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2019 Continental Divide Trail Colorado - Wyoming

We drive to TwinLakes again. Salome, Kathy my wife and I as well as Deets, Rodeo and Ahi. We arrive after midday and saddle the horses. Ahi gets the food boxes and the tent and fence roll. Our horses carry our personal luggage and sleeping bag etc.

Kathy drives back to Larkspur while we are offered water again by a woman from the village before we set off on the trail. We take a shortcut up to the CDT and I lead the horses uphill. The trail ends in the middle of the forest and we climb up the embankment, as there is another trail at the top that should take us to the CDT. When we reach another junction, we climb up. The trees are very close together and I'm just about to decide whether I shouldn't dismount to lead Ahi when he bumps into a tree with his right food bag, the bag slides backwards, Ahi panics and turns around and runs back down the path, tears the bag off and Deets is desperate to follow. My right knee thunders a few times against the closely spaced trees and I decide to dismount at the next opportunity.

Deets and Ahi gallop back along the path, I lie on the ground and call out to Salome to see if she's okay. She answers and I'm glad that nothing has happened to her. She stands next to Rodeo and looks at me in disbelief. I tell her to gather up our equipment, which is scattered everywhere, and I'll try to find the horses. I follow the tracks, but they double back and I can't see where they left the path in the scree. I turn back and ride back up to help Salome.

We have found all but 2 bags and take them down to the village after I call Kathy to tell her to come and pick us up. The horses are gone and later that evening a car from the village picks up the last box from the mountain. Salome stays with Rodeo in Twinlakes, I drive Kathy home, who has to go to work tomorrow. I hope the horses come back in the night. At 4 o'clock I drive back to TwinLakes, and when I get there the horses are still missing. While we are drinking coffee, a neighbor calls to tell us that the horses are back. One saddle is broken, the other is hanging under the horse. 1 roll is gone and both pads and blankets. But the horses are healthy and they are back.


6.9.2019

I spend the next few days replenishing the equipment, getting a saddle and repairing the damaged bags. Salome helps Karin and Lukas, and the horses enjoy their extra days off. 4 days after our unsuccessful start we drive to Twin Lakes again, but this time we leave the train in the parking lot right at the trail head to the CDT. Karin, my daughter, is with us this time and her husband will pick up the train in a few days when he comes to visit us with the children. We ride along the CDT without any further problems and are about 3 hours on the road when we hear thunder. Thunderstorms were in the forecast, so I soon look for a grassy area where we could camp. We cross a rivulet and about 1 km further on we find a clearing in the forest where the horses can spend the night. As soon as we have unsaddled, it starts to hail and it gets really dark. The horses stand dripping under the trees and we have thrown our ponchos over our luggage. We wait for the rain to subside and then we set up the paddock and lead the horses inside. The two women fetch water, I set up the tent and prepare dinner. Later, we extend the fence again to provide the horses with more good grass. However, Rodeo objects to being fenced in again and it takes a while to convince him to finally give up. I pitch my yellow tarp next to the pasture, the two women sleep under the large tarp under the trees.


7.9.

It takes us almost 3 hours to pack everything up and stow it on the horses. This time Karin rides Ahi and Kiowa carries the panniers. The two women talk for hours. I'm pleased that they obviously get on so well. We ride along the mountain in the San Isabel National Forest and pass some beautiful lakes before heading down to Emerald Lake, where we wait for Lukas and the children.


8.9.

we ride through wooded hills further and further north and get above the tree line, which gives us wonderful views. The horses run happily and swiftly and we enjoy the silence and unspoiled nature. The trail leads north along the contour line and we discover that the Rocky Mountains are so called because they are very rocky and stony. We follow a few lakes and ponds as we get closer and closer to Highway 24 and meet the first hikers again. One of them tells us that the people in Cooper Mountain are not so keen on hikers when I ask if he knows of any accommodation for the horses there. We therefore decide to set up camp far above the town and 8 km before HWY 24. We make a fire and let the horses graze. As we are putting up a few more logs after dinner, a lady comes and tells us that there is a fire ban. We check our phones and put out the fire. An hour later, she is back with a newspaper article confirming that there is a fire ban and the message that she has informed Search and Rescue and that if we hadn't already put out the fire, she would report us to them. We go to bed.


