Snowfields, Marmots, and Thunderstorms

Important Stats:

Days: 16
Miles: 225.6
Beard Length: Santa Claus in his early 20’s
Showers Taken: 3
Bears Spotted: 0
Thunderstorms: 6
Zero Days: 1

I’m up early this morning and Lucy is still sleeping so I thought I would try something new and post a blog from the tent! We’re about 25 miles outside of Salida, and will be having a short day tomorrow, but towns are less frequent here so I thought it was time for an update. Also I apologize if you received an email about another blog post that went up, in my morning grogginess, I accidentally published an old draft.

We were promised more snow, and that is exactly what we got. Departing Frisco we were warned of other hikers who had attempted to traverse over Ten Mile ridge and needed to turn back. So very cautiously, with the most up to date snow report we could get, we began our journey onward and upward. Somewhere 8 miles into the day at just over 10,000 feet we began to encounter the first patches of snow, soft and mushy, causing a considerable amount of post-holing.

Over the next few miles we broke tree line and encountered the first of many long snowfields. Some steep, necessitating kicking steps into the snow, and others that were level, but required care with every step so as not to slide down the side of the mountain. This has also created some very impressive cornices to be weary of.

The journey across these snowfields continued up and over Searle Pass the next day, up onto Elk Ridge and through Kokomo Pass on the other side.

Spotty snowfields dotted the high alpine environment like a large mountain Dalmatian. Much of it could be avoided, but at other times you found yourself falling up to your hips through the high snow drifts.

Particularly interesting on these ventures over higher altitudes are the marmots that call this habitat home. Marmots are the heaviest member of the squirrel family and live in high mountainous regions across North America, Europe, and even the Himalayas. A high pitched whistling is often the first sign that marmots are near, their alert system to one another that a human or other animal is approaching. This allows the others to communicate while also seeking shelter in their burrows which are comprised of a complex set of tunnels dug into the earth. Marmots vary in size depending on species and season, becoming heavier in the autumn to prepare for the cold winter ahead. In the true definition of hibernation, marmots are the largest animal that hibernates (bears are driven to hibernation from environmental clues, not at the exact same time each year).

Although adorable to stop and look at, one other aspect that has commanded swift travel over the higher altitude ridges and passes is the increased frequency of afternoon thunderstorms in Colorado, often accompanied by intense hail. Colorado is particularly susceptible and well known for these summer storms due to its geography and high mountainous areas that allow cold air to destabilize warm atmospheric currents. This mixture in the clouds between water droplets and newly formed ice creates a charge that results in lightning. These storms are relatively predictable which allows for planning to stay off of ridges or mountaintops in the afternoons.

Sometimes this is unavoidable as was the case two days ago when climbing up to the ridge of Mount Yale after dinner. Unfortunately, not all thunderstorms occur in the afternoon and we thought we were in the clear after sheltering from a storm earlier in the day.

The darkness of the sky increased as we ascended the ridge until finally thunder boomed, lightning flashed, and hail plummeted down in a vicious fashion. We knew our day was over at this point and we were not going to camp up high as originally planned. Given the steepness of our present location, there was not going to be any flat ground to pitch a tent which left only the heart breaking decision to descend some 500 feet to the last known area where we could safely pitch our tent.

This has resulted in very cold mornings, often times hovering just above freezing. A significant contrast to the midday temperatures that often exceed 80F (25C). Pictured somewhere in there is Lucy in the morning before breaking camp.

Some of the camp spots on the Colorado Trail have been the most scenic I’ve had in my life.

Each morning goes as follows: Wake up. Pretend I haven’t woken up. Work up the courage to take my arms out of the sleeping bag. Put down jacket on. Deflate sleeping pad. Painfully change from leggings back into hiking shorts. Put socks on that haven’t been washed in a week. Get out of tent exhibiting extra care if it was wet overnight so as not to dampen the inside of the tent. Retrieve our food bags hung in the tree. Recoil the bear line. Break down tent. Pack bag. Eat a pop tart. Start hiking. It is the same routine to a certain extent almost every morning but I love it!

After today we will be at the halfway point which is pretty awesome! It’s this conflicting feeling of being very excited to finish but not wanting it to end at the same time. It reminds me of getting into Maine on the AT, which is a similar distance of what we have left to do. I knew that every step forward would bring me closer to the end which was now tangible, but that also meant a return to the real world.

It’s a fairytale land out here. I’m in the mountains everyday, seeing sunsets and wildlife (still no moose), breathing in fresh air, and feeling totally removed from the outside world. There’s a certain guilt that comes with that though. I love not having the news, on the AT I even took pride in it in some sort of Chris McCandless way. I know COVID is still an issue because when we were passing by Copper Mountain, a major ski and mountain bike hub, the village was deserted and everything was closed. This meant however, we had a nice outside table to cook dinner on before continuing on to make camp that night.

