In the summer of 2020 I hiked 732 miles across Colorado from the southeast to northwest corners across the prairie, mountains, and sagebrush steppe. I saw antelope, deer, moose, eagles, burrowing owls, squirrels, jackrabbits, marmots, trout, snakes, butterflies, porcupines, and a badger, and managed to photograph some of them with my Panasonic Lumix compact camera and iPhone 8. Total number of photos taken: more than 3,500.
This is the first post about my hike across Colorado in May-August 2020. Follow my adventure on Facebook and select “see first” so they don’t get buried in your feed.
Have you ever dreamed of doing something you thought you couldn’t do? I’ve been dreaming of hiking across my home state for several years, and in January 2020 decided to go for it: 750 miles on my own two feet, with a little help from Friends of India’s Diagonal Expedition: Colorado (F.I.D.E. CO).
This was a bit like a barnyard pony deciding to enter the Kentucky Derby. A big hike was five miles and the extra weight I carried was in my own skin, not in a backpack. I thought I was a kinda-old has-been at 53. As to how to train for this adventure and set up the logistics, I had no idea. Distance-hiker friends said hiking 15 miles a day with a 30-pound pack would get me across the state. Oy!
But the dream of hiking from one favorite corner of the state to the other, from southeast to northwest, from prairie to mountains to plateaus, electrified my adventurous mind at bedtime. Sleep evaded me, but not the dream. This barnyard pony has always loved camping and meeting new people and observing nature. I was tired of the shouting between groups of people, everyone putting each other into buckets of dislike. I want to listen, hear good stories, understand people, and make new friends. I want to walk, not drive.
The physical challenge worried me the most. So I hired an endurance coach, Kara Wooley, in mid-January, for 12 weekly conditioning sessions. Glutes! Glutes! Get that butt in shape! Core muscles! Kara dictated weekly workout plans that I followed with the intensity and precision I usually apply to cake-baking recipes. By mid-April I could hike 16 miles with a 30-pound pack. My old Wrangler jeans fit again.
I had hoped to begin my hike in late April, before southeast CO got too hot, but then COVID-19’s dirty breath blew in. I reset my first hike day for May 11, after the end of Colorado’s stay-at-home order. The virus made me question whether I should go at all, but friends said the expedition would entertain people sitting at home, and my chosen route would take me through the least-populated counties in Colorado. (For example, Baca County covers 2,500 square miles and sustains 3,800 people.)
I assumed the logistics would be simple in these wild places. I thought I could get water at stock tanks, carry many days of food, camp places, follow the dirt roads on the maps. Ha! You city slicker. The maps are outdated, some by 40 years. The cattle tank water’ll flatten a human. You can’t carry more than a few days of food. Federal land where it’s okay to camp is scarce. Some regions are blank, with no roads or trails. I didn’t think people would help me much, same as in Boulder where neighbors don’t even know each other. But I was wrong, and happy.
Return here often for updates on our adventures with squirrelodactyl, the official mascot of the Friends of India’s Diagonal Expedition (FIDE) Colorado. Friends old and new are welcome to join me along the way as hiking pals or camp wranglers. Give me a shout.