We are taking the start easy. The method I used on the Appalachian Trail means fifteen-mile days will be the norm for a couple of weeks, to prevent blisters and to break the body in gently. It’s a fierce environment that takes its toll so I utilise every advantage I can.
The heat and sun are the main enemies. I drink every few minutes and we keep a keen eye out for the next water source. There are no rivers, streams or lakes here. Our only sources are water caches maintained by the CDT organisation and solitary windmills or solar pumps bringing water from underground. These are often frequented by free-roaming cattle and topped by a green scum If that doesn’t make you want to pull out your filter then the floating, dead rodents should.
Estes Park Hiking Trail Map Photo Gallery
The wind is torturous. During the day it intensifies until we are buffeted into submission. It blows sand everywhere and occasionally a mini whirlwind catches us unawares as we cower until it races off once more.
“If a stick moves, it’s probably a snake,” a hiker called Cookie Monster says after we pass him in the shade, resting under a tree.
“I appreciate the observation,” I reply.
The heat, wind and sand are relentless. Imagine standing in front of a large office fan on full throttle, throw a bonfire in front of it plus a few buckets of sand, and you have an idea of the torture.
However, it has plus points: it cools us slightly and the insects are kept at bay. Once the wind fades to nothing, flies and bees pounce on us. Bees infested the water cache and campsite at the end of day one and didn’t leave us alone all evening. Although docile and just seeking moisture from the water cache, no-one got stung, but they drove us to our shelters.