But now I just feel like I’m being an irresponsible citizen. I’ve not figured out how to balance this yet, but I will continue to work on it as we enter the latter half of the trail.



The Woods, Colorado

June 25, 2020

Colorado: More than Legal Weed and the Denver Broncos

Important Stats:

Days: 8
Miles: 104.4
Beard Length: Disappointingly short
Showers Taken: 1
Bears Spotted: 0
Zero Days: 1

PSA before any trail news; happy birthday to my Nana B!! She has always been one of my biggest supporters and someone who has been a very important part of my life. I love you and hope you have a great day! I can’t wait to see you when I get back!

Man, I had no idea how much I really missed life on trail. Everything here is simpler; the complexities of the busy ‘real world’ are nonexistent. Each day we wake up with the sun, break down camp, walk towards Durango, eat, drink, set up camp, and fall asleep when the sun disappears. Dreamy, right? That’s not to say it’s not difficult at times. There is a certain monotony to this life that requires distractions so as not to numb the mind too much. Thankfully, an arsenal of podcasts, the stunning landscape of the Rocky Mountains, and the constant look out for bear, moose, or mountain lion provides a steady source of entertainment.

My parents dropped us off at a very empty Logan airport early in the morning of June 9th. This section of our journey was undoubtably the piece we felt the guiltiest about given the current state of the pandemic. But we were as prepared as could be with our masks, hand sanitizer, etc. It was a relatively normal sized flight, with most of the seats able to be sold filled. All middle seats of the plane were empty and instead of a food or drink service, you were given a prepackaged bag with snacks and water. All things considered, it was a safe and comfortable process.

We were fortunate enough to have connected with a trail angel named Laura who picked us up from the REI in Denver where we procured our cooking fuel by curbside pick-up, and then drove us the 45 minutes to the start of the trail!

The amazing selflessness of humanity that I had experienced on the AT was evident in Colorado very early on.

Also very early into the hike were the absolutely breathtaking views. I’d argue that I have spent more time out of the trees on the first 100 miles of the CT than the entirety of the AT. Even throughout segment 2 which is a ten mile stretch of desert, the scenery was remarkable.

In the midst of the desert was a woman who was having mechanical issues with her bike in an area with no cell phone service. Thanks to everything Myles Chase and Kale Poland have taught me about bikes over the last 8 years, I was able to fix her bike and get her on her way. In some respects it felt good to be able to give back, continuing to pay it forward from the ride Laura gave us the day before.

There has been very little rain so far, only one downpour, to be specific, that occurred overnight while we were already in the tent. Other than that it has been bluebird skies every single day, another stark contrast to the Appalachian Trail.

Although we are now in the second week of June, snow continues to linger in the mountains of Colorado. Two days ago we experienced our first sections of mushy patches and high drifts while crossing through Georgia Pass at an altitude of 11,875 ft. More annoying than hazardous, this stretch proved to be a minor inconvenience, but we have been promised more arduous snowfields ahead.

Altitude has not been much of an issue so far, an occasional minor headache has been easily remedied by my very good friend from the AT, Vitamin I (ibuprofen). Although dosage has been a frequent point of debate between the doctor and the paramedic, I still feel the right to disagree with medical control.

What has been more bothersome is a stint of bloody noses which is almost certainly caused by the incredibly dry air. I’m not sure I’ve ever been on trails so dusty considering the constant dampness of both Scotland and New Hampshire. In fact, having grown up in Scotland, Lucy has likely had more sun exposure in the past week than cumulatively over her entire lifetime!

One of the most exciting things to note, after going one week without showering, Lucy smells worse than me!! I could not wait to post this on the Internet. We were both startled by this result, but now that we have showered, Lucy seems to have temporarily held her hiker odor at bay whereas I have not. Who is the real winner remains to be determined.

Both of our legs have held up very well (knock on wood) and we have very much enjoyed the trail builders decisions to include an endless amount of switchbacks, something that is very unfamiliar in the steep granite ledges that occupy much of New Hampshire’s mountains.

This trail is beautiful. And I am so happy to be out here. So many people have emailed and texted me about how I have the right idea being out on trail as opposed to the craziness of the present state of the world. I do feel insanely lucky and fortunate to have the means to be out hiking for the next month. In no way do I take this lifestyle for granted, especially as I look towards what the future may hold.

One of the things that I have been reflecting on in this first week of the hike is how many people would never have the opportunity to be out here, which really troubles me. And I don’t mean in regards to taking months off of work and doing a thru hike; I’m talking about just accessibility. Many people who grow up in urban environments will never see the beauty of the mountains whether that’s due to fear, lack of know how, finance, doesn’t matter. Some people will never get to see the things that make up the majority of my happiness in this world. And that really troubles me. So if anyone knows of any organizations that assist in getting urban youths into the outdoors, please let me know, because I want to be a part of facilitating that.

