Author Archives: ghsmith76
It is May 1973 and I am finishing up my first year of college. The Vietnam War is winding down and Watergate is ramping up. The Second Quarter is faintly calling me to seek my passion. However, I’m still going through the motions to pursue the passion that was typically prescribed to a midwestern kid with an aptitude for Science and Math. I should become a doctor, own a big house and become a member of the Country Club. That “Dream” appeared to be alive and well after earning a 3.7 GPA for my freshman year at Indiana University in a premed curriculum.
The month of May for Hoosiers is mostly about the Indy 500, however, attention is also given to the Kentucky Derby, won that year in record setting time by a horse named Secretariat. Secretariat then won the the Preakness later in May which stimulated talk of the first Triple Crown of horse racing in 25 years. But the Indy 500 was the big show and I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend via a friend’s access to a press pass which got us into the track the night before the race. This was an unbelievably fortunate opportunity for a couple of 19 year olds. That night before the race was surreal. We strolled through Gasoline Alley, kissed the bricks at the finish line and gazed out over the raucous crowd partying outside the track. I know that we spent the night inside the track but I don’t actually remember any sleep. We did not have a ticket so we positioned ourselves at an excellent view point in the infield of the first turn.
Rain was the big issue holding up the start of the race for many hours but finally it was about to begin. This was so exciting because it was the first time that I had ever been to the actual race. I had never even seen the race live, you see, if you lived in Indiana you could only listen to the the race on the radio. The pace laps were complete and the roar of the start of the race was deafening until the sound of crashing cars and smoke rising from the end of the straightaway took over my anticipated moment. A terrible mishap had occurred during the start, single cars passed by us and then I so vividly remember seeing a wheel roll all the way around the first turn. It started raining soon thereafter, there would be no race on that Memorial Day May 28th, 1973. In fact rain only allowed for an abbreviated 133 lap race to be completed 2 days later ending after the fatal crash of Swede Savage.
We Hoosiers transitioned out of the somber mood of the deadliest Indy 500 May ever as we started out summer. I got a job working at the Purdue University Agronomy Farm doing something special to alfalfa plants for some professor’s research. My best friend, Rick, and I umpired little league games or were playing basketball in the evenings. I was in-between serious girl friends so dates were not happening a lot. It was a great summer in Lafayette, IN. On June 9th Secretariat did win the Triple Crown by Winning the Belmont Stakes in stunning dominance. Rick was more in tune to horse racing but it was I who pushed that we should go up to Chicago on June 30th to see Secretariat run in the Arlington Invitational.
A road trip to Arlington Park was a fairly big effort for 19 year old boys who would have to borrow a parent’s car, luckily our 3rd amigo, Pager, had a car, a 63 Chevy Biscayne, and he was up for the adventure. As usual I was the one who worked out most of the logistics. We did a pretty good job navigating our way to the park for a full day of horse racing. Rick knew a bit about betting the horses since his father had taken him to the track a few times, but this was all new to me. Pager was commissioned by a neighbor to place the lucky number bets of 4-7 and 7-4 on the Daily Double.
So the number 4 or 7 horse had to win the first 2 races. We had a winner in the first race but our horse in the second race named “Go Father Go” was a bit of a long shot. Well what a thrill we had cheering “Go Father Go” to victory in that second race meaning we had a Daily Double Ticket worth $600. So here are 3 young men looking at $600 and greed won out. We decided to keep the money and tell Pager’s friend that we did not get to the track in time to place the bet. We were actually very fortunate to have gotten there in time so we rationalized that we deserved the money. We all felt a bit guilty about this, but oh what day we would have with some real money to play with.
We did not increase our winnings but we did not lose it all either. The opportunity to see Secretariat run was awesome. Secretariat was challenged by only 3 horses so the betting was on Secretariat or any of the other 3 to win. Secretariat won in an impressive performance and paid $2.10 on a $2.00 bet. I bet $20 on Secretariat and won a buck. It had been a great day at the race track and now we had plans to find a good restaurant on the way home. We were feeling quite bold as we strategized how we should order a drink with our meal. The problem for us was that we had no clue what drink we should order. Pager only knew of a drink named “Manhattan” so that is what we would order. We figured that if we flashed a $100 bill they would think we were old enough to drink. I can only imagine how stupid we must have looked as we tried to be cool ordering our dinner and by the way we would all like a Manhattan as well. Well the restaurant really didn’t care so we all got to experience our first mixed drink and then boast to each other all the way home how well we handled ourselves.
