back, too!

    Thanks for your reflections. Awesome.

  7. I did 5-day backpack treks in the Weminuche for five years when I was in my twenties. My favorite route was to get off the D-S narrow gauge at Elk and hike up to the divide, head down Vallecito, then up Johnson, drop down into Chicago Basin, then pick up the train to head back to Durango. I remember a miner’s cabin (sometimes occupied by big horn) up the Elk. And one spot where the trail was a foot wide, carved into the side of the rock face, sloping away to a hundred-foot fall down to the creek and covered with green slime from constant shade and seepage from above that ran down over it. Nothing to grab and no place to put a pole for support. As slippery as ice. I’m surprised folks didn’t slip there. One year, after hating having the previous year to drop down to Kite Lake after climbing up and over the ridge, just to have to regain the elevation to take the trail over and down the Vallecito, I scrambled around White Dome (?, it’s been a while). This was well before Google Earth provided detailed trail planning and condition evaluation. My topo didn’t mention that the whole mountain side was a massive talus field. With a 40 lb pack, I slide 1-2 ft with every step. Realized why the trail was where it was, and loyally followed it the following year. I always met folks who had done the Colorado or CDT, and learned it was best to not sit behind (downwind from) them on the train back to town. Yikes!

    In Chicago Basin, I’d always meet folks who were base-camped there and summiting the three (four?) 14k’ers above it over a week’s time. Is that on your agenda or have you already bagged those? I fondly remember the abundant wild raspberry bushes down toward the trail head from the train stop.

    • “And one spot where the trail was a foot wide, carved into the side of the rock face, sloping away to a hundred-foot fall down to the creek and covered with green slime from constant shade and seepage from above that ran down over it. Nothing to grab and no place to put a pole for support. As slippery as ice. I’m surprised folks didn’t slip there.”

      This was my slowest descend – and I actually recall three of us saying, this was definitely not in the guide books or research.

      Now that my body is strong and I know I can do 5000k up and over 20 miles a day and recover by the next morning Chicago Basin and a few days sounds amazing – so let’s put it on the agenda!

      Good call on the train – I had many thoughts about body odor – this was the first time 100s of miles and days would pass without all my lovely fragrant chemicals…and then after awhile I stopped smelling it and really started to feel the freedom of not being attached to societal standards. Although when I did hitch to towns for resupply the hot showers were amazing.

  8. Views as seen in Elk Creek is calling me for sure.
    One day there maybe bones lingering in a spot like that with a note; no man made treasure here, leave these bones to enjoy this treasure.

    • I’ve lived up and down and all around the Rockies, but the San Juans…that’s where I’d want my bones to settle. Until this trip western Montana was my jam, but the San Juans have captured my heart, it feels like leaving one lover for a slightly more attractive one. (Although I’d never do this)

      • Lol o, the Rockies do seem like a beautiful place to leave ones bones. Is there any particular scenic setting that you would choose over any other? Waterfalls? Creeks? Mountains?

      • The res so many beautiful places. The canyon stream and stream scene is what I enjoy.
        I can see why you thought the wind river canyon called you, wonder if it was becaise of two words you saw?

          • lolo,
            I was in Thermopolis about 2 weeks ago.
            When the Black Bear Cafe serves pancakes with crisp edges but doesnt burn it. Its an A* place. Fishing the wind was good too, (for oyher readers, get the Indian stamp before fishing) but watching deer feeding across it, as though you’re not there, was just wonderful.

          • WR sounds like a great trip! I’ll be going home for thanksgiving and may try out one solution path while there even though I don’t think it’s there.

  9. * * * * * * Lolo rhapsodized – “It was the most spectacular gift I have ever given myself.” * * * * * *

    Can’t tell you how much I appreciate you sharing that gift, Lolo. Gonna take off on the good foot myself one more time this season (painting, not chasing), and with a little extra wind in my sails after reading your letter.

    Great pics!

    JAKe

    • We were above tree line for days…I remember climbing over the saddle with San Juan peak to my right then being surrounded by mountains in every direction. I would climb over the next mountain reach the apex and once again be surrounded by mountains…this happened over and over day after day…I told my boyfriend at one point if I was one of the first pioneers traversing this land, I’d say f**k it baby, build me a cabin for fall/winter…these mountains will never end.

