by Meg McAlonis
wilderness area of rugged mountain peaks, boulder fields, melting glaciers, and thousands of lakes is definitely worthy of being protected by the National Park Service, but it was nice not needing to follow a permit system to explore it! We took our time, hiking lower mileage days (under 20 miles/day), to care for my ankle and fully soak in our surroundings!
that same day we celebrated entering a new state, the thunderstorms began! It was still monsoon season in the mountains, meaning it’s necessary to hike as many miles as possible in the mornings, and keep your eyes and ears out for thunder and lightning in the afternoons. Above tree-line, we could watch the clouds form, and when lightning was striking on the CDT ridgelines, we just had to be patient, and wait to cross once the storm rolled through, and pray that another one wouldn’t pop up while we were exposed with no where to hide! This was also the time that CO was all over National News for a ‘thousand year flood’ event taking place just east of us, so we began to lose motivation, and after spending 5 days in Steamboat Springs waiting for the rains to die down, we also lost momentum.
breathtaking being in Colorado’s high peaks! The hiking was the most difficult yet – with steep, rocky, no-trail-tread terrain and such little oxygen in the air we breathed! I was loving every minute of it! But, winter was coming on fast. On September 18th, as we hiked above clouds in the morning sun, we could see more storms around us, heading our way. The wind was blowing hard and bitter cold – I began preparing my mind for snow. Once we dropped off the ridge and were tucked in down by a stream below Vasquez Peak, Aaron said it. “I’m done.” He began rattling off frustations, “I’m sick of eating this kind of food… I don’t want to be so cold I can’t stop to drink from a stream… I’m not crazy enough to be hiking in these mountains when it’s snowing unless I have a snowboard to ride on…”. And knowing I didn’t want to push him to do something he no longer wanted to do, in my head I began coming up with my own good reasons to leave the trail – I’ve been rolling my ankle about once a week since my initial sprain and knew the longer I walked on it, the more I was causing long-term damage… I’m out here because I love to hike, and would hate to feel like I was just ‘suffering through’ most of Colorado being forced down out of the mountains and onto roads due to these early winter snow storms, being cold, surrounded by clouds without views… AND I’d have more time to spend with family before my job begins!
There were nights in Wyoming where we were howled to sleep by wolves! As elusive as they are, niether of us saw one, but following their huge tracks felt close enough! We saw other neat animals, like a porcupine, hundreds of antelope, wild horses, families of moose, and the herds of elk and frequency of seeing them grew as we entered Colorado!