Nature should be a place for everyone to find peace and healing, regardless of where you come from, the color of your skin, or how much money you have. So if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where you can get outside and experience the beauty of the natural world, please go do it, because many others can’t. I promise, it will be worth the hour (or several hours) out of your day to turn your phone off and just listen to what Mother Nature has to say.

Over 100 miles in and feeling good, beyond excited for the trail ahead. Talk to you next week!


Handy Man

Frisco, Colorado

June 16, 2020

PCT minus the P: Colorado Trail 2020

Well, as with everyone else, COVID changed our plans from March onwards! Thankfully, we weren’t put out of work, or struggling for food; comparatively to a lot of the rest of the world, we got off alright all things considered. Our inconvenience, was no longer being able to hike the PCT. Is it that bad in the grand scheme of things? No, not really. But does it suck to have a dream pulled out from underneath you at the last minute after months of planning? Absolutely.

We were still in America though and needed to adjust course and adapt to the new world we were now living in. And the reason for the extended delay in blogging is because I didn’t want to post anything until I was absolutely certain what our new plans would be. But with a flight booked for tomorrow, I feel it is safe to now announce that Lucy and I will be using the next month and a bit to hike the Colorado Trail! Starting just South of Denver, the trail stretches roughly 500 miles through some of the highest terrain in the United States to Durango. About 1/5 the distance of the PCT, but by all accounts, equal or even greater beauty.

We’ve spent the past three months in the United States huddled up in my parents second home in Meredith, NH. All in all, we’ve had a pretty nice go of it! I went back to work as a paramedic, one 24 hour shift a week, and other than that, all of our time was essentially spent in the White Mountains.

It was definitely an unexpected treat to get to show Lucy the mountains that I love so much. And given our arrival in mid-March, it was still very much full winter conditions on some of them necessitating the use of ice axes and mountaineering snowshoes. But we were also thankfully able to be very selective of our weather days and never took any risks that we felt would put us in need of any rescue efforts. So over a 71 day window, Lucy finished her 48 4000 footers on an epic 2 day Pemi Loop in a June snow shower!

All of this turned out to be phenomenal prep for the Colorado Trail, especially in regards to changing and adjusting gear!

As with the AT, I will be carrying the SPOT GPS tracker so you will be able to see nightly updates of our progress by viewing the ‘Location on Trail’ tab and then clicking on the latest link in the Twitter feed. Also similar to the AT, I will be deleting my social media, so this blog will be the only form of updates, so please subscribe (submit email on home page)! Some people have reached out to me, concerned about me deleting social media… this isn’t an escape from the current issues our world is facing. I’m not ignoring the injustice that occurs each and everyday. Removing myself from social media during a thru hike has always been what I do, so I hope others can respect my personal decision.

I am just as frustrated, shocked, and angry by the state of our society. Frankly, it’s terrifying. It would be ignorant to say I know how people of color feel; I could never know. But the most important thing is understanding that I will never understand and to only help in the ways that I can. For me, I never felt the need to post about what I’m doing to fight racial injustice because those are things I can do privately in the realm of signing petitions, writing letters to local government, etc. Now, it almost feels like if you aren’t posting it on social media, are you even doing anything at all?

I had always thought that the mountains were exempt from the unfair rules of the world. I’ve often described the Appalachian Trail as, “The ultimate leveling ground of people”. Fortunately, I am in a position where I am able to go into the mountains to heal, explore, and discover. It breaks my heart that this is not the case for everyone. And it disgusts me that in certain backcountry areas, some people just aren’t welcomed because of the color of their skin. If we all look into our own personal hobbies, I think we will find a common pattern. AND THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE.

So please don’t feel that I’m “escaping the world” or say that I’m lucky to be getting out of dodge by going on this hike. Physically removing yourself from this is not an escape, and I also do not want it to be misconstrued as being a distraction. This hike will be a period of reflection where one of the things I will be focusing on is choosing how I personally can do better.

The CT is a much shorter trail than the AT so the current plan is to post shorter but more frequent blogs, hopefully weekly! We have been boxing up and mailing resupply boxes to avoid as many stores as possible so I’ve been able to discover just how much more I actually eat than Lucy. I’ve already told her if she runs short on food, she’s more than welcome to my cold couscous!

We are super excited to start this walk together, exploring a beautiful state, and rediscover how much good there is still in the world. I hope that this blog can be a source of positivity in a crowded sea of negative news. As always, I am happy to answer any questions you have about the hike! And no, I’m still not able to eat honey buns.



Meredith, NH

June 8, 2020