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  1. #1
    Registered User moongoddess's Avatar
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    Question Thu-hiking WITHOUT hitchhiking - feasible?

    Hello! I'm investigating the possibility of thru-hiking the CT 2-3 years from now, and have a question I've not seen addressed anywhere (including pmag's excellent trail guide). As a solo female, I really, really, really don't want to resort to hitchhiking to get to my resupply points. How feasible would it be to hike the trail without relying on hitchhiking? To my eye, it looks doable on the eastern half of the trail, but might prove to be problematic on the more remote western half. I'd be willing to mail or UPS bounce boxes to Monarch Mountain Lodge and Molas Lake Campground, but am concerned that I might not be able to carry enough to make it possible to use only those points for resupply stops. Advice, anyone?
    Last edited by moongoddess; 02-20-2012 at 16:26.

  2. #2

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    From last year's thruhike if you resupply from where I did, here are some possibilities:

    Buffalo Creek General Store - 3 mile walk downhill on paved road. Not a pleasant walk in the hot sun but again, it's only 3 miles.
    They accept maildrops.

    Jefferson General Store - about 5 miles from Kenosha Pass, also a paved road. Long walk there's trailhead parking and a Forest Service campground at Kenosha Pass so you might be able to yogi a ride from the parking lot and offer some gas money for a return trip.

    Breckenridge - free bus service 7 days a week from Rt. 9. Bus also serves Copper Mountain so you can slackpack a day between the 2 points and take the bus the next day back to Copper to resume your hike.

    Leadville - at Tennessee Pass, if you have a cell phone, call the Leadville hostel and they'll pick you up for a fee.

    Twin Lakes - only a mile to the General Store/PO on Rt. 82.

    Salida - US Rt. 50 - also trailhead parking but you may want to call the Simple Lodge & Hostel and they'll pick you up but you may have to wait a while. Salida is 13 miles from the crossing so walking is not cool.

    Creede - here's the challenge for you - assuming you've stocked up in Salida, you've hiked 90 miles to San Luis Pass. After hiking a mile down a side trail to your left/East, you come to a 4 WD road. If you really want to hike another 8 miles, it won't be fun. You may meet some vehicles either out for ATV rides or bagging San Luis peak, a 14er. I suggest you ask those you meet for a ride to town. Assuming you make it to Creede, the owner of San Juan Sports (outfitter) can shuttle you back to the side trail.

    Also, you may want to consider a slackpack from San Luis Pass to Spring Creek Pass, the next paved road crossing - 15 miles. There are people in Creede who will shuttle you. After the slackpack, you then have the shuttler return you to Spring Creek Pass to resume your hike.

    What about Spring Creek Pass for resupplying instead of Creede? Lake City is 17 miles west. Perhaps someone can shuttle you but be advised that there's no cell phone service at Spring Creek Pass. One of my hiking companions had a pretty sophisticated smart phone but no service.

    Spring Creek Pass also has trailhead parking so you could try your luck asking for rides if anyone happens by but it's less popular.

    Molas Pass - Silverton - there's also trailhead parking here and it was pretty full when we came by. Again, it's less risky to approach people in the parking lot and ask for the ride. We had a shuttler for the return trip. The hostel owner (Silverton Hostel) gave us her name & #.

    Feel free to PM me if you want specific names/numbers for the shuttlers. Link to my CT journal is below.
    Last edited by Cookerhiker; 02-20-2012 at 12:38.

  3. #3

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    Looks like if you're willing to walk an extra 8 to 22 miles (r/t to town and trail) you can resupply without hitching. If you're not intent on hiking solo, it should be easy finding a partner, that you can hitch with.

  4. #4
    Trail miscreant Bearpaw's Avatar
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    You could walk the 4.5 miles down to Jefferson fairly easily, though the walk back up will take a bit more doing. Breckinridge/Frisco/Copper Mountain all offer easy transport with the bus line (and a easy slackpack between Breck and Copper Mountain if you like). But for Leadville, you're looking at either an 8 or 11 mile walk into town, along some busy roads. Fortunately, you could easily arrange a ride back with no problem. Twin Lakes is an easy 1-mile there walk, and 1-mile walk back. Buena Vista is about 6.5 miles each way.

