The Zimmerman Trail


it was a bitch.

i am extremely happy with my new kelty internal frame, and new merrell boots. the boots ARE waterproof! i mean, they're supposed to be waterproof, but you know how that goes, well, they got a serious testing this weekend and they WORK. it's just so SHOCKING when equipment does what it's supposed to.

First off, the crew in this expedition


surprisingly enough, we left for our trip on time. soraya, mark, and aaron went in soraya's car, and larry and i had the backpacks in brutus. we decided to take brutus because he BEGGED to go. i can't deny that truck anything.

our destination was about 40 miles up the poudre (pronounced "pooter") canyon. the trail larry had selected started behind the home moraine trailer park so we had to ask permission to leave our cars and hike through. iola, the park manager, was very nice, though she told us, "you don't really want to hike this trail."

iola was right.

the forest service stopped maintaining the first two miles of the trail about ten years ago, because the trailhead was on private property. larry told us it would be overgrown. i did not truly appreciate what ten years of overgrown meant, having been raised on the overused and over- maintained trails of california. aaron knew, he wore blue jeans. we thought he was foolish. well, you can guess who had the last laugh.

after a half mile of hacking our way over, under, and around fallen trees, slodging through thickets of spiny brambles, and stumbling through poor footing we decided it might be best to head for higher ground and forsake the trail. this would have worked well except that soraya is terrified of heights, and she was nearly paralyzed along the side of what was at least a 40 degree slope. the going was SLOW. we each of us drew blood several times. at one point, i was working my way around a tree and grabbed a root to pull myself around. as i applied my full weight to it, the root came free and i began to fall. i caught myself, losing enough skin on my left leg to require a small bandage. i held onto the traitor root, though, and for some reason, kept it. it's the coolest walking stick you ever saw, exactly the length of a ski-pole, and with a HANDLE. my usual feeling is that walking sticks are just excess weight, but this time, it proved invaluable. that stick helped me a LOT. i love my stick.

Also during that time, we find a tick on Mark..then Larry finds a tick on him...and well..basically, we hosed ourselves down with "Get the hell" OFF. Now we are roughing it! (BTW, it was the first time soraya and i had ever seen a tick...they are pretty disgusting).

basically, this cluster fuck continued on for FOUR HOURS. during that time we had to cajole soraya every step of the way, she was in a panic. we covered MAYBE two miles. probably more like one and a half. surprisingly enough, we refound the trail.

the second section was maintained by the forest service, and it was so nice! we stopped to eat lunch (bagels and peanut butter and jelly from a squeeze tube), and then made speedy time for maybe another mile up a slow grade on a beautiful smooth, easy trail. until, that is, the trail made a sudden left and started up a hill. we went about a quarter mail past the turn until larry and aaron discovered (or so they thought) that we must have made a wrong turn. the topo map showed no sharp turn on our trail and they thought we had turned onto a different trail. so we went back and found what we thought was the right trail. a half an hour later we were COMPLETELY lost. the trail we had been following was gone. aaron and larry sighted off landmarks, the compass and the map, and said, they new where we were, and how to get to where we wanted to go.


this part is difficult to describe. we broke our own trail around the side of a mountain, hacking our way through an almost impassibly dense aspen forest with no streams, and our water was starting to run low. time to panic. most of the trees were dead, apparently by fire. this eventually lead us to a stream, which, larry and aaron said, would soon join the river we were looking for and get us to where we were going. yeah right. so we hacked and slashed our way down the side of this mountain for another hour or so.

well, around 5:30, we did come to a river. except that larry said we were supposed to be on the other side of it. well, there was no fucking way we were going to get over this river. it was VERY WIDE and moving VERY FAST. and though we'd been doing things with 30-40 pound packs on our back that we had NO BUSINESS doing all day, crossing a torrential river was not an acceptable risk.