  10. Do you provide beneficiary donations for individuals with physical or mental handicaps to help them hike, fish, hunt, etc? Handicap accessible equipment?

  11. This was NEVER one of my horses during the pioneer days – most of the rest were, certainly didn’t mean to imply that it was!

  12. Hello Lolo. The journey you have taken sounds wonderful. One can only imagine all the beauty you have seen. Beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Walking slows every scene down. To all you hunters, if you can – ignore the not too far, but too far to walk line…walk, smell, breath, touch every solution you have…stop thinking about Fenn’s truck. What we are all missing is imagination….and that comes when you walk alone in the wild lands of the Rockies. These walks we take won’t literally lead us to the treasure, but they will free our minds and allow us to tap into that childish and magical place that use to let us make houses out of leaves in the front yard – it is still in each of us and that kind of clarity makes the world have sense.

  13. Lolo,
    You’re a badass! Someday I hope to find the time to get back outdoors for some serious hiking. Kids and costs keep me cuffed. Good for you in overcoming the mental and physical challenges that creep in and out of each hour. I agree, relieving oneself outdoors is the tops!
    Safe travels!

    • Badass – well thank you very much! I felt assbad in the beginning but definitely can accept your compliment now that it is over!

      My boyfriend and I want children and at age 33 I am realizing its now or never, the only question I pose against, is it will impede our freedom to explore? In our family planning we have made a vow that the children come with us, we do what we love and we share that with them. As an instructional designer I think I can work with school curriculums and incorporate exploration into pretty much any topic – pulling my un-birthed aliens out of traditional education when needed. In my opinion, field trips should be the classroom. So it makes me sad you feel cuffed when your heart desires to be out on mountain peaks. I hope you find the path to get out there! I met a mother and young daughter doing the trail in segments this summer…I thought it was beautiful. Also, saw a father and son doing the same thing.

      In relations to cost for family hiking & the outdoors, I have already starting scribbling on my vision board ways to fund this and also give back to the community….For every mile hiked by each child you donate a dollar – 50% goes towards the cost of the hike and another 50% goes towards an outdoor exploration non-profit that helps children in need. This idea is still very much conceptual like a tree of free forming ideas in my brain trying to combine the outdoors, children at risk, and family therapy. I apologize if I come off strange as you probably didn’t think your comment would elicit some deep “let’s go change the world” rant from me.

      I hope to see you out there and your kids too. Let me know about gear needs, I am great at finding free things.
      Stay WILD – LoLo

      • Here’s a gal that thinks, analyzes, plans, and loves to observe…
        I enjoyed reading about your trip. I almost fell off my chair when you said you are 33… I was leaning towards 23, So thank you very little for making me feel older.
        Nice write up… oh! and I got a kick out of; ‘…pulling my un-birthed aliens’ out of traditional education when needed. LOL that about sums it up…

        Again, nice read, enjoyed it…
        Sincerely yours, an ancient alien.

  14. Oh WOW.

    I was transported — in the photos, through your words — long long ago and far far away. A great grace on me to know your mind in mine and feel your heart in mine.

    “The most beautiful favored place of all I’ve seen is along the Wind River Range,” my mother told me … oh, sixty years ago. Lolo, you led me back across time to realize when my parents moved to Kemmerer for Dad’s work on the Fontenelle dam, (years before I was born), that summer Forrest was fourteen up the road in Yellowstone. Lolo, you carried me to meet my parents before I knew them. (Forrest takes me there sometimes, too.)

    My psychic sense of his gold box location is near there. My vision begins at Thermopolis, goes down the canyon, follows the river until the Range drainage from the west joins in; (Riverton). I go up that creek moving northwest to Dubois. (‘du bois’ is ‘of wood’ in French, I think.)
    For now I’m stuck there, uncertain whether to turn west up into the Range or north up Horse Creek toward the Shoshone Forest. And my mother’s words whisper ‘west,’ up the Winds . . .
    Summer’s setting suns can blaze your way in its shadows reaching east from Wind River peaks.

    Thank you your effort, your views, your words, Lolo.

