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Doug and Melinda McCaw are planning to run the entire 490-mile Colorado Trail in July, raising money for Intermountain Adventist Academy and the Kids Aid Backpack Program. They’ve ridden their mountain bikes on the trail three times, but this is the first time they’ll attempt to run/hike the entire trail from Denver to Durango. Photo by Matt Janson/Special to The Daily Sentinel

Alison McCaw should have a great topic for her “What I did on my summer vacation” essay next fall.

The 9-year-old Intermountain Adventist Academy student will be part of the support team when her parents run the Colorado Trail this July.

The 490-mile Colorado Trail runs from Denver to Durango, climbing about 87,000 feet in elevation — and Doug and Melinda McCaw plan to cover it in 18 days. On foot.

Something their trainer, Allen Russell, said stuck in Melinda McCaw’s head.

“He says, ‘Don’t let your ‘but’ get in the way of your goals.’ He’d said it a couple of times previously and I kind of had this idea in the back of my head,” she said. “What would it be like to trail run the whole trail? We’d ridden it a couple of times, let’s up the ante.

“The second or third time he said that, I said, ‘OK, I can’t let my ‘but’ get in the way of achieving this any more, let’s do it.’ ”

She talked to Doug, who after a couple of minutes said, “OK, I’m in.”

That was the beginning of 2019. They’ve been training — and planning — ever since.

Doug’s parents, Doug and Doniese McCaw, along with Alison, are their support team, toting camping equipment, supplies and a lot of food. The McCaws have changed their diet to plant-based and gluten-free, which brings a few more challenges in food preparation. They’ll have to carry some food on the trail for when they don’t intersect the support team during the day, and averaging 27 miles a day means they’ll be burning calories like crazy.

“We’re going to have to find ways to replenish calories without taking lots of food, so we’re going to have to eat high-calorie food,” Melinda said.

She’s making 12 dozen “calorie bomb” cookies, packed with walnuts, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips and rolled oats, 120 vegan burgers and entrees that will be frozen that the support team will have ready when they reach their campsite each day.

They’ve traversed the trail three times before, but have done it on mountain bikes, detouring around the designated wilderness areas that don’t allow mechanized travel, including bikes. Twice, they decided to trail run the wilderness areas, with their support team transporting their bikes.

“We did not prepare well enough for it and got partway into it and we were getting behind,” Melinda McCaw said of the first bike/trail run attempt. They ended up going back to the bike detours, but trained for their 2016 trip and ran/hiked the wilderness areas.

Along with upping the ante by running the entire trail, the McCaws decided to turn it into a fundraiser for Alison’s school and the Kids Aid Backpack Program. They’ve raised more than $7,000, with a lofty goal of $100,000. People can donate through their website, helpelevatekids.com. The donation link will take people directly to the nonprofit’s site.

“We’re trying to help (Intermountain Adventist Academy) grow their program. We would like them to eventually expand to K through 12,” Melinda said. “We also have a dream of wanting to incorporate outdoor school into their program. That was the original idea and then we said, ‘Who else can we help, let’s keep the kids theme.’ ”

They learned about Kids Aid, a natural tie-in to the trail run.

“That touched a nerve for us because without food, we can’t accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish on the trail and these kids, they’re struggling to have food every day,” she said.

The McCaws are also making a documentary with a local filmmaker, who will catch up with them several times on the trail. Between those meetings, they’ll be using Go-Pro cameras and their phones, and a drone will also follow them. They bought satellite devices so they can text their support group anywhere along the trail, and a map on their website will update every few minutes so people can track them on the adventure.

The trip will be roughly 18 months in the making for those 18 days. They plan to hit the trail in Denver on July 16 and arrive in Durango on Aug. 2.

“It takes a lot of planning,” Melinda said. “We have to plan everything, because we’re camping the whole time, so we have to plan when we’re going to intersect them, what meals we’re going to have, what meals we can’t be with them … yeah, there’s a lot of planning. There’s a lot of logistics we’re still figuring out.”

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