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Colorado Trail – Waterton | Average Hiker

Waterton Canyon sign on Colorado Trail

This morning was bright and clear as I jumped in my Uber to begin my hike at the Waterton Canyon Trailhead.

I could see a hint of distant clouds as we headed towards the mountains. The evening before, I had watched thick black clouds settle over the mountain tops as lightning strikes popped the peaks and ridges. I hated getting caught in lightning storms on those exposed ridges.

Waterton Canyon

There was nobody to take my picture, so I took the obligatory sign photo, shifted my backpack up on my hips, and took off down the six-mile dirt road walk.

Waterton Canyon was silent and still at 6:30 in the morning. My only human contact was an older woman about thirty yards away on the other side of the road motioning for me to pull my mask up. I respectfully obliged and waved, remembering she could not see my friendly smile.

Waterton is a beautiful Canyon, and I bounced along, admiring the red rock canyon walls and cool damn. Then, at the Dam, the road began to climb toward the hills noticeably.

Bear Territory

Leaving Waterton Road, I started up a single-track trail. I was excited and now considered myself officially on the trail. It was a moderate incline, and I quickly reached a sign noting Bear activity. I had seen a video about the Bear on FB. Later I spotted campsites with trash and understood why he was aggressive. It was sad that because of careless humans, he would have to be removed probably.

South Platte River

The first climb up to about 6,500 feet was not too bad, and I passed some mountain bikers also headed up. They remarked on my pace, and I grinned and said, “Pure adrenaline does not last long.” Another group of bikers was convening at the bench at Lenny’s rest, and we chatted about the busy trail. Honestly, I saw a few other hikers that day.

Dropping down to Bear Creek, I frowned at the trashy campsites and began my climb from about 6,100 feet to 7,500 at the peak. The scenery was beautiful, But it seemed pretty dry this time of year. So I stopped for a break before beginning the drop back down to the South Platte River.

Colorado Trail Hikers

As I crossed the dirt road to the South Platte River, a man approached me from his car in the parking area. He was fairly talkative and wanted to know what I was doing and how much further I was going. I just said til dark. Surprisingly, he had never heard of the Colorado Trail.

Later as I was getting water, he walked up again and asked me if I wanted some fresh, cleaned fish filets. I thanked him and passed. He seemed nice enough, but my intuition was nudging me to move on, so I quickly packed up and began hiking.

Crossing over the river bridge, I glanced back to see what was a hiker stretched out on his Z-rest pad next to the water. I knew the lean, young hiker would probably catch me shortly.

Polar Opposites

The two hikers I met that day were both young with vastly different experiences. Steven had hiked the PCT, and Tyler’s first-night backpacking overnight was his first night on the Colorado Trail!

Camping with Tyler

The next few miles after, the South Platte was open, exposed, and hot. There was nowhere for water between the South Platte River and the Fire Station about ten miles away. I loaded up to dry camp and had enough to drink and make dinner, with enough left for the next day.

Steven and I chatted for a while, and I took off again. But, as is the trail, that was the last time I saw Steven – a nice guy.

I saw several campsites as it became later in the day. Tents were set up, and people were settling in for the night. Then, as I came around a bend, Tyler motioned me over to see a young buck grazing off to the side of the trail.

The buck was beautiful, and as I watched him, a doe poked her head over the hill. Then, with a sharp snort, he took off after her as she raced off through the trees! I felt like I was on a Disney set.

Tyler and I began talking. He was very forthcoming and frustrated, and I immediately wanted to help. He said he did not have enough water to cook and was hungry. He had not cooked the night before, but I did not ask why.

Looking up the trail, I said I was climbing the tree-covered ridge to find a camp spot. “I might do the same,” he said. “Yeah, let’s go find some spots,” I said and began the climb up.

There was a sizeable grass-covered bench down off the trail. You could probably have set up 20 tents. There was an old fire ring, but the area did not look to have been used in quite some time. I wouldn’t say I like don’tsed campsites. They always seem to attract four-legged visitors that know where to find food.

Tyler showed up about 45 minutes later and began setting up camp. I had already set up and eaten dinner and asked if I could help with his food. “Sure,” h “aid. “There was no pretense about Tyler. He was open and likable.

“Do you the “k you don’t have don’t water for dinner” He raised” a half-full Smart Water bottle and pointed at two sizeable full water sacks. It would have lasted me two days. “I think “might be enough. LLet’sgive Let’s try,” I said.

T” shorten the story, I learned much of his gear had come from Amazon, like his stove. He had not used it yet, so we used my faithful Pocket Rocket. His was an exciting stove, similar to mine but with three times the legs, like a little spider. His pot was tall and narrow, made for the spider, and we barely balanced it on my stove.

We used a freezer bag for his Knorr rise side after I convinced him the hot water would not melt the bag, and I suggested he add a pouch of the Tuna he did not care for because the protein would make him feel better. He later came over and accepted the offer of my extra pouch of Tuna. He said it was perfect in the rice. He ate a lot of food!

End of Day

Tyler said he was going into town at the Fire Station, the last I saw of him. I don’t know if I didn’t continue his hike, but I hope he did. Backpacking has a learning curve, but he appeared to have gear that, with a few tweaks, would have been suitable for the trail and appeared to be in good shape.

Unfortunately, though, his trail name would have been Amazon! 😉

There were thunderstorms overnight, but I was nestled near small spruce. I never camp near the tallest lightning rod or a dead tree with the potential to fall.

One of my favorite sounds is the pattern of rain on my shelter. It lulls me to sleep quickly. I laid on my thick Neoair, watching the storm light up the translucent fabric around me as the rumbles grew louder. Mother Nature was grumbling, but I felt safe and comfortable under my featherlight quilt.

Amidst all the craziness, sometimes the simple things bring the most peace.

For those interested, there are a few stats below.

  • Miles hiked – 21.6
  • Day temp – overcast and low 880’sNight 880’ss- low 660’sHHiking60’sasyto moderate
  • Challenges – Longer area through the old exposed burn, aggressive bear potential
  • Dinner – Stowaway Gourmet Boar and Bean Stew 4/5 stars. It was a good flavor, but the ham did not rehydrate as well as it should have. I would retake it.
  • Snacks – crackers since I had a huge breakfast
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