9.9

We ride up the ridge and follow it for the next few hours. The view down into the valley to Beckenridge and Frisco is tremendous. It is cold today, we are at over 3000 m and there is a brisk wind. We are doing well. The two women have got used to the trekking life and are enjoying the freedom of being out and about. The work in camp is going well and the horses are willing and interested in moving forward. Tomorrow we will give them a break. We take regular breaks and make sure we always have something to eat and drink, although it becomes clear that carbohydrates quickly fizzle out and fats and oils provide energy for much longer.

After midday we descend through wooded areas towards the valley, where we see deer and meet two hunters who have driven up a stream bed in their truck. An hour later, we find a marshy meadow where we can stable the horses. Next door, the forest has been cleared and in the distance I can hear the harvester working and the trucks driving on and off. According to the map, we find a stream from which we can fetch water and we prepare our camp for the night and dinner.


10.9.

We get up at 6 a.m. and pack our sleeping bags and mats. I put the water on and prepare coffee and our chai muesli. After breakfast, we tidy up the kitchen, fetch the horses, take down the fence and tarp, stow everything in the panniers and clean the horses. At 8 a.m. everything is saddled up and ready to ride off. Today we first ride along a long valley to the highway, which we have to cross. On the other side, the trail leads up to Kokomo Pass and then along the ridge towards Cooper Mountain. We have a coffee there and buy a few groceries. Cooper Mountain is a ski resort and golf course designed on a drawing board and crammed into the landscape. We don't like the architecture and ride out of the town. On the other side of the valley, the path was buried by an avalanche in May. Now, in September, nothing has been cleared and we have to fight our way through the masses of

trees.


11.9.

when I wake up in the morning, it is still dark and quiet. I peel myself out of my sleeping bag and put on some water. A few minutes later, I hear the harvester start up and begin to work. But it doesn't stay where it was last night, it rolls in our direction. I wake the two women and explain to them that we need to hurry. The harvester is now in sight and is felling trees on the other side of the clearing where our horses are standing. We break all records and are in the saddle after 90 minutes. The path leads us back up to a hill and from there we can see the extent of the clearing here. There are kilometers in every direction that have been completely cleared.

A long mountain bike trail takes us downhill to the interstate, which we have to cross. We ride along the cycle path to the next settlement and ask a dog owner if he knows where we can get coffee. He says it's only five miles to the next town, but in the wrong direction, and there is coffee there. We decline with thanks and ride through the village. I ask a man who is just about to mount his bike if we could get a coffee from him and he immediately invites us. We ride for another 2 hours and then arrive at the camp around midday, where we wait for Lukas and the children. Karin will be leaving us today.


12.9

The next morning we set off in pairs, and the map promises a strenuous day. We have been moving at 3000 m and higher for a week now, but today we are to climb the first 4000 m peak. The way up is not difficult, we can ride quite a bit, but at 3500 m the air gets pretty thin and we realize that we are running out of oxygen. The ascent is correspondingly slow and when we finally reach the top, we realize that we still have a few kilometres ahead of us with several more steep climbs. The view in the clear and very cold weather is exhilarating. We lead the horses down a bit, always following the path, and climb down through a scree field into the next hollow. There we meet an elderly gentleman who asks how far it is to the summit. I tell him it's about 30 minutes uphill, whereupon he declares: "Here's the summit, I've reached it and now I'm turning back". We continue downhill and opposite us the path goes almost vertically up another 300 m and I wish there was a more effective way than following the ridge. But there are no options and so we have no choice but to continue up the 300 vertical metres. We see a group of mountain sheep on the ridge above us. We follow the ridge, there are some tough climbing sections in the rocks, and although we master them well, the path worries me because it seems that the climbing would continue for a while. I leave the horses and continue on foot to explore the terrain.