    Another mindmeld I found today is this poster. It sure seems to be a thing Forrest would enjoy to see, full-size, (4 ft square, 16 sq ft), especially zooming in on the pueblos details.
    http://www.tribalnationsmaps.com/pipeline-map.html

    • I happen to speak French! I moved to Paris when was 18 and have spent many summers in the South Basque country and the Pyrenees. Dubois is on my path as well I went there often with my grandmother as a young girl. Some would call her a hoarder, but it is her I learned how to treasure hunt all across Wyoming. All of my fond childhood memories were spent with her looking for old turquoise, antique dolls, Native American jewelry….Du translates to Of and bois is indeed wood. So Dubois would be Of Wood. So not exacting. My mother is from Riverton. If my thoughts at all entertain you I’d explore the Wind Rivers Mountain range. From here you may find that spirit voice that could guide you!

      Thank you for all of your kind words. xoxo lolo

  15. Lolo, your words have sent a ripple through us searchers, obvious by all the positive responses. You have a youthful exuberance in your writing that is easily lost by time……it makes me laugh. I had long forgotten how much fun pooping in the woods could be, much less writing about it. πŸ™‚ Thanks!

    You have been blessed with a special gift that I hope you continue to explore and share.

    • I am not sure what this gift is, but my heart is filled with gratitude and there not much more I could need then that. Thank you for your writing compliment. I only journal and write letters so I usually just write the way I speak, transparently and quickly never looking back…so pardon any and all the typos! xoxo LOLO

  16. CHOLLY: Here is one of my journal entries for you.

    209.3 Miles: Mt Everest has an elevation gain of 29,029 ft. At this point in our hike we have ascended 38,796 ft! The last 100 miles you could see a drastic improvement in our performance. We can easily do 16-19 miles a day and be completely recovered by the next morning. We had no zero days for the last 100 miles compared to 4 zero days for the first 100. We both can feel our bodies growing stronger. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced true hunger before now. I dream about food and apparently talk in my sleep saying things like, “French toast and strawberries.” The hunger I’m feeling is a physical sensation unlike anything. I eat as many calories as Tim a day, sometimes more. He isn’t experiencing hiker hunger yet. He says maybe because his body has fat to tap into and mine doesn’t. My days are basically walk, drink water, eat, rinse and repeat.

    The last few days I’d lose time…let me explain…my legs and body would be marching onward like a zombie. Minutes or sometimes hours would pass and I’d have no idea where my conscious mind went. There would be no thoughts, no day dreams, no mitote (that constant mind chatter that seems to always be there) – there was nothing. Here’s a quote that sums it up. “There is a moment when you walk several hours that you are only a body walking. Only that. You are nobody. You have no history. You have no identity. You have no past. You have no future. You are only a body walking.” Frederic Gros

    At other times though my mind would tap into some pretty fantastical and creative stories. My imagination would spark in ways it hadn’t since I was a child, which was a freeing and wild sensation! I also found myself posing some bizarre questions. Here’s some questions I have had on the trail.
    1. What if scientist discovered how to turn on and off dormant genes on demand, could I be some kind of super human then?
    2. Are humans the only species that walk upright on two legs? I can’t seem to think of any and I’m concerned I don’t know this answer.
    3. Do you think animals warn each other when they see us, like how we warn each other when we see them?
    4. What did people’s feet look like before shoes were invented?
    5. I wonder if I lived before cars were invented how much land I’d be willing to trade for a horse?
    6. How many creatures are watching me poop in this hole I just dug by this bush? What if I’m pooping in someone’s house-that’d be so rude of me…
    7. I can see why people use to die much younger…I wonder how many people died under 30 from the 1600s to 1700s to 1800s etc. etc. and what inventions and innovations for each century increased life expectancy?
    8. How long without showering before you stop smelling yourself and your odor becomes the norm? When did we as a civilization start showering so much?
    9. Let’s say another species was to discover fire, begin cooking their food, evolving their brains to grow larger and eventually catch up to us in intelligence…as humans would we be curious and not intervene with this natural evolution or would we feel threatened and try to stop it?
    10. I wonder how many bugs I’ve accidentally swallowed out here so far? If I was still vegan -would this count?
    11. I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that. What won’t you do meatloaf?

    To sum up the journey to date, daily adversities are the one thing you should expect, but never lose faith in people. Special shout out to Ed and Jane, two trail angels who in 12 hours showed us more kindness and generosity then some people have experienced in a lifetime.

