Hiker takes long way home from school

Daniel Kraft, 22, returns Thursday to Grand Junction, after hiking 350 miles of backcountry from Colorado Springs, where he left from college on June 22. “We’re thrilled to have him home,” said his father, Terry Kraft.

Daniel Kraft decided to walk home from school one day — via Pikes Peak, Thirtynine Mile Mountain and Tin Cup Pass.

Kraft finished a 350-mile tour of Colorado’s backcountry between his college house in downtown Colorado Springs and his parents’ home in Grand Junction on Thursday afternoon.

“We could see Pikes Peak from my dorm, and my roommate always thought it would be cool to just walk out and climb it,” he said while enjoying a lunch break at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, before walking the final miles.

His dad, Terry, joined him on the last leg of his trip.

Kraft, 22, left on June 22 and climbed Pikes Peak via the Barr Trail. His pack was heavy, nearly 50 pounds, but he knew it would get lighter as his journey wore on.

“It was hard, but it was the beginning, so I wasn’t that tired yet,” he said.

He walked back down the mountain and headed for Mueller State Park and Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

From there, he headed south toward Thirtynine Mile Mountain near Cripple Creek, then onto Colorado Highway 9, which crosses the Continental Divide.

He tried hard to stay on trails and dirt roads away from high-traffic areas.

One of his favorite parts of the trip was meeting people along the Trans-American Bike Trail route near Salida.

“I just randomly met people along the way who became a part of it,” Kraft said.

But most of his walk was done in solitude.

“I got away from the hustle and bustle of people,” he said.

The silence, especially while walking through the ghost towns of Tin Cup and St. Elmo near Buena Vista, allowed Kraft to focus on Colorado history and experience places in the state in a more intimate way than passing through by car.

“I was able to let go of concerns that maybe really aren’t as relevant right now,” he said.

He crossed Kebler Pass and dropped into the valley via Grand Mesa.

His parents were nervous about Kraft making such a long journey on foot by himself.

As a safety precaution, they were able to track his progress using a Spot Tracker, a personal tracking device that utilizes a satellite to follow a hiker and can send an SOS signal if necessary.

“We’re thrilled to have him home,” Terry said.

Kraft said the trip taught him patience and an appreciation for the beauty in the world.

“It taught me to have the faith that everything is going to be OK. It ended up being very educational,” he said.

Tired and hot, Kraft planned to stop in for a Blizzard at Dairy Queen, then a beer at Kannah Creek, before heading home to a hot meal and a soft bed.

Today, he bids farewell to a college career well-done, but he plans to lace up his hiking boots again in the near future.


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