Part II: Scarce H2O

By From page A6 | April 10, 2013

Stormin Norman Stoldt. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins

Norm Stoldt.

Editor’s note: Somerset’s Norm Stoldt, aka Stormin’ Norman, experienced a series of difficulties on his recent quest to conquer a 585-mile section of the Continental Divide Trail. Fearing the worst — being rescued — he aborted. Below is the second part of that story … 

Conditions improved as I plodded along, I began passing in-and-out of the cooling shade of scattered trees and the stream I was following widened and deepened. I stopped and filled all my water containers and took a refreshing break under a large pine tree. It was then I noticed that open range cattle were also using the stream. I was glad that I had doubled the amount of disinfectant I put in my water.

The trail finally left private land and moved into the national forest. I camped for the night. While breaking camp an elderly gentleman rode in on an ATV and informed me that the stream ended about two miles up the trail and that I should fill up as the next water source was another 15 miles up and over a pass.

When I got to where he told me the water source was a murky three-foot diameter puddle. Still, I filled up with all the mudish liquid I could carry for my assent up to Rabbit Ears Range and the Divide. Once above 9,500-feet the going got really tough. The rock-spewed trail rose sharply. In spite of all my physical preparation, I was forced to stop every 40 or so foot gain in elevation to catch my breath.

When I reached Rabbit Ears at 11,000-ft I came upon a campsite. I stopped for lunch. It was already mid afternoon, I had used up more than half my water and was not even half way to my next campsite and still faced another 1,000-feet of climbing.

Snow melt provides the primary source of water along the Divide. Unfortunately Colorado had experienced a near record low snowfall the past winter. Unusually high spring and summer temperatures added to the difficulty of finding adequate water along the Divide.

These facts and combined with what I had already experienced forced me to made a decision: the risk of becoming dehydrated or totally exhausted on a remote waterless mountain top and having to call 911 on my emergency satellite device was just too great. Reluctantly I turned back.

The next morning I made it out to the highway. From there I was able to hitchhike a series of rides back to Steamboat Springs, ending my adventure on the Colorado portion of the Continental Divide.

Four times before I’ve had to end a hike because of a physical injury but each time I stubbornly returned to finish. I have only Colorado left in completing hiking’s prestigious “Triple Crown” (The Appalachian, Pacific Crest and the Continental Divide Trails).

So will I again return? Well …. maybe. But with almost 8,000 backpacking miles under my belt, and traveling three times across our country in a North-South direction, maybe it is time to do a little something else.

The spirit of adventure still exists in this 70 year-old body. I am thinking about going East-West on the Trans-America Bicycle Trail next year, something a little less strenuous, but still loaded with adventure.

Norm Stoldt

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