The Colorado Trail has a soft spot in my heart (rainingvodka understands) so I figured I'd share one of the better pieces I've read recently about it.
Denver Post, 2 December 2003.
Bottle holds wife's love, hiker's hopes
By Jim Spencer, Denver Post Columnist
KENOSHA PASS - The tip of the water bottle peeks from beneath a huge rotting tree stump roughly 8 feet to the right of Tom Gamrath's bench.
Kathy Gamrath put time in this bottle.
She scattered her husband's ashes a few feet away.
I didn't notice the water bottle on my first trip here.
I was exhausted when I collapsed on Gamrath's bench after mountain biking up a tiny sliver of the Colorado Trail in October. I got the inscription wrong. I remembered it saying "In memory of Tom Danruth." That's what I wrote in a column.
It actually reads "In memory of Tom Gamrath."
On Friday, Kathy Gamrath - Tom's widow - escorted me through snowy woods to the custom-made aspen bench that she and some friends hauled up the mountain in pieces and assembled on Labor Day 2002.
Sitting on the bench, which has become an unexpected respite for tired hikers and bikers, she told the amazing story behind a front-row seat on one of the state's most splendid views.
It's a karma-laden love story, as striking as the meadows, valleys and snow-capped mountains it involves.
It includes a man, his wife and a torrid six-year affair with nature.
The water bottle stuck under the stump tells a good piece of the saga. The bottle is a replica of one Tom Gamrath hid at different points on the Colorado Trail from 1989 to 1995.
"Tom wanted to hike the whole Colorado Trail," Kathy Gamrath said. "He made it 272 miles in 27 hikes."
Along the way, he left his water bottle to show just how far he had gotten. The bottle often stayed hidden for weeks, months, awaiting Gamrath's return to the trail.
In September 1995 Gamrath suffered the first of the heart problems that eventually took his life. His bottle sat hidden for three years in a spot along US 50, a few miles east of Monarch Pass.
Before Gamrath died in February 2002 at age 62, he collected his bottle.
"It had been years," said his wife. "But he walked right to it."
He added the bottle to memorabilia including a dog-eared book about the Colorado Trail and a T-shirt with a diagram of the trail. Kathy customized the diagram with red thread each time her husband completed another section.
The book and the T-shirt wouldn't fit in the replica water bottle that Kathy Gamrath stored near her husband's mountain memorial. However, the bottle does contain a copy of the log on which Tom recorded each of his trips.
Folded with it is a photograph. In it Tom Gamrath stands on the trail wearing a big smile.
Next comes his wife's tribute.
"My husband, Tom Gamrath, loved hiking in the mountains and especially loved the Colorado Trail," it begins.
"If you are hiking over Kenosha Pass," it continues, "take time to feel his presence with you, helping you soar. ..."
"I can feel his spirit now," Kathy Gamrath said Friday, sitting on her husband's bench and staring at the peak of Mount Guyot.
It's easy to grant Kathy Gamrath her mysticism. She selected the site for her husband's memorial because it was reasonably accessible, not quite a mile's climb from US 285 at Kenosha Pass.
After she picked the spot for its convenience, Colorado Trail Foundation officials sent Gamrath a copy of a questionnaire her husband had filled out years earlier.
Under the section "Most Memorable Moment," he had written: "Walking with a group of five friends in fall colors from Kenosha Pass to Jefferson Creek."
In July 2002, Kathy Gamrath spread Tom's ashes along the trail close to where the bench would be installed two months later.
On Friday she anointed the bench with a fresh coat of Skidmore's Liquid Beeswax Sealer.
Using one of Tom's handkerchiefs, she rubbed the compound gently into the aspen.
Gamrath also checked the visitor's log included in the water bottle. It provides a pencil and invites anyone who looks in the bottle to add their own chapter to a romantic tragedy.
Several folks have taken up the offer.
"What a great memory of obviously a great man," wrote Jennifer Bell.
"I hope I have as great a wife as yours to do all this for me," added Jason Scherer.
"Tom," said James R. Eisenhood, "thank you for the inspiration to hit the trail."
It was time for Kathy Gamrath to do just that. She folded the papers, tucked them and the pencil into the water bottle and shoved it back under the stump.
The she headed down the mountain leaning on her late husband's walking stick.
"I call it my rod and my staff," Gamrath said.
There's no question it comforts her.