Two lunch breaks and a nap in the sun.

Day 31, 8/7
Miles: 15.9
Mileage: 424.1 – 440.0

Once again we only have to walk about 15 miles today, so we take our time with everything. Under normal circumstances, we’d push the miles to 20 or so after an easy day yesterday, but we don’t have such an option today. The water source which we will sleep by tonight is the last for 22 miles which means we either walk 15 miles or 37 miles, or dry camp and run out of water. Tough choice, I know.

I eat a pop tart and moan and groans with each bite because it is SO DAMN GOOD. Squat and I talk about how hard it’s going to be to quit eating pop tarts after the trail. We can’t actually eat pop tarts for breakfast in real life, that’s just… Not real life. On the trail though, we can eat one for breakfast everyday and be perfectly happy and content. We can even eat a double pop tart breakfast, which I’m going to do tomorrow morning because I have an extra. I can’t wait. It’s possibly even becoming an addiction.

We’re walking at 8:50, and by 10 or so my stomach is growling and I’m hungry already. We decide to get to the top of our first climb before stopping, so I beeline it down the trail towards my snack break. I make it up in no time at all, take a seat on a nice, hard rock and start munching. Cheetos, a package of spicy cheese crackers, and trail mix. I eat almost an entire bag of Cheetos before I realize this isn’t actually lunch time, it’s only snack time, so I’d better not eat everything. We take an extra long snack break- a half hour or so- before continuing on because, well, we have all day.

A little over a mile and only about 20 minutes later we arrive at the end of segment 25 where there’s an old jeep road and a pretty lake, and the sun is shining. The plan is to only take the pack off for a second so I can pee, but once it’s off I’m like, awe hell, might as well keep it off for a while.

“Should we just eat lunch here or should we go a couple miles further?” I ask Squat, anticipating her answer.

“We should just eat lunch here.” She says.

Saw that coming! Done deal! We rip open our food bags again, for the second time in less than an hour, and pull out a bean and cheese burrito and more chips. Once I’m done eating I’m stuffed to the brim. I’m so full there’s no way I can put my pack on right this second.

“I think I need a little nap”, I say, and I sprawl out on the grass and lay my head agains my pack.

We both get super comfy and I doze off in the grass in the sunlight by the lake. It feels magical. I feel spoiled. Sometime in the future later, a guy pulls up on a dirt bike and wakes me up from my sweet nap. He’s cool though, he sits down to eat lunch and we talk about the mountains and the towns and his life here in Colorado. He runs a parasailing business, dirt bikes and mountain bikes on his days off, and in the winter works for ski patrol on the mountain. I want that kind of life, I decide. I’m gonna make it happen. First step- move to Colorado.

We still have 8.5 miles to walk so we can’t waste too much more time, so we get packed up and head out on our way. The only obstacle between here and our campsite is an almost 12,000 ft. pass, but we’ve had so many of those they just seem kind of normal now- not really much of an obstacle at all.

Time passes quickly, as it always does, and before I know it we’re setting up camp, washing our clothes in the stream, cooking dinner… You know, just the usual stuff. Nothing too exciting happens tonight, just a bunch of normal hiker type stuff. I eat dinner in my sleeping bag because it’s already been the laziest of lazy days, so might as well make it more lazy, then I finish the last of the chores and say goodnight pretty early, around 8:30. I’m gonna need that extra hour of sleep- tomorrow is our last hard day on the trail. Bring it on, trail, bring it on.

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Hanging with the locals and a giant waterfall exploration.

Day 30, 8/6
Miles: 13.4
Mileage: 410.7 – 424.1

I wake in the backyard of the hostel, people talking about bikes and gear, and I’m glad they woke me up. I look at my phone for a few minutes before getting out of bed, then make my way into the kitchen where I heat up a couple packets of instant oatmeal that someone left in the hiker box. We’re on a tight budget now, going out for breakfast isn’t allowed anymore. Even though it isn’t much, I’m thankful for a hot breakfast- it’s really actually delicious.

When Squat gets up we head over to the coffee shop next door and I order a mocha then settle back into a chair, enjoying the music and my coffee. This has officially become my favorite hiker luxury- sitting in coffee shops on town days. The music, the people, the vibes, and of course the coffee make me feel incredibly rejuvenated and lucky to be where I’m at. A guy about our age, who I quickly figure out works there but is off duty, is chatting with another middle aged man, who I decide is a regular. I join in occasionally on the topics of their discussion, and before we know it we’re all sitting around the table chatting it up and hanging out. It’s fun hanging out with locals- one of my favorite things about the trail. We talk and hang out for an hour or two until Squat and I realize we still need to pack up and run a few errands, and hitch back to the trail.

It takes us a while to pack up because we’re talking with Jan, the hostel owner, and a few other people staying at the hostel. Right before we leave the younger guy from the coffee shop, Ian, shows up with his dog and we talk and hang out some more, then he ventures out with us to the post office and the outdoor store. He offers for us to pitch our tent in his backyard when we get back into Silverton in about 5 days, after arriving in Durango, and we’re totally gonna take him up on his offer because guess why? That’s a night we don’t have to pay for a hostel, that’s why.

