Thursday, September 9
After finishing the Four Corners Loop on September 8, 2021. I am now resting in Santa Fe New Mexico waking up in an amazing hotel bed and getting ready to go shopping for a shirt I can fly home in. Right now I am still slightly speechless, so when I collect my thoughts I will write a longer post. With that said the four corners soup was an amazing experience and I look forward to improving the experience for others to follow.
Friday, September 3
Intricacy it all matters
While I take a break, laying in the grass I look over at each blade of grass and within two feet of my eyes I probably have 15 different types of plants. All small and intricate. I look at a rock flip it over, the smallest of smallest insects are crawling on the bottom and they have their own unique intricacies. The sound of the creek gurgling by me I hear because my ears hear through the molecules of air. The intricate properties of air allows me to hear the creek loud and clear. Moisture that has reached its condensation point in the sky forms clouds and blocks the sun briefly changing the way the intricate energetic photons hit my face. The peppered beef jerky I’m eating was created by a craftsman from Santa Fe, somebody that knows just the right size to grind the pepper so flavors the meat as it’s drying. The Jersey it has its own intricate properties and it’s on intricate taste.
This led me to think about you, my sister, my wife, and somebody I’ve never met on the other side of the world. Each one of us are different and intricate, and in special ways all of this interesting intricacy comes together interacting in ways we never think about. So yes it all matters. Some of these are natural processes driven by nature and the laws that drive nature each day. But some are tied in with our conscious mind and probably conscious minds of other animals that we don’t have the ability to understand.
This summer has giving me the time to slow down and look at all the interesting intricate natural surroundings. There are many many millions of tiny little details I do not see because they are so abundant, but if I didn’t see them, they still do matter. When I come home I look forward to taking the time to relish in the intricacies of my community, and people who surround me, and especially you.
Thank you for reading. We all matter, you matter everything matters. I Love you and have a nice day. Give someone a smile for me.
Tomorrow I leave for the final section of the Four Corners Loop from Angel Fire NM back to the town square in Santa Fe.
Today was a good rest day, I needed it. Today is one of the wettest and torrential rainiest days of the entire summer. It’s absolutely pouring out right now and I am actually feeling a little under the weather. I will rest well tonight, sleep in then repack all my gear I photographed today. In the morning I will get ready for the final 108+ miles ahead of me.
I always knew I would be successful in finishing this giant hiking loop, it was never in doubt in my mind. I am looking forward the feelings, tears of joy and the explosion of memories that will flutter through my mind.
I thank you all for following me on my fabulous journey this summer. You are my trail companions, angles and it is a pleasure to share my epic experience with you.
As astronaut Scott Kelly says “you go to heaven when you are born,” I spent this summer just walking, listening and watching my circular slice of heaven.
“Hike your own hike” they say, and I did!
Friday, August 27
If you’ve been following my blogs you know that I did a major route change in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico to avoid some large tracts of private property. This course correction in the West side of the Spanish Peaks did result i a lot of “straight” road walking versus the roads on the East side of the Spanish Peaks were more curvy, but a major dirt road I wanted to use I learned was private. Trespassing for days on end was a no-go for me, especially during the beginning of hunting season when large tracts of private land are leased out to hunters. I needed to walk on roads that I could legally be on, and they were located to the West.
I would like to steal a quote from a PCT hiker I met in 2014. “Everything that I imagined would happen, happened but everything I didn’t imagine also happened.” One of the things I did not imagine was how amazing my experience with the people I encountered would be passing through large tracts of private property. In the section I am currently on I finished traveling through the property owned by Rio Costilla Cooperative Livestock Association (RCCLA).
The RCCLA track of private property is cooperatively owned by about 150 families, and is approximately 180,000 acres in size, so it is a big chunk of land. I am sure a lot of these details I will write or probably slightly incorrect, but it was a result of the land grant process that the Spanish government had before it was part of United States. When talking to one of the cooperative ranching employees the US government tried to take it over wayback about 150 years ago, but somebody the cooperative rode their horse all the way to Washington DC in protest, to say “no this is our land.” This is a very simplistic story of why the high Spanish Peaks that I personally would love for the Four Corners Loop to traverse is not Forest Service land. When planning the Four Corners Loop I always wondered why this high range of the mountains was not in the domain of the Forest Service. Now I think I know a little bit more of the complicated history.
