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More form the Colorado Trail

Beautiful little pond behind a beaver dam on the way down section 24 near Silverton
Some deer eating a snack above the tree line
Saw quite a few marmots playing around in the rocks

The eastern collegiate loop

It is day 26 and I am at mile 357.8 in lake city. This town is full of Texans on ohv’s. Got lucky and hitched a ride into town with 3 other hikers yesterday. Hopefully the hitch back is easy. I just went through the eastern collegiate loop and the flat continental divide section that leads up to the San Juan mountains. I only had 1 bar for most of this less appealing hike. I would have done the western collegiate but there was still a lot of snow. Someday I will do the CDT and have another opportunity as they are part of main trail.

Cool lake as I came down to the the road that goes into Buena Vista.

The Harvard lakes. One of the better parts of the eastern loop.

You seen a lot of teepee structures in these parts. Plenty of poles scattered about.

How I got the name Shady Stix and section 8

So I’ve been hiking around since October and I new about trail names but I figure it wasn’t just something you came up with on your own. So one day I was watching March madness with my sister and they did a story on a team and one of the guys nicknames was Stix. My sister said that would be a good trail name for you. I thought about it and it made sense. My hiking poles are call sticks. Got this from Manny in Texas. There’s a lot of sticks on the trail and it’s a four letter word. I’m sure I’m leaving something out. So when I started my section hike on the pct I introduced myself as Stix. After awhile Chris the Aussie and I started hiking at the same pace. He was great company so this worked out great. The lower elevations in SoCal are hot and I was always on the lookout for the best shade to rest. Chris would say how about here…and I would say no let’s try for better. So one day Chris said what do you think of the name Shady. I liked it and decided to keep both. So I have a first and last trail name. Mr. Stix

I noticed this creek further down and it didn’t look as clear as the creek I just filled up my bottles at. If you look closely you can see where a muddy side creek mixes with the clear water above.

Evidence of a small avalanche. I saw some much larger than this and walked threw one that crossed the trail. What a mess.

Up high in the mountains and me at Kokomo pass. Not as hard as 7 but still a lot of work.

Everyone is talking about section 7

Yesterday morning I hiked up to the 1st water source after crossing hwy 9 between breck and Frisco. I fired up the stove and made coffee. Then as I was heating water for my bacon and eggs my fuel ran out. I took a nap and thought about going back to get more. Then coming up the trail was fun dip, Vulcan, bean, sky and cracker. They encouraged me to come with and get fuel in copper mountain. I did just that and it was probably a good choice considering we were going up into some deep wet snow.

This was the long traverse over the slush. I did fall once but I was able to stop myself from sliding down 200 feet or so.

Me finishing the long traverse. Cracker is the small speck behind me.

Hiking the Colorado Trail

I started The Colorado Trail on June 28th at 1 pm in Waterton Canyon. The first couple of days were hot down in the low elevation. On the third day, although I did not need a break, I hitched into Baily on a dirt forest road. It only took about 5 minutes and I was picked up by a couple out on a day hike. I stayed at a hostel and got a covered campsite for $20. The fourth day was a beautiful hike that started with a climb up to a meadow that must have been over five miles long. The meadow is in the photo above. After the meadow the trail descended down to the next water source with campsites along the trail. While walking down it started to hail hard enough that I had to hide under a tree to avoid the painful pelting. Stayed warm that night but everything was a bit damp. The next day I decided to hitch into Fairplay which is the town the show Southpark is based on. Again I didn’t really need to go to town but I was killing time to let the snow melt in the sections after Breckenridge. The next morning the hitch back to the trail took a little longer but it was nine in the morning. I did a shorter hike on day six, still killing time for the melt and I wanted to see if some more hikers came through. On July fourth I hiked a 20 mile day over Georgia pass which is where The Colorado trail joins the continental divide trail for about 300 miles. I met some CT hikers going to Durango with me and some CDT hikers going the other way headed for Canada. It’s day eight and I’m sitting in a coffee shop charging batteries.

