Review: Shades of Gray, Splashes of Color - A Thru Hike of the Colorado Trail by Bill Cooke
I was eager to read this account as I had not yet read a thru hiking book on this famed 486 mile trail that spans the length of wild and beautiful Colorado, from north in the San Juan National Forest to Durango. To me, an easterner, the Rockies seem like wild mountains in need of special skills. I had visions of plowing through big snowfields and other major obstacles. But Bill Cooke’s book put to rest a good many fears.
It was great having some intro to the trail, mileage, facts, etc. to start off. Once the hike began, it grabbed my attention and held it throughout. I liked it too that Bill was honest about how he felt (sometimes he wasn’t well either) and what gear he brought. He didn’t gloss it over but you felt as if you were on the journey, struggling with him, even as his partner obviously had better strength on the trip. But it didn’t bother Bill or get to him. He hiked along anyway and they had a good time despite their different hiking speeds. The account also gave good ideas on trip planning, like the summer thunderstorm issue and resupply points.
I always like to read accounts of trail magic and trail angels, and they both had their share with folks giving them rides to town or helping out with slackpacking. This gives me assurance that there are people eager and ready to help out in more remote areas. But beyond that, the descriptions of sheer Colorado beauty is enough to send a hiker like me packing up my backpack and heading for the far reaches of the Rockies.
I was also eager to hear about the mountain bikers as I had heard conflicting reports on them. I liked it how Bill worked with the bikers on the trail and not against them. He made friends, and they found themselves equals, sharing the trail rather than getting on each other’s nerves. It made for a better experience.
On the downside, I only wish the map of the trail was bigger so I could see where they were at different places in the book (I’m visual that way). Also the pictures of the flowers in black and white didn’t do them any justice. Color photos would have been great, to be honest.
If you are thinking of doing this trail or just want a good read on a hiking adventure in the Rockies, be sure to pick up this book. It will make you believe you can do it!
More information on the Colorado Trail: