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Lessons Learned From The Colorado Trail

Every experience in the outdoors can prove to be a learning opportunity. Here are the lessons I have learned!

Every experience in the outdoors can prove to be a learning opportunity. The goal is to take those lessons learned and to ensure that future small or large mishaps do not occur again. 

On my first solo backpacking trip on the Colorado Trail a few years ago, I learned multiple lessons after I encountered a few mishaps along the trail. 

Those first lessons were:

  1. Riley loves water and likes to swim with his pack on. His 4-day supply of dog food is not in waterproof bags
  2. Always. Always. Always. check to make sure the hose on your 3-Liter CamelBak is locked before throwing your backpack in the tent

After having to share my rationed dehydrated meals with my dog for the rest of the trip, as well as unzipping my tent one evening to find 3 Liters of water on the bottom, I was determined to never make those mistakes again. 

So this summer, I took those lessons and headed back out on the Colorado Trail. 

Day 1 - 

Riley & I started along the South Platte River at Segment 2 of The Colorado Trail. Within five minutes of starting on the trail, I had successfully fulfilled Lesson #1: Put Riley's food in dry sacks. Riley beelined straight to the river and was laying down in the water on his stomach within moments. As the outside of the pack might have gotten wet, his food was completely dry. Lesson #1 check. Throughout the entire 5-day trip, I continually checked and double-checked the lock on my CamelBak hose and had no mishaps. Lesson #2 check. 

However, I was well on my way to learn a couple more new lessons. 

Day 4 & 5 - 

I have had the same hiking boots since I first moved to Colorado nine years ago. With the unfathomable amount of miles that I have covered in those boots, they are in excellent condition, and I couldn't be happier with how long they have lasted. However, after nearing the end of my 40-mile trip I realized how sore my feet were at the end of each day. Having comfortable and reliable footwear when in the outdoors and on a backpacking trip specifically, is crucial. That is something I overlooked before I started my journey. The first thing I was going to do after this trip was to put new insoles in my old hiking boots.

When packing for this trip, I had chosen new dehydrated meals from Mountain House and Good To-Go and was most excited about Good To-Go's spicy yellow curry meal. Each night, I enjoyed the variety of meals - Turkey Casserole, Beef Stew, and Macaroni & Cheese. Each dinner was delicious, and Riley even got to lick the bag clean after I had finished eating. When I was first planning out my meals for this trip, I had decided to save the best for last and would have the spicy yellow curry meal as my celebratory dinner for my last night on the trail. 

When packing for a backpacking trip, weight is the number one concern and sometimes it takes multiple attempts to refine your final selection of gear and supplies to bring. Any chance to trim weight and bulkiness is taken, of which I did to the best of my ability. In doing so, I trimmed down on my toilet paper supply to the optimal minimal amount that I thought that I needed. Well, I ended up needing more.

In hindsight, saving a spicy yellow curry meal for my last night on a backpacking trip when I only had 4 thin squares of toilet paper left was not my best decision.

New Lessons Learned:

  1. Put new in-soles in my 9-year-old hiking boots before taking off on a 40-mile backpacking trip
  2. Be more cautious of my rationed toilet paper supply if I plan on saving a spicy yellow curry meal for my last night

As with every adventure, there are never-ending lessons to be learned. I look forward to the next lessons I will learn and hope to never have to repeat these!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Kalli Hawkins

Adventure | Conservation | Education