A day dreaming kind of day.

Day 15, 7/22
Miles: 12.1
Mileage: 197.2 – 209.3

We sleep in again, really late, but we don’t care. We aren’t walking until close to 10, which is like, extremely extremely late for hiker standards, but we really don’t care. Today we only have to go 12.4 miles if that’s all we want to do, since last night we did the big climb to shorten today’s day. We COULD go 18+ miles if we are feeling good and the miles pass quickly, but we will let the day decide that.

We share a mountain house blueberry granola breakfast, and I drink a breakfast essentials with a Starbucks via in it. Deliciously chocolatey… I recall Jabba, one of the CDT thru hikers we met at Twin Lakes, telling me there’s no need for water with a Starbucks via- you just dump it down your throat. I told him I would try it… I think maybe I’ll try it tomorrow. But for today I’m gonna drink my coffee the tasty way.

The trail shoots up almost immediately, marking the beginning of a 3 mile climb we need to conquer this morning. I don’t stop. I decide to make it to the top before I take any type of break, so I just shoot on up the thing, not even stopping for water.

I’m doing a lot of thinking on the trail today. Sometimes I think about nothing, sometimes my mind races and skips around and I think about 30 things all at once, but never think about a full topic for long enough to find a conclusion, sometimes I think deeply about one or two topics. Today is the latter. Today my mind wanders on about what I might want my life to look like when this trip is over and into the future. I think about building a tiny home on wheels so I can take my home wherever I want to go. I think about possibly buying a new car soon and when I might have the money for it. I think about my options for moving this winter, and how to best prepare and save up for the PCT. I think about boys.

Eventually my brain takes me to even deeper topics- God, religion, and spirituality. I think about what I believe. I think about what I don’t believe. I think about the fact that I actually believe a little bit of everything, how I’m open to so many different ideas. I like living that way- just being open. Open to opportunities, open to different lifestyles, open to new ideas I have yet to explore. Trips like this really teach a person to open up, I think. Meeting so many different people who live their lives in such drastically different manners, hearing about so many ideas I’ve never really stopped to consider, observing the lifestyles of those I meet along the way, who I never would have crossed paths with if it wasn’t for trips like this.

I stand and look at the mountains all around me, and I think about them too. They are so big, bulky, overpowering, daunting. They stand in mighty glory, rising above all else. They can withstand the wind, the rain, the lightening, the stands of time. But the mountains can only conquer through apathy. They can’t decide to move, and do so. They can only sit, and look big, and pretend to be too much for us little humans. And you know what? Here I am, this little tiny human being, and I’m walking up all these mountains that tower over me, threatening that I’m not enough. They try to make me think I can’t do it, like I’m not strong enough, yet here I am. I DO have the power to wake up, tell myself I am going to go tackle one of those big scary things, and do it. I DO have the courage to put one step in front of the other, slowly and surely making my way to the very top of the mountains, until I can look down and scream at all I’ve overcome. And that, is pretty awesome. The mountains are awesome too, but not nearly as daunting as one would think they are. Us humans are pretty legit.

I think about all these things and more, until I am suddenly at the top
of the climb and I return to the present, here on the trail. I take my pack off, take a swig of water, check my cell coverage, text my mom about training hikes she should go on for our upcoming Wonderland Trail hike, take a selfie, and walk up the side of the hill to the top of the ridge for a better view. Simone shows up and yells for me from below, so I walk back down and we decide to take a lunch break already since the rest of the day is mostly downhill.

The next 9-something miles pass very slowly. They aren’t hard per se, it just seems like it takes an eternity to get to the end. My left knee is starting to give me some trouble. It never hurts on the uphill, doesn’t usually hurt on the downhill, but the flats and almost-flats really get to it. I walk carefully, finding a way to walk so that it doesn’t really hurt, but then every once in a while a step sends a shooting pain through it, and I cringe, then the pain is gone. I am mad at myself for sending home my KT tape so soon. I wasn’t having any pain at the time so I sent it home in Breckenridge, to save the weight. Now I’ll need to buy some in Salida on Friday. I hope that it doesn’t get worse until then, and I hope that Salida even has it. Oh well, I think, this is nothing I can’t handle. I spend the rest of the walk carefully placing my foot down as not to jolt it, yet trying to walk a good pace and not think about it too much at the same time.

It’s 3:15 when we finally get to the end of segment 12. Before I look at the time I guess that it’s 4:30, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find out I have much more time to relax than I had thought. We decide not to make the climb tonight, since that would put us into camp late and we’re already tired. Today was only 12.4 miles, but it seemed longer for some reason. Probably just because we started so late. Tomorrow, I think to myself, we have got to be on the trail by 7 or 7:30. I’m sick of this sleeping in crap, yet I love it so much.

