Emotions run hard when the trail runs out.

Day 32, 8/8
Miles: 21.9
Mileage: 440.0 – 461.9

I wake with a mixture of excitement and dread. I know that today is not gonna be miserable, but there’s something about almost being done with the trail that makes the hard days seem harder. It’s like the anticipation has built just a few days too soon, so when you suddenly have a day with a lot of climbing, you’re put into shock about the fact that you’re not actually done walking yet, and you actually still have to walk up and down mountains for another two days before you can actually rest and become lazy. That’s how I feel this morning.

Today is going to be a 22 mile day with about 4200 ft. of elevation gain, most of that being in the latter half of the day which is always more difficult. We’ve definitely had harder, but for some reason my bets are on today being REALLY hard. Or at least that’s what my brain is telling me- the same brain that is already done with the trail and partying in Durango.

This morning I’m very excited that it’s my double-pop-tart-breakfast morning. Two pop tarts in one morning! A whopping 820 calories worth of pop tart goodness! I eat them in about 10 or 15 minutes, and probably could have another. Packing up seems hard today because I keep thinking about what I’m getting myself into once I start walking.

“The only easy thing about today is that it’s our second to last day” I tell Squat, who’s probably in better spirits than me.

The first half of the day really passes easily. It’s mostly flat with some gradual uphill, and we walk 12 miles in just under 4 hours. We sit and I eat my burrito and chips and cheese, and we enjoy the short break but now I’m dreading the second half of the day even more than this morning. It’s all uphill from here, I’m thinking, and my feet are already kinda hurting. I take some Vitamin I and my electrolytes and we keep walking.

“Now there’s nothing to look forward to for 10 more miles. Not even a snack break or a downhill section or anything,” I comment to Squat, who ignores me and turns her iPod on.

I walk for the first mile or two thinking about how I’m not ready for the climb, then I decide I’m being pretty ridiculous and I’m only making the miles pass much slower by thinking negatively about what’s inevitably happening for the next 4-5 hours. I start thinking about the trip as a whole- how quickly time passes, everything that’s happened in the last month, all the people we’ve met, all the fun town stops. I think about the trail. The grace the trail provides. The ups and downs, literally and figuratively. I start to consider what I might write as a last post to sum up this whole trip- reflection time. I get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. It’s hard to breath all the sudden, walking up this hill with a giant lump in my throat. I make it go away then change the subject of my thoughts to home- how I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do for the winter, where I’m going to move, how I’m going to save $5,000 for the PCT next Spring. I think about how I will try to stay in shape over the winter and how badly I don’t want to fall into the terrible hole of depression I’ve felt the last few winters.

Thinking all these things really help the time and steps pass quickly. I’m walking up the hill, but I don’t feet it. It doesn’t feel hard or strenuous at all like I thought it was going to. I move my train of thought to a song I’ve had stuck in my head off and on this whole trip, but I can’t seem to remember the words. I turn my phone on and find out I have service so I look it up on YouTube- Making Plans by Miranda Lambert. I close my eyes and let the song play. I let it sink into my heart and soul until it almost melts me, then I open my eyes and keep walking. Oh the sweet, tender sound of a song my heart loves, of a melody my spirit finds rest in hearing. I miss listening to music, I realize, I miss it a lot. I’d keep it playing the rest of the day if my phone had enough battery, but I only have 24%, so I turn it back off.

I spend the next hour or longer singing the song over and over again. Sometimes I sing it from beginning to end, now that I’ve had a refresher of the words, and other times I just sing the chorus repeatedly until I can’t sing it any longer. But I still keep singing it even then.

I get to a sign with a number of destinations listed along with their miles, one of them saying “Taylor Lake – 4.5”. Only 4.5 miles left?! Where did the miles go? I think to myself. The day has passed by so quickly, so easily compared to my expectations this morning and at lunch. I feel great. I definitely don’t feel like I’ve already walked 17.5 miles. Squat catches up to me here and does a little dance to celebrate only 4.5 miles left.

The next few miles are steep up then steep down- up to the top of one hill, down the other side, then up to the next. It doesn’t feel hard though, and I have the most amazingly gorgeous view to my right that keeps me walking with joy and ease. I feel like I can reach out and touch the rocky, pointy mountain peaks that shoot into the sky right next to me. Tears start to well up in my eyes again as I think, how am I so lucky? Over and over again. I trip over rocks and almost fall every minute or so because I’m staring at this breathtaking view, but I keep staring anyways.

It’s hard to believe the trail coming to an end. This adventure is one I’ve been thinking about for almost a year. When it’s so far out there in the distance it seems like such a long time- 5 weeks- to be on the trail, to be away from civilization. When you’re walking and living it though, it is never long enough. Time is truly a valuable thing, I think, as I crest the last hill and stare at an expanse of mountains before me.

I’m in awe of this view. I take so many pictures and just stare at the unreal beauty before me. Below me
Is Taylor Lake, where we will spend our last night. Rising above the lake is some of the most majestic mountains I’ve seen on this trail yet. What an absolutely perfectly amazing place to spend my last night on the trail! I wait for Squat to catch up and together we make our way down, down, down to the lake.

I don’t want the night to end, yet at the same time I can’t wait to go to sleep so I can wake up and walk my last day into Durango. Durango! We’ve been saying that word for so long but up until this point it has always been such a distant place- just some town we’ll arrive at sometime in the future. Now though it’s real, and we’ll be arriving there tomorrow. Durango- the southern terminus of the Colorado Trail. A trail that has etched it’s beauty, peace and serenity into my heart and soul. Somewhere along this trail will be a piece of me, and somewhere inside of me is another trail that has made it’s mark on my life, a mark that doesn’t know how to fade.