CT Day 3

Skipped breakfast this morning; instant oatmeal is not appetizing. I did have coffee, also not appetizing. The powdered milk and sugar combo as coffee creamer is a bit off; next time I’ll just bring sugar. For now, I will stick to cold drinks and Clif Bars.

Hiked 12.0 miles to Segment 4/Mile 14.5. First 3 miles were a tough climb, but the rest was mostly flat or downhill. I should have stopped at the Lost Park Campground back at Segment 4/Mile 8.9; I heard later that a guy was giving away free Arby’s sandwiches to CT hikers the day after I passed through.

I’ve become a bit frustrated with the Colorado Trail Guide Book and Databook distributed by the Colorado Mountain Club. The data contained therein are often inaccurate, incomplete, and even inconsistent between the two books. I’ve been tracking my mileage on my GPS with fair precision; most of the GPS waypoints match my mileage within a couple hundred feet and centerline track is coarse but generally accurate. Occasionally, a point of interest will be off by about 0.2 miles or so when comparing the data book, the guide book, and my GPS. Essentially, I only trust the information in the books to be accurate within ±0.3 miles, but I trust the waypoints within the map set to be ±200 ft.

Today was a perfect example of how the incomplete data can affect one’s hike. According to the Databook, Segment 4 has a campsite without water at either Mile 14.5 (according to the feature list, and reality) or Mile 14.3 (according to the segment map). The Databook classifies water sources as “reliable”, “seasonal”, or “scarce”, and the nearest source prior to the campsite is listed as a “seasonal” flow at Mile 11.3. The local hikers I’ve met described the current period as the beginning of the summer monsoon season, and it has been raining/hailing daily, so it’s not surprising that even the “scarce” sources are quite reliable. The problem is that at Mile 11.3, I loaded up on water for dinner, breakfast and a portion of tomorrow’s hike, and then I crossed at least 5 viable streams before reaching my campsite, the last being within only 0.5 miles of the campsite. In fact, the Map Book corroborates this and actually shows a stream at Mile 14.0, but this is not captured in either the Guide Book or Databook. This means that I unnecessarily hauled 5+ lbs of water an extra 2.7 miles and 300 ft of elevation gain.

Granted it’s not a life or death scenario, though similar inaccuracies could lead to more serious situations, but it is mainly an annoyance that I can’t have full confidence in the published data. The result is that I am skeptical of any one data source and find myself either checking all three books or planning critical stops based on heuristic risk assessments with contingency plans. I admit that the statement on the back cover of the Databook, “The only guidebook you’ll need to hike the Colorado Trail” is largely true, but it may frustrate the shit out of you if you’re expecting reliable data.

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