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Colorado Trail -Segment 6B

July 10/11/12, 2003

Segment 6B  - Jefferson Lake Trailhead to Gold Hill Trailhead (Breckenridge)

Distance: 26 miles

Elevation Gain: approx 3500 feet

Ham Radio Activity - Log of all contacts made and description of rigs

This is the biggest chunk of the trail that we had done in one hike.  Segment 6 is 32 miles long.  It includes a crossing of the continental divide, an 1800' climb, plus a later stretch that includes an elevation gain of 1200'.  We planned to make the hike in 3 nights and 4 days.  Just to add a comfort factor, I planned to start the hike about 6 miles in from the standard trailhead.  I figured we could hike from here to the end of the trail near Breckenridge.  If we still felt like hiking we could come back and hike the first 6 miles.  If we were dead tired, we could stop and do the other 6 miles as a day hike later.

Terry and I met our friend Gail at 7:30AM on Thurs the 10th.  We drove two cars to the Gold Hill trailhead 4 miles north of Breckinridge.  We left one car there and backtracked to Jefferson, CO where we drove about 5 miles in to the Jefferson Lake Trailhead to begin the hike.  There was good parking at a small picnic ground just .1 mile from the trailhead.  We pulled the packs from the car and Gail's left a puddle of water behind.  We discovered her main water bladder had drained leaving her with only 32oz of water.  We knew the first part of the trail had plenty of water so we didn't worry about it.  We hiked the short distance to the trailhead and documented our beginning!  A few hundred yards after we got started we ran into a 'lone young man' just finishing up a short break who had begun the trail just a few days before at Denver and intended to hike the trail to Durango in the next few weeks.  As we passed and exchanged some good natured 'trail talk' he confidently called 'I'll see you in a while'.  Did he understand that 3 40+ year old folks might be insulted that he'd assume he would be catching up with us?  Did he understand we were lean, mean hiking machines planning to put miles between us and him?  When challenged he apologized profusely for his unsubstantiated assumption and we moved on at top speed.  

The first mile or so of the hike from this point is an easy hike and we made fairly good time.  A few minutes into the hike as the 'lone young man' caught us and passed us we interrogated him about the weight of his gear.  He admitted that he was only carrying 35lbs of gear so we felt better about him passing us as we carried our 50+ pound packs.

The trail began to climb and we shortly topped out on top of the continental divide at an elevation of approximately 11,800 feet.  We knew we were smokin' hikers but we were surprised when we stumbled upon the 'lone young man' once again.  As he gave us a story about falling asleep while admiring the views we suspected we were actually getting the best of him.  We exchanged a few stories, fed him some of our fresh strawberries (after a week away from a grocery a hiker can appreciate fresh produce) and he left us behind once again.  We took pictures of the view to the west (I guess that from here we were really looking at the ocean) and of Mt Guyot and then moved on.  On the way down there were many more spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.  We would have liked to stop after about 7 or 8 miles but a good campsite with water didn't turn up until about 10 miles so we ended up putting in a good day.  We camped at a spot labeled the 'middle fork of the swan river'.  The area had a number of excellent camp sites.  Unfortunately there was a road into this area so we shared it with several 'car campers'.  We found a nice private site that was close enough to the creek that we looked forward to listening to it as we went to sleep.  After dinner who showed up at camp but the 'lone young man'.  The day was done and it was a tie!  I believed him when he told me he was averaging 20 miles a day but today at least we were all in the same league!  We spent an hour or so talking to him that evening and it was a treat as he had many interesting experiences hiking overseas.  This was the last we would see of he lone young man.

We were up and hiking by about 10AM the next day.  Two miles into the hike we crossed a small creek that the Colorado Trial guide book described as the 'last reliable water source for 16.3 miles'.  There were, however, several seasonal water supplies in the interim.  We had already passed a few water supplies that were marked as seasonal and they all had water so, after considerable talking, we decided we could risk finding water before 16.3 miles.  The second day's hike included another 1000' elevation gain.  We hiked to the top without seeing water.  By this time we were ready to stop and decided at the first sign of water we'd make camp.   We hiked another couple miles without seeing water at our seasonal sources.  As we got up to about 9 miles we came to the last potential seasonal water source hoping to find water and camp.  We found no water but since the next seasonal stream was another 3 miles we decided we'd better stop and make a dry camp.  A half mile back we had passed another trail which the trail guide said led to the 'headwaters of the soda creek drainage' but we had no idea how far it was or if it would be another dry seasonal source.   We had only 96 oz of water left for the 3 of us and our two dogs.  Without more water we'd be eating dry food tonite and drinking very little until noon the next day when we hit the next water source so as Terry and Gail set up camp I headed of to find the 'headwaters'.  It was a good mile and a half hike back but I did find a small spring..... I had all of our water bottles and bladders and I sat down to fill up.  As I finished up Terry and Gail showed up to help carry the water back.  Life was good once again and we had a great spot to camp.

We now had 19 miles under our belts and it was obvious we could finish the hike in one day.  The next day's hike was 7 miles and was relatively easy without any large elevation gains.  Three miles from Breckenridge we began seeing signs of civilization again.  The last three miles parallel the hiway running from Breckenridge to Frisco and the hike ends about 4 miles north of Breckenridge.  The trail stays far enough away from the hiway that you don't see it or hear it.  The very last mile actually skirts an rv park, crosses the hiway, and runs beside the road.  As we got to the car I volunteered that I was ready for a beer and bath and the last thing I wanted to do was hike another 6 miles.  There was complete agreement and we counted the hike a success (26 mile success) and headed home.

The three of us at the Jefferson Lake Trailhead

View of Jefferson Lake from our first break point

Gail & Terry at our first break

Terry on the trail

View West (to the ocean) from the continental divide

View of Mt Guyot from the Continental Divide

Mt Guyot as we moved down the west side of continental divide

Our first night campsite

Creek that ran by our first night campsite

Mountain views

Trail at around 10,500 ft just below treeline

More Terry on the trail with Ellie

View of Moutains around Breckenridge as we approached

More mountains surrounding Breckenridge

Mountains meet civilization as we near Breckenridge

Ellie enjoying the wildflowers on our last break