After 34 days of hiking, 5 rest days (zeroes) I reached the Durango Colorado Trail terminus on noon on Monday, September 17 to be met by my lovely wife. I left the northern trailhead on August 10. It feels a bit strange not to be planning for another week of hiking.
Life on the Trail
The day started around 4:30 when I woke up and left my cozy warm tent to search for the cat hole I had dug the afternoon before to relieve myself. Then back to my tent to brew some coffee, eat some breakfast and do a little reading. Over the next hour or so I would work on my feet (put on band-aids/mole skin where required), put on my hiking clothes and began packing everything up. By 6:00 AM I was out of my sleeping bag and deflating my pad and stuffing my pack. Then out of the tent and taking it down (usually still with my headlamp on as it was still dark). The tent fly was usually wet – either from condensation or from rain so I kept the packed tent on the outside of my pack.
A quick check around then hiking by 6:30 or so. The mornings were usually cold – in the 30s most of the time depending on how high I was, so I usually started with my gloves and wool hat. By 9:00 it had usually warmed up enough to take those off and put on my sun hat. By 9:30 I had usually done 6 miles and stopped for a quick snack and rest. By 11:30 I usually had 10-12 miles in and stopped for 30 minutes or so for lunch. If the sun was out I would lay my tent/fly out to dry.
If I was doing my usual 16 miles or so I would hike straight to my planned camp site and have my afternoon snack there while putting up my tent. I usually tried to camp near a water source where I would scoop 4L of water into my dirty water bag, hang it on a tree and begin filtering water.
After my tent was up and water filtering started, I would do a sponge bath using a bandana and put on my camp clothes (running shorts/t-shirt). If I was not near a water source (dry camp) I would have carried water (not fun!) from the last good water source, and no sponge bath. Sometimes, if there was a good source of water, I would wash some of my hiking clothes and hang them out to dry.
All this usually took an hour or so, then I would rest/read till 5:00 and start cooking dinner. After dinner, I would read till about 7:30 or it started to get dark, then go to sleep.
And with one exception, I camped by myself every night.
Food on the Trail
This was a typical day’s food. Breakfast: big cup of coffee with two sugars, two pop-tarts. Snack: Kinde bar or two handfuls of salted almonds. Lunch: Tortilla with salmon foil and cheese wedge accompanied by 1/4 box of Cheez-It crackers. Snack: more nuts. Dinner: Ramen Noodle with a salmon foil and a tortilla.
People on the Trail
I met lots of other thru-hikers, Mary Poppins, Jabba (the Hutt), Whispering Weasel, Boston, Smiles, and many more. Most were south bound (like me) but I did meet some north bounders. And lots of segment hikers.
Unlike other trails I have done, the CT allows bikes and I saw probably 30 bikes and bike-packers. They were universally polite, stopping and allowing me to pass. And (the ones going north) they were a good source of current information about the trail ahead.
I climbed more than 90,000 feet. The equivalent of climbing from sea level to the top of Everest, three times. I averaged about 3,000 ft/day and my biggest climb day was about 5,000 feet. I was over 10,000′ elevation 80-90% of the time and was over 11,000 feet for days at a time. I climbed one 14er as a side trip, Mt Elbert, the highest mountain in Colorado and the second highest mountain in the contiguous United States.
I walked 485 miles in 34 days. Not counting partial days (going to town days) I averaged just over 16 miles/day. My longest day was 18.5 miles and my shortest was 12.5 miles (on a big climb day).
I almost always started hiking at sunrise, usually around 6:30, when there was enough light to see the trail and was usually done by 3:00. On a good day my pace was 2.5 mph, but on big climb days, this could drop to 2 mph.
I met probably 20-25 other thru-hikers and about the same number of section hikers over the 5-1/2 weeks I was on the trail. I also saw several people on horses and lots of bike-packers.
I re-supplied six times and took 5 rest days. My longest section between resupply was 104 miles (6.5 days) and the average was about 70 miles. The six trail towns I stopped in (Frisco, Twin Lakes, Mt Princeton Hot Springs, Gunnison, Lake City, Silverton) were all very nice but my favorite was Silverton.
I only had to hitchhike four times, the rest of the time I either arranged with a shuttle service (Lake City) or took local transit (Frisco) to get to town. My favorite hitch was from Molas Pass to Silverton with an Italian couple on vacation.
I weighed about 174 lbs when I started and weighed 158 lbs at the finish. I calculate I was burning about 4,000 calories/day when I was hiking and eating about 2,500 or so. Even eating like crazy on town days I still was negative about 10,000 calories/week.