Summer ended and we all went back to our college lives. But something was different, I was starting to truly think about my future. The concept of adventure was creeping into my decision process. When I pictured myself as a doctor I saw a stable career serving a community of patients for the rest of my life. But that did not translate as adventure to me. I would not classify the Indy 500 or the trip to Chicago as great adventures, but I do think that I gained confidence in knowing that adventures were out there and that I wanted to experience them.
In Lake City I needed to reevaluate my overall trek goals. I was not making the milage to easily complete the CT before winter so I decided that completing the entire Colorado Trail was not going to happen. I had received many reports about how hiking through the open range cattle and the affect they had on water sources was not overly desirable. So I decided to skip the next couple of sections, primarily the Rio Grande National Forest. So I hitched a ride over to Gunnison to set myself up to return to the CT at Monarch Pass. My overnight visit to Gunnison proved to be one of the most enjoyable town visits of the adventure. Great beer at the High Alpine Brewery and and a great steak at the Ol’ Miner Steakhouse.
I was rejoining the CT on August 30 near the northbound entrance to the Collegiate West Loop. After a few miles I came upon a confusing sign which signaled a detour around Monarch Ski Area due to timber work being done. I knew there was a detour on the CT but I did not get the message partly due to the location of the map and also possibly due to my being colorblind and not really seeing the red and green lines on the map. I ended up hiking into the Monarch Ski Area where the Director of Operations rescued me by driving me back to where I should have been. He was truly interested in why I screwed up and I think he planned on changing some of the signage. I would say that Monarch Ski Area looked like a very nice ski mountain.
The trail again kept me above tree line and I did catch some rain showers on that first day back.
I had another great campsite above Ross Lake Reservoir next to a small lake. The next climb was up the Middle Fork of the South Arkansas River which took me over to the Hancock Lakes where I had another awesome campsite.
This was Labor Day weekend so I was sharing the area with weekend campers. The following day, Sunday, took me up the Alpine Tunnel Trail which much of it was the old railroad bed.
Again this was beautiful country and I ended up with a sweet campsite next to a stream where it was perfect to have a fire. Labor Day brought more of the same beauty and perfect weather, but I knew bad weather was on it’s way.
I ended up with another great campsite that I was alerted to in the Guthook Guide App and that evening gave me one of the best sunset cloud shows I have ever witnessed.
The day before I had broken one of my trekking poles but I determined that I could make it due if I could tape the seam together. As is my luck a SOBO backpacking couple came along just as I was working on this and they gave me much better tape to accomplish my task.
September 2nd would take me to Cottonwood Pass which presented a decision point.
I would need a few more days to get to Twin Lakes and a few more to Leadville. In those days I would need to cross over Lake Ann Pass and Hope Pass both substantially exposed. The thunderstorms that were coming were actually forming as I approached Cottonwood Pass so I decided to hitch a ride into Buena Vista and reevaluate my situation. After confirming how bad the next 5 days of weather appeared and discussing with my wife how it would be nice if I decided to head for home to help with watching our 15 month old grandson, I decided I had experienced the best of the Colorado Trail and that there was no need to weather the coming storms. So the Colorado Trail Adventure was over, but it was an awesome adventure whee I believe I experienced the best of the CT. A few day later when I was beginning my drive home I took this short video of the storms where I would have been hiking.
So I felt good about my decision.
My first week on the Colorado Trail, Durango to Silverton, was awesome and my visit to Silverton was successful for resupply, beer and and great steak dinner at Handlebars. I highly recommend the Avalanche Brewery and the Sultan IPA which is just a few doors down from the Blair Street Hostel. Overall Silverton is a great mountain town, however, they are a bit obsessed with OHVs. I did take a zero day mostly to allow my tired body to recover.
Jan, who runs the Hostel gave shuttle rides back to Molas Pass for $5 so I was back on the trail on August 23rd. Molas Pass is at 10886′ but you then hike down to the Animas River and the train tracks at 8918′. I did get to see the Durango to Silverton Tourist train go by and it did look like a good ride.
After the river you climb up the Elk Creek Canyon to above 12000′. I climbed as far as I could so to set myself up for the final hard climb the next day. I settled for a nice campsite in the trees where I had deer guests and learned a lesson about keeping my backpack close to the tent. Rodents chewed my shoulder strap where my handkerchief was attached and nearly severed that strap. I was fearful for the rest of my trek that the strap was going to break apart. This campsite also presented the most aggressive mosquitoes that I encountered. The next day would include the 5 avalanche debris fields that created some delay, however, routes had been created through them that were not too difficult.
