Saturday, June 22, 2013

Day 1: Little Scraggy Trailhead to Ridge Past Payne Creek Trail

Our Colorado Trail journey begins at the Little Scraggy Trailhead, 28 miles southeast of the traditional start in the closed Waterton Canyon. Through trial and error, we managed to find our way to the trailhead without the benefit of a map. Along the way, we passed the staging area for the large firefighting crew working on the Lime Gulch fire, and many, many local fire departments.

Several mountain bikers were already at the trailhead when we arrived, packing up snacks, water, and spare tubes into tiny Camelback packs before riding over to the trail. Unlike the PCT, the Colorado Trail allows mountain bikes on the sections of the trail that do not pass through a wilderness area. Section 3 proved to be popular with mountain bikers. Once on the trail, we encountered several riders every hour. Most of the riders were just out for the day, but a few were bike packing, carrying their gear to spend one or more nights on the trail. One rider, Jason, planned to ride the entire Colorado Trail, taking the mountain biking alternate routes around the many wilderness areas along the way. We wished him well on his adventure.

The trail slowly climbed all day, passing through arid pine and aspen forest. Beautiful yucca blooms reminded us that we are still in the high desert. Large, purple columbine, brightly colored paintbrush, and a mix of several varieties of yellow wildflowers suggest the high mountains to come.

Shortly after lunch we crossed Buffalo Creek, stopping to drink some delicious, cold water. But as the afternoon progressed, we did not reach any other water sources. Finally we reached a small trickling stream with a few semi-stagnant pools. Our new friend Tex ran ahead up the trail to scout other water sources but there were none. Using Sierra's titanium cup, we scooped water out of an inch deep pool of water a few ounces at a time. It took the better part of an hour to scoop up enough water. Water bags full, we hiked a short distance up the trail and made camp on the ridge.

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