It should be noted that we traveled ALL over the map at this point.

by this point i was about ready to SNAP. i was convinced that neither of our leaders had the slightest CLUE where the fuck we were going. i was exhausted and bleeding. i was fucking PISSED. i might mention that the country we were in was exceptionally beautiful and scenic, but this meant little to me at the time. i didn't know where i was, and i didn't know how we were going to get OUT the next day. larry, being an exceptionally observant guy noted that i was about to rip his head off and decided it was time to find a spot to camp. which we did by 6:30, ten hours after we had started, and 6 and a half hours after we should have completed this "easy 5 mile hike" as he had advertised it to us before the trip.

our campsite was really nice, beside the big river, and a half hour nap did wonders for my spirits. we ate dinner of chicken and dumplings, then roasted marshamallows and drank hot cocoa. by this time it was pitch dark and we had little energy for playing cards or whatnot, so we all crashed. besides, we had to get up too fucking early to find our way OUT.


the next morning larry got up at 5:30 and to his credit brought us back three nice trout for breakfast for me, him, and soraya. mark is a vegetarian and aaron doesn't like fish. at this point soraya and i both felt kindly disposed towards our ersatz leader, larry. this wouldn't last.

soraya and i later conferred about what we each had worried about most the night before. for her: it was the loud sound of rushing water only feet away and all those "In case of Flash Flood, Seek higher ground" signs all over Poudre Canyon. for me: it was "how the hell are we going to get out of here?" we took off blazing our own trail in the general direction of what they thought was the way out. an hour and a half into the hike there was a major disagreement about The Way Out between larry and aaron, and the clash of the egos began. we all lost, as larry finally threw up his hands and said fine, we'd go aaron's way. i'll never forgive aaron. we spent the next two hours climbing a 40 degree slope, straight fucking up.

we eventually got high enough up to see the poudre canyon highway. this, larry said, proved HE had been right and we should have gone his way. i still did not believe that either of them new exactly where we had been, or where we are, but getting a bearing off the highway we all knew what direction we needed to go in to get out. we started circumnavigating the mountain we were on, heading down, north and east. the hiking was relatively easy.

three hours later we found the maintained part of the trail we had come in on. i started to relax. all we had to do was run down the easy part and then deal with the brambles. oh, did i mention the ticks? we used an entire can of deep woods "get the hell" off insect repellent in two days. they had all laughed at me when they saw the big can i was carrying in my pack. yeah, well, they're not laughing any MORE. get the hell off is EXTREMELY effective, and saved us quite a bit of agony. the only insect bite i suffered was saturday night when i took my boots and socks off to change into sandals and cotton socks. before going out i forgot to respray the new socks and a 'skeeter got me on the top of the foot. other than that, the get the hell off rendered me nearly invincible.

where was i? oh yes, the ticks. let me reiterate: deep woods get the hell OFF is a great product. it may stink, but it'll save you from being LUNCH from a myriad number of critters.

ok, so we stopped and had lunch near the same place we had stopped the day before. it was about 3:00. we reached the end of the main trail and headed into the relatively easy part of the unmaintained part, that is, before it dipped down to the creek and into the brambles. when it started to descend, we broke off and stayed high. what the hell, we'd been blazing our own trail for nearly two days, we were getting good at it.


well, soraya did ok for a while before the panic began to set in. then progress slowed. it was agonizing. the slope was VERY steep, with only occasional game trails to make progress easier. we did quite a bit of boulder hopping (something i had never intended to do with a full pack, i tell you). mark fell once, aaron did a lot of sliding, we were getting tired. i made sure we took frequent rest breaks as i didn't want anyone to make a REALLY stupid error and get injured so close to the end. even still, we came close. i lost another chunk of skin on my right knee.

All of the sudden soraya hears "HEYYYY!!!" and much to her surprise, there were two people who had apparently followed our tracks (because they were hoping to find their way out). Yes, she freaked and didn't even say hello, how are you or any of the normal greetings...she just screamed "OH MY GOD...PEOPLE!!!!!! HEY, JENINE! PEOPLE!!!!!!". No one believed me. Anyway, we were getting close to the trail so Mark and I told them where they needed to go to get out of here and they went on ahead of us.

right about then larry and aaron (wrongly) decided it was time to drop down, even though i had just found a good game trail along the ridge. so even though we KNEW what was down there, and we KNEW we could avoid it, we ended up bramble hacking the last half mile anyway. boy, that pissed me off.

but whatever. we made it. a little worse for wear, but we made it. and after soraya drove the other hikers (who had made it out a half hour faster than we had) back to their car, they bought us a beer.

and the moral of the story is ... ?

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