The rest of the afternoon passes easily as we wash up in the river, eat a mountain house dinner, and relax. Only an hour after we eat our dinners I’m hungry again, so I open up my food bag and eat most of my bag of white-cheddar cheez-its. I’m hoping they’ll have snacks at the hot springs we’re stopping at on Thursday, otherwise I’ll be hungry on Thursday and Friday. I’ve noticed my hunger has kicked up a notch, so I make a mental note that I need to buy more snacks and treats and yummy things to eat after dinner and between meals, for our next 6-day stretch, which is coming up after Salida on Friday.

It’s a beautiful night with no signs of a storm. The weather has been incredible the last few days. How luck we are. I lay in the tent, rain fly off, watching the sky above me move ever so slowly, and the trees sway back in forth in the warm breeze. I am content.

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Pop tarts for breakfast. Who am I?

Day 14, 7/21
Miles: 18.7 (1 to CT, 3.5 alternate route, 14.2 on CT)
Mileage: 183.0 – 197.2 (plus alt. route)

Last night was a late night for us, going to bed just before midnight, so we allow ourselves to sleep in just a little bit. We wake around 7, I eat a pop tart in my sleeping bag. Last year, on the JMT, our friends Andy and Caitlin ate pop tarts for breakfast and I swore I would never do it. I’m too health conscious for that, said I. But here I am, eating pop tarts in my sleeping bag. Who am I becoming? Who still eats pop tarts for breakfast these days, anyways?

We’re walking by 8:30 and we say one last goodbye to Kenny and Chris, our new friends from last night. We run back into the Colorado Trail 4.5 miles into our day, and decide we’ll walk another 7.8, to the end of segment 11, then eat lunch. The miles pass easily, not too steep, not too difficult of a trail. It’s only 1:50 when we arrive at our lunch stop. The Mosquitos are bad here. Real, REAL bad. So bad, that I put my rain gear on so they can’t get to my legs and arms. That helps some, but then my face and hands and feet and ankles are still exposed, and they are still driving me up a wall. I then decide to take my pack cover and put it over my head, eating my lunch from within the realm of a little blue bag. That kinda helps, but then I can’t see anything except for blue, and I can’t talk to Simone or breathe very well, so I eventually retreat back to the outside world. We probably would have taken a longer lunch but damn these mosquitos, they are way too persistent. I quit flailing my arms around for 1/2 second and 15 land on me all at once. We pack up and hit the road as quickly as we possibly can, hoping these awful bugs won’t be so bad when we start walking.

In the parking lot next to where we just ate we find a crew of Colorado Trail Foundation workers. They give me some chocolate and Simone some bug spray, we visit and tell them thank you, they tell us good luck, and we’re on our way. Our last section of trail for tonight consists of a 4.8 mile climb up almost 3,000 ft., then a 1.6 mile descent into a valley where we will camp.

The climb isn’t so bad. It’s well graded, not terribly steep, definitely not as bad as some of the climbs we’ve already had. I am feeling good, considering we have already walked 12.3 miles today, and I slowly but surely make my way up the slope. Everything is great, I’m great, except that I’m almost out of water. And it’s hot. It wasn’t too warm earlier today but at some point the sun came out and decided to bake everything with it’s mighty oven powers, and now it’s really hot out. Somehow we didn’t think about filtering water at lunch time, probably because we were thinking we only have 6.4 miles left to walk, and we both only have about 2/3 of a liter. Only about 30 minutes in I take a big swig because I’m so incredibly thirsty and my mouth is so incredibly dry, and now I only have 1/3 of a liter. Great, I think. 1/3 of a liter of water left, still probably 3 or more miles of climbing, and it’s hot. Its rough all of the sudden, walking up this hill in the baking sun, knowing that I have to save my last gulps of water for some time up the trail, once I’ve finished or almost finished the climb. I check in with Simone a few times and she feels the same way. She’s deathly thirsty, she says. I’m actually a little bit worried now, so I decide to walk, walk, walk, until I reach a water source so I can filter water for the both of us. Finally after eternity passes, I hit a tiny little trickle of water running down the hill and across the trail. There is hardly enough water to filter, but I manage, and I’m thankful we have my new filter. My old sawyer mini never would have been able to suck the drops up that this little trickle is supplying. We gulp and drink and chug almost a whole liter of water before continuing. I love water!