There's no way through here, the horses are tired, it's already four o'clock and the rocky ridge is simply too tough for our desert warriors. I consult the map and we decide to turn back and descend into the valley, as time is pressing and we need grass and water before nightfall. We descend across the terrain into the valley and set up our tarp there and let the horses graze fenced in.


13.9.

the stream has ice when we wake up in the morning and there is hoar frost everywhere. We break camp and lead the horses cross-country down into the valley, where we can see a gravel track. As we descended on the wrong side of the mountain, we now have to go all the way down the valley and then back on a tarred road over the Guaenella Pass in the direction of the CDT. But it's great to be riding again and even though the road down the pass is difficult (tar makes you tired), the hope of a tasty dinner and a beer drives me forward.

I hope to find a TrailAngel offering us an overnight stay in Georgtown and set off at a good pace. On the last bend before the town, a jeep pulls up next to me and asks if we need any help. My TrailAngel is there. Her name is the same as the pass and she comes from the family that settled in this area around 1860. We ask for a place for the horses, a beer and dinner. I will organize this, we should just continue down the road, she would come back and pick us up.

10 minutes later she is back, it should only be 3 miles to a friend's corral, it ends up being 7 or 8 miles, but we get hay and water for the horses, and Guanella invites us to dinner with friends at the local pizzeria. We enjoy the evening and the beer. It was almost 50 km today, we crawl tiredly into our sleeping bags.

14.9.

We have slept in the stable and our phones are charged again. We decide to ride further up the valley and look for the way up to the CDT in the next valley instead of walking the 8 miles back again. No sooner said than done... we ride up to Empire and park the horses in front of a coffee shop. We are just about to continue when our friends from last night turn up and explain how to get up to the CDT. But better still, they just ride ahead and show us the way. We cross the road and follow the car that drives up the gravel road in front of us.

At the top we come to a plateau, off-road paths cross everywhere and we ride along the contour line. We soon come to the CDT, a narrow path that again leads up the side of the valley, but there must be a road just above us. We take a short cut up the road and after a few kilometers we come to Loch Lomond, a reservoir. We set up camp there and fence in the horses. In the evening there are lots of campfires, despite the local ban, and I invite myself to one of the fires in the hope of a beer. This turns out to be the case and we have a good time. I return to camp just before dark.


15.9

We leave the reservoir and look for the path up to the ridge. There are three paths and only one of them is really suitable for the horses. After a while it is clear which one we will take and we climb up to our next 4000m. By now we are feeling better and we take turns leading the horses. The path up is quite steep and there are surprisingly many people around. We finally reach the summit, where we meet a group of young people.

One of them asks why we are bringing the horses up here, a good question...... because we are on our way to Canada? The way down, on the other hand, is not clearly defined and so I set off in search of the path. We lead the horses down, the path leads down and around a mountain onto a gravel track, where we can trot a bit again. It is an old railroad track that has been converted into a road. We pass Deadmans Lake and leave the track to descend into the next valley. On the way down, we meet two hikers who have stopped because they see a cow moose. We continue down into the valley and set up our bivouac in a large meadow.


16.9.

The night is starry and quiet. We hear coyotes howling in the distance and the horses also see some animals in the distance. We are in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area and the trail winds through forest and meadows. We see some hunters with their orange vests and every now and then we have to dodge some fallen trees. We make good progress and will soon reach the lakes and grants where we can shop and recharge our batteries.

The Colorado River has its source here and we soon reach the first of the lakes. We ride along it and then cross on boardwalks and gravel roads to the second lake through a marshland landscape. It's warm today and I'm looking forward to a swim this evening. Salome, however, would like to go swimming straight away, but I want to be sure that we can make it to Grants tomorrow, so I put her off until the evening. In a steep valley, the wind has once again blown down dozens of trees and we climb laboriously around all the devastation. We reach the end of the second lake and it's only another 15 km to Grants. Here at the end of the lake we unsaddle the horses and fence them in. A refreshing swim in the glorious sunshine washes away the sweat of the past few days. Nearby, two hunters who have come ashore in their motorboat have set up camp. They return in the course of the evening and we spend a cozy evening around their campfire.