Squat and I walk down the Main Street to the edge of town and it doesn’t take long for us to hitch. We’re back on the trail in no time. It’s a little after noon when we start walking, but we only have 14 miles to walk today, and we can do that pretty quick these days. This is an absolutely beautiful part of the trail. Mountains rise in the distance every which way we turn, wildflowers are in full bloom, and lakes are dotted below us as we walk up high above the roads that we were just driving on not long ago. There is green everywhere. Green grass covers the mountain sides and the valleys between, and where we walk, there is green grass, bushes and trees surrounding us on all sides.

We walk fast but stop often- I have to take pictures, we have to pick flowers to put behind our ears, we have to eat snacks, and we even have to stop to record a few videos here and there- because why not when you have all day?

We walk our 14 miles then find a really cool place to pitch our tent just below an awesome looking waterfall, then we decide have to go ‘splorin. The waterfall runs down between two walls of loose rock, and we gradually make our way up the creek by climbing up and around and next to the walls, and also in the center of the creek when there appears to be islands of rocks. We make it to the base of the waterfall, take tons of pictures, and yell with excitement because this place is AWESOME.

Eventually meandering back to our tent we make dinner, fill our water bottles (which we don’t have to filter because we’ve now switched to aquamira), and do all the usual chores. We talk and laugh and enjoy all that surrounds us until the sun is setting, then we say goodnight to the outside world and crawl into bed. I catch up on blogs until my arms and fingers get tired of typing and my brain gets tired of working, and finally I tuck myself in for a hopefully long night of precious shut eye.

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Silverton

Day 29, 8/5
Miles: 10.6
Mileage: 400.1 – 410.7

The alarm goes off at 6am, and I wake to the sound of rain hitting hard on the tent walls. What? Rain at 6am? What is going on? Squat and I grumble to each other about the rain and how there’s no way were gonna pack up in this, then I reset the alarm for 6:30, hoping it’s cleared up by then.

It’s still raining a half hour later. WHAT? Now I’m even more confused and irritated. I don’t mind rain in the night while we sleep, I don’t even really mind rain in the afternoon while we walk, but rain in the morning while we pack up? All our stuff getting wet right away and staying wet until the night? No thanks. I’m going back to sleep. Besides, we only have a 10 mile walk into town today.

We finally decide to get up around 9, when the rain has finally subsided, and we’re walking at 10. This is the latest we’ve ever started besides the day we got lazy and walked 12 leisurely miles with Jody and Mikey. But guess what? We don’t care! It’s town day! Anything goes on town day!

We walk the 5 miles down the rest of the descent to just below 9,000 feet, the lowest we’ve gotten since…. The beginning? We meet a man on an overnight trip who offers us a ride to Silverton from the trailhead. I chat with him while walking down, and the miles pass by quickly. When Squat and I get to the bottom and begin our 5 mile ascent to Molas Pass, we’re about 5 minutes in front of the guy, Kyle, who’s stopped for lunch, and suddenly my competetive/speedy nature kicks in and I make a quick decision: I’m going to race myself up this hill as fast as I can go, and no one, I mean no one, will catch up to me. I’m gonna kill this mountain.

Up I go.

I walk fast, very fast, up this hill. The first 2 1/2 miles are steep and have continual switch backs, taking me up almost 2,000 feet. This is the part I’m most concerned about dominating, and I decide I’m gonna check the time when I reach the top of this steepest section, then I’ll steady my pace out a bit for the remainder of the miles. 47 minutes later I’m at the top of my 2 1/2 mile climb. I feel good. I just f***ing killed this climb! I do the math and figure out that I’ve walked over 3mph up this fairly steep, long set of switchbacks. Damn I’m good, I think to myself.

Once my pride diminishes I slow down my pace to a normal, more enjoyable hiking speed, and I walk the rest of the way to the parking lot at Molas Pass. Kyle shows up in his car five minutes later- apparently he was parked at a different trailhead- and we sit and chat and wait for Squat to show up. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is still shining at 2pm. And we’re about to be in Silverton! Our last town stop before Durango! I’m happy. In fact, I’m overflowing with joy. What an amazing life I’m living! I think again, for the thousandth time. What an incredible trip this has been! I don’t want it to end.

We make it to a Silverton, get dropped off at the grocery store, walk in and instantly grab a donut out of the donut case, scarf it down in two minutes or less, then go pay for it. We make our way down the street to the Brown Bear Cafe, as recommended by the grocery clerk, where we both order a deluxe cheeseburger- three kinds of cheese- a dream come true.

We hadn’t planned on staying at the hostel. We’re running out of money. All we really want is a shower and to wash some clothes in the sink, throw our garbage away, wash our pan. The hostel owner is so awesome though that she talks us into camping out back for 15 bucks, which includes access to the house and showers and everything we might need. We’ll take it!

I shower and clean up, wash my clothes in the shower with me, do other boring chores, talk to the other people at the hostel, hang out with Jan, the hostel owner. She’s awesome. We dub her our hostel mom. She says we both look like we’re not a day over 15, and I tell her I’ve gotten that a lot on this trip- something about nature must be keeping me young forever- I’m happy about that.

I love staying in hostels, I love meeting so many awesome people and having new friends surrounding me in every direction. I chat my way through the evening and stay up until past my bedtime, about 10, sitting in the kitchen talking to an “extended stay” guy about the town and about Colorado. I’m going to live in Colorado soon, I know I will. I love it here. It already feels like my home.

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