Todd Richardson Mrs. Philion B English

Colorado Backpacking Experience

 During the summer of 2014, I took a trip to Colorado. I was there July 26th to August 3rd. I was with members of my Boy Scout troop, Troop 19, who were all more experienced than I. Along with four other scouts (one was my brother), I was with a sister of two scouts and four adults. There were ten of us all together. Most of us had heavy backpacks weighing about 30-35 pounds and even some 40 pound packs. We flew from Manchester, NH, to Albuquerque, NM, where we rented a van. We had a five-day backpacking trip starting at the Purgatory Creek trailhead, a much wooded area off a main road. When we got back to the van we had rented after hiking the trail, we checked in to a campsite and set up. We were at that campsite for two nights and did some shopping and exploring including a visit to the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings.

We started our first day of hiking at Purgatory Creek strong with a little bit of downhill, but mostly a flat trail. There were no major problems, and we all loved our surroundings. At first there were a lot of trees, and it seemed like it would be forest forever. But as it evened out, we entered a big, open field with a trail. All around us was silence and tall grass; beyond that was the forest. The only uphill we had was a ledge, from which we could see down into a valley with green trees. We went over the ledge, and we hiked in the woods until we stopped at a campsite surrounded by trees. We set up our tents just as it was about to rain. We ate filling dinners of noodles in the rain and did our best to make, build and keep a small fire in the rain. I did my best to look at the vegetation around the site from the fire because it was so fascinating, but I soon retired to my tent as I did not want to get too wet.

The next morning, I woke up and packed up. We all ate breakfast, ready for another nice hike. We got moving, but today we would end up on 11,000 feet elevation! This day of hiking I was a bit sore from the previous day of hiking. It was almost all uphill, so we took a lot of breathers and breaks. I was put in the front as I was the youngest and slowest. We hiked through almost all forest and trees on a path that was very easy to follow. For some of the hike, we hiked by a river that was just down a hill and on our right, and to our left there was a steep bank of dirt, so we knew not to wander in either direction. The path varied from skinny to wide. On the trail, we occasionally sang a song that everyone knew and that made the hiking easier. On a part of the trail there were two big patches of sand that were steep and tiring to hike over. They were like big sand dunes.

As we got to about 11,000 feet, there were fewer trees, and I got elevation sickness. I could barely walk and it felt as if there was no oxygen in the air. Everyone else moved to the campsite except for my mom and me. My mom and I took our time as I was not feeling well. My mom carried my bag until we got to the campsite. I still remember walking into the campsite and seeing all the other scouts on the big rock in the back of the site. I slept on the ground for a while, or at least until dinner. I only ate a little bit of dinner, and then I retired to my tent.

The next day was a rest day. Others decided to hike up the trail farther to explore, but I was still feeling sick. I stayed at the campsite and only left for a couple pictures of my mom, brother, and me with the mountains behind us. In the afternoon, I played at the small steam near the campsite where I got to take off my shoes and socks and put my feet into the cold water. I slept late and went to bed early that day, readying for the next two days of hiking.

On the fourth day, all the scouts, including me, were moving quickly down the trail. We only went downhill, so it was pretty easy. We got so far ahead at the pace we were going, that we had to wait for the sister and a couple adults at one point. We made it past the campsite we stayed at for the first night and stopped at another place with lots of soft pine needles. We were also next to a river and bridge, so we went swimming in the water even though it was numbing cold. We had dinner, and some of us played cards at the picnic table that was at the campsite. I was eager to hike back to “civilization,” as I called it, so I went to bed early that night.

Day five was the final day of our hiking trip. There was an uphill section that slowed us down. We had lunch on a rock from which we could see a big valley of trees and look out for a long way. We hiked until we reached the tented van where we loaded up our gear and drove for the campsite at Mesa Verde National Park, where we stayed two nights.

Before we got to the campsite, we went shopping in Durango, CO. While we were there and while we were looking at things to buy, hail the size of marbles started falling. After the hail, we got huge pizzas at a pizza shop for lunch. After one night at the new campsite, we headed out to see the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde. We went on a tour and got very close up to the cliff dwelling that we could see the very light details in the bricks, even climbing down into one of the homes of the ancient dwellers! The day after, we packed and went white water rafting in a river that looked as if it were hot chocolate because it rained the night before and all the sediments were stirred up. The rafting was especially fun for me because I flipped over on a big rapid and one of the older scouts had to pull me onto his raft. That night we stayed at a hotel, and the next morning we flew home from Albuquerque, NM, to Manchester, NH.