Forget Humans of New York, its Hikers of the Colorado Trail

You’ve probably heard of “Humans of New York” before, the ubiquitous blog whose posts seem to constantly fill up Facebook feeds with stories of strangers on the streets of New York City. Now, a Colorado hiker is trying to bring that same strategy to documenting the people he has met while on the Colorado Trail.

Humans of New York Colorado Trail

“This is my first time backpacking. I’m a city person. I’ve spent one night outside in my life. I have no real idea what I am doing out here. I’m afraid of lightning, mountain lions, and bears. I can’t sleep at night because of all the strange sounds outside my tent.” -Blackhawk. Photo: David Fanning

David Fanning is a 64-year-old hiker who religiously reads the Humans of New York blog.

As a longtime solo hiker, Fanning had come to love the communal feel fostered within the thru-hiking community. So, he spent over 30 days in August and September hiking the 468-mile trail and documenting around 100 hikers on his blog, Rawah Ranger.

He now hopes to turn those experiences into a book.

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“In 2015, I hiked The Colorado Trail northbound (NOBO) with the intention of taking notes for a book I hope to write about The Colorado Trail,” Fanning wrote on his blog. “As part of this project I stopped and interviewed a number of hikers and mountain bike riders on the trail … Taken together, I hoped they would provide an interesting and unbiased record of what the trail experience was like for people who were on the trail.”

Along his journey, Fanning has met a multitude of hikers, each who had their own trail name and backstory.

He met Blackhawk, who was backpacking for the first time in his life and struggled with getting comfortable on the trail.

He met Robin, a 69-year-old Englishman who used hiking to overcome intense depression when his wife died 10 years ago. Robin told Fanning the experience of being on the trail gave him, “a reason to get up in the morning.”

Humans of New York Colorado Trail

“I took up walking about ten years ago when my wife died. She was blind, and walked everywhere, so she was fitter than I was. But trail walking wasn't really an option for us. When she died I was in dreadful shape that next year, almost suicidal. Finally, I decided I had to get out and do something, so I started going for short walks in the hills on some of the National trails in England … Doing so really did save my life. It gave me a reason to get up in the morning.” – Robin. Photo: David Fanning

Through it all, Fanning was taken aback by the openness of hikers he met, and said the experience transcended basic interaction and touched on something deeper.

"It's really truly amazing what happens on the trail," Fanning told The Coloradoan. “I was interested in a spiritual journey. There’s something about walking that puts you in that completely different space.”

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