Colorado Sky Islands and Vermillion Basin 2021

My friend Chase and I backpacked for four days in the NW corner of Colorado, a land with more mountain lions than people, the nearest gas station 50 miles away. We encountered wild horses, rattlesnakes, pronghorn, deer, horned toad, rare flowers, stunning scenery, Native American rock art, and fossil algae balls.

Colorado Transect Five Mountain Passes

Boreas Pass, Ten Mile Range, Vail Pass, Shrine Pass, Two Elk Pass

Backpacked 59 miles and 9,200 vertical feet from Como to Minturn over Colorado’s central Rocky Mountains July 9-13, 2020. This mountain section differed from the rest of my route across the state: nearly all hiking trails, I saw other hikers, and the paths were high–over 10,000 feet in elevation. As I left Como in South Park I felt worried and intimidated about the mountains ahead of me.(Hover for photo captions.)


Colorado 2020 Diagonal: Expedition Stats

Map of India's diagonal hike across Colorado in 2020
I charted my hike in red across the Colorado map, a wild woman’s waltz along my diagonal yellow transect line. Many people helped me along the way, the Friends of India’s Diagonal Expedition Colorado (FIDE CO).

Official stats for India’s Diagonal Expedition Colorado:

  • 732 miles hiked
  • Waltz partner: Matilda the Gregory backpack
  • Started expedition May 11, finished August 18, 100 days
  • 65 days of hiking in 5 segments
  • 35 days during expedition needed for route planning, scouting, food resupply, water caching, rest
  • 44 days hiking solo, 21 with friends
  • Cumulative elevation gain: about 50,300 ft. = Mt. Everest + Denali
  • Hiking path: dirt roads 31 days, paved roads 14, public land trails 14, private ranches 6
  • Where I slept: tent 39 nights, Bessie the 4Runner 9, motels 9, friends’ houses 8

Colorado Transect: The Joys of Paper Maps

“Wow, you’re starting in the southeast corner of Colorado. I just love Durango and Telluride. The mountains are fantastic.”

“No, not that corner, the SOUTHEAST corner, at Kansas and Oklahoma, the high plains and Picketwire Canyon.” I put my fingers to my forehead.

“Oh. Near Pueblo?” My good friend who has lived in Colorado for 30 years wrinkles her brow.

“About 150 miles east of Pueblo, but close enough.” I am baffled that most of my friends can’t draw a map of Colorado even though it is square. I yearn for the paper restaurant placemats of my childhood showing a map of colorful Colorado beneath my plate of fried chicken, with icons for oil, corn, and cattle areas, major highway lines, and the plains, mountains, and plateaus. Nobody looks at a state paper map anymore, choosing the convenient get-there-now tunnel vision of Google Maps.

I began this journey by inking my red diagonal line from SE to NW on a paper GTR Recreational Map of Colorado in January 2020. I then transferred that line to a sequence of 14 regional maps showing federal land ownership along the way. I could see the big picture of my journey on paper that spanned three pool tables.