Announcing May-August 2022 CO NE-SW Expedition

India hiking to get fit for 2022 diagonal

The “other” Colorado diagonal kept calling my name after I completed the SE-NW diagonal in 2020, so in February 2022 I got jazzed up and started endurance training and route planning. In mid-May I will start hiking from the northeast corner, near Julesburg, and follow the sun southwest, hopefully arriving at the Four Corners monument near Towaoc in early August.

Follow my 2022 adventure! Sign up for the e-newsletter (coming soon) that will go out once or twice a week with summaries of wild doings and links to longer blog posts. Or follow my posts on Facebook or Instagram that will also link to this blog.

Raise money for wildlife. I had dinner with Colorado Governor Polis a few weeks ago at an event sponsored by the Logan County Cattlewomen. Polis asked who I was doing the hike for. Good idea, Guv! I am now doing the hike as a fundraiser for Audubon Rockies, a great fit with my hike’s focus on nature and water. And I love birds. Look for the launch of the fundraiser in early May.

Become a FIDE! Friends of India’s Diagonal Expedition (FIDE) are folks who help me out along my journey. Let me camp in your cow pasture or backyard. Arrange to resupply me with food or water or provide a ride into town. Keep me company along the way by hiking even a little ways with me or saying hi at dinnertime. Just let me know you’re coming.

Use my contact page to reach me, or Facebook message me.

The 2022 Colorado diagonal transect of Colorado. I will hike near this red line from the northeast to southwest corners of my square state.

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

TAP or HOVER over images for captions, 50 photos.

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.

Colorado Transect Animal Photos

In the summer of 2020 I hiked 732 miles across Colorado from the southeast to northwest corners across the prairie, mountains, and sagebrush steppe.

HOVER over or TAP images for animal and location, 39 photos.

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.

Colorado Transect: Press and Podcasts

Colorado Transect: Final 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.

 

Colorado Transect: Planning for a Dream

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.

CO map of India's diagonal expedition line

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.

Squirrelodactyl, the official mascot of the Friends of India's Diagonal Expedition: Colorado
Logo design by Charli Mandel, my daughter

 

Some Favorite Nature Books

My nature bookshelf

I try to keep my library to fewer than about 1,200 books, but there are so many good ones! Here are my favorites from the nature shelves:

  • The Nature Fix, by Florence Williams
  • Encounters with the Archdruid, by John McPhee
  • Peaks, Plateaus and Plains: The Ecology of Colorado, by Allen Crockett
  • In Beaver World, by Enos Mills
  • Dirt: a Love Story, edited by Barbara Richardson
  • North American Mammals, by Roger Caras
  • The Song of the Dodo, by David Quammen
  • A Neotropical Companion, by John Kricher
  • Wilderness Management, by Hendee and Dawson
  • Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin
  • The Voyage of the Beagle, by Charles Darwin
  • Do Elephants Have Knees?, by Charles Ault
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan

Parody Titles for The Dinosaur’s Daughter

The Girl with No Dress: the incredible story of a girl raised by dinosaurs (The Girl with No Name)

Gray is the New Pink: my three years in a dinosaur quarry (Orange is the New Black)

Dig, Question, Screw: one woman’s search for everything in stone (Eat, Pray, Love)

Beyond Dead Animals: growing up inside paleontology and my harrowing escape (Beyond Belief)

Impertinent: surviving Colorado Springs and paleontology (Troublemaker)

Paleo Pinup: the incredible true story of a bone addict’s double life (High Achiever)

Digging up Alícé: one American girl discovers the wisdom of a Laurasian upbringing (Bringing up Bébé)

Dig Up: women, pickaxes, and the will to dig up (Lean In)

Digging and Driving: and other Woody blunders (Drinking and Tweeting)

Call the Bone Digger: a memoir of discovery, passion, and odd characters (Call the Midwife)

Battle Hymn of the Dinosaur’s Daughter (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother)