Colorado Trail “Sermons”

Talk, talk, talk

February 19, 2018

These are various posts I’ve made on the Colorado Trail thru-hike group on Facebook that I want to have here, too. Lightly edited.

Trail Journals

February 11, 2018

One thing I have learned the hard way in 25 years of hiking, backpacking, climbing and whatnot. Keep a trail journal! It doesn’t have to be big or heavy. It doesn’t have to be expensive - one of those 3-pack-for-90-cents mini notebooks will do just fine. It doesn’t have to be waterproof (just put it in a ziplock and get it out to write in at night in the comfort of your tent). But take one and write in it every day. What you did. What you saw. Who you met (names!). The weather. Mileage, elevation. Goals achieved or missed. Equipment failures. Aches and pains. Your feelings. Whatever.

Why? Because memory fades, and later you’re going to be trying to reconstruct “What day was that?” or “Did that happen before this?” or “What is that mountain in this picture?” or “When was that epic 25 mile post-holing trek, in late May or early June?” or “When did I first meet Joe?” With a trail journal, you can look it up. Without one, you are just an old fart with faded memories.

Pro tip: Unless you put trip reports up on a web site or similar, there is no need to transcribe it after the trip. I just scan mine and put the images in the same folder as the rest of the photos from the trip, since looking at those photos will probably be when I want to remember the rest.


February 18, 2018

Some lucky people live where their weekend play time of hiking, biking, climbing, backpacking, snow shoeing and so on is their “training” for a thru-hike and is also, well, fun. But many of us don’t live in those places. We live in flat places where it is hot, humid and bug-infested in the summer, and cold, bitter and gray in the winter. Training is a challenge, especially when you head out into the dark for a run before or after work, either because it is winter and that’s just the way of it, or because it is summer and before dawn is the only time of day you won’t die of heat stroke for being such a dummy out running in 90% humidity.

How to stay motivated? One trick I have been using for years is positive visualization. When I am running, as I approach some hill, I will say, “This is Hope Pass, go for it!” If it is really hot, “This is a hot day in cattle country.” If it is raining or sleeting, “This is just a normal day in the San Juans, and it is still better than being stuck in the office!” And in each case I will remember how beautiful it is in that place, and how much I enjoy being in the mountains, even when they’re trying to kill me. Those mental images will then carry me on.

That’s the first half. The second half is to “round-trip” those visualizations when you’re actually on-trail for positive reinforcement when you get back. While crossing that pass, or walking through that hot country, or getting rained on, then you remind yourself, “This is why I train - so I can be here, now, and enjoy all this because I am ready for it.” That’s when you make sure the “now you” thanks the “past you” for all that hard work. It’ll help the “future you” keep training.

It actually works. Today I ran my first run in the “teens” for the year (14 miles), and for the whole second half, I was wanting to just stop and walk. But my mantra was “This is for that long day when I am sore and tired and just feel like stopping, but it’s just a little further to that great campsite.” I made it. :)

Try it. It won’t make the workout suck any less. But it will keep you going.


February 19, 2018

I’ve been on this list and its predecessors for four years now, starting with the 2015 list. When I was planning my 2016 thru-hike, the advice I got from the list was invaluable, especially from the veterans like Ron Davis, David Fanning, Bill Manning, James Blackburn, Dean Krakel (who was actually an inspiration that I, too, could pull off my first thru-hike in my late 50s) and others who I am forgetting, more than I can count.

However, sometimes long threads develop that basically boil down to “religious issues.” These are things where there are advocates on both sides who feel quite strongly about a topic (and have personal experiences to support it), and nothing is going to change their mind. Sometimes these exchanges get a bit acrimonious, but for the most part the list is full of good people, and someone will just say “HYOH” (hike your own hike) and keep it civil.

I have noticed the following “articles of faith,” where true believers on one side or the other will rarely change sides once they’ve taken a stance:

There are others, but you get the drift.

For the record, I am a “tarps, ground, quilt, ultralight, poncho, no umbrella, covertible pants & shirt, high water capacity, filtering, quick-drying, shoes, gas stove, CF poles” kinda guy.

I sometimes despair when someone asks yet another, “Which is better, x vs. y?,” because it feels like “Here we go again.” But part of that is because these lists aren’t that easily searchable, so someone who just signs up can’t be expected to wade through hundreds of posts, and I just try to be helpful, add my opinion if I have one and remember not to be too “religious” about it.

However, I also like to remember the things we can ALL agree on:


Weather Training

Are those clouds going to bring rain, or do they mean wind? Both? Or just some welcome shade? Want to learn more about that sort of thing? In many parts of the country where there is a fifth weather season (“tornado”), the NWS puts on free weather spotter training, and it is excellent (your tax dollars to a good cause). Besides all the interesting things about tornadoes (or hurricanes), a lot of other weather topics are covered. While Colorado Trail weather tends to be monsoonal during the season, sometimes you get actual fronts coming through, and without access to weather forecasts on-trail, some background knowledge can be helpful.

At the end, you get a weather spotter card with your local forecast office’s spotter phone number, and a weather spotter number of your own (so you can be all cool and call in and say, “This is spotter #12345 and I just spotted a funnel cloud with rotation two miles south of Podunk heading northeast”).

The St. Louis office puts on quite a few of these sessions every spring, and one is coming to my town in March. I plan on going for refresher training. To find out if your forecast office puts on such training, go to the site below, put in your ZIP code, and on the resulting forecast page, in the upper left will be a link that says, “Your local forecast office is…” Click on the link and they should have news headlines for that office near the top.

National Weather Service

  1. Base pack weight, i.e., weight of pack, shelter, sleeping gear, cooking equipment, extra clothes and all else other than “consumables,” e.g., food, water, fuel, etc.