    Then, it gets tough. You'll want to resupply in Salida before you hit the 85-100 mile stretch with no resupply options. But Salida is 13 miles. The good folks at the Circle R were willing to drive me back to the CT for a reasonable charge. Then for Creede, you'll have to walk a couple of miles down a side trail. Then it's 8 gravel road miles into Creede. However, you may be more comfortable getting a hitch here because all the folks at the trail head will be hikers or climbers. You can probably arrange a shuttle back to the CT through the outfitter.

    I wouldn't bother trying to hitch at the next road, some 16 miles later. It's nearly impossible to find any one who will stop. I tried for 3 hours on the 4th of July. And don't bother walking. It's 16 miles to Lake City or over 30 to Creede.

    But after that, life gets easy again. 3-4 miles before you hit 550 into Silverton, you can actually catch a Durango-Silverton tourist train into Siverton. It actually has a stop for hikers about 200 yards off the trail where you near the Animas River. Or you can walk the 5 miles into Siverton when you reach 550.

    At the Durango Trailhead, it's about 3 miles into town. Not a big deal.

    Also be sure to check out our very own Mags's CT guide. Free to all, and very helpful.
    If people spent less time being offended and more time actually living, we'd all be a whole lot happier!

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bearpaw View Post

    I wouldn't bother trying to hitch at the next road, some 16 miles later. It's nearly impossible to find any one who will stop. I tried for 3 hours on the 4th of July. And don't bother walking. It's 16 miles to Lake City or over 30 to Creede.
    When we reached Spring Creek Pass hiking the CDT we had every intention of going into Lake City to resupply, but since we were going to buy in town, we started hitching either way as the cars came by to double our chances of getting a ride. I think it was less than an hour, which to me is 30 minutes too long, we got a ride into Creede by a lady that owned the Old Carson Cabin, which turned out not too far off the trail (a little pricey). Nice lady, she said it was the first time she ever picked up hitch hikers. We had a good ride into Creede where she was picking up her husband at the airport.

  6. #6
    Trail miscreant Bearpaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sly View Post
    When we reached Spring Creek Pass hiking the CDT we had every intention of going into Lake City to resupply, but since we were going to buy in town, we started hitching either way as the cars came by to double our chances of getting a ride. I think it was less than an hour, which to me is 30 minutes too long, we got a ride into Creede by a lady that owned the Carson Pass Inn, which turned out not too far off the trail (not sure if it's still open). Nice lady, she said it was the first time she ever picked up hitch hikers. We had a good ride into Creede where she was picking up her husband at the airport.

    You got lucky. By my estimate, 300-500 cars passed me without even slowing down. Finally, a hiker walked in and asked me if I needed a ride. Otherwise, I don't think I would have ever gotten into Creede.
    If people spent less time being offended and more time actually living, we'd all be a whole lot happier!

  7. #7

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    Yeah, we were lucky too. Our shuttler for the San Luis Pass-to-Spring Creek Pass slackpack didn't show up so we hitched from Spring Creek all the way to Creede. Started about 5:30, reached Creede before 7. There were 3 of us plus a dog. All of us got one ride about half way, then we had to split up for the second half. Interesting experience. The elderly couple who gave 2 of us the second half ride to Creede had obviously never picked up hitchhikers before and were quite nervous at the outset. They had warmed up some by the time we got to Creede but I don't think they'll make it a habit.

  8. #8
    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
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    Another option, but one that requires a lot of logistics, is caching food with bear canisters.

    This couple did it that way to avoid hitching:
    http://www.the2016plan.com/coloradotrail/planning.html

    They did use 8 bear canisters in addition to driving to ALL their caches and picking them back up again.
    Paul "Mags" Magnanti
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    The true harvest of my life is intangible...a little stardust caught,a portion of the rainbow I have clutched -Thoreau

  9. #9
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    It can be done pretty easily if you are more comfortable asking for rides rather than actually hitchhiking. My resupply points were Breck, Twin Lakes, Salida, Creede, and Silverton:

    Breckenridge - catch the free shuttle right near where the trail crosses highway 9. I think it comes by every 30 minutes or something.

    Twin Lakes - just a one mile road walk.

    Salida - This turned out to be my hardest ride to get. I had no luck hitching after 20-30 minutes, but then got offered a ride by a woman who was meeting some other hikers there. If you can call Simple Lodge & Hostel to pick you up, then that's even better. It's a great place to stay and they gave me a ride back to the trail. Salida was my favorite town stop.