Even though this is private property I was walking on a gravel road where the public had of right away through. Along this road the scenery was absolutely amazing. There was a tranquil serpentine creek with meadows and green grassy banks on each side. The valley walls had cliffs of rock, high in pink feldspar content, and in between the cliffs there was a mixture of trees ranging from Juniper, Pinyon pine On the south facing slopes, and Colorado blue spruce and Rocky Mountain Douglas fir with deciduous trees and Aspens on North facing slopes.
The people I encounter along the way due to the camping areas the cooperative provided were phenomenal. When I was stopped by the road sitting down taking a break, people would stop and ask if I was OK. I was also given one of the most tasty pieces of smokes trout caught the prior night from a fisherman and his wife. It really cracks me up how the fisherman’s wife was admiring my legs. She said to her husband “that man has amazing legs” then told him “I’m sorry” and husband gave him a nice kiss. We all laughed. This really cracked me up because many similar events have happened all summer long. So the lesson here is if you were a single young man and want to meet a bunch of cougars just go for a long walk. It makes me smile to know that my legs can make people smile.
Anyhow I hope you laughed at this last paragraph. I’ve now reached the Carson National Forest and it is absolutely amazing. The beautiful stream continues the trees are getting thinner welcoming me into a high elevation mountain meadow. My camp tonight is amazing. To the East is nothing but clear skies, the morning sunrise I know will be just splendid. Just after the sunset I heard many elk bugle throughout the woods. I just heard a coyote do it’s nightly howell at the moon. In between the animal sounds, it is absolutely silent (except for the occasional jet airplane).
I am looking forward to cresting The range to the west me and dropping down into red river New Mexico. Joseph one of the awesome RCCLA employees who also gave me a tasty root beer while I was having dinner two nights ago I think was wondering how I was going to get to Red River. In my mind I would just follow the jeep road that I had laid out on the map. I am on this “jeep road” right now and it’s practically impossible to see. It has long been gone and is not used anymore. So I’m looking forward to following it tomorrow because they’re all really challenged my trails sleuthing skills. I have been told I need to go to New Mexico is highest brewery. This is a good idea because earlier today I found hops growing along the side of the road among the wild rose bushes. I picked some, strapped them to my backpack and walked down the road with the awesome smell of hops permeating the air.
Another cool thing happened today Maria my wife’s brother Brian and his wife Tabatha we’re on vacation in New Mexico, and due to the amazing technology of satellites they were able to drive down a quiet country road then up the dirt road I was walking on to meet me for a nice little chat by the river. Tabatha said this is the most beautiful part of New Mexico they have seen so far. It was a pleasure talking with them and having some snacks and a cold tasty beverage. Brian and Tabatha thank you for taking time out of your vacation to detour off the beaten path to find The Animal in the woods.
Now that I am in New Mexico, I did some math to figure out I hiked 619.4 miles in Colorado. Currently I am 2280 miles into this journey. I think I have about 200 miles left to reach Santa Fe New Mexico.
Thank you for reading, I appreciate you, I love you, and have a nice day.
P.S. I am now in the town of Red River New Mexico. I made it into town right before a massive hail storm and downpour. I have a room for the night, which was hard to get because there’s a bicycle race in town this weekend. I will rest up and eat some food and get back on trail tomorrow hiking towards Wheeler Peak the highest point in New Mexico at 13,161 ft.
Tuesday, August 24
Today I reached Fort Garland Colorado after passing through and over some amazing mountains in the Sangre de Cristo range. I basically finished up a portion of the mountain range by dropping down into Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. I played in the sand like I was an eight-year old child again, then down by the creek fronting the dunes, the mosquitoes discovered me and had a feast on my legs. I had to run away like that Monti Python skit where they were running away from the killer bunnies. The mosquitoes were definitely the worst of the entire trip, and they were small with a potent bite.
I have reached the big section on the trip where I am required to do some road walking because there is no public land for me to transit. I had about 10 miles of road walking yesterday and 18.4 miles today. Tomorrow I have about 16 and the next day around 24. But it’s fine I’m actually enjoying the change of pace, it is nice to see some of humanities changes they’ve done to the earth surface instead of a pure wilderness scene.
