Work: Poudre River Trail adventure brings new excitement for nature despite pain, exhaustion and ill-preparedness |

Work: Poudre River Trail adventure brings new excitement for nature despite pain, exhaustion and ill-preparedness

Nikki Work

I don't do outdoorsy things. I like Netflix, naps and doing my nails. At The Tribune, I write for the Adventure section, which exposes me to a lot of stories about hikes, runs and expeditions I never pictured myself taking. I didn't expect that to make me sad. But it did.

So the more I learned about the Poudre River Trail, I thought it would be a good place to start. It's close to the city, it's paved and it gives you a taste of the wilderness without the survival mode. The Poudre River Trail is 21 miles long, and the path winds through Windsor and Greeley.

My complete lack of physical activity leading up to the walk really didn't phase me, nor did my right ankle, which I've broken, had surgery on and sprained multiple times in the last decade.

I bought some thick running socks, recruited some walking buddies, Kelly Ragan and Ali Xafar, and hit the trail.

It was 5:15 a.m. on a Sunday this past month when we started at the far end of the trail west of Windsor. It was cold, about 55 degrees, and still dark. I was too scared to sleep the night before the hike and sporting a concussion after losing a nasty bout with clumsiness. But I was excited.

After about an hour, the sun rose, its first rays painting the sky electric pink. I clambered down from the paved trail to the edge of the water, which runs alongside the start of the trail. There, big, wet rocks gave me the perfect vantage point to stand a moment, watch the river flow by and breathe in big gulps of fresh air.

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We had been hiking for about three miles when we strode up to a tiny, fuzzy caterpillar wiggling on the pavement. It was half black and half auburn and inching its way in the same direction. It seemed unwavering in its commitment to make it to its destination. It inspired me to feel the same way.

However, by mile eight, as we stopped to sit at the Kodak Trailhead, that motivation started to dwindle. My feet each felt like a big blister, and my left hip was hurting, the result of compensating for my ankle.

Somewhere in the next mile, we saw another caterpillar with the same colors and about the same length as our furry little friend from earlier in the day. It had been squashed by a bicycle. For the second time that day, I felt like the caterpillar.

By mile 10, even after reapplying Vaseline on my throbbing feet, the soles were raw. My hip and ankle were throbbing. I hate giving up more than anything, but I knew I couldn't do 11 more miles. I started crying, partly from exhaustion and partly from disappointment. I was sore, hot and mad at myself because I knew I had to stop.

The only time I've ever quit something in my life without finishing it was ballet when I was a toddler. I didn't have the coordination to put my feet in second position, a simple move my instructor couldn't believe I couldn't accomplish. I felt so lousy about myself I begged my mom to let me stop.

Even though I was ready to give up, I soon discovered I couldn't for another three miles. The trailheads are spaced out, and the trail itself, especially in the middle, is secluded and inaccessible by vehicle. I didn't have a choice but to walk until we hit Greeley.

Once we hit 95th Avenue, we called our ride. We could've stopped there, rested and waited for our air-conditioned chariot to arrive, but I asked Kelly how far we'd traveled. She said we were just short of 13 miles. Since we still had to wait to be picked up, we decided to keep walking in the hopes that we could hit 13.1 miles and accomplish a half-marathon.

At 13.2 miles, our friend pulled up next to us, bearing orange Gatorade, air conditioning and relief for my screaming feet and shattered stamina.

I suppose I should have known it would happen. It wasn't realistic to expect to jump off the couch and stride through 21 miles unscathed. I don't work out, don't hike and don't run.

I did, however, absolutely love the experience. I enjoyed spending time by the river, walking through the hilly plains around Windsor and guessing what animal rustled around in the underbrush.

It inspired me to start walking so that someday I will be able to go back and accomplish my goal of walking the whole Poudre River Trail. For now, though, I've started going on hikes to enjoy the outdoorsy things I didn't realize I was missing. I'm keeping these hikes a little shorter, though.

Poudre River Trail

For more information about the Poudre River Trail, including trailhead locations, trail conditions and maps, go to