People with ties to Durango who hiked the Colorado Trail from end to end this summer are different ages, did it for different reasons and covered the 486 miles between Durango and Denver at different paces.
A commonality is love of the outdoors. But all of them were resupplied along the way, picking up food and clean clothing from friends or family at access points on either end of the trail’s 28 segments. Trail angels, as they’re known, sometimes meet hikers with delicacies ranging from pizza to a cold one simply to break up the monotony.
The trail, dedicated in 1987, is a roller coaster, varying from 5,520 to 13,271 feet in elevation. A question-and-answer segment on The Colorado Trail Foundation website estimates that 150 people complete the trail each year. Hundreds more cover segments of it on horseback and mountain bikes as well as on foot. A short segment is open to motorized dirt bikes.
There is no requirement to do the entire trail in one fell swoop to earn a certificate of completion, said Bill Manning, director of the Golden-based Colorado Trail Foundation and, from 1993 to 2006, director of Trails 2000 in Durango.
“We can’t verify that someone has done the entire trail,” Manning said. “It’s an honor system, and many people take several years to cover the 486 miles.”
Here’s a look at some of this summer’s trail finishers and attempters with Durango connections.
Another goal accomplished
Lynn Prebble, 61, a past board member of Durango-based Great Old Broads for Wilderness, has to be perpetual motion personified.
It’s taken 20 years, but she’s summited all mountains higher than 13,000 feet in Colorado and the tallest peaks in all the other 49 states. The last on the list was Mauna Kea (13,803 feet) in Hawaii.
Perhaps Prebble’s greatest distinction came in 2002 when, as a member of a five-woman team, she was 175 feet from the summit of Mount Everest (29,029 feet), the planet’s highest peak, when a storm turned the group back.
A year earlier in the Himalayas, Prebble scaled Cho Oyu (26,653 feet), the world’s sixth-highest peak.
When she’s not hiking, Prebble can be found helping clear trails of blowdown in San Isabel National Forest in central Colorado.
“I feel at home in the wilderness,” Prebble said.
Prebble started the Colorado Trail near Denver and reached Durango 41 days later and 26 pounds lighter. The Lime Gulch Fire near Conifer almost ruined her plans. She was the last person through before the Forest Service closed the trail.
With a dwindling number of domestic conquests available, Prebble in October is headed for Spain to follow El Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage that ends at the Santiago de Compostela cathedral in northwest Spain. She won’t spend nights in a sleeping bag, but in hostels.
In it for the long run
Taylor Graham and Karli Foreman, each 19 and a 2012 graduate of Durango High School, where they ran track and/or cross country, put their lung power on display by doing the trail on the run, starting in Denver.
It took them 19 days to cover the trail – all but the 36 miles from San Luis Pass to Stony Pass, a section closed by a wildfire. They returned to backpack the closed section in two days.
“I just thought it would be a good challenge,” Foreman said.
Graham said he was inspired by Dale Garland, a former Durango High School teacher, who ran the trail himself in 1988.
“It felt like quite a feat,” Graham said. He said he lost 18 pounds during the run and Foreman lost five. “The mental challenge of waking up, knowing what was ahead, was the hardest thing.”
Hike while you work
The outing was business combined with pleasure for Durango native Sarah Kunz, 22, who is scheduled to graduate next year from Western State College with a major in outdoor environmental education.
Kunz, equipped with a GPS unit and a camera, documented effects to the region from cattle grazing at the request of Great Old Broads for Wilderness.
“Aspen stands didn’t have a lot of new growth, which indicates cattle grazing,” Kunz said. “But I was pleasantly surprised at overall conditions.”
Kunz took five weeks to complete the project.
‘A spiritual journey’
Tecumseh Burnett, 56, who has scaled about 20 of the state’s 54 Fourteeners – mountains more than 14,000 feet elevation – called it quits in Leadville (elevation 10,152) because of altitude sickness.
Burnett, who had chosen the Denver-to-Durango direction, was accompanied only by her dog Elsa.
“It was a spiritual journey,” said Burnett. “I wanted to be alone, to connect with nature.”
She nevertheless sent a daily post, limited to 160 characters, via DeLorme InReach, a satellite communication system. She also contributed comments on her blog www.simplicityofbeing.net on a daily basis, then expanded on her observations when she returned home.