Day two is always harder than day one.

Day 2, 7/9
Mileage: 14.3
Miles: 16.8 – 31.1

We fade back into reality when the alarm rings at 5:15. I hit snooze. We fall back asleep. Alarm wakes us up. I hit snooze. This happens several times until we finally decide to stir at 5:40. It’s a slow packing up process this morning, as we’ve not yet fallen into a comfortable backpacking pattern, and don’t quite have a routine down yet. It’s cold, but probably only in the low 40’s, and we finish our chores while discussing how we better get used to the frigid mountain air, forcing ourselves out of bed at 5:15-5:30 every morning, along with getting packed up in just 30 minutes. This morning, it took us over an hour. Oh well, who cares, we have all day.

The first 6 miles take us much longer than the first 6 yesterday, as today we have to go up and down and around and back up then back down what we just went up and around again. It seems as though we are gaining very little elevation because every time we go up, we go down 30 seconds later. We take a quick break at a forest service road at mile 6 to drink electrolytes, hoping they will kick our butts into gear and make the next 4 miles whiz by. Very shortly, we exit the shady forest and follow a dirt trail into a giant burn area that is now filled with tall grass and very small trees which are beginning a new cycle of life again. Giant boulders are dispersed throughout the rolling hills of grass, and rocky peaks shoot up in the distant, making it an elegant sight. I’m trekking along, slowly gaining distance on Simone and our new friends Jerry and Sandy, when suddenly I realize it’s HOT. I mean, real hot. Like why am I not melting, hot. There is no tree cover, the sun is directly above me, pelting me with rays of heat and sunshine. My arms feel like they are burning up but we just applied sunscreen 2 miles back so it seems silly to stop again. I want to reach for my water and take a giant gulp but I keep thinking about the fire station a few miles ahead where we will eat lunch and there is running water. RUNNING WATER, that we don’t even have to filter! “Just keep walking, you’re almost there”, I tell myself. “Just over this next hill you will see the road. It’s just right over this next hill.” Over the next hill, I see the trail winding down then back up another hill a little ways ahead. My heart sinks, but I keep pressing forward, walking a little faster and not stopping for water even though my mouth is as dry as a dead flower. This wonderful but terrible cycle of anticipation and rolling hills and getting let down over and over again continues for over an hour until FINALLY I see the fire station. Thank God, because I’m about to die. I don’t see Simone behind me, but I can’t wait any longer to reach this magical spot of shade and running, clean water, so I hurry to it and kick my shoes off and soak them under the cold water until I can hardly feel them anymore.

Jerry and Sandy show up 10 minutes later, followed by Simone. That ten miles was HARD. Harder than all of yesterday’s 16.8 miles. It was hot and fairly miserable and my feet were aching and throbbing but yet, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. No matter how painful or hot or weary or achy, my heart is happy and in love with nature and that feeling overcomes any bad that could come my way. I am happy.

The clouds and the rain come towards the end of our lunch, so we pack up in a hurry with rain gear in tact, and slowly trudge our way up an old dirt road which is the Colorado Trail for this short segment. Simone has giant blisters on her feet from her new “no blisters guaranteed” socks, and her feet are throbbing like mine, or maybe more, who knows. If there is a word to describe slower than slow, that’s the word I would use. We inch our way up the dirt path and around giant boulders and through the forest for another 4.3 miles until we find the most perfect camp site. Dropping our things, we grab clothes and trot down to the stream, strip off our clothes, wash up, soak our feet. We set up camp and collapse inside as the storm passes above us and then the sun peaks it’s way through the clouds again. Laying down, at last! There’s hardly a better feeling after a long day of walking. This is the life.