One woman, 28 days, and 491 miles are key ingredients for having the adventure of a lifetime.
Courtney Carter took her outdoor career to new heights, hiking the Colorado Trail in its entirety. The 23-year-old departed from Littleton’s Waterton Canyon at 6:45 a.m. July 23 and ended her journey in Durango after hiking solo for almost one month.
Carter became inspired to hike the Colorado Trail by doing what she always does when feeling down. The Erie native loves planning trips and thinking about “peaks to climb” to brighten her mood. Having already climbed all 58 of the Colorado 14ers, Carter set her sights on the Colorado Trail.
What started as a “theoretical idea” became her next mission.
“I somehow came across it, and I decided that was going to be my next big goal,” Carter said.
In contrast to her busy lifestyle, the recent CU graduate and Ball Aerospace employee had a simple daily routine on the trail. The structure of her day was “wake up, eat, take down my camp, and walk.”
She typically hiked between 12 and 26 miles a day, leaving time to sit and reflect for her breaks. Carter’s dad resupplied her every week and she made friends with the other hikers she encountered. However, she spent most of her time in solitude.
“I normally hike with my sister so especially at the beginning, it was kind of weird to be by myself,” Carter said.
Her first week was riddled with challenges. In addition to adjusting to the alone time, she also experienced a week of rain.
“It was rough,” she recalled. “I was going to bed wet, waking up wet.”
Despite the initial hardships she faced, Carter was determined to finish what she started.
“I didn’t want to quit.” Although she struggled to overcome the “mental games” she was playing with herself, what ultimately kept her moving was her intrinsic drive. “I wanted to push myself to show myself that I could do it.”
Not only did she conquer the Colorado Trail, she also found the motivation to add a bonus peak along the way.
Carter said she is thankful she embraced the journey for the views, people and experiences. One of the highlights of her expedition was being greeted by seven moose outside her tent one morning.
One might think Carter would be ready for a break, but she already is planning her next adventure.
She has identified the Pacific Crest Trail as a candidate for her next escapade, but in the meantime, she plans to keep climbing 13ers.
Whatever comes next for Carter, she said her time on the Colorado Trail proved that up to this point, there has yet to be a peak that she cannot climb.