Day 33, 8/9
Mileage: 461.9 – 484.6
Pretty much as soon as we start walking I start crying. I’m walking ahead of Squat, tears welling in my eyes, staring at the last view of the mountains I’m gonna get on the trail, thinking about how I’m going to miss them so, wondering what I’m going to do without them. A huge lump forms in my throat and a tear or two rolls down my face, I suck in air trying to breathe normally, and just walk and stare and walk and stare at the mountains, trying to take them in as much as I can for these last few moments. It’s like I’m walking away from someone I’m in love with, dying inside, yet I’m doing it to myself. I COULD just stay here in the mountains, I COULD just live this way forever and never have to face real life again, peaceful and so completely happy, but yet I keep walking. I stop and take a few pictures of the mountains and the sign that tells me I’m nearing the end of the Colorado Trail. I stare at them for a second longer, take a deep breath, and walk over the pass to the other side where we will begin our long descent down to Durango.
My mind is racing, kind of screaming inside. I wonder how Squat feels, if she knows that I’m freaking out inside, but I don’t say anything to her. I don’t ask and I don’t tell, I just walk and think and feel like I want to cry all the way down to the bottom. Why do things have to come to an end? Why does time fly by so fast? I feel like I’ve only been on the trail for a week or two. I feel like I was just at home finishing up last minute planning, anticipating all that would happen on this trip, all the magic that would take place over such a long five weeks. It wasn’t a long five weeks, though. So much has happened, so many things have changed, yet I look back and my time on the trail seems so, so incredibly short.
Squat and I do talk a little eventually. We talk about how we still haven’t figured our lives out yet, how we still don’t know what we’re going to do after this which is something we’d hoped to have figured out by this point on the trip.
“The only thing I’ve figured out on this trip is that I want my hair to be blonde again,” Squat says.
We talk a little about the trail, about a few things that have happened, about what might happen next. We still don’t know where we’re gonna stay in Durango tonight or how we’re gonna get back to Denver, we just know that we get to see Bibbs again in Durango, and I’m happy about that. We know that we’re gonna go get our free beer for finishing the trail from Carver’s Brewery, so that’s a first step, right?
We walk down a long ways. We drop over 6,000 feet in elevation, somewhere in the middle of that we have a little four mile climb that passes so quickly and easily I hardly notice it’s there. Squat and I decide not to eat anything until we get to town because we’ve been craving fajitas, so we’re gonna be extra hungry for them. Down we walk, 23 miles, tired and hungry and now anticipating getting off the trail. The first half of the day felt like treachery, knowing that I was walking myself off the trail and away from the mountains. Now that I can’t see them anymore and I’m just walking in trees I start thinking about all that’s going to happen after Durango. There’s still so many possibilities. We could find a cool place to stay in Durango, go back to Silverton and stay with our new friend Ian, god knows how we’re gonna get back to Denver so there’s still some adventure there, we’re gonna drive to Utah and check out some cool places, and we still have a whole road trip back home to Oregon. So really, I still have a lot of exciting things to look forward to- a lot of possible adventures yet to come.
Less than 3 miles from the bottom I sit and wait by a bridge for Squat to catch up. I only had one liter of water to start with this morning, and I’ve walked over 20 miles now, so I take the last swig that I’ve been savoring and fill up in the stream. I cheat a little bit- I eat a couple handfuls of chips. Squat arrives and I let her know that I’ve cheated, she tells me it’s okay because I was honest. A woman rides by on a bike and asks us where we’ve come from, and when we respond with “Denver” she gets off her bike, excited, and wants to chat. Her and her friend are so nice and generous, offering us granola bars, any other help we need, and a ride into town. Bingo, the good luck is already rollin’.
I had texted Bibbs to let her know we would be getting into town between 3 and 4. It’s 5:30 when we get off the trail. Squat and I video the last few feet of the trail arm in arm, skipping, shouting and screaming. We hug and take pictures at the sign, and I realize it’s not gonna hit me that it’s ACTUALLY over yet, probably not for a couple more days.
Alisha comes to pick us up like she promised she would, she drives us to Carver’s where we reunite with Bibbs! We learn that Brian waited for us until 4 then took off hitchhiking before it became too late. I’m sad that I don’t get to see him again, he was one of my trail favorites. I miss Brian already, I decide, so I send him a text. We drink our beers and catch up on trail things, find out Bibbs already has an awesome place for us to stay at a river rafting guide’s house, ask each other about the status of our friends on the trail- who’s seen who and where they all are- then finally we go and stuff a whole bunch of fajitas down our throats with fish bowl sized margaritas to wash it all down. I’m so full that it hurts. It hurts to walk, it hurts to sit, it hurts to drink water, it hurts to think about food. I ate so many fajitas. And they were so damn good.
Johnny, the nicest river rafting guide you’ll ever meet, picks us up and takes us back to his home. I feel honored to be treated so well at his house, he’s like an incredible trail angel but he’s not a trail angel at all, just a genuinely nice person who wants to help and serve us. I shower, check out the tree house, we all sit and chat the night away until my fullness turns to sleepiness and my eyes close and eventually my body takes me away, happy and content as I’ll ever be.