Monday, July 28, 2014

Six Days / Seventy Seven Miles on the Trail

On Saturday, a little before noon, I turned a corner of the trail and the busyness of Monarch Pass opened up before me. After spending the last six days mostly alone with Nature's peace and quiet in some of Colorado's most remote high country, it was a bit overwhelming - numerous parked vehicles, many with trailers loaded with camping equipment, motorcycles, ATVs, and/or bicycles; tourists taking pictures; folks heading up to and down from the tramway entrance; bicyclists - both mountain bikers gearing up for the Monarch Crest trail, or road bikers about to take on the exhilarating ride down the pass; cars and trucks and RVs heading both east and west on Highway 50...the place was humming!

But my journey was nearing its end, and so I proceeded down the trail and added one more addition - my somewhat trail weary self - to a hectic Monarch Pass. I should add that also down there was my wife Helene, about to cross the highway and head up the trail to meet me. Meeting up with Helene, just like it was numerous times when she met me at the end of segments of the original Colorado Trail hike a few years ago, was a most welcome reunion.

I had started the day early and about nine up-and-down miles from the pass. My intent on this day, and every day of this relatively short trek, was to get my miles in before the afternoon storms with their very real threat of lightning started building. While enjoying some fresh watermelon that Helene just bought at the Salida Farmer's Market, I noticed that the clouds that had been growing as the morning grew older were beginning to look a bit more serious. My original plan was to continue on beyond Monarch Pass 4.9 more miles to the trail intersection with the main Colorado Trail, where the Collegiate West Trail officially ends. But, considering what the sky was going to deliver for the afternoon, I decided that those final 4.9 miles would be a hike for another day.

So, with 77.4 amazing miles of the 80-mile Collegiate West Backpack hiked over those six days (which, I now know, is actually 83.8 miles, plus another ten or so to access the beginning and end points, but those are just details), there still remains 4.9 more miles before I have officially completed the trek. I am looking at my calendar and will come up with a day when I will head back up to Monarch Pass and complete this Backpack for Nature Education.

Meanwhile, I've been going through the many photos I took along the trail (I've included a few with this post - you can see more at my Facebook Page, Dave Van Manen, which I'll be adding to). As much as I know that Colorado is a beautiful state, these miles - all of them new to me - reminded me once again of just how beautiful it is. Over the next few weeks, I'll be doing some more posts highlighting some of my experiences while out on the trail.

And please remember that this effort of mine, as much as it was filled with gorgeous scenery and lots of wild Nature, I was out there primarily to raise funds so young people can continue to experience the gifts of spending time in Nature through MPEC's education programs. Please consider donating to this cause if you haven't already done so - simply click here and choose Ranger Dave's Backpack for Nature Education as the category. Thanks so much!

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