Expectations vs. Reality
I’m used (with a reason) to think of America as the place of the big, open spaces where one can be well away from the human things. I appreciate that as much as I miss it in over-stuffed Europe and that’s basically why I keep coming back.
I spent a good part of my CT trip waiting for that to happen. While Colorado is still far from the “one valley, one road” european standard, the CT was flirting with the asphalt world much more often than I hoped for. Crossing those front ranges meant waiting for the bigger mountains to take the trail beyond tree line but then came the ski resorts. The Sawatch were next to take me where there’s nothing but mountains but they only did so when I took an off-CT alternate. Cochetopa was meant to be the gap between the two big ranges and the San Juan mnts. would be the last chance at real wilderness… partially blurred by too many crossing dirt roads and that last stare at the huge expanse of the Weminuche Wilderness while the CT would take the other way.
I can’t and won’t say I was deceived. The CT is still a great trail in a great setting but too many times I missed the feeling of being really away from civilization, something that just happened everytime I hiked in North America before but not so much this time.
Hiking in Colorado
While civilization was hardly ever as far as I’d had expected, the density was clearly low compared to Europe. It’s extrange to me how many trails are shared with bicycle traffic and some even with motorized traffic but fortunately neither were commonly found. Bicycles can still be ok if the riders behave but seeing motorcycles in some remote spot spoilt some fine moments. They just don’t belong there and I can’t understand how they can be allowed at all.
The camping is straightforward: welcoming forest with nice, open ground under the big trees. Setting up in the alpine is an attractive option, particularly thought about during the glorious morning blue skies but starts looking not such a good idea in the afternoon cloud build up and it took some leap of trust to allow myself to pitch my little tarp beyond the tree line.
Hiking and mountaineering are highly valued activities in Colorado and it shows. The playground is just awesome.
Not many people on the trails except for the occasional day-hiking hot spot. Out of those, most hikers were multi-day backpackers with which it was usually nice to share some conversation. Trail life tends to take the best out of us all.
Trail angelling is not at, say, PCT level but there were still some goodies hidden for passing hikers (so thank you angels for those). Trail towns were really nice, mostly compact and with some character owing to their mining past. I had a really nice time every time I went down to town.
The CT is very well graded, maintained and signed so it’s the ideal place to hike long daily distances. 25 miles were quite standard for me without any bigger effort than just keep on hiking for the whole day. A 30 mile day was not any difficult either but required a bit more discipline.
This was probably the first time in my backpacking “career” that I didn’t go anywhere beyond I’d already been before but that’s something I could expect. It was still a fantastic trip and a great first approach to backpacking in that new territory that the Rockies are for me. I’m sure it won’t be the last time.