The climb out of Elk Creek Canyon was a serious effort, but the beauty was inspiring. There was a stretch that got a bit technical but mostly it was about the altitude.
I maintained a slow but steady pace to finally arrive at what would be days above tree line. The view from the top looking back was awesome.
Once above tree line the wind became an issue, but the weather was good which allowed for various exposed campsites.
I ended up camping next to a small lake that appeared to have fish in it. Hiking above tree line reminded me of the Lofoten Islands but in a special Rocky Mountain way. Yes, the Rocky Mountains are really big rocks that dominate all of the vistas. Simply gorgeous.
My next campsite was again exposed but perched above a beautiful valley.
The following day I needed to position myself for the ascend to the CT High Point. The campsite again provided a fabulous view.
The High Point on the Colorado Trail is 13,271′ but you don’t sense that it is a high point since it is such a gradual climb. The wind was really blowing but the skies were blue and the temperature was fairly nice. The views continued to be amazing as I approached a view of Lake San Cristobal next to Lake City. I needed to get to water that was near a Yurt where a herd of sheep were being managed. The sheep covered the trail but were no problem to move through. I decided to hike on far enough to get away from the sheep. I again camped on a totally exposed hillside. The following day I passed open range cattle grazing. I needed to get to Spring Creek Pass Trailhead in time to catch a 12:30 pm shuttle back to Lake City. I stayed in the Ravens Rest Hostel making plans for what would be my next section.
I felt like this was the season I needed to take on the Colorado Trail. My trek in the Lofoten Islands of Norway got me in pretty good shape but it also meant I would get a late start on the CT. That translated to starting in Durango with the northbound goal of hiking to Denver. Normally I don’t focus on the through hike concept but I did initially hope to complete the entire CT. I was definitely onboard for the complete CT during my first week on the trail.
I knew that acclimating to the altitude was going to be critical for an old backpacker who was coming from an elevation of about 300′ in Oregon. So driving to Colorado was an excellent way to acclimate. Over about a week I adapted myself to the higher elevations of Colorado which enabled me to at least survive those initial days climbing up from Durango into the San Juan Mountains. Overall I believe that a late start on the CT is enhanced by taking on the northbound approach. Some positives were guarantees of maximum beauty in the San Juan’s, good water access thanks to a good snow year, and the sun is typically at your back (helpful for solar charging).
I was able to leave my car with a friend in Colorado Springs and receive a ride to the Durango Junction Creek Trailhead. I spent the night at the NFS Campground and started out on August 15th. I knew that the elevation climb over the next couple of days would be the greatest vertical change on the entire CT, close to 5000′ to Kennebec Pass but much more than that with the various undulations. The vertical alone would be tough but climbing from 7000′ to 12000′ feet is the real challenge. Once I reached 11000′ feet I was sucking air. Climbing at high altitude was slow and tiring, but thankfully I was not getting sick so my acclimation had worked.
The first day turned out to be longer then I might have planned, but water and campsite options dictate your decisions, So I had to go 14.5 miles with about 4000′ total ascent to Junction Creek for my first night. Yes you can push yourself the first day, but I sure was tired sharing the limited campsite space with about 15 other SOBO backpackers. I was getting acquainted with my various navigational aids: Guthook App, CT Databook, and my Garmin InReach Mini. Goal for Day 2 was Taylor Lake which I knew would push the altitude envelop but would set me up for the next days at that elevation. However, the 4000′ climb to Taylor Lake was brutal since high elevation took its toll. The last 500′ I would go about 20 feet and then rest, but I only had to cover about 8 miles so I had the time to slog along. I did have a bit of a headache at Taylor Lake, but nothing bad.
The trail to Taylor Lake was truly stunning. The beauty of the San Juan’s was exploding in perfect weather. Taylor Lake turned out to be a very nice campsite.
Day 3 would mean mostly hiking around 12000′ which amplified every uphill section. I was encouraged though because my body was not rebelling and I had hopes for getting stronger. However, water was known to be scarce in this section with a small seep of a stream as it was called as the only water for 22 miles.
The seep came after 7 miles which made for an easier day since that was my only campsite option. Unfortunately the seep occurred in a few places and from my northbound approach I ended up choosing to filter water out of the less desirable seep which ended up clogging my Katadyn water filter with mud. Oh well, live and learn.
