Hiking The Great Continental Divide
Entering Colorado from the east during the middle of the summer puts you in desert like conditions. We drove through 105-degree heat as we headed towards the mountains, giving our car a difficult time with overheating. As we started up the mountains, we could feel the temperature beginning to drop. We stopped for the night in Steamboat Spring, and had three inches of snow on the top of our tent in the morning. After suffering through several hours of high heat, the 27-degree temperature seemed even more bitter than it actually was. We continued up the interstate until we reached the Great Continental Divide.
What a beautiful view it was! On one side, you see miles and miles of Colorado stretched out before you, and the other side provides a view of both Colorado and Utah. We double checked our gear, and slipped our day-packs on and began to venture off. The high altitude proved to provide a little more difficulty breathing than we expected. Even as a conditioned hiker, we found our pace dramatically reduced so that we could keep our breath. The scene around us was profound at times. From time to time, the thick forest would open up and give majestic views of our great nation.
To say it was impressive really does not describe it, and they all were excellent photographic opportunities. The higher elevations had the trees and ground covered in the snow from over night, while the lower elevations were a deep rich green. The trail was very rugged, and proved to be very challenging and slippery with the freshly fallen snow. Not only did you encounter steep grades, but large rocky areas that presented some of their own challenges. The smell coming from the tall trees was the wonderful pine scent, and reminded me for a moment of my grandmother who cleaned everything with Pine-Sol.
We encountered many different forms of wildlife as we ventured quietly along the trail. We found several different varieties of frogs and toad, and saw a wide variety of birds. There were several different types of woodpeckers, finches, and swallows. We were lucky enough to be able to catch a couple different varieties of hawks on camera, but were sadly disappointed to have not been able to spot a Bald Eagle. We photographed a few Mule Deer, and some White Tail deer. We heard the roar of warning from a Mountain Lion in the distance, but were unable to locate it for a couple pictures. We also saw many squirrel, a few rabbit, and we were able to avoid a run-in with a skunk thanks to its pungent odor. In all, the trip was wonderful. With the beautiful scenery, and the many different animals, it provided an exciting adventure with many photo opportunities.
Because of the thin air of the high altitude and the rugged terrain, it is not an adventure for everyone. However, if you are in reasonable shape, and willing to take your time to move slowly and carefully, the Great Continental Divide provides an excellent opportunity for a day adventure.