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the Colorado Trail — part 3

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? — Mary Oliver

I definitely plan to finish the second half of the Colorado Trail. That is at the top of my “things I absolutely HAVE to do during my one wild and precious life” list. Hopefully I can finish it next summer as work and family responsibilities have put completion of our journey on hold for now. My son and I recently finished the first half of the CT — from Denver to a trailhead between Buena Vista and Salida. We backpacked close to 250 miles and trudged up (and also down) some 37,000 feet of elevation gain.

That’s a lot of ups and downs. In a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. Our trek took us through four different wilderness areas and over several mountain ranges. In addition to a variety of terrain, we experienced all kinds of weather as well — including sun, rain, sleet, hail, and even snow. We also inadvertently timed our travel through the Mt. Massive Wilderness area during the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race and ended up having to spend the night at a hotel in Leadville (aaahhh, nothing like a warm shower and a soft bed). Lance Armstrong competed in the event, which is intense to say the least. It’s a 100 mile off-road mountain bike race with what is described as “steep climbs and serious descents.” No kidding! The start and finish is in the heart of the small mountain town of Leadville, CO (elevation 10,200 feet). Fifty miles out and back with a turnaround point at 12,600 feet makes this race pretty dang extreme. After 100 miles, Lance was second by less than 2 minutes! How does that happen? Two minutes after 100 miles of mountain bike racing? And there were hundreds of entrants.

There’s also a Leadville 100 Ultra Marathon which is billed as the “Race Across The Sky” and considered one of the toughest distance races on the planet. It was held the following weekend. Starting at 4 AM, with most of it on the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, it’s a true high-altitude, hard-core distance race. To make it even more interesting, this year runners experienced rain, wind, lightning, marble-sized hail, and snow during their 100 mile marathon. Almost sixty percent of the entrants didn’t finish. They’ve been doing this race for 26 years now and they never cancel because of the weather. Hardy souls indeed.

But I digress…

We experienced some of the same weather during our journey, but at least we were in our sleeping bags and tents at 4 in the morning and we didn’t have to cover more than about 12 to 15 miles a day. Some longer days, some shorter days.

Spending that much time in the wilderness allows for hours and hours of time to think, reflect, figure things out, day-dream, re-figure things out, make up endings to stories, sing Johnny Cash songs, wonder what that noise was, think about food, learn to whistle, re-re-figure things out, and have long annoying conversations with yourself. And on it goes, day after day. No money to deal with, no bills to pay, no TV to watch, no phone to answer, no email to check, no newspaper to read, no gas to pump, no purse to dig through, no mirror to look into, no BlackBerry to obsess over (not that I have one). Going back to the basics is incredibly cleansing. I highly recommend it.

Now I’m in the midst of putting together my backpacking meal recipes, sport-specific nutrition information, dehydration tips, and instructions on how to prepare and pack your own food for the backcountry. Most prepackaged backpacking foods contain gluten or other allergens and most companies can’t guarantee that their food is gluten-free, even when there are no obvious gluten-containing ingredients. Most of those foods either use gluten as a filler or prepare their foods on equipment that also processes foods containing gluten. The last thing I want is to get sick while backpacking. No time to have stomach issues. Or achy joints. Or be overly tired. Or have trouble sleeping. Or have headaches.

Well, you get the idea. That’s why I felt it was important to make and prepare all my own food. That way I was able to balance my nutritional needs for exactly what I was doing — this means eating strategies for all-day energy, what to eat when you need a boost to make it up and over the pass, and how to adequately recover so you can start all over again the next day. I’m interested in sport-specific nutrition and how to maximize performance and stay healthy at the same time. I’m thinking a book is in my future. Wish me luck.

In the meantime, here’s a photo wrap-up of our trip, with a reader contest to top it off.

Next week I’ll get back to regular posting with nutrition tips, recipes, and whatever else comes to mind. Does anyone have a topic they’d like me to focus on? Something you might be confused about or interested in? Leave me a comment indicating what’s on your mind and I’ll pick one of the topics and write a specialized post on it.

Sugar? Omega 3s? Antioxidants? Caffeine? Coffee? Sports drinks? Boosting immunity? Strong bones? Wine?

Let me know.

Photo #1 — Melissa filtering water (a wilderness woman’s job is never done).
Photo #2 — Columbine, the Colorado state flower.
Photo #3 — Breckenridge Ski Area way in the distance.

Photo #1 — I became obsessed with taking pictures of signs along the trail. Some were interesting, some informative, some just plain funny. These little “thumbnail” versions of my photos aren’t great, so I doubt you can see this very well, but it says, “Colorado Trail & Tennessee Pass” with an arrow one direction, then it says “Old Mine” with an arrow the other direction. Who knows where the old mine is as we had just come from that direction and never saw one. Hmmm?
Photo #2 — Very old CT sign, with an awe inspiring back-drop.
Photo #3 — Big mountains.

Does anyone know what this is? Keep in mind, this “find” was out in the middle of nowhere along the Colorado Trail. The first person who knows the answer gets a prize. Take a guess!

And don’t forget to get out there and enjoy your one wild and precious life!

In good health,
Melissa

The Colorado Trail – part 2

One-hundred and sixty miles down. Three-hundred and forty to go.

We’re one-third of the way through our trek of the Colorado Trail. Depending on what you read, the trail covers anywhere from 485 to 500 miles — from Denver to Durango — with a total elevation climb of 77,690 feet. As I said in the first post I did on the Colorado Trail, that’s a LOT of uphill. We’re now on a 200 mile section of the CT that shares the same footpath as the Continental Divide Trail, so we’re spending more and more time above 10,000 feet, often in alpine zones above timberline.

I’m cooking and dehydrating all our dinners and we’re eating well. And gluten-free, of course. In fact, I have chicken, quinoa noodle, and veggie soup in the dehydrator as I type. With chile con carne waiting in the wings.

Rather than ramble on about the trip, I’ll share some photos with you instead. I’m in a pinch for time, but when things slow down, I’ll get back to posting on a more regular basis. For now, here’s a preview of where I’m spending so much of my time lately. Although the days are long and tiring, there’s nothing more rejuvenating than spending time in the wilderness. No phones, no money, no traffic, no silly TV shows. I love it!


If that waterfall hadn’t been so dang cold, I would have taken a shower — with all my clothes on. They needed washing as much as I did. I won’t even mention how my hair looks after a week of backpacking, although bad hair days aren’t a big deal when all you see during the day is your hiking partner, a few marmots, and a couple of deer.

Onward . . .
Melissa


Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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(co-written with Pete Bronski)



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