July 10, 2017
I started the day off hiking again. Our plans for today had us finishing up Segment 11 and either camping at the end of the segment at Clear Creek Trailhead or continuing on into Segment 12 to knock out a big climb before the end of the day.
Segment 11 is 21.5 miles long. Yesterday, we rode 3.3 miles into Segment 11 to camp at Herrington Creek, and when we started the day, we knew we would at least finish up the remaining 18.2 miles of the segment.
From Herrington Creek, the trail continues for a few miles before descending down to Twin Lakes Reservoir. Twin Lakes Reservoir is HUGE! Seven miles of the trail takes you about halfway around the reservoir. The trail here is fairly flat with easy terrain. Though, the lack of trees did make our trip around Twin Lakes very hot!
Where the Trail Splits
The Colorado Trail actually has two separate routes you can take once you reach the Twin Lakes area: The Collegiate East and the Collegiate West. Together the two routes make a loop known as the Collegiate Loop.
The Collegiate East follows the original route of the Colorado Trail, while the Collegiate West was added a few years ago following the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. The West Collegiate gets higher in elevation and is known to be more difficult, but scenic. We knew going into our ride that we would be taking the East Collegiate route. The West route is not typically recommended for stock animal travel, and we knew that there would still be difficulty with snow on the trail.
So as the trail splits, we said goodbye to the Continental Divide Trail (for now) and continued East on the original trail.
It was only 1:00 PM when we got to the end of Segment 11 at Clear Creek Trailhead. We let the horses graze for a bit while we looked at the option of continuing on into Segment 12 for 6.4 miles to Pine Creek. Continuing on would result in a steep 2,700 ft climb and then a 1,200 ft descent. We had plenty of time left to add in the extra miles, and although there were rain clouds rolling in around us, the trail would not take us above treeline.
We voted. The vote was in favor of continuing on trail.
As stated above, Segment 12 starts off with a big climb. It is a steep ascent 2,700 ft up to the ridge within the first 5.1 miles. Then, the trail descends 1,200 ft over the next 2.5 miles. It was a tough climb, and it did start to rain lightly for a part of the climb, but it quickly cleared up. I was relieved that the rain and cloud coverage brought cooler temps compared to the heat that we were exposed early today as we made our way around Twin Lakes.
We set up camp near Pine Creek, which was absolutely beautiful with plenty of grazing for the horses. I couldn’t resist jumping into this creek for a quick swim! Though, I don’t think I lasted more than 5 minutes in the creek, as the water was ice cold!
The People on Trail
The people that you can connect with on long distance trails like this make the experience on the trail even more beautiful and meaningful. Everyone is there with their own goals and dreams and reasons. Whether it is to hike. To ride. To heal. To take on a challenge. It means something different to each individual. Yet the trails gives us a way to connect, and that is beautiful.
We are only 10 days into our ride, and we have met some amazing people along the way! Today, we talked with a couple from South Africa that were thru-hiking the Colorado Trail. We all chatted for a while about the trail and the horses. Little did we know that we would cross paths with our new friends, Michelle and Pierre, many more times on this trail.
I am still trying to find words to explain what it feels like being on a trail like this. It’s not easy in any way, but it is so much different than a typical day-to-day life.
Wake up, eat, ride, eat some more, sleep and repeat. Take care of our horses. Take care of ourselves. That was our life on trail.