17.9.

we follow the Colorado River, which has its source here, for a while and come to Shadow Mountain Lake and the village of Grants. We ask a local dog walker if he knows where we could stay with horses and he refers us to Windy River Resort. We call them and are warmly welcomed. There's just something they don't quite understand. Where are your trailer and camper? Have you had an accident? It takes a while before the message arrives that we are on horseback. We're the first to spend the night here like this. We bring the horses to the corral and get hay for them. It's not cheap, but the horses need a break and we need two bikes to get into town. We eat Mexican food and go shopping in town. All in all, we leave almost 300 dollars behind, but the beer and the food were very good. We wash our clothes, shower and sit around a campfire in the evening drinking beer with other riders on vacation while the batteries are charged at the store.


18.9.

Rocky Mountain National Park The day off has been good for the horses. Today is going to be a long day, as we are only allowed to camp in selected, pre-reserved spots in the park and have to bring and feed certified hay. Instead of all the stress, we will simply ride the 40 km through the park and bivouac outside the park in the evening. No sooner said than done. We ride on the trail through the park and come out of the park 10 km further north from the start. Unfortunately, there are no animals to be seen, except at the very edge of the park. We see deer crossing the road and a moose marching through the Windy River Resort. The road up to the plateau is very well maintained and has some very nice spots. The top of the plateau is exciting, but it drags on until you get back to the descent. We lead the way down and Salome rides a bit because the route is quite strenuous. In the middle of the forest, just before the exit of the park, a shot is fired very close to us. All three horses accelerate and I struggle to keep Rodeo on the lead rope, especially as Kiowa runs into the lead rope and wants to pass. Deets, who is at the back, jumps forward and sinks into the boggy ground, Salome falls out of the saddle, but fortunately nothing happens to her. We camp just outside the park on the edge of a large meadow.


19.9

We follow the road north for a while and turn into the Never Sommer Widerness Area. Initially a lane, later just a trail, the path winds up the mountain at an altitude of 3500 m to a pass without a name. Wonderful views from up here. We lead the horses down and end up in extensive forest areas again. We ride through the forest for hours and reach a large meadow in the early afternoon. We stop there and set up the fence and tarp. Tomorrow we arrive at the meeting point, where we are picked up by my family. Salome fetches water while I prepare dinner. There are freeze-dried soups for vegetarians and for me always with a load of beef or chicken. The meals don't taste bad and are filling enough for two people. Afterwards we have tea and are on our mats by 8 o'clock.


20.9.

We ride along the side of the mountain and come to a ridge. There is a heavy storm up here and we struggle to keep our balance. The path leads up to 3700 m and from there down again. There is a refuge at the top, but it is locked. We follow the ridge and march around the entire basin in a steady up and down until we finally descend on the other side of the valley and turn west again in the valley. We take a short break at the bottom of the valley and eat something on the way at 10am, 12pm and 3pm, as Salome needs to replenish her sugar levels regularly. The path drags on and we are happy when it finally goes downhill and we have water again. Shortly before the end of today's stage, we have another avalanche cone, which has torn down the trees in the path and completely blocked the trail. With a handsaw and a lot of patience, we cut a lane through the labyrinth and lead the horses through it. One bag gets stuck and I have to make a makeshift repair on the spot. We reach a trail head, where a few vehicles are parked and a horse is tethered to a tree. We talk to the owner, who tells us that he was hunting here with some people and that the horses, including the mule, had been driven up to transport the hunted animals down. He drove here from Illinois (about 16 hours) and will drive back tomorrow morning, unfortunately without having shot a deer. He takes a photo of us and we look after the horses, cook dinner and lie down tired under the tarp.


21.9.

