My 12-day trip to Southwestern Colorado took a strange twist a week ago when I had an emergency operation in Durango, 500 miles from home. The operation went well and the hospital discharged me on Sunday.
But I was stranded in Durango. Traveling alone, I checked into a motel as I tried to figure out a way to return home.
The surgeon strongly recommended against my driving back. The main reason was that if I had to hit the brake hard, I could tear open the six inch incision in my stomach.
But the surgeon offered an inspired suggestion. “You can probably find someone on Craig’s List who wants to share a ride from Durango to the Denver area,” he told me.
In fact, I found two parties who wanted a ride from Durango to within 20 miles of my home. One of the parties was a couple, Jason and Christine, who wrote on Craig’s List that “2 of us (1 guy, 1 girl) are finishing a hike of the co trail 10/05 and need a ride from durango to denver. We each have 1 large backpack to take, willing to share all ride expenses of course. Cell 720-352-4029. Pls leave a msg, we don’t have cell or internet while hiking so we won’t be able to respond till the 5th.”
Of course I left a message! I asked them to call me as soon as they got into Durango, and they did. They were checked in to a motel a block from the motel where I was staying. I went right over and met them Monday afternoon. The chemistry worked, and we decided to leave Durango at 9 a.m. yesterday morning.
Jason and Christine Hoff are a remarkable couple. Not only are they long-distance hikers but they are also sailors. They just finished sailing their boat, the S.V. Lotus, more than 12,000 miles on a two-year voyage from Florida to San Francisco. You can read about those adventures in their blog.
Now they are both looking for positions in their fields. He is an engineer and she is a college admissions officer. But while they had time, they hiked the entire Colorado Trail in 32 days.
The Colorado Trail, starting at Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver, runs for 483 miles to Durango. But with the detours they had to take Jason and Christine hiked more than 500 miles.
About 200 miles of the Colorado Trail are also the Continental Divide Trail. The elevation of the Colorado Trail ranges from 5,500 feet in Waterton Canyon to 13,334 feet in the San Juan Mountains. “Some estimate that those hardy souls hiking the entire length of the trail will gain (and lose) nearly 75,000 vertical feet,” according to Wikipedia.
And I thought that the 132 miles that I hiked on my two week High Sierra Trek was a long hike!
Of course we had a lot to talk about. We shared our hiking experiences.
Jason did all of the driving and is a slow, careful driver. While I have usually had a hard time relaxing when someone else drove, I was so at ease with his driving that I even napped a bit.
We even walked a few steps on the Colorado Trail when we came to Kenosha Pass, one of the trailheads. Jason says that this section will be a great hike for me next July or August, and I intend to do it.
We stopped for lunch in the town of Del Norte. I was surprised to find such a charming natural foods restaurant, the Peace of Art Cafe, in such an out-of-the-way location.
The other significant stop we made was to photograph the beauty of the San Juan Mountains. This mountain range in southwestern Colorado is the state’s youngest geologically and therefore the most rugged.
I returned home at 8 p.m. yesterday evening. Having Jason to drive me made the long trip easy.
Now that I’m home I will have plenty of time to concentrate on my work. Because of my surgery, I had to cancel my planned ride on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and trips next week that I had planned to Dallas to meet with folks from the American Heart Association and to Seoul, Korea, to meet with folks from i-SENS Inc.
My surgeon also says that for the next six weeks I can’t do any hiking. But he encouraged me to do a lot of walking.
The difference between hiking and walking is a subtle one. But the surgeon says that I shouldn’t climb more than 1,000 feet. I can handle that.