But I did take advantage of the great viewpoint campsite just north of the seep. The following day meant 15 miles to the next reliable water, however, the terrain was not that tough so it turned out to be a good but I was tired. A strong motivator was the incredibly beautiful scenery that epitomize the San Juan’s. I do believe this is the most beautiful portion of the CT.
On my 5th day on the trail I was beginning to understand my challenges. One problem I have is loss of appetite while on the trail. This was not going to work for a sustained period of time so I would need to increase my calorie intake. I decided to address this issue in Silverton when I resupplied. Yes, Silverton, now I was starting to think about those nice cold IPA brews that I would have in town.
Blackhawk Pass presented some of the best hillsides of flowers that I saw on the CT. But not just here, the flowers were awesome throughout my CT Trek.
I was truly in heaven. The weather was fabulous and the scenery was amazing. My last night before Silverton was the beginning of many nights of being totally exposed above tree line, but the weather was cooperating. However, this day ended up being filled with smoke from a controlled burn.
My final push into Silverton at Molas Pass presented the most risky weather situation I had to deal with. Storms were forming but I felt like they were going to miss me to the south. Wrong, they moved north and overtook me when I had very little cover.
The hail was large enough to hurt so I had to essentially dive into a tree and hope that lightening would not choose that tree. I was lucky because a strike occurred very close. I was able to finish out the segment and hitchhike to Silverton from Molas Pass.
I suppose that I can consider myself a writer or at least a blogger and with that comes occasional encounters that motivate you to write an opinion or post. On my recent flight from London to Dallas (10 hours) I sat next to a young woman whom appeared to be exhausted but a few hours into the flight she wanted to talk. She was from Santa Rosa, CA, returning from a trip to Portugal with her Yoga Class. The experience was supposed to be for renewal and relaxation, however, it sounded like personalities got in the way. I was able to relate to her through my experiences in California. And she was inspired by the story of my sister who bailed out of her life in Los Angeles and returned to our hometown of Lafayette, IN. I told her that it was my sense that Californians have a lot of anxiety and she agreed. She wants out of that world, but how does that translate for her.
Back home in McMinnville, OR, I needed to visit my favorite watering hole, The Bitter Monk, where I could select a pint of IPA on draft for about $5 which would have cost me $15 in Norway. So I sit down with this man and woman who appeared to be somewhat connected to the hiking community. When I asked, they replied that they were adventurers, which was a good segue for me. Mike was a real adventurer or wonderer and it appeared that he had lived a tough life. Erin was a different kind of adventurer, one who combined mind, body and spirit. She owns a nearby Yoga Studio. Over my next 2 IPA’s I learned about the 8 Limbs of Yoga and about Forest Bathing. All of this seemed like ways of defining what I already knew as one who feels at home in the wilderness. I was impressed that Erin was passionate enough to help others learn of the health benefits that nature provides.
And the kicker that caused me to write this post was an article I just read from the Dihedral “Adventure Heals the Soul“. The post promoted the Blog Adventure Heals the Soul and a new video that the author, Natalie Rhea, produced:
The video deals with aspects of mental health and how nature healed her soul. A quote from Natalie resonated with what I have found as well, “There is no competition in nature, nature is a disruptor of inequality”. Again I am impressed that people like Natalie are communicating the value that nature has provided.
This sense of healing or health obtained from nature was a significant take-away I had from my adventure in Norway. Nature was at the forefront of Norwegian lives and they seemed to be reaping the benefits of that healthy life. How could you not be healthy living a village like this.
Village of Å
We came out from the Munkebu trek in the morning, got some supplies, and headed toward what would be our last trek on the Lofoten Islands, Andstabben. The trail looked great although we were warned that it had a few difficult sections.
We were also warned that the trail was difficult to find. And since we did not download a GPX file and were just relying on following a line on a map, we never did find the route to Andstabben.
However, we did have fun trying and our campsite over Lake Ågvatnet was pretty nice. The trailhead is the large tourist parking lot in the village of Å. We took the high trail to the south of the Lake trying to assume where it must cut up the mountain but we failed. We followed a potential trail up to a rock wall but somehow we just couldn’t find it. We also talked to another serious hiker who did not find it either. So we found the only flat area about the Lake and setup our campsite. The clouds were engulfing the Andstabben summit so we probably would not have completed the trek even if we had found the trail.
The morning brought a beautiful sunrise complete with a mirror lake.
