Unplugged in the Rockies

I decided to celebrate my 63rd birthday by doing something challenging and unique by hiking the Rio Grande Trail in Colorado. So, I took the California Zephyr to Glenwood Springs then a bus to Aspen to begin my journey back to Glenwood Springs on the trail. My goal was to *unplug and hike the 42 plus miles in 3 days, camping along the way. No internet. No cell service. No downloaded movies. Just 3 days to enjoy nature, the beautiful scenery and breathe the clean fresh mountain air.

Roaring Forks River

My adventure started by taking me by the John Denver Sanctuary then following the Roaring

Forks River out of Aspen. After about 7 miles I arrived at Wood Creek and decided to get off the trail to have lunch at the local tavern. The burger was delicious and the ice-cold water never tasted better! I got a pulled pork sandwich to go and pushed on another 11 miles before I found a nice camp spot next to the Roaring Forks River.

John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen
View of Pyramid Peak from the Trail

Close Encounters

After setting up my tent, I crashed early before the sun went down. The 18 miles on the trail today wore me out. Around 3:00am I woke up to coyotes howling. They sounded close and were getting louder. As I unzipped my sleeping bag and turned to look up, a coyote peaked his head into my tent scaring the heck out of me! I had left my flap open so he could have walked right in. I yelled as the coyote took off like a bat outta hell. Now the pack was howling even more, and I could hear them shuffling along the ridge above my tent. I decided to break camp quickly and get the heck out of there. I hiked about a hour by the moonlight before stopping to have that pulled pork sandwich for breakfast. But in my hastiness, I left it back at my campsite. I hope my coyote friends enjoyed it!


My 2nd day started off early in the darkness but turned into a beautiful summer day to be on the trail with temps in the 70's, beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine. As I was approaching a bend in the trail, I could hear something ahead off the trail ruffling through the bushes. Once I got around the bend, I could see a yearling black bear ahead on the trail walking slowly towards me. I stopped and watched as the young bear went into the trees briefly then back onto the trail. This happened several times as I watch anxiously from about 100 feet away. The young bear was probably not still hanging with mama bear but if she were around, she would be in protective mode, so I waited cautiously. Finally, the playful bear disappeared into the trees and I decide to move on. The next few miles were probably some of the most anxious times I've had on the trail wondering if my new friend and mama might be around the next corner!

Campsite by the Roaring Forks River
I Saw this Sign Right After I Saw My Friend

Around noon, I decided to stop to rest and take a nap along the river. I feel asleep then a loud crack of thunder woke me up, as I looked up into the darkening skies, I knew a storm was brewing and I'd better find shelter. I took off in a hurry (again) as a light rain began to fall. The skies were getting darker as the thunder cracked and lighting lit up the sky. Now, it was pouring down rain with no shelter in site.

Nap Time
Thunder Strom Rolling in Quickly

After about 45 minutes of hiking through the storm I found some cover next to a rock face off the trail. It wasn't perfect but it kept me out of the winds and blocked some of the rain for the next hour. The lighting stopped so I decided to move on in the light rain. Up ahead I could see Mt Sopris through the clearing clouds, so I knew the storm was coming to an end. There was still plenty of daylight left after the storm passed and it turned into a beautiful summer day to be in the Rockies. I hiked several more hours before finding a nice spot to camp with a spectacular view of Mt Sopris. The sky was clear and the snow off the mountain seemed to glisten in the blue skies. I hiked another 18 miles today so after setting up my camp I decided to just rest and enjoy the sights and sounds of this beautiful area before the sunset.

Mount Sopris from my Campsite

Reflection

After getting a good night's rest I started the last day of my journey. I only had 7 or 8 miles to go before I arrived at Glenwood Springs and it was all downhill so it felt so good to know I would finish earlier than expected. I spent the next several hours hiking and reflecting on all the beautiful sights I've seen on my journey. Time seemed to slow down as my thoughts reflected back on the sound of the river surrounded by the lush green trees, beautiful wildflowers with fly fisherman casting for trout.

My Views of Roaring Forks River and Rockies
Fly Fisherman
Secluded Cabin off the Trail

Mindfulness

As I approached Glenwood Springs, I felt a sense of accomplishment for hiking 2 1/2 days through the Rockies but mostly for unplugging and enjoying all the moments on my adventure. Even though a coyote poked his head in my tent and his packed chased me out of my campsite then I got caught in a thunderstorm at 8000 feet, and I had to share the trail with a black bear, this unplugging from the daily grind were rejuvenating for my mind and soul. I was able to watch elk and deer graze in the meadows, see eagles and hawks soar in the clear blue skies, experience the thrill of being in the wild away from the daily grind. Back in my working days I often told my team; life and work are all about learning to overcome obstacles and enjoy the moments life presents us. The 42 plus miles on the Rio Grande Trail reminded me how right I was!


Check this video and see what is waiting for you when you unplug.


Breathe in. Breathe out. Move on.

Mark


* I used a Satellite GPS/Communicator for Emergencies Only.








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