Section Hike on the PCT

On May 25th I was dropped off at mile 26 on the PCT which is where it crosses I-8 near San Diego. My goal was to beat my longest hike so far, which was 12 days on the Arizona trail. I figured I could do this around the time I got to Palm Springs at I-10, where I could hop on a Greyhound and head back to Phoenix. At first I felt alone on the trail not really seeing anyone except a few hikers here and there. Then on the day I left Warner Springs I started to hike and camp with several of the same people each night. After awhile on the trail you start to notice that people get ahead of you or fall behind you only to have everyone meet again in the resupply towns. It was a good time so I decided to keep going until the last week of June. A total of 428 miles in 29 days. This would give me time to go back to Phoenix and get ready for the Colorado Trail. One thing I learned from another hiker on the PCT was that Colorado got 400% snowpack this year. Should be an interesting hike.

After coming down from Mt. Laguna it started to get hot and there was not a lot of water. Fortunately trail angels put water at this intersection along with the bridge at scissors crossing, before barrel spring, Mike’s place and Mary’s place. Without their help I don’t think the hikers could make it.

Mike is some guy I did not meet but his property is near the trail and he fills a huge water tank for hikers in a remote otherwise waterless location. The bubble is the large concentration of hikers that start in late April and early May. Apparently during peak season, when the bubble comes through, Mike’s place is quite the party. When I got there it was pretty much a ghost town except for about 6 other hikers I met that day. We camped in the yard and hung out on the porch. I was with most of these people on and off until my last day. I named us the late start crew.

Oregon Coast

This is the best river I found while exploring the coast. It is elk river and I was able to swim in the beautiful turquoise waters. Several of the rivers further north were brown in color and I suspect it is because they flow from coastal mountains that do not get much snow pack in the winter. There was a larger river further south that I thought would compare to the elk but the area had a wildfire about three years ago. It’s unbelievable how trashed the forest gets after a fire.

It can be hard to get good shots in the full sun on the beach but I did manage to find this one.

Had a nice cloudy morning without fog.

The Mazatzal Divide

Passed a few interesting cairns in an extremely rocky section after the east verde river.

The rocks went from what appeared to be moon rocks to what looked like pieces of shattered animal bones.

After charging my phone and sampling the brew and burgers at That Brewery, I returned to my campsite near the pine trailhead to find some interesting clouds above me.

My trail running shoes are hanging in there despite getting shredded up by the az rocks. I love my two pound tent. The five inch brim on my new hat may not be en vogue on the trail but my face loves me for it. Costco sticks are the way to go since the tips do not last for long when your hiking full-time.

Water along the Arizona Trail

This is where the trail crosses the east verde river. It was the most refreshing part of the trip. I submerged my body in the cold water. It felt like I was a kid again back in some Wisconsin summer of the past.

Springtime in 2019 on the AZT was a great year for water. I did not have to carry more than one liter except for a couple dry stretches indicated by the guthook app on my phone. Many hikers would agree that they would not be able to make it without guthook. Those who hiked these long trails before smartphones were a tough bunch. The feeling that you may have lost the trail is unsettling and to not know if the next water source is flowing would be scary. Not to mention the disappointment of carrying 5 liters of water at two pounds each only to find there is plenty of wet stuff ahead on the trail.

One of many seasonal creeks where I filtered water. Most of the time it was crystal clear and tasted better than most of the bottled stuff.

Red rock spring near pine. This was bone dry when I was here last fall. Cold, clear and flowing well. It had and earthy taste.

Pine spring, a little further down the highline portion of the AZT, needs an upgrade. Below the spring there was water and mud, but I don’t think this box was doing it’s job of catching it.

This is a shot looking down at another tasty seasonal creek. I don’t think it takes long for the Arizona heat to dry these up. Who would hike in that heat anyway?

This is oak spring which is about 4 miles before pine. I was heading south and the next good source was 15 miles unless you’re willing to drink mud water with the cows. Needless to say I did not mind packing 3 liters of this being it was the clearest most pristine spring I’ve seen in Arizona. The blood orange was added for a little color. Yummy.