Two more days of hiking and I will cross into New Mexico. Soon after entering New Mexico I’ll enter the Carson National Forest where I basically have public land all the way to Santa Fe. Today Maria mailed my very last resupply package which is going to Angel Fire New Mexico. This hike would’ve not been possible without the amazing Maria being a world class trail angel and mailing me all my food. I will also pass through Red River New Mexico where I will have a burger.
I am definitely at the point of long-distance hiking when one feels push to finish the journey. I’m going to enjoy the rest of the approximate 240 miles I have left to the hike but to be open I am looking forward to finishing this amazing endeavor and returning to my lovely wife Maria in Washington and the community I cherish.
During long-distance hiking the change in daylight, the shortening of the days that one experiences and is so I tuned into, naturally causes some excitement to finish up as fall approaches. I feel the evening is getting cooler, the mornings are crisp and the daytime is pleasantly warm.
With the studs I’m ready to finish this amazing summer, so I better get to bed because I have 16 miles of road walking to do tomorrow. Here I come New Mexico you will soon have the return of The Animal.
Thank you for reading in joining me on my summer hike.
Sunday, August 22
Oil on Gaia, a canvas
Imagine walking in a painting, oil on canvas. You are flowing through freshly brushed oil on a world renowned painting. A feeling frequently comes over me that I am participating and viewing the creation of a masterpiece, but instead of canvas, the oil is applied to earth, our Gaia.
As I walk through beautiful landscapes the colors and textures pleasing my eyes give me thoughts of the thick viscous oil built up in layers of artistic masterpieces. I feel as if I am part of nature’s oil painting on Gaia.
The built up subtle red, brown and gray mountains, the flat wide open muted yellow spaces give way to the open majestic blue skies. When looking down at the red earth there is fine speckled texture of sand grains co-painted with the light brown pine needles. I keep thinking about the layer open layer of oil and the techniques used in the application of this creation I walk within.
Oil on Gaia is an artwork that is yet to dry, and may never dry because of its constant change. A light green oil, then a vibrant green oil alternate in a background of eggshell blue and dove white oil creating the flutter of the Aspen leaf in a light breeze against the sky.
The changing plants through their lifecycle, growing trees, to ants building mounds out of tiny multi colored pebbles requires oils of so many colors it can only come from a rainbow mixing as it streams onto the pallet of the artist, the creator. The artist is always busy applying oil, for deer hooves are impressed into the earth with darker browns. The lightest application of brown oil provides the lofted look to an earthen Moles pile pushed up, as the most beautiful topsoil that every gardener would loves. Streaks of brown oil and gray oil meld to create the texture of the ponderosa pine tree.
The blue oil and clear oil are mixed just right to form the sky, wind in the air or mixed together as they swirl about the inside of you, breathing in freshness, leaving your body ready to be mixed with fresh blues and clears to from a breeze again.
The red sunsets of oil mix with the darkness of the trickster crow, creating the night. Holes in the night are created by the splash of sparkly oil creating the stars only to be erased by a solid steam of the moon pouring white oil into the night. The twinkling stars, and moons streak of white and their accompanying trickster black of the crow, the night are whipped away again with a layer of oil rising in the East in hues of pink creating another Gaia canvas for the day.
Over the summer the green oil changes to every color of green imaginable as the chlorophyll in the oil grew and developed into darker and deeper hughes and as the summer passed on, the lighter hues of green returned. The green grassy oil was slowly covered with beautiful tones of yellow oil on earth.
The painting of the earth itself revealed colors of reds and browns and purples. The oil revealed previous life forms that have been buried for eons in the form of blacks and charcoals. The oil under the foot dries quickly creating a crunchy sound of crunch crunch crunch for hours on end day after day as I walk through the painting.
Walking through this magnificent painting of oil on Gaia just makes me smile because when the oil on Gaia reaches my peripheral vision it fades behind my head all the oils blend back together into a rainbow of memories, a masterpiece in my mind.
The Four Corners Loop is a majestic work of art!
Friday, August 20
It took me six days to walk from Salida Colorado to Westcliffe Colorado, my journey brought me up and over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains twice. There were two areas during this hike where I was very high along the crest of the mountains. This is a very high mountain range with many 14,000 foot mountains and a plethora of 13,000 foot peaks. The range has low footings on the East and the West sides giving the range an appearance of reaching into the sky.