We arrive at camp at 6:15. Not too bad for sleeping in and then walking 18.7 miles, we decide. Today was our longest mileage day yet, and we had a pretty decent sized climb at the end of our day to top things off. We are both tired, but I realize that I actually feel really good for walking that many miles. We head down to the river for our usual routine of washing up in the water, washing clothes, and filtering, then we get to enjoy our first freeze dried meal of the trip- beef stroganoff with noodles. So damn delicious.

Life is so good, I think to myself, as I watch the sun fade behind the mountains that tower over us. The clouds turn to a shade of gold, then a shade of pink, and eventually the sky darkens and I tuck myself into my sleeping bag, thankful for everything today brought, and hopeful for everything tomorrow will become.

A zero in Leadville and back to Twin Lakes

Day 13, 7/20
Miles: 0

The Leadville Hostel is the type of place that instantly feels like home. It has Christmas lights wrapped around an arch to welcome you onto the property, tables and chairs and benches are set up in the yard and on the front porch, a giant peace sign is lit up out front. You walk in the front door and the living room is cozy and nice, with comfy couches to choose from, a flat screen tv, chairs, blankets, and inviting decor. The kitchen is open for all to use, a coffee pot is always ready for a fresh brew, and the dining area has a large table for family style meals. Downstairs, another comfortable living room area has wrap around couches, another flat screen tv, books, and anything else you might need to relax. Behind the couch you will find a pool table open for anyone to play.

We immediately love this hostel and want to stay for longer than just one night. We take care of business first- laundry, shower, unpack/organize backpack. I don’t have cell service, but the hostel offers free wifi, so I communicate with my family through iMessage, update blogs, and check email and Facebook. We spend the rest of the afternoon socializing with the others in the house, and enjoying the company of fellow CT thru hikers and new friends.

Simone and I ride the bikes provided by the hostel down to a burger joint, I stuff my face with a bacon guacamole burger and fries. Back at home we curl up on the couch for a few to visit a bit more, and eventually tuck ourselves into bed. A real bed. Such a luxury.

I wake, so comfortable and relaxed in this soft bed inside this dark, warm room. I check the time, it’s 9:30. I slept in! Thank God! It feels so good to sleep in and have no responsibilities. To not have to force myself out of a sleeping bag into the cold morning air, take time and energy to pack up camp, then take even more time and energy to walk all day long. Today we have nothing to do. And it feels soo good.

Simone let’s me know she’s a wake by whispering across the room “Bri, I’m hungry”, and that’s that. We decide not to stay another night at the hostel even though we are dying to, so we strip our beds and pack our packs, leaving them by the pool table, then head down to a diner with another CT thru hiker. I order blueberry pancakes, hash browns and bacon. The pancakes are LITERALLY the size of the plate, no joke. I manage to eat a little less then half, which is awesome cause now I have lunch ready for me.

We decide to leave the hostel at 4 to hitch back to Twin Lakes. We figure we can walk a few miles to get a head start for the morning. We say goodbye, saddened to leave this place that already feels like home. The hostel mom let’s us make a sign out of a pizza box that says “Twin Lakes pleeeease :)”.

So here we are walking down the street towards the end of downtown, where we are going to hitch from, when we hear some guy yelling behind us. We turn around and he’s waving us over to his car. Okay?

“I saw your sign! I’m going to Aspen!” The man yells.

Hell yeah, we didn’t even have to hitch! Thank God for pizza boxes! We hop in and it turns out the nice people in the car all work together and they are driving to Aspen for a photo shoot. We spend the car ride quoting Dumb and Dumber- It’s only fitting, seeing that they are driving to Aspen, and they picked up hitch hikers.

Back at Twin Lakes we eat some more food from the store- a hot pocket and an ice cream sandwich, to be exact- then we head out to the road for a 2 mile road walk. After looking at the map we figured out an easier route around the lakes, which will get us back to the trail about 3 miles sooner, and will avoid the 2 mile, non-maintained trail we used to get down into Twin Lakes yesterday. Within 3 minutes a man pulls over in a truck and offers us a ride, which we gladly take, and before we know it we are at our destination for the night without having to walk at all.

We sent up camp, discussing how amazing of a day it was. The perfect zero, we decide. Sleeping in, eating delicious food, relaxing, hanging out with new friends. What could be better? Two men are camped close by, and we end up visiting and eventually they invite us over to their campsite to warm up by the fire. As it turns out, these awesome guys bought a one-way plane ticket to the tip of South America, and they hiked, bused, and hitched their way back to the US over the course of 8 months. These guys are really cool. We spend the rest of the evening picking their brains about the crazy adventures they’ve been on, laughing, swapping stories, and enjoying their company. Before we know it it’s 11:30, which is insanely late for us hikers, so we say goodnight, march back to our tent, and drift off to dreamland almost instantly.