I’ve been in the United States for a bit over a week now. The past couple of days have been packed with getting the last things done and checking weather, temperatures and current avalanche situation over and over again.
There’s no other way to say this: the conditions for the beginning of my trip are challenging. There are blizzards up in Rocky Mountain National Park, where the headwaters of the Colorado River flow (or freeze) at an altitude of 10.200 ft (3.100 m). The average temperature is 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 Celsius) and at night it gets even colder, with wind chills adding discomfort to my external sleeping habits…
Since this trip is not about getting myself killed out there on the first day, I have since decided twice to postpone my departure by a day. This has given me the chance to prepare my trip more thoroughly, get in touch with more people here and research more about the region.
My new friends here, Zach and Anna from my partner Kokopelli Packrafts and Zachs wonderful girlfriend Sarah have been helping me incredibly to get my last preparations done. I had forgotten about how lost you get without a car in this country… I felt like a child that needed to be taken care of. And Zach and Co., being over 10 years younger than me, have been incredible parents ;-). Zach also took me to the best Taco place in town, it was delicious. And there were some pretty extreme dudes hanging out there. Welcome to the Wild West…
They made me think of a fun fact from when I was little. I used to be entirely fascinated by big bearded guys in leather jackets, who were riding Harley’s. In general, I was intrigued by anything that seemed “American” to me. Growing up in a small village in the Bavarian Alps I was longing to be out in the world. And my imagination of the “world” when I was at about eight years old, certainly included Harley Davidsons, Converse Chucks and Cowboys. I wanted badly to be a cowboy myself and loved it, when my Dad (who grew up in the US) would come back from a visit there and bring us Levi’s Jeans, Twizzlers and other crazy multi colored candy. One time he gave me one of those red bandanas. I loved it and it became an integral part of my cowboy (not girl!) attire, as seen in these pictures I found before coming here.
Most of my last couple of days I have spent in the library on the campus of the University in Fort Collins. working on my route and researching. The tough part has been, that is seemed impossible to avoid waste. Going for lunch in the food-court here included loads of waste and even though are are recycling bins and signs set up everywhere, the system here is just not made out for avoiding trash.
I am really looking forward to my delicious food in compostable packaging. It’s been so great to finally meet Lillian, from Trailfork. She’s even nicer than I imagined and I am hoping she and her incredibly fiance John will come to join me for part of my trip. John has written his PhD on the Colorado River and has been an incredible source of information and so helpful.
I have talked to the incredibly friendly park rangers here on various occasions, and even feel like getting to know them a bit over the phone. Kyle, who is in charge of public affairs for Rocky Mountain National Park, has warned me about possible encounters with Moose and Mountain Lions in the park. I did not expect this, and although I will of course follow her advice trying to avoid contact with them, I would be quite curious about seeing those wild and beautiful creatures. Well who knows, maybe I will tell you about an encounter within the next few days.
It looks like I will finally be hiking up towards the headwaters and birthplace of this part of the Colorado River tomorrow morning. I can’t wait to sleep outside, breathe the fresh air and get in touch with this trip for real, finally.