Today I crossed my highest pass on the Four Corners Loop at 12,800 feet. I also crossed four other passes and descended over 5000 feet down to the town of Westcliffe on the East side of the range.
When I was on the west side of the range I went to Valley Vview Hot Springs. This is a lovely hot spring with a relaxed vibe, and was not super commercialized. There were nine different pools to enjoy. I really enjoyed the conversations I had with people there, but here is a word of caution if you’re thinking of going there but you have a thing against nudity do not go there everybody was nude. The hot springs management does not view anything wrong with the human body form, so it was quite fun hanging out with a bunch of people joining me on my birthday and all in their birthday suits.
When I left the hot springs there was a slight issue with some private property on the west side, but I made the best of it and I ended up climbing uphill all day on a beautiful logged out trail. I am guessing you’ve read my prior blog talking about the amazing Forest service crew logging the trees off the trail.
So this is going to be a short blog post because I’m kind of tired and need to go to sleep, but enjoy the plethora of pictures I will post on my Facebook page.
Thanks for reading,
Trail maintenance gratitude
After 2150 miles of walking, today August 19th is my 46th birthday. I received the best birthday gift I hiker could dream of. Are you asking yourself what do hikers dream of on their birthday? The answer is a properly logged out trail. It was a big day for me I hiked 20.7 miles and climbed 4800 vertical feet and almost all of it was logged out. As I climbed I passed hundreds of freshly cut downed trees and I could smell the fragrant sawdust piles. Curly chips of sawdust lay on top of some logs indicating very recent sawing activity. I was pretty sure there was a trail crew ahead of me, and there was two forest service trucks at the trail head earlier in the day.
Most of my day was just effortless, hiking at a comfortable flowing cruiser speed, gliding uphill all day long. A fellow PCT hiker described this feeling like surfing a wave just for the ride. I rode my wave today and came our the barrel unscathed. This happened because of trail maintenance in the form of cross cutting. It takes a lot of extra energy to hop over go under it go around trees in the shiggy. My preference is to hop over them, but Colorado has millions of dead spruce trees with sturdy branches all along the trunk, so this results in less hoping and more shiggy.
So today for mo birthday I had trees that had no hop and no shiggy and I thank the US Forest Service trail crew for giving me the freedom to walk it’s ease.
I wanted to meet these heroes of mine, then I passed a trail junction and I saw that there was a tree logged out, going up a different trail I would not be on and said to myself, darn I’m going to miss them. I wanted to give them a nice thank you, and tell them I appreciate their hard work. As I walked up my intended route some of the cuts did not appear to be super fresh so I was pretty sure I missed the trail crew. A few miles later I was surprised as I walked around the corner I almost walked right into somebody. It was the trail crew boss, heading out early. We chit chatted about their job, and I let him know they were working on the Four Corners Loop and gave him my website tag in which he was very interested. I clasped my hands together and gave a nice Japanese style bow. He said further up you’re gonna run and to two more crew members, I have a crew of three right now one had to leave early for college. So this summer my crew of four was responsible for logging out 600 miles of trails. He also let me know they’ve cut out thousands of trees this summer.
After her brief chat I trudged on, but it wasn’t a trudge at all because I had excess energy due to the lack of not spending the day crawling over trees. I hopped on and frolicked down the like I was in a field of flowers but my flowers were actually freshly cut logs showing the growth rings and the straight back and forth pattern of cross cutting.
Finally I encountered my heroes of the day, the people giving me a birthday gift when they had no knowledge of such giving. Two days prior I spent hours crossing hundreds of downed trees and this was the change of pace o needed. We chatted about the various sawyer techniques and the Level A, B or C certifications they have. We talked about the sharpness of cross cut saw, and why it is called a “misery whip” when not sharp or when you are out of sequence with your partner. They knew how important it is to strip the bark off the tree to retard we dulling. I told them about Washington Trails Association and how they have a group of people who call themselves “the wackos” who are just nuts about cross cutting.
The crew was a female and a male, the lady’s name is Kelli, and I am sad to say I did not write down the hard at work name of the other sawyer. I watched them saw through one foot diameter log, it came crashing down to the trail making it safe so I could pass. They let me through their work zone. I crawled over the half finished logged, my first log I called over for the day. Turning around I once again and gave a nod and said thank you I appreciate your hard work.