    Creede - I asked a day hiker for a ride at the little parking area at the end of the dirt road. There are a lot of people climbing San Luis Peak on weekends. If you ask nicely I don't think anyone will turn you down. You may need to get lucky on a weekday. Worst case scenario, just walk the 8-10 miles down the road. Easy to get a ride back by asking around in town (outfitter, chamber of commerce).

    Silverton - There's a parking lot at Molas Pass for a scenic viewpoint. I asked someone if they were headed into Silverton and if I could get a ride and again I was successful. To get back, you can ask around in town again.

    Getting to and from town was something I was a little worried about before I started, but it turned out to not be a big deal at all (though I understand the concern a solo female might have). Everyone I got rides from was very friendly and really curious about my trip. You'll definitely meet other hikers, so find someone to partner up with if you're more comfortable with that. I think it would be a mistake to not go into some of the towns just to avoid hitching/asking for rides. The town stops definitely added to the whole experience, at least for me.

  10. #10
    Registered User moongoddess's Avatar
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    Thank you all! I am comfortable asking for rides at a trailhead, as that gives me the chance to size up the person before I ask. It's the "standing on the roadside sticking my thumb out" scenario I want to avoid. Looks like that's quite doable with a bit of advanced planning. Now I just need to see if I can get in decent enough shape to actually make the trip possible. Too bad it's not as easy to shed weight off you body as it is off your pack! But I can't set off on this hike until summer of 2014 at the earliest, so I have time to work on improving both my fitness and my backcountry skills before I make the attempt.

  11. #11

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    In addition to general fitness, don't forget acclimation. Not that you can prepare a lot beforehand, just factor it into your timeframe for the hike i.e. allow several days if you're unsure of how your body will adjust.

  12. #12
    Registered User moongoddess's Avatar
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    A very good point, Cookerhiker! I've spent some time at altitude before (although never over about 10,500 feet), and had no trouble - but I made a point of spending several days at 6,000 feet at the start of those trips, and took those first few days easy. If I do decide to try this hike, I'll plan on arriving in Denver 2-3 days before I want to set out on the trail, and do some sightseeing and easy walking to give my body some time to adjust before I begin to demand real work from it. (Heck, it's an excuse to visit that huge Denver REI flagship store!) And I'm planning on going the Denver to Durango direction, as it would give me even more time to adjust to the altitude and to improve my level of fitness.

  13. #13

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    I am looking at the possibility of setting two caches after Salida; one where the CT crosses CO-114 south of Lujan Pass and another at teh CT crossing of CO-149 at Spring Creek Pass. This will allow me to skip Creede entirely, plus reduce my pack weight heading out of Salida.

    I'll spend a full Zero day in Salida, resting and buying supplies. On day 2, I'll rent a car in Salida and set both caches, then spend the night in Creede. On day 3, I'll return to Salida, drop the car, and take a Nearo. Day 4 I return to the CT.

  14. #14
    double d's Avatar
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    Thanks to all for the great posts and of course to Mags for his CT guide. I'm hiking the CT this summer, can't wait.
    "I told my Ma's and Pa's I was coming to them mountains and they acted as if they was gutshot. Ma, I sez's, them mountains is the marrow of the world and by God, I was right". Del Gue

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    If safety is your only concern then just make sure you find a male friend you are comfortable with to hitch with you. I know this trail doesnt have as many hikers as the AT but im sure there will be a few guys out there that you feel comfortable around and are also hiking the long hike. This will help you and the guyfreind you hitch with, you get the safety of having a male hitchhiking companion and (I'm sure many guys out there will agree) a male can get a hitch about 90% faster when he has a female counterpart both working their thumbs out there together.

  16. #16
    Registered User moongoddess's Avatar
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    I'm not opposed to hitching with other hikers, but I don't want to count on meeting up with someone compatible on the trail, either. Of necessity I'll be starting out solo, and I figure it's safer for planning purposes to assume I'll stay that way. If that turns out not to be the case, great!