The hike out took us past the Stock Fish wooden racks near the village of Å.
Finishing up our adventure in Å was appropriate for the ultimate Lofoten fishing village experience.
Coming out from Selfjord in the morning allowed us to resupply and start our trek to Munkebu, (Munkan), which offered one of the most spectacular 360 views of the islands. This trek was not part of the Great Crossing but it probably should be. This is a great hike with some of the most spectacular views of the Lofoten Islands. Our plan was to hike in far enough to setup for summiting Munkebu the following day with day packs and then return to our campsite for the second night. This worked out really well so that we could thoroughly enjoy the all that Munkebu offered.
The crowded trailhead is out of Sørvågen where the area offers nice lakeside park options for picnics. The beginning of the trail features a beautiful cascading waterfall. You have to climb some rock faces with the help of chains and then you pass by Lake Stuvdalsvatnet before you come to a rocky promontory.
We decided to camp just past where the trail veers to the right and begins its climb to Djupfjordheia at 510 m. We got an early start the next day so we were ahead of the other day hikers.
You then drop into a saddle area where there is a beautiful chalet that is used by the local hiking club.
The final climb to the summit begins right behind the chalet. This final climb up to 2513′ or 766 m is fairly straight up but the rewarding views are to die for.
We were the first to the summit but were joined by probably 20 hikers before we left.
We did take the high alternate route on our way down to rejoin the trail at Djupfjordheia on the way down.
The Great Crossing recommends Selfjord Bay over to a ferry boat on Kjerkfjorden but we opted for a two day trek over to Horseid Beach with a night at the beach and one on the saddle near the pass. We did some scouting of the area and determined that the more popular Kvalvika Beach was a bit too popular so we opted for the more remote Horseid Beach which after comparing with others determined that we made the right choice. This multi-day trek over to Horseid was a highlight of the entire trip.
The climb up to the pass took us around the bay and past Fageravatnet lake.
The trail had about everything with plenty of wet bogs to navigate. The route over the pass between Kråkhammar and Markan was just gorgeous.
We planned to camp on the saddle just before the pass on our return.
The hike from the pass to Horseid was a bit wet but then you reach the sands of the extended beach.
Plenty of campsites but we chose one right above the ocean rocks since the weather did not appear to be a risk.
The location was awesome and I even got a glimpse of the midnight sun when I woke myself up around midnight.
The next morning I spent a couple of hours just wandering along the rocks near the ocean taking in the magical beauty of this special place.
Here is a video that I try to capture the moment with.
We hung around for awhile the next day before we had to climb back up to the pass.
When we got to the saddle we could see that we had clear skies while the other side of the mountain toward Selfjord Bay was engulfed in a cloud.
The cloud was gone for our hike out the next morning but we still had plenty of wet and challenging trail to deal with.
Now on to Sørvågen where we headed up to the Munkebu Summit trail.
Jakob needed more time to rest his foot so I set out to complete the Great Crossing segments 4-5 which is Vikjorda connecting with Lake Store Krenggårsvatnet and on to Leknes. This was a 2 day trek which I was giving myself 3 days before meeting Jakob in Leknes. The trail starts our at Rebecca’s Cafe on highway 815 which unfortunately does not appear to be in operation any longer. The early kilometers presented a gentle climb around a lake before you are presented with the task to reach the ridge above, however, there is no trail so you choose your own route.
This was not difficult which is probably why no trail has evolved, however, a GPX route was important.
Once up on the ridge you rediscover a trail and work your way toward the peak of Dalstuva which is 534 m. I was prepared to crossover, however the peak was in a cloud so I opted to setup camp before the ascent. There were not many flat spots to setup a tent but the ground cover was a lush mossy bed which made for a really comfortable bed. All was good, the weather was not great but no rain.
I could hear the sheep bells in the distance but the next morning about 15 of them were perched on a ridge nearby wondering what the heck I was doing on their mountain.
The morning brought clearing of the cloud over Dalstuva so I headed up the peak. I was close to the top at about 10:00 am when the clouds came back and I found myself in a bit of a whiteout.
The trail was narrow and rather dangerous so I really could not proceed without visibility especially with an even steeper descent. So here I am about 50 m from the summit and I am stuck waiting for the cloud to clear. And it never did, so after a few hours of hoping and hopping up and down to stay warm I decided to be smart and just turn around.
This meant I would have to hitch hike to somewhere but it was better to be safe then sorry.