Thursday, July 31, 2008

CT Day 2: A Game Plan for the Heat

The three of us figured our first mistake was not starting early enough. So we vowed to get up really early to beat the heat. We were at mile eight on the Colorado Trail and we wouldn't see water until mile 16-17 at the South Platte River. We also had a big hill to climb. We also realized this wasn't going to be a simple Walk in the Woods, no matter how much Bill Bryson makes light of the thru-hiking sport. If we were going to finish this we needed a big strategy and we needed to put a lot of thought into this, at least until we were in better physical condition.

We figured we probably wouldn't make up the mileage we were short yesterday on Day 2, but we figured we MIGHT be able to get our 12 miles in for today, so we wouldn't fall further behind. The plan was simple, but inspired, kind of. We'd get up the hill before the heat. Then it would be 5 or so miles downhill to the Platte River. We'd reach the South Platte sometime in the early afternoon and WAIT till the evening before we hiked again that day. It was just going to be too hot and exausting to do anything in the afternoon. We also had another problem: The next water after the South Platte River was 10 miles away, and 2000 feet higher. So if we hiked that evening, we needed to carry all our water for cooking. Instead, we'd simply cook dinner at the river and then get 3-4 miles done early that evening, leaving us plenty of water to reach the next source.

So we finally reached the South Platte at around 12:30 and went swimming several times. We took naps. Dave went fishing. We didn't leave until 4:30 or 5 that afternoon after we had cooked and loaded up with tons of water.

We also met a REAL thru-hiker, Steve. Steve had 12 days of food, fuel and gear on him. Yet his pack weighed only 26 lbs (11.8 kg)! He looked like he was having a lot more fun than we were. He was moving much faster too. He did 17 miles in the day and a half we did the same, and it was only noon when we met him! We felt good about our big plan when he told us he was going to do exactly the same thing. We're learning at least. In fact, he joined us for the last 3-4 miles and camped with us that night.
Steve turned out to be a wealth of information. He said our biggest problem (which we were already realizing) was food. He said all of his foods come out to 130 calories per ounce, which is A LOT of energy for very little weight. We started looking at the labels on our foods and some of them weren't even half that. Even Clif Bars didn't reach 100 calories per ounce. So if one needs 3500 calories per day, you could carry an extra pound or two per day if you have the wrong foods. Multiply that by 6 days before our next re-supply and the gravity of the situation starts to weigh on your mind (and your back and joints).

So he showed us what HE was eating. He was eating well enough, but carried almost NOTHING. If I do this again, I'm DEFINITELY going to try and do things his way.

Anyways, we hiked up the hill with him that evening, marching up a steep hill into the Buffalo Creek Burn area. A huge forest fire came through here in 1996, so we were dreading the lack of tree cover the next morning.
CT Day 3: Rapidly Diminishing Toilet Paper Supply

The Colorado Trail Story

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