We follow the trail further north and again we are led up onto a ridge. We follow it until about midday and then continue north through the forest. We are at the height of Steamboat Springs and in a few days we will be picked up. We are now a well-rehearsed team, Salome has her tasks well under control and we get on well. The horses have lost some weight but are holding up well and we have no saddle or girth pressure. Now that Rodeo has slimmed down a bit, the saddle is also holding up better and the back chinch helps to stabilize all the equipment.

We come across hunters from time to time on the way, but most of them leave without having achieved anything. We are told that the average hunting success rate is 20% and we only see a few antlers being transported. Today the horses have a break again. But first we have to get to I 70, where we will meet the family and the trailer. It's only about 20 km and we have arranged to meet at the meeting point at around 11 am. The path down into the valley is a long one, and after we have watered the horses at the stream, we let them trot for a while. Today we will drive to Steamboat Springs with the family and spend the night there.

Tomorrow we will drive across the SandWash Basin to Landert in Wyoming. We drive about 6 hours until we arrive in Lander and stop at the ranger station. We ask where we can stay overnight with the horses, and it seems to be much easier here than in New Mexico or southern Colorado. We get the address of a llama trekking and B&B house, so we drive there. The wife is quite skeptical at first, but her husband, an ex-army guy who served in Europe, has no objections and we can put the horses and trailer in a large pasture. We spend the afternoon together and I invite them to dinner.

22.9

Balancing your life... We saddle up the horses and ride up Sink Canyon Road with no idea of the exact route we need to take to get back to the CDT. I don't manage to adjust the map on the Garmin so that I can see the whole area. The map is just too big. We ride straight north, because according to the rangers there must be a path that leads to Shoshone Lake and then to the Bear Ears Trail. We trot along the road and come to a closed lookout that tries to explain the seepage of the river. There I renew a Duplo at Rodeo and we come to a stream and a trailhead 2-3 km later. Both are very welcome, as the horses and we are thirsty, and there is a map there that can show me the trail I am looking for. I copy the trail numbers from the map and walk 2 km back, where an off-road trail leads up into the mountain. On the way there, I find this rock resting point down on another rock. We ride up in a creek bed, which is a bit brave to call a trail, until we are on the ridge. There are still cows up here too, so we have to see where there is grass for the horses. But we find what we are looking for and have enough food for the horses.


23.9.

we set off as usual and follow the trail north through the forest and soon come to a large open area. We try to take a shortcut, but it doesn't work, so we return the other way. We come to a wide valley, which we follow and Shoshone Lake opens up in front of us. This is about 10 km long and we follow it for about 7 km. Not a single animal for miles around, just a solitary falcon circling above us. After the lake, we descend into a valley and climb up again on the other side. There was a fire here only a few years ago, so the trees still stretch their black branches into the sky. At the top of the ridge, there are wooden bridges that lead through the swamps and soon we come to a road that leads to the ranger's quarters and over a long footbridge to a trailhead. We have arrived at the foot of the Bear Ear Trail and set up camp here.


24.9

We follow the Bear Ears Trail. It's a steep climb, but the horses pick up their pace quickly. We are back at 3700 m and the trail winds its way through rocky terrain. Halfway up we take a break and enjoy the view. The path leads further and further up over a gravel slope and after the pass down into a swampy hollow. At last the horses have water again. We reach the ridge and descend to Valentinlake on the other side of the mountain. There is no sound except the muffled pattering of the horses, and not a single animal to be seen. It's cold up here, but the autumn colors are fantastic and the lakes are deep blue. You could stand it here if the wind wasn't blowing so icy.


25.9.

We pass dozens of lakes and ponds on the way to Wakashi Lake. Wakashi was a Shoshone chief who lived from 1807 to 1911 and was able to negotiate a peaceful transition to modern times for his people. He was officially buried with military honors by the USA. The pass over which we reach the CDT side of the mountain also bears his name. We climb further up and reach the pass and see the CDT below us. We lead the horses down and pass various lakes, each more beautiful than the last. We reach the CDT at the bottom of the valley and decide to set up camp here. The vegetation is not lush, so we build the paddock as large as possible and set up our tarp in the lee of some stunted pine trees. Salome fetches water and takes lots of photos of the beautiful landscape.