I put the word gratitude in the title of this short essay, because their work does make me feel very grateful for the services so I can hike and so others can hike. Thank you to all paid trail workers, volunteer trail workers, and anybody who hikes down the trail and performs trail work as they progress.
I’ve spent many years of my life hiking, I figure probably about 4% of my life actually on Trail. I am also a volunteer and an assistant trail crew leader with Washington Trails Association having volunteered almost 150 days, I know firsthand the effort that is needed continually to maintain our trails free of obstacles so the public can enjoy our public lands. If we do not have trails leading into our public lands only the mighty few who have the deepest zest for extremely harsh bushwhacking would be able to explore these beautiful majestic places I’ve been sharing with you. So my hat comes off to trail workers because if it was for not their hard labor it truly would be impossible to bushwhack the 2500 mile loop I am currently walking.
Thank you to the trail maintenance crew I encountered on August 19 along the Rito Alto trail #745 in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. It was a wonderful birthday gift that made me smile and allowed me to flow up hill all day long.
Saturday, August 14
Friday August 13th was my second day hiking from Monarch Pass when some amazing trail magic happened. I was walking along the Rainbow Trail, it was close to dark and I was actively looking for a place to camp. I planed on going into Salida Colorado the next day to reminisce about my time here in 2004 when I hiked the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Often the universe has other plans for me, and the universe was listening as it always does. Three years ago when I started planning the Four Corners Loop hike I imagined the possibility of rafting in Salida Colorado. I planed on spending a couple nights in Salida and would go rafting with one of the numerous rafting companies in town. Yesterday as I hiked along the rainbow trail I was thinking about this thought and I was squashing it because I said to myself “I don’t have time”. I’m feeling a little bit of pressure to finish on time even though I know I am on pace to finish.
As I was hiking down the Rainbow Trail I encountered to coon dogs followed by their mountain biking owner. He asked what I was doing and I quickly explained the giant 2,500 mile loop I was hiking. Amazed, Tres dismounted from his bike sat down and wanted to hear more. I was surprised because it was getting close to dark and I was wondering how this mountain biker would descend the hill.
Tres then asked me if I would you like to go river rafting in the morning. I sensed some hesitation within myself because I just spent seven days at home in Denver Colorado at my mothers funeral. I also had a sense come over me that said “Kevin you’re on vacation”, these are the type of experiences that make great stories and make people smile. I also thought of my friends Tim and Cassie from Montana who picked me up hitchhiking when I was on the CDT. Because I said yes to them they are great friends to this day because I chose the word “yes”. With all of these thoughts going on my head I once again chose the word “yes”. As I sit my hotel writing this I do not regret my choice and no I will never regret saying yes to rafting today and experiencing life in the now.
This is why the universe listens I always imagined rafting in Salida Colorado while hiking the Four Corners Loop and rafting showed up in the form of beautiful trail magic. Tres give me directions how to hike to his house, I quickly got there under the cover of darkness. I met his brother Matty and there three dogs, two beautifully colored coon dogs and one lovey pug. We socialize some, but I was quite tired after hiking over 21 miles on Friday. The hike on Friday descended me down the 13,971 foot Mount Ouray then up and down along the Rainbow Trail.
The adventure began on Saturday around 10 in the morning. We loaded up the truck with two rafts, oars, helmets, life jackets and other accessories we would need for the day. We drove downstream of Salida and put in on the Arkansas River in a section of the river called Bighorn. Yes we did see big horn sheep along this section. They were amazing animals and they were easy to spot because the coon dogs on our boats we’re very good at spotting the animals and looking in their direction.
The river was flowing about 820 ft.³ per second and it was full of many class three rapids. I thought the rapids would be quite scary because being in a boat and what they termed an “R2”, meaning there’s just two people per boat left each person a good opportunity to work as a team with the other in unison as the team guided the boat back-and-forth amongst the rocks, and a few barely poking their water polished surface above the churning water, lurking to deflect the boat and cause havoc within the water stream.
Another thing I appreciated about today was I was hanging out with three people who were relaxed and took the time to enjoy everything that passed their eyes. The day gave me the opportunity to slow down and always go at my one pace which is usually “just go, go, go”. I loved how on the drive down at some random spot the car stopped so they can get out to take pictures of beautiful sunflowers. I think I would’ve just drove past these flowers but yet they took time to stop and relish in their beauty of their backyard. Most of the day I felt like I was rafting with three people who had the spirit of “Double Rainbow Man”. Everything they looked at they were in awe, and they appreciated all of natures beauty as it passed behind us with our boats progressing down stream.
