CT Days 16-17/CDT: A New Family Tradition at Tennessee Pass

Last winter I had mentioned to my son my scheme to thru-hike the Colorado Trail. I wanted to shuttle vehicles over 9 separate section hikes on my weekends starting in May to cover the first 185 miles to Twin Lakes, rhen finish the trail to Durango over a 3-week stretch. Erik had me bring my planning materials on my next visit to see what I was up to. After we went over my super-detailed, ever-changing spreadsheet he replied with, “DO IT” and stuck the print-out to his refrigerator. From that point he was all-in supporting this adventure. It helped that Segments 8, 9, 10, & 11 all have trailheads near Leadville, and his house there became our little command center where I left my spare gear, a resupply, and my old Dodge pickup when I was on-trail. Erik shuttled me between a bunch of trailheads and would meet me with my resupply at Monarch Pass as I finished the Collegiates West. His constant encouragement and belief that I could do this is what really made the difference, and I never would have completed the trail without him. But the best part was that Erik wanted to join me on trail for his ever first backpacking trip on Segment 9 at Tennessee Pass.

The weather forecast was clear for a change and I had mentioned to Erik that he might be more comfortable hiking in shorts and trail runners. He was pretty open to my suggestions when it came to what gear to carry, but he made it his hike when he showed up wearing Carhartt jeans & his electrical hazard boots.

We dropped his Jeep at the Timberline Lake Trailhead and drove my pickup back to Tennessee Pass near the 10th Mountain Division Memorial. We were starting in the early evening and only had to cover about 2.5 miles that night. It starts out as a nice trail winding through the woods with some gentle ups & downs. I assumed that the taller than usual trail markers must mean this is a popular route in the winter as well. We found a nice campsite just beyond a bridge-covered creek. Erik has been 4-wheeling in these hills for years and he recognized the Jeep trail just past our campsite as Wurts Ditch road. Most of the forests on the CT were not ideal for bear hangs, so I tied my Ursack to a tree trunk far enough away from camp after dinner. It had been a really fun evening hiking & chatting in the woods.

We had about 11 miles left to the Timberline Lake trailhead, and the climbs were much steeper than I had expected. I’d already been backpacking almost every week for the past two months and felt like I was in pretty good hiking shape, but Erik led most of the way on his first time out. We had fun visiting with some other CT hikers who were also not loving today’s climbs. We met an interesting CDT hiker who had deferred last year’s hike for the pandemic, but used that time to cache his resupplies across 4 states. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of Porcupine Lake when we saw how pretty and secluded it was.

We could finally see familiar Turquoise Lake then descended down to the trailhead where we had left Erik’s Jeep. This was my last segment to complete between Denver and Twin Lakes, and the following Sunday I planned to start into the the Collegiates and beyond to hike the final 300 miles. But after Segment 9 the trail had already far exceeded any of my expectations.


  1. Jaunting Jan says:

    Glad you mentioned the Ursack as that’s what I’m planning to bring, although I’m a little concerned as it seems the bears have been a bit aggressive with those bags as well. I don’t do bear hangs so it’s either the Ursack or a bear canister. Did you wish you’d carried the canister?


    1. Larry Haines says:

      I tried hang my food over the first 5 sections where ithe bears have a reputation for being more active in campsites. I felt comfortable with the Ursack after that. If it rains the outer bag soaks up water and is hard to dry, but I’d still rather carry my Ursack than my canister.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jaunting Jan says:

        Ditto here. I’ll keep my canister in my car just in case I decide to switch. I’ve been carrying my Ursack for a decade without issues but I tend to avoid the popular campsites.

        Liked by 1 person

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