27.9.

It's still pitch dark when I wake up because the tarpaulin is pressing against my face. It had hailed and rained last night, so I thought I could just push the rainwater away. But nothing helped. I listen for the horses, but there is absolute silence and nothing to be heard. I put my boots on and step out from under the tarp and in the light of the lamp I can see that I'm standing in 15 cm of snow and it's sticking to the tarp and won't slide off. I check on the horses and see a few eyes shining in the light of the flashlight. Everything is still there. It's snowing and I put on my raincoat before waking Salome. Snow and rain were in the forecast for the weekend, but not tonight, not until Sunday. And this was not good news.

We had discussed yesterday how we would continue, but I still had two days to get to lower altitudes. It was no fun being snowed in here at 3000 m. We get ready as quickly as possible and lead the horses down the mountain into the valley. It's still about 80 km to the next village and we have to be there in two days at the latest so that we can survive the predicted blizzard. The snow soon subsides and it stops raining around midday. We reach a trailhead and find a route down into the valley and to Boulder Wyoming, where we hope to find shelter. There is hardly any water after the trailhead and the route suggested by the GPS also proves to be patchy to non-existent. We descend across the mountain and come to another trail where we find water and pasture. We set up camp here.

28.9. It stayed reasonably dry last night, so I hoped to get away unscathed again today. We follow the trail down the valley, but after a short time it disappears into the terrain and we descend cross-country. We have to leave the park via fenced-in terrain to the road, and then another 40 km on the road to Boulder. We manage the descent in the steep terrain very well and reach the fence, which we have to open to get to the road. As soon as we are on the other side, it starts to pour, so we have to put on our poncho and raincoat. We ride along the fence towards the road and realize that all the gates are secured with heavy locks. We are still about 2 km from the road when such a gate blocks our way. There is nothing left to do but ride along the fence in a south-easterly direction until we reach the road. The rain lashes us in the face and we finally reach the road after a few more fences.

We trot along the roadside and still have about 5 hours of trotting ahead of us, interrupted again and again by cow grates that force us to dismount and open the side gate and close it again so that we can get past the grate.

Lightning and thunder, hail and sleet alternate, and the sun even shines briefly in between. Two caravans drive past and we stop them, but the trailers are all full. A ranger who comes towards us explains that we are lucky, up in the mountains they are expecting 120 cm of snow. Deets suddenly goes lame, he has lost a Duplo, which I have to replace. We eat something and trot on when Kiowa starts to go lame barely 2 km further on. I check his shoes, but nothing is visible and he is still lame. We walk and lead the horses to keep warm. We will ask for accommodation at the next ranch, I promise Salome, but all the buildings are without light and there is no smoke in the chimney. A car pulls out of a ranch in front of us and we trot over to catch it. A young couple is sitting in it and when we ask if they can help us, he just says: I will open the gate, just talked to my Dad, he will help you. We ride through a side gate onto the ranch and when I knock on the door, the rancher calls me in with the phone to my ear. We get hay for the horses in a large corral, sit in the dry living room and spend the night in the stables while the storm rages outside.


29.9.

we have breakfast with the rancher's family and he organizes a cab to take us over the South Pass back to Lander, where we can pick up our trailer. The horses stay another night on the farm while we put up in a motel in Pinedale. The next day we drive to Yellowstone National Park.


2.10.

We stay in Yellowstone for two days and drive through the park once. Here we see all the animals we missed on the way. On the way home it snows again and we have to take a few detours because passes are closed for our trailer. But 14 hours later we arrive safely in Larkspur and can let the horses out to pasture again.

Our thanks go to the horses, the people who helped us and my family who made it possible. Special thanks also to Salome, who put up with me

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