Browns Peak

This is me and the other 3 peaks. If you read the trail description for the browns peak summit you may be a bit scared to attempt this walk in the park. Although it was the hardest climb I had ever done I wasn’t that bad. The trail was easy to follow since so many people have conquered it over the years. Many parts were nearly vertical and my rock climbing experience proved valuable. There were good hand holds that gave me confidence to keep going. Once I was on top I enjoyed the views and had a look at the notebook left in a jar for people to sign their names etc. The little notebook was full, so hopefully someone will switch it out. I wonder if these notes and names are kept somewhere that can be looked up or if they are lost forever.

Cool looking tree I spotted on the way down.

Right along the trail there is this old car pile up full or bullet holes.

I passed this on the first day and the skull was not there. Three days later I passed it again and took this pic.

Four Peaks Revisited

On this trip I wanted to complete the four peaks section of the AZT, so I parked at the sunflower trailhead and hiked sobo (southbound) against the nobo thru-hiker traffic. I passed several hikers and I was still amazed at how small some of their packs were. Not long into the hike I came upon boulder creek which had plenty of water and some pools that were worthy of a hiker bath. I believe there are a few pools that last beyond when the creek drys up and it could be a good swimming hole if you’re willing to sweat out the heat to get there in late spring or summer. After about 8 miles the trail turns into a road for the remaining 12 miles up to the browns peak trailhead. While hiking along the road this manzanita growing out of a rock caught my eye. It looked like a little bonsai tree.

Reavis Ranch

I got a ride to Picketpost trailhead with plans to complete the 45 mile Superstition section of the AZT. I brought food for five days but I figured I would probably be out in four. I was well rested and had a good 14 mile hike on the first day. Within the first hour I came to what was the deepest water crossing on the trip. I decided to try and keep my feet dry on the first day since I was nursing a blister from the previous trip. It was caused by my stiff low cut approach shoes. I put on my sandals and waded through the knee deep swift current. After a bit I put my new trail running shoes back on. This was my first time hiking with this style of shoe and so far I can see why they are popular with the thru-hiking crowd. Halfway through the day I was past by a couple followed closely by a solo hiker. They were all on there way to Utah. At the next water crossing they were all taking a break and filling water bottles. The solo hiker said something like “just get your feet wet.” They watched as I changed shoes and crossed the water. On the other side I explained to the solo hiker that I had a blister and he asked if I wanted some Leukotape. Thinking that he had called it liquid tape I said sure. It’s better that moleskin he assured me. It’s another tip that I’ll add to the list.

After taking a little nap in the shade behind an old fence built of stones, I wandered up the trail to mud spring which runs down into an old cement trough that was built in the 50’s according to the date scratched into the edge. The water, likely used by cows, would be ok if you were desperate, but the streams were all flowing so it was not needed at this time. Another hiker came along and introduced himself as Greyhound. He offered me a closed fist handshake and I bumped fists and said my name was Nathan. I imagine this is the standard hiker handshake because our hands can be really dirty and it wouldn’t feel right subjecting everyone I meet to my sweaty paws. He said there was another one coming and soon enough a blonde braided girl with mirrored shades and a big smile approached us from the south. He said “This is Nathan” and she replied “Hi, I’m Sunkist.” They continued on passing up the questionable water of mud spring. I felt kind of left out that I did not have a trail name and I wondered if it was cool to name yourself or if you were supposed to wait until other hikers came up with one for you.

The next morning I woke up to a steep climb that took at least an hour reaching a saddle near the top of most of the peaks in that area. The wind must have been 20-30 mph as I struggled along the trail which was now a 4×4 road heading towards Roger’s trough trailhead. A truck going the opposite direction passed me and the driver said “Don’t worry, it gets better.” And he was right. The trail changed back to single track and went down into the protection of the mountains. After hiking through lots of mud and water no longer worried about my wet feet I came to the beautiful oasis of Reavis ranch. The photo above is near where I camped on the north end. The cottonwood trees are a nice contrast to the otherwise rocky brown desert landscape.

View of four peaks after climbing over reavis saddle.
Shade tress on the left. Wind blocks on the right.

