Day 23, 7/30
Mileage: 301.2 – 331.9
I sit up in bed and quickly eat my breakfast- a pop tart and a coffee packet- then try to resist the urge to lay back down and cuddle into the warmth of my sleeping bag. It’s still dark outside, and it’s cold. There’s dew, or maybe raindrops, on the rainfly which makes it even harder to get up because that means it’s wet outside too.
“We need to get up”, I say.
“I know”, Squat replies.
Then we both keep sitting there like zombies for another few minutes, fighting the part of us that wants to lay back down and go back to sleep. Finally we do get up and start stuffing things into various bags, and then into our backpacks. Jody and Mikey wake when we are making a bunch of noise, and they get up to start a fire for us. How cool is that? They’re not even hiking out this early, but they get out of bed to start a fire so WE can get warmed up. What amazing trail friends.
We’re on the trail walking just after 6:30, our earliest day second to Mt. Elbert day. We’re gonna need the extra time- we’re walking 30 miles today. Luckily the first half of the day is basically flat, and the second half only has a gradual gain of about 2,500 ft. over the course of 15 miles. Our new friend Bibbs decided to join us on our long day as well, but she was out at 6. Two Piece follows behind us shortly, and we all catch up to each other a couple miles down the road.
We’ve heard rumor of a trail angel at mile 12 of segment 18. Rumor has it that he has snacks and drinks and sometimes even hot dogs for hikers, and he sits in his spot all day waiting for us to show up, so he can serve us. We all walk down the trail talking about what food we hope he has or if he’s even real, and these thoughts propel me down the trail even faster.
As we near mile 12, I am deep in thought just walking fast and thinking, not really paying attention to the trail. Suddenly I crest a small hill and before me lies a huge, giant basin of some sort, spreading for miles in all directions. It is absolutely gorgeous. I’m awe-struck, just standing there for a minute staring at this incredible scene. Brown grass spreads across this giant basin, trees intermittently stick up into the air, and behind all of it is a 180 degree view of mountain after mountain after mountain, abruptly ending the flat expanse of grass and land in front of me. I have to stop and take pictures every like, 20 steps or something, so Squat and Bibbs gain some distance on me. One of the best parts about this whole view is that I can see a van and some sort of shiny trailer thing, probably about two miles away. There’s my trail angel, I think to myself, and I pick up speed again.
We reach Apple at 10:30. We’ve walked 13 miles in 4 hours. Those last 13 miles were so easy and cruiser, and I’m so stoked to be almost half way done with the day by 10:30am.
I walk up, shake Apple’s hand, and he immediately offers me a seat followed by “what kind of drink would you like- coke, orange soda, or Gatorade?” I take the orange, throw my pack off, and relax into a chair. It feels so good to even sit in a real chair and drink something refreshing other than water.
We all spend the next hour stuffing our faces with so many cookies and chips, and I also eat my Amy’s burrito. Eventually everyone else trickles in- Two Piece, Brian, Ian and Jessica, and a girl we just met, Critter. We sit around in a circle talking and eating and enjoying the sun, having a hell of a time. Noon suddenly rolls around and Squat, Bibbs and I decide we can’t waste any more time so we say thank you to Apple and head off to finish the last 17 miles.
It’s really not that hard for a while. I feel good as we make our way up a gradual hill then back down the other side, with gorgeous views of green meadows and more hills in front of us. We walk and walk and walk, chit chatting about gear and food and guys and other trail talk, which helps the miles pass by easier. The clouds start to roll in and get dark, but we’re not too high up so we just ignore them and the deep rumbling sounds they are starting to make.
At about mile 22, my feet start to get sore. By mile 25, my feet really hurt. We decide to stop for a quick dinner break before we finish off the last 5 miles of our 30 mile day. When I stand up to start walking again it’s rather painful- my feet just kind of feel like one giant bruise. I push myself on, walking at a much slower pace than the first half of the day. Brian catches up to us and tells us he plans to go 28.7 miles to the end of segment 19. When we tell him we’re going 30, and he’s a fool for stopping 1.3 miles before us, he joins in.
The four of us probably look rather pathetic, hobbling down the trail in a line, not really saying much at this point as our energy is diminished. The uphills seem much more “up” than they probably actually are. We walk up and down and up and down, over and over again, over rolling hills through a long, giant meadow. As I slowly walk up each small hill I tell myself that I’m going to see the parking lot, which is the end of the segment, from the top of this next hill. I get to the top and see more rolling hills. This happens about 7 or 8 times, and each time my body slowly starts to give up. Finally I turn a sharp, unexpected corner and there it is! I give a quick shout to Brian who’s just ahead of me, to let him know I’m just as excited as he is about this sight. A few minutes later the two girls show up and we all take a minute to sit on a rock and rest our pained feet.
“My legs and feet want to know why I’m doing this to them”, Squat comments.
It’s nearing 7:00, so we don’t sit long before continuing on to finish the last 1.3 miles of our day. I swear this is the longest 1.3 miles I’ve ever walked. We’re all four literally hobbling and limping, and if I don’t pay close attention to the trail I swerve sideways and then trip on something. I must look drunk, I think to myself.
Although it seems like the day is never gonna end, finally it does end, and we pass through a gate which marks our 30th mile of the day. It’s just after 7:30, which means we walked for 13 hours today. 13 hours is a very long time to walk with a 30lb pack on, and walking for 13 hours seemed like close to eternity, but we did it. I’m proud my myself, I’m proud of us. I’m glad we decided to walk one 30 mile day, yet I don’t want to do another anytime soon.
There are cows everywhere, mooing, chewing grass and meandering around in the meadow. We walk about another half mile before finding a flat spot up on a little rocky ridge to post up for the night. Brian has to shoe the cows away off of the ridge so we can set up our tents. They’re probably wondering why these strange people are taking over their home, but we don’t care. At this point I don’t even really care if I accidentally set up my tent in a pile of cow shit- I’m just straight up exhausted and all I care about is laying down.
Brian boils some water and gives us each a chai tea bag, and some powdered vanilla milk, which is AMAZING. More trail magic. It tastes like a straight up chai tea latte- a complete luxury on the trail. He takes a picture of us three girls, we decide to call ourselves the “30 mile girls”, at least for the night. We quickly eat our dinner, I eat a snickers bar, we get our beds set up and brush our teeth. At last, finally, I crawl into bed, take two Tylenol PM, and wait for them to take me away into dream land, my favorite land of all.