    • Such a talented writer, and talented PERSON! YEA for you.
      Often when sculpting I would enter that “Mindless”: state. SO engrossed in what I was doing, that I lost track of time and space – What a wonderful feeling that is… to become one with the tools that I am using, to become one with the stone I was carving, Just as you became one with your body (your tool) that was ever moving forward. Your mind did not perceive all that you saw and were doing, but your soul did! YEA for you. JDA

    • @Lolo, thanks, you make a grown man cry, but it’s a joyous emotion. So, it wasn’t all smooth sailing and wonderful weather….. going without coffee not so sure if I could do that! Thanks again and for sharing your simi potential solve. I remember when I was reading FLYWATER thinking how if the TC was in CO it had have something to do with the San Juans and Wind River in WY sure sounds intriguing as well.

  17. CHOLLY: OH food, I have never experienced hunger in such a physical way…at times it was painful no matter how much I ate it was never enough to ease the groaning aches of my little belly. Ate pop tarts, bars, or oatmeal for breakfast (often all three). Snacked all day on things from tuna packs, trail mix, summer sausage, cheese blocks, candy OH so much candy, cliff bars, jerky…and for dinner I had Mountain House Dinners for 2 but I would eat the entire thing myself and still eat more candy after. In the future, I will cook my own dinners and dehydrate because Mountain House is too expensive and I like to save as much on each adventure as I can to ensure I can take the next one. My boyfriend and I often joke that we only work hard to acquire wealth so we have the security to live like homeless people. For cooking only packed out the jet boil for boiling water to add to to dehydrated foods and oatmeal. No pots, pans, bowls or plates…just spoons. We had coffee one morning and we could feel the dehydration and sluggish feeling by mile 2 each day so we only used a powdered pre-workout drink by VEGA for our sunrise bursts of energy (it was so cold most mornings we moved as quickly as possible to break camp and hike). Every dawn I chased the sun around looking for warmth. Also, we carried powdered electrolytes to add to water which was an absolute game changer.
    Weather: First 200 miles was loads of heavy rains. Many afternoon hail storms throughout the entire trip (one which regressed me to a 3-year old tantrum-throwing toddler and for about an hour I was all done with the whole trip with a arms crossed and a pout bottom lip.) The scariest thing out there was of course lightening. We spent many days traversing above tree line always doing our best to descend to tree line as early as possible…and I will tell you when you’re at mile 18 for the day after 4500 of vertical elevation gain and you’re above tree line and the clouds appear out of no where and begin roaring at you as if it say, you best run girl…no matter how tired you thought you were…you will run with your 30 lbs pack like it was an Olympic champion…your body will eliminate any of the day’s pain as fear pulses through releasing adrenaline.

  18. CHOLLY Part 2
    Animals: I follow the give all wildlife space rule. Saw deer, mountain goats, had coyotes outside of my tent curiously sniffing around us, marmots, chipmunks, elk, everyone but us saw a lot of moose and I am happy with that because I think moose are assholes (note I also think bison are assholes.) Camped with entirely too many cows. Let me say cows are not the gentle giants I had portrayed in mind…they can be super intrusive, aggressive, and damn-right rude. Our biggest concern at camp throughout the entire 500 miles was cows. They would ruin campsites with their pies, destroy beautiful clear running water with their pies, surround our tent like we were some virgin sacrifice at dusk. It was easy enough to get them to stampede off, so we called them all Betsy a simple name all were Betsy..until around mile 350…this bitter old shrew we call Celeste – because let’s be honest every Celeste out there is a villain. She would make the most painful shrieks and charge us.

  19. Beautiful pics and story but next trip think like a 80 year old take it from
    Me I wasted many years not thinking like one now I’m almost to tired to walk from
    Walking to far hahah

    • This trip was a personal goal and didn’t have anything to with finding the chest. It thought of Forrest at one point in the journey and post trip decided to give the poem fresh eyes and look for a new solution! And there many places along the trail where I met handfuls of hikers older than 70!

  20. i also enjoyed your journey im colorado born t the beauty here is always worth the journey I hope your having fun we are moving into our new house so you know how much fun that can be so a short break is in order thank
    you for sharing your journey Im working on this then I will
    try to share if i can figure out how to send or put our trip to yellow stone together still strugling a bit with the techy stuff but thank you again it helps me and my brain to read this kind of good stuff

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