"There is no way I can walk 10 miles today!" murmurs Bryce Simler as he steps out of the van that has taken him to the final trail head.
It is Saturday, day six of an epic week-long journey that has included 50 miles of biking, 50 miles of canoeing, and to this point, 40 miles of hiking.
The trail head is at Jumbo Lake on the north side of the Grand Mesa. The trail ends at a primitive campsite off the Flowing Park Road. In between lays a traverse through a mixed aspen spruce forest, a switchback assent up a rocky escarpment, and miles of meadows heavy with wildflowers of every color. Signs of bear, a mountain bluebird, and a herd of elk were also resident in the landscape that made up the last leg of the trip.
The adventure began in Cedaredge at 7 a.m. on July 1. The participants were seven Boy Scouts from Troop 482 in Cedaredge, joined by two other scouts from Hotchkiss and four adult leaders.
The boys and leaders had been training by doing regular bike rides and hikes through the winter and spring and a few outings in the canoes as summer set in. The longest training ride had been fewer than 30 miles, but 50 seemed do-able as the morning cool began to give way to record-breaking July heat. The bike trip took them from Cedaredge, up over Cedar and Redlands mesas, then to Paonia and back to Hotchkiss via Lamborn Mesa. Other than a slower-than-anticipated pace mostly due to flat tires, one minor crash resulting in a little road rash on a forearm, and one close call with a truck, the ride was free of mishaps.
From Hotchkiss, the boys were transferred to Pleasure Park by car. Although there are hundreds of miles of beautiful country roads through orchards, farmland, and juniper and sage country very suitable for cycling in Delta County, the stretch of road between Rogers Mesa and Pleasure Park is treacherous.
At Pleasure Park the boys put into canoes and kayaks. They paddled to the bridge at Highway 65, arriving as the last signs of daylight faded. Not particularly cold, but wet, tired and hungry, they and their boats were transferred to Confluence Park where they were fed and spent the night. The next day took them from Confluence Park to Bridgeport, some 33 miles through sandstone canyons, orchards, and farmland which banks the river. They camped that night at the confluence of the Gunnison and the Little Dominguez Creek.
Day three they started out the day by hiking in Little Dominguez Canyon. The boys took in the breathtaking red-rock canyons and sandstone bluffs. After five miles on the trail, they returned to the boats for the last leg of the river trip ending in Whitewater. Besides the stunning scenery, they were able to see big horn sheep, great blue heron, Canada geese as well as other unidentified birds, lizards, and snakes.
From Whitewater, the boys were transferred to the Grand Mesa. They were glad for the nearly 30-degree temperature drop, but loathed the profusion of mosquitoes. Dinner that night, as had become a tradition by now on the trek, didn't happen until well after dark.
For breakfast the boys were transported to Cedaredge where they participated in the annual flag ceremony and pancake breakfast hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After breakfast they were driven back up the mesa and hiked the Crag Crest Trail which climbs to 11,216 feet from its trailhead of just over 10,000 feet. Even with hazy air caused by the numerous fires in the west, views of the San Juan mountains over 50 miles to the south could be enjoyed from the trail.
Although the Crag Crest hike is typically 10 miles, the boys bumped it up to closer to 15 miles by extending the loop to include Island Lake, Ward Lake, Alexander Lake, and Baron Lake. While hiking, the boys carried a shovel and did trail repairs, moving rocks, installing several water bars and restoring areas where people cut trail and cause erosion. At the end of the hike, the hard lesson of adequate hydration caught up with one of the hikers as he displayed symptoms of extreme dehydration. Fortunately, they were close to the end of the trail when that happened. He received first aid treatment and showed signs of recovery through the evening. The assault to his body along with the previous strenuous activity proved to be too much for a complete recovery. About halfway through the next day's trek of 20 miles he had to drop out.
Friday was the big day on the trail. The original plan was to hike from the campsite at Flowing Park to the intersection of the Green Mountain Trail and Surface Creek Road. Due to the complications of having to drop a hiker and the time spent getting him back to camp, the route was modified to end at Kennecott Slough. Feet were dragging, even limping a little from blisters as the boys took the last steps of a 20-mile journey.
Saturday's hike added one more casualty when one of the boys nearing the 47 total hiking miles could not endure another step on his blister-tender feet. The remaining seven, including Bryce, completed what seemed impossible at one moment or another to each of the boys.
Although they had biked, paddled, and hiked 150 miles, and were tired and dirty, there was one more duty to perform. Several days before this epic journey began, a friend who had participated in many scout activities had tragically passed away. Upon hearing this news, the boys of Troop 482 unanimously agreed they wanted to attend his funeral service. The order of the hikes was rearranged, and they got up extremely early on Saturday so they could finish that day's hike and still attend the service in Delta.
Reflecting on the "Triathadeath", as the trip affectionately became known, the boys saw the potential within to set and accomplish goals, face adversity and pain, and reinforced the importance of working together. Not all of their abilities were the same, but the stronger boys consistently showed patience, encouragement, and even helped the boys who were struggling at times. Absent from the adults tasks were dealing with complaining and contention, though they did share in blisters, sunburn, mosquito bites, and sore muscles.
Participating were Matt Hall, Paonia Scout Master, Colton Hall, and Jared Chantrell from Hotchkiss. Kenny Simler, Brad Lindsay, and Marty Watts (scout leaders from Cedaredge), Xander Camp, Brian Bowler, Jake Vallem, Wyeth Watts, Ian Tait, Vincent Welsh and Bryce Simler.blog comments powered by Disqus