I met up with Handy Andy near Grand Lake, Colorado. We planned to hike to Canada together. We had both been solo hiking, doing large sections of the trail completely solo, and doing many alternate routes to switch things up. I had met Andy back on the PCT. He was passing the group I was with, hiking the trail in 90 days. Pretty amazing for a first thru hike. He went on to set the fastest known time (FKT) on the John Muir Trail, hiking 220 miles in 3 days and 10 hours. The boy can hike. I thought I could hike, until I tried keeping up with him for more than a few days. Not only is he a an extremely strong hiker, he is so fine tuned. He mixes malto while walking. He purifies his water while walking. He checks maps and navigates while walking. He texts his girlfriend while walking. The dude has an internal motor stronger than any I’ve seen. He needs no time off. He wants no time off. And I signed on to chase him all around these mountains, trying my best to keep up!
It’s been a great challenge for me. To start, we were waking up at 4:30 am every morning and getting at least 20 in before noon, regardless of the difficulty of the trail. We consistently were pulling 35-40 miles a day through Colorado and into central Wyoming. It was fun, I was keeping up. A lot of these areas were boring, or maybe not the most scenic is a better way to put it. So we smashed through. Which was awesome. Then we hit the wind River range.
The mighty winds. I had heard from my good friend cactus in Denver that the winds were his favorite range. He went on and on about how jagged the peaks were, and how remote the valleys are. This was months ago, in the winter, and I had mostly forgotten about what he had said before I entered. After a week or so of monotonous miles in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming, this place totally woke us up.
Out of the great divide basin, the winds rise steeply. Andy and I dialed back the miles and began hitting side peaks and sinking around a lot with off trail climbs and lakes we wanted to see. It was like a breath of fresh air to be back in epic mountains, having freedom to climb peaks, explore hidden lakes, and get off trail a bit here and there. It was exciting. The miles were still pretty easy too, so we were able to see a lot!
My girlfriend Grace came too, which was fantastic. Though not an experienced backpacker, she did w 25 mile day including knapsack col. I was super impressed! Here are some photo highlights from these sections:
If you made it this far, you can see that the winds were beautiful. Hands down, my favorite mountain range I’ve travelled through to date. Just beautiful!