Hello blog world, it’s been a while… Update Part 1!

I have to admit, I got very lazy with blog writing this winter. And by lazy, I mean my blog became pretty much obsolete. To my dear readers who care about what I’m up to, I apologize for not maintaining. BUT! I’m getting ready to start another thru-hike! That means that I will be posting lots of updates again! Here’s whats coming up: In just a little over one week, I will be flying to Arizona to begin a thru-hike of the Arizona Trail – an 800 mile National Scenic Trail from the Mexico Border up to the border of Utah. Immediately following this glorious walk, I will head down to Southern California, to the Mexican Border once again, to venture out on a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Woohoo! I couldn’t be more thrilled about my upcoming adventures. However, before I go into detail about what’s to come, I would like to take some time to update everyone on what’s already come and gone. After all, the last blog post I published was about my last day on the Colorado Trail, last year, in the fall of 2014. A lot has happened since the last day of the Colorado Trail, on August 9th. I don’t know that I’ll be able to give you a proper update, but I will at least do my best to share with you the important stuff, the big stuff, and the awesome stuff. Here goes:

When we got off the trail in Durango, Colorado, Squat, Bibbs and myself ended up heading back to Silverton to hang out with a few hooligans whom we had met just a few days prior when passing through Silverton the first time. We anticipated staying only a day or two then finding our way back to Denver, but Ian invited us to stay and play for 6 days, and we couldn’t turn down the offer. That next week was a whole giant load of shits and giggles, ranging from climbing, to biking, to getting high and hot-springing, to flashing and mooning the tourist trains, to driving the adventure-mobile (Randall’s trailer/truck/home) up into the mountains for lots of random explorations, to drinking a lot, maybe too much, at the brewery and rum bar. After a week of more laughs and crazy times than I maybe have ever had in such a short period of time, we all drove up to Denver together and said goodbye to the crew.

For those who followed my blog last year, you may recall that Simone and I had to skip a 36(ish) mile section of the trail close to the beginning, due to major foot problems for Simone. I wasn’t about to leave Colorado without fully completing the CT, so we drove back to Kenosha Pass to do one more overnight trip in Colorado, thus finally, OFFICIALLY completing our thru-hike of The Colorado Trail. It felt nice to get that out of the way- it had been somewhat hanging over my head the whole time we were adventuring in Silverton, and I am NOT one to skip a section and then claim that I hiked the whole thing. After our official completion, It was finally time to say goodbye to Colorado. Over the next several days we drove across the states of Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, and then back up to Oregon, stopping in Moab for a day of hiking in Arches, and then Reno for two days to visit a good friend of ours. When we arrived back in Oregon, it had been 7 full weeks away from home, and one wild, crazy ride. My adventuring was not over yet, however.

My mom and I had a pre-planned trip around Mt. Rainier which turned out to not sound so appealing- the weather was supposed to be in the 40’s and 50’s with rain most days and a few chances of snow. We decided to go find the sun. In just two days I checked out the permit system and the water reports of the Tahoe Rim Trail, and 3 days after leaving Reno, I was driving back down to Reno with my mum. The Tahoe Rim Trail was flippin’ awesome. I LOVED that trail. The weather was perfect the entire 11 days- 70-80 degrees and totally sunny. There were some dry stretches, but only bad enough to make me carry 4L of water. Totally do-able. My mom is not a super-turbo hiker, but she is a total bad-ass hiker for her size and age. I couldn’t have been more proud of her for the mileages we walked- mostly 15-18 mile days! Go mom! I was also excited because we happened to be on the trail to witness the first annual Tahoe Rim 200 trail race, which was a 4 day endurance running race. Runners were passing us around mile 120, so we got to see them when they were totally delirious and past the point of exhaustion. After we finished our trek I went back to run a 19 mile section of the trail, which happened to be the very last section of the endurance race, so I ALSO got to run along side several racers who were about to finish traveling 200 miles in less than 4 days, on foot!!! It gave me a massive amount of excitement and craving to do something like that. Yes, one day I am going to run an ultra. Yes, one day I am going to attempt the Tahoe Rim 200. I was so refreshed and happy after this trip in the sun, not having to worry about thunder storms or when I might have to wake up or go to bed wet and cold.

I had been in contact with my buddy Ian from Silverton, and after figuring out a plane ticket would only cost me about $100, I said “fuck it” and decided to fly back down to Southern Colorado for another week of craziness with my Silverton people. We spent that week repeating some of the same adventures as before- biking, drinking, slack-lining, hiking, and adventuring into the mountains. Per my request, we summited one of my favorite 14ers in all of Colorado, Mt. Sneffels, which was a suuuuper fun climb with almost 6,000ft. of elevation gain and some really awesome scrambling up to the summit pinnacle. Looking back, this week-long trip holds a very dear place in my heart and I am so extremely happy that I decided to take this trip for reasons that I didn’t know at the time. Everything happens for a reason, I truly believe. Lucky for me I got to spend some quality time hiking, drinking and laughing with my buddy Wes, who later on in the winter was involved in a tragic snowboarding accident. This trip was the last time I would see Wes’s goofy grin. Love you my dude.

Over the course of these last few weeks which I have just wrote about, I spent much of my time thinking about all my options for the upcoming winter, and trying to decide where I might move. I had options- I could move back to Durango, a town that I really fell in love with instantly, I could move to Lake Tahoe and room with a friend of mine from High School, or I could move to Northeastern Washington to house sit with my cousin for the winter in the Northern Cascades. Lucky for me, all were great options, and no matter what I chose I knew I would be happy. In the mean time I did some day hikes and summited a few more mountains- Mt. Adams, the Middle Sister and the North Sister. My sister flew out to visit from Massachusetts and I spent a week with her wine tasting, brew-touring, shopping, and hanging out on the back patio in the sunshine (a much different but very enjoyable type of vacation). I slowly made my decision of where I would occupy for the winter. It was a tough one to make, but once my decision was final and I had a job and living arrangement set in stone, I felt totally at peace. And, of course, looking back I have not a single regret.

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(Update Part Two coming your way soon!!!)

Down, down, down to the unknown of life after the trail. (I apologize for the long delay for this)

Day 33, 8/9
Miles: 22.7
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.

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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.

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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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A million lady lump mountain passes.

Day 28, 8/4
Miles: 19.8 (+1 out of Cataract Lake)
Mileage: 380.3 – 400.1

I don’t sleep well. I wake in the night many times to the sound of rain pelting our tent, wind trying to blow us over, and thunder somewhere in the distance. It rains the whole night, hard, non stop. I don’t fall asleep until after midnight, then I wake up several times every hour. At 4am I check the clock then lie there awake looking for flashes of lightening. I’m fearful of the lightening tonight- we are camped above tree line for the first time, by a lake. When the alarm goes off at 5:45 it is still raining, and we dread getting out of bed. We hit snooze until at least 6:30 when we don’t hear the rain anymore, then we force ourselves to sit up to begin our morning routine.

It’s cold this morning. We’re above 12,000 ft., it has just stopped raining, and it is completely overcast. It must be somewhere close to freezing up here, making it nearly difficult for us to get out of our sleeping bags and pack up. Eventually we do, but we aren’t walking until 8:15. Our first order of business is to find a clean stream to filter water in. Last night our filter would hardly pump anything in the disgusting lake water, so we have no water leaving camp this morning. We come across a nice looking stream only about a mile into our walk, so we stop, but my filter is done for. The cartridge is filthy and on it’s last legs. We decide to only filter a liter each and try to walk our 19 miles on just that. It takes nearly a half hour to do so, and when we start walking again I