2016 Colorado Ruck
by Jenny Gaeng
The 2016 Colorado Ruck helped me plan my CDT hike, but more importantly, it gave me the chance to meet other hikers. I had never done a thru-hike before. I had just made the decision. I was nervous.
I expected that a lot of others would be in the same boat: shy, clutching a shining new Gossamer Gear backpack and their very first pair of Altras. Instead, I encountered mostly veterans: those who has hiked the CDT or another trail in a previous year and returned to the Ruck to share their advice and relive the culmination of their beautiful dream.
2016 Rockies Ruck
Anyone who has ever thru-hiked for the first time knows how much you rely on your fellow hikers. They teach you trail slang, give you a trail name, and tell you to cut your toothbrush in half. They tell you the truth about chafing and poop. They show you how to thread your blisters. And when you're worried or scared about something, they assure you that you can do it.
I found the panel discussions most helpful. They focused on ultralight hiking, safety concerns, food, and more. Hearing different hikers share their opinions, I realized something crucial: there is not one right way to hike the CDT. You have many options and many choices to make. “Should I buy snowshoes and prepare to brave June in the San Juans”? (I did, and it was amazing.) “Is it even worth it to try and pack out healthy food”? (I brought kale a couple of times in New Mexico.)
I also had my first, but not last, pack shakedown at the Ruck. During a shakedown, an experienced hiker combs through all your gear. They shake their heads bemusedly and explain that your stove doesn't need a case, no matter how light the plastic. It also gives you the chance to have a one-on-one gear discussion with an experienced hiker - and ask them any other questions you have about the trail.
I spent most of Shawn "Pepper" Forry's keynote presentation about his winter PCT thru-hike thinking, “that looks miserable, I would never, ever, do that.” But it was still thrilling to hear the story.
Pepper talks about his winter thru hike of the PCT.
And then, of course, there is the gear raffle. If there's one thing to know about hiker gatherings, it's that hikers love a good gear raffle. There were also vendors peddling everything from socks to intriguing, locally-made, hiking skirts.
It's not an ALDHA-West event without a raffle!
Hiking a long-distance trail brings you friends that change your life, whether-or-not you ever see them again. Head to your local Ruck - you'll meet the first ones there.
Editor's Note: We have 3 more Rucks coming up in 2017. Hope to see you there!
February 25 - Cascade Locks, OR
March 4 - Santa Cruz, CA
March 11 - Golden, CO