Thank you Tres, Matty, and Billy for some very memorable trail magic today.
Sunday, August 8
Trip report from Westminster Colorado my childhood home.
My last writing I was spending the night in Buena Vista Colorado. I left Buena Vista Colorado, returning to Cottonwood Pass and hiked to Monarch Pass for a total of 2,030 miles hiked to date. I am getting off trail for five days because my family is holding my mother Margaret’s funeral. My mom is on my mind, and I went to mass this morning, a mass dedicated in her name. She was such a strong special, and good force for Holy Trinity Catholic church in Westminster Colorado.
The time resting at home will be good for my weary body. I weighed myself for the first time since leaving Santa Fe New Mexico to find that I’ve lost 42 pounds. Yes, Maria now has a skinny husband. I want to segway beyond me and my mom because this blog is for you the reader, and I would like to share with you what I have experienced and the topics on my mind.
What is it like to hike for many days crossing 12,400 and 12,800 passes with a low point hovering around 11,000 feet, all while wet, cold and rainy. I experienced three days of rain and cool weather, although I enjoyed the hiking for the dampness caused a change in beauty. I was well prepared for the precipitous elixir of the gods because by living in Washington state it prepares one to have the attitude that your skin is waterproof. I hike in the rain a lot at home, but the rain in Colorado does come down heavier and in much bigger drops than what I’m used to. See you can get wet quite fast if you’re not prepared to quickly donn your raincoat, strap on a pack cover and deploy your carbon fiber umbrella.
I’ve noticed that “umbrella hiking” above timberline can be tricky because the thunderstorms bring gusty gear-punishing winds which do not bode well for most umbrellas, but my sturdy old GoLight umbrella has never disappointed me. I am used to hiking through deep dark 200 foot high northwest trees that mask the gusts of destruction, gusts that would tear any umbrella to shreds. Not having the tall dark “windshields” of nature above timberline left me feeling vulnerable. I was lucky in the three days it took me to cross the high 12,000 foot passes for the calmness I experienced provided the peace of mind, opening the mind to watch and wonder. Since it was not windy I was able to enjoy the beauty of a rain storm under the over arching protection of my trusty umbrella.
I just hiked, through the rain enjoying every drop, enjoying the foggy misty clouds made from drizzly micro drops of cold precipitation. My left hand would become numb from walking while holding trekking poles and the right hand was gripping my umbrella cooling at its own pace. Squeezing the hands for hours does not bode well for good finger circulation, so every time I stopped I would pump my hands and try to warm back up. I also enjoyed the raindrops splattering on my quadriceps as they pulsed and hardened with each step. I felt alive to have the moisture drip and run down my calves into my shoes soaking my socks.
With wet feet and cold hands all I had to do was walk through the elixir that brings life to plants and spend time looking at the smorgasbord of beautiful Porcini mushrooms blanketing edges of my route. The fauna presented themselves in equally impressive ways. I saw a mother Ptarmigan cooing to protect her hungry baby. The whole route I was walking through Pika heaven listening to their squeaks of joy, as they darted collecting grass for the winter. It was fun to watch the Marmots because they’re such posers on every rock sitting proud, just saying please take my picture and post it on the Internet. The animal that I was surprised to see was a moose, looking at me with his big mopey nose and his giant heavy dangerous looking non symmetrical rack. It’s look communicated to me, “hey I’m eating here and doing my job at keeping these bushes trimmed”. This made me think how grateful I am to know that Colorado reintroduced moose because I think the bushes really need a good trimming every once in a while. The moose seem like the perfect animal besides the beaver to mow the wilderness keeping it in top ecological shape. Their munching of woody material keeps the bushes smaller which can allows you and me an easier time at the task of bushwhacking. Yes this is a selfish thought and I’m glad the moose is here.
In this last section I saw plenty of people, there were amazing backpackers heading south on the Colorado Trail, hikers on the Continental Divide, and hikers doing a popular 160 mile loop. I met people from Kansas City Kansas, Chicago, Westminster Colorado my hometown, Texas, and even Patrick from Ireland. It is the season to be in the high country in Colorado schlepping your camping gear through mountainous green beauty. Your job is simply to walk, find a place to camp, smiling with others in the luxury of nature.
