August 23rd, 2018-Waterton Canyon
The trailhead was only a 20 minute ride from Denver. Starting out we walked along a perfectly manicured dirt road. There was a constant flow of bikers and walkers that passed as we gradually made our way up the canyon. People smiled and waved as we passed them with our packs laden with our first 4 days of food. Over the next 11 days we’d be hiking from Waterton Canyon to Tennessee Pass, about 150 miles in total.
We decided to take our lunch break around mile six at the Big Horn Sheep rest area. With picnic tables and toilets this made a great place to enjoy our first lunch and top off our water bottles. The covered tables made for a welcome reprieve from the exposed road walking. Upstream form the picnic area water roared through the Strontia Springs dam.
Shortly after the dam the road narrowed and we turned onto the single track. The thick forest protected us from the sun and made for a comfortable climb up and then down to Bear Creek. We initially missed Bear Creek all together. With not a drop of water visible from the trail the only indication that we were in the right spot was a dry creek bed, and a rusty culvert. We climbed up and away from the dry creek bed. After realizing that we had missed the water needed for our first nights dry camp we doubled back and explored up the Bear Creek drainage. Turns out Bear Creek was little more than a couple small pools of standing water this late in the season. Happily that was more than enough for us to top off our bottles.
After topping off our water we climbed another 1000 feet to a small ridge. Just as we reached the ridge we found a perfect little campsite near a rock outcrop. Day one left us tired and happy to be out on the trail. After months of planning we were finally actually doing it.