  17. #17
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    Default CT Hitchhiking

    I am so sorry that hitchhiking is so dangerous. Especially for women... I’ve hitchhiked since I was 16 years old (soon to be 60). Although I’ve loved hitchhiking, and have had countless great rides, (and yes, a few weird ones) I completely understand and agree with your trepidations. I also feel a bit of sadness it is that way because in 2008, while I was hitchin’ back to the CT after resupplying, I had the most memorable, enjoyable, completely unexpected and what became the most ironic hitchhiking ride of my lifetime.

    All of the information the others have provided to you here is accurate. However, after contemplating your request and recalling some of the encounters I created along the AT and CT I thought to offer another suggestion. When I was contemplating my CT hike, I was well aware of the weight I was able to carry comfortably. Therefore, I planned my resupplies carefully. (Thanks Mags!) There were a couple of times that I had to make a choice about which town to hitch to, once I hit the road. So I called people in those towns to inquire about traffic patterns, road use, one road hitch vs. two road hitch, etc.

    Your question is, “What people?” And that’s my point. I talked to ‘outdoors’ kind of people. Using the Internet, I located offices where people work for the national forests, in the Dept of Natural Resources, sporting goods stores, and others. I’d call up and introduce myself to whoever answered the phone and tell them that I was hoping to talk with someone who might know about, etc, etc, etc. The person answering the phone almost always said, “You need to talk to…” and passed me along or gave me a name and number. It was a great way to meet people and to honestly ask their opinions about specific issues. Using this method, I got some terrific information from some very interested and helpful people. If the person didn’t know, they’d tell me and (usually) make another recommendation of someone to call, or simply say they didn’t know and hang up.

    Several times, in towns along the AT, I walked into a group of folks who were just hanging around and introduced myself. I’d tell them I was hiking the AT and that I needed a ride which I was willing to pay for. (Of course I’m sure having money in my hand helped!) Worked every time.

    What I’m thinking for you is that you could start developing contacts in those towns where you know you’ll resupply along the CT. Who knows what the gas situation will be in a couple of years, but by starting soon, you might be able to set up rides to each town where you’ll need to stop. You might start by contacting the local sheriff. Introduce yourself and explain your situation. Explain that you’re attempting to set up a ride from the trail and back, with some trusted local person who’s looking to make a few bucks… Like an off-duty deputy. Ask for suggestions.

    I’d call librarians, the chambers of commerce, high school counselors, churches, sporting goods stores, hostels, restaurants, post offices, the local Rotary club, etc. Once you’ve established a rapport with people, touch base every now and then. When you’re ready, I’m betting somebody will know a trusted somebody who might be interested to help you.

    Those miles you’re thinking about walking to town and back… Sheeze. Examples: Hwy 285 to and from Jefferson would not be the safest place to take a stroll... In either direction. Or Molas Pass to Silverton... Whoa! You'd be better off just hiking the D&SNGRR tracks. (My bet, tho, is that if you opted to walk, somebody would pull over and simply offer you a ride.)

    Of course, cell phone service will be a must, so the cell phone info others have posted here is critical.

    Good luck. The Colorado Trail is absolutely marvelous!
    When you get to those unexpected situations in life where it’s difficult to figure something out, just ask yourself, “What would MacGyver do?”
    See ya!
    Rickles McPickles

  18. #18
    Registered User moongoddess's Avatar
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    Thank you, McPick! That's a wonderful suggestion! And since my hike's at least two years off, I have plenty of time to research it and make those contacts. The sad thing is, I don't believe hitchhiking's normally all that dangerous. The problem, of course, is that rapists and serial killers look just like everyone else, and you only ned to make the mistake of getting into the car with them (or conversely, stopping to give one of them a ride) once...

  19. #19
    double d's Avatar
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    I will be hiking the CT this summer, but only for a about two weeks, as I don't have the time ability to hike longer, but can anyone provide information on a Grayhound bus service from Breckenridge to Denver? I could rent a car as well back to Denver from Breckenridge. thanks
    "I told my Ma's and Pa's I was coming to them mountains and they acted as if they was gutshot. Ma, I sez's, them mountains is the marrow of the world and by God, I was right". Del Gue

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by double d View Post
    I will be hiking the CT this summer, but only for a about two weeks, as I don't have the time ability to hike longer, but can anyone provide information on a Grayhound bus service from Breckenridge to Denver? I could rent a car as well back to Denver from Breckenridge. thanks
    Lots of good info on Mags's website including this link.

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