I think the influx of conversation I received with other hikers was really needed at this point in my 2500 mile journey. It give me energy and actually allowed me to slow down enjoying 10 and 12 mile walking days. When slowing down to talk I met people picking mushrooms and trail crews. The volunteer trail workers made me think of the herculean effort that is needed to build trail connectors along the Four Corners Loop making it more desirable for more people than just me. There are definitely some places where trail needs to be constructed because cross-country travel through the desert is fun but if more people are going to hike, then focusing people onto a more defined path is important.
This last section I went swimming in an amazing blue lake. There is nothing like stripping down to your birthday suit and swimming with the fish, then leaping out of the cold water feeling refreshed and ready for another 7 miles of freedom. Lost Man Lake gave me memories of hiking through the Sierras in California where I jumped in the lake every day refreshing the tired weary muscles.
Near Monarch Pass I knew I was hiking in an area we’re a second cousin of mine perished with his copilot. The airplane engine stalled and they crashed into the side of the mountain immediately resulting in a fireball. I did not know the exact location of the plane crash in 2004, but I knew it was near Monarch Pass. The day before my dad picked me up he sent me the GPS coordinates of the plane crash. I took time plotting them on my mapping program during tent time. I was blown away to learn that two hours prior I literally hiked right through the spot where the plane hit the mountain. I remember seeing a few bits of small aluminum debris in this area, there was a power line in the same region so yes it could’ve been power line debris, but I want to believe it was a few leftover bits of aluminum from my second cousin’s airline crash. If I didn’t lose the Colorado Trail in this region resulting in a cross country route I would never have walked through the crash site.
Another reason why I ended up walking through the crash site is because somebody told me the cafe/shop at the top of Monarch Mountain pass closed at 5 PM. I was in a rush to get there because I was in the mood to have a nice tasty beer. I did get there by 4:30 because of my cross country shortcut. I arrived to find out the store has a lease from the Forest Service and they do not allow the sale of beer. For my beer drinking friends, do not despair because trail magic always provides. A hiker I saw earlier on the trail said, just a head underneath the trail sign there was trail magic in a box, because case of cold Modelo beer was just placed there by a passing motorist. We each grabbed one and enjoyed the refreshing beverage in good conservation. Drinking a nice light beer at an 11,300 foot pass with a fellow hiker from Kansas City Kansas it is an event that make this trail special for me and these events will happen for people who hike in the future.
I am looking forward to the next 115 mile section from Monarch Pass to Westcliffe Colorado. The trees and biome of the hike will change to a dryer climate approaching what I experienced in New Mexico. The moister central Colorado will be left behind for the return of Junipers and Pinion Pine. The dark sky museum in Westcliffe Colorado it’s a say I have been told not to miss.
I feel I am entering the final push and have about 20% of the distance left or 470 miles to go. It gives me comfort to say I only have 470 miles left. It feels so short but you the reader may say I am crazy to call this short and you are correct, but after hiking 2030 miles, I do feel like I am on the homestretch. I know my lovely wife Maria is looking forward to me coming home she asked me the other day if there was any cougars in the mountains. I said no, but I know she is looking forward to me coming home to a cougar in Washington state, a.k.a. Maria.
I am continually asked if I am going to write a book. After much thought about an idea when I get home I plan on improving my website and route using my lessons learned, and I need to challenge myself through writing. Yes the idea of l a book about this adventure while tying it in with my other long hikes can provide joy for many. It will challenge me, and allow me to conquer my challenge with writing such as punctuating and spelling. A creative writing class should be in my future. I’ve challenge myself with a 2500 mile walk for the third time. I am very good at long distance hiking and it is appropriate to challenge myself with putting words on paper so my experience can be expressed in a written form that will give joy to many other people. Writing my experience down can allow people to experience the Four Corners Loop who would have never hiked it to begin with. It also might inspire some people to take a stab at the loop I have gifted to the world.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.
The Animal - Kevin Koski
p.s. I also want to write a book because it makes me smile and gives me joy to know that working on something very hard in this area will just elevate my friend Tiffany Royal’s heart.