Four Peaks

This was my first summit attempt of Brown’s Peak, the highest of the four. I started at Lake Roosevelt which makes this about 20 miles with 5500 feet of elevation gain if you make it to the top. Cheaters with 4×4’s can get 2 miles away if the roads are open. On the first day I ran into deep snow on the north facing slopes. I almost turned around and went back the first morning. I’m glad I did not because an AZT thru-hiker caught up to me after a few miles and I would have felt like a looser if I had been walking the other way. He left me with a few tips that should prove to be helpful in my quest. Keep your phone on airplane mode and your feet are going to get wet. He said his feet had been wet 50 percent of the time since he started in Mexico. We saw some pretty large cat tracks following the snowy trail for awhile. On the second morning I woke up at the base of the peaks and I went up the trail a bit. It was full of crunchy snow going uphill. My quads said no and I decided it wasn’t the day. Good thing I did because the hike out through the snow was much harder than the hike in. It was melted and I felt like it was the first day on my new feet. By the time I got out I was exhausted. I’m gonna wait for some Arizona heat to fix the trail before I try again.

The right place at the right time

You cannot predict it. Those who try will go mad.

It’s not always on the map

While driving around in Southern California near the PCT I came across a road in the national forest that led to this boulder near an empty self pay campground. Hard to believe I had the gem to myself. The next night I did some free camping halfway up the same road. Score.

Waiting for the Sun

On my first visit to the Kelso Dunes I woke up early to the kind of clouds that provide poor lighting. I moved on as I often have to and figured maybe next time. On the second trip I got what I wanted and I hiked the predominant crest with full sun.

The sand seemed to be smiling at me.

View to the west in Mojave National Preserve.

Snow Capped Sand

While dodging they cold and stormy weather that February 2019 brought us, I toke another scenic drive from the Mesquite Dunes to…

the Kelso dunes. I am pretty sure the snow on top of this sand mountain is rare.

Snow in Death Valley

I woke up in the back of my truck. This was the first trip with my camper top on the back and it was a great wind and rain protector. Now I can add snow to the list because when I tried to lift up the back window, which usually takes minimal effort, it wouldn’t budge. I tried harder and it opened to reveal a blanket of snow covering everything in sight.

I drove down into the valley and the snow seemed to stop at about 1000 feet. Below that there was lots of water on the roads. Many travelers were stuck waiting for the mountain passes to open.

I let the snow melt for awhile since the pass had been closed due to the storm. Then I headed back to Panamint Valley to see how things looked on that side of the mountain. Must be some sort of micro-climate going on because the only snow was on the slope where I was camped. While over here I passed a cyclist with full road gear two times. He had to pedal up the mountain shown above. Later while out on a walk a dusk I saw him wizzing down the road wondering if he was going to stop at the camp. I turns out he did. Tex came back that night along with the Danish guys and the recently divorced dude. Tex and I chatted with the biker before the others arrived. He was from Scotland and was biking from Canada to Argentina. The others rolled in and we played a few games of bullshit until our hands were too cold to hangout any longer.

Panamint Valley

After camping at Emigrant camp for the first night I woke up and headed for the valley that runs parallel to Death Valley on the west side. I saw some ghost town ruins on the map so I hit the dirt roads to check them out. Not the typical ghost town you would expect but wells worth the effort.

After the ghost town I came across this mailbox. One the other side of the road there was a driveway and a port-a-potty. A sign said private property, by appointment only. It’s easy to believe that there are ufo’s in the area when there is a navel weapons center right next door. They often put on a show and fly jets over Death Valley at night. When I got back to the campground there was a little girl in pterodactyl costume playing near hear father’s van. Later that night I taught a group of campers how to play yuker explaining how I was 90% sure I had it right. The group included two guys form Denmark who where traveling for 6 months, A guy traveling from Texas who said he was going to go to Thailand next and a guy from California who was celebrating his divorce.

Kelso Dunes

This was the first time I made the trip down to the Mojave National Preserve. It’s similar to Death Valley with a lot less people. Plenty of secret car camping.

Saw several nature made sand paintings.