Lessons From the Colorado Trail

I shared my Colorado is Forever: A Colorado Trail Thru Hike video with the Colorado Trail Foundation and they enjoyed the video, especially the narration. They asked if they could publish it in they semiannual newsletter.  I figured I'd post the narration here too.

No two journeys are the same. The moments that define a journey often blossom unexpectedly. These temporal blossoms unveil unique experiences and teach distinct lessons. These are the lessons I learned while hiking from Denver to Durango on The Colorado Trail.

Every day is a new adventure; each day a new breath of crisp air, a new view, a new struggle, a new lesson. Unpredictably, the Trail unfolds before my feet. The hope of Durango leads me through the next mile, through storms and snowbanks. I remain steadfast in my goal, yet focused on the beauty of the moment.

Packing light is a choice. I packed no phone, GPS, music player, or tablet. I minimized pack weight, but more importantly I left behind distractions of modern life. The clutter of life is more than extra ounces in a pack, it burdens the soul, hinders creativity, and limits our potential.

Life on the Trail is simple. I wake up when the early morning light illuminates my tent. I pack up my belongings, eat, and make miles. I filter water at creek crossings, eat, and make miles. When the sun drops low I unpack, eat and study my maps for tomorrow’s journey. The Trail reveals clarity. Each day I progress toward a defined goal.

We are made to move. No great story is told of stationary individuals. Stories are journeys and journeys are stories. Life is defined by movement; once we stop, life will pass us by.

At times the Trail wanders through wooded valleys with views limited by the density of the trees and the curvature of the Trail. In the woods the big picture is obscured. Yet at times the Trail traverses alpine ridges with limitless views. Behind me the horizon sits saturated with memories and the horizon ahead foreshadows adventures and obstacles to come. 

The Trail teaches patience. With the threat of dry creeks, forest fires, and detours, I keep my head up and my eyes fixed on the western horizon. Dwelling on circumstances beyond my control will not get me any closer to Durango.

My muscles become fatigued after steep climbs and long days, but it’s the psychological climbs that make or break a thru-hike. The mental challenges characterize the journey. With each challenge the Trail refines weakness into strength, uncertainty into confidence, discomfort into satisfaction.

Even though I’m solo on the CT, in the end it’s all about the people. The people who thru-hike the same narrow tread, the people I briefly interact with, the people I think about while hiking each mile, and the people I share my stories with.

What once was an ambitious dream materialized like wildflowers for a brief season that then faded into mere memories. Over time, I will slowly lose vivid details of the adventure, but the lessons I’ve learned will remain. Committing to the trail and all of the unknowns is risky, but the rewards are as vast as the mountainous landscape through which the trail traverses.

Mile by mile, moment by moment, Colorado whispers truth in the thin breeze, defines extravagance with the hillsides, and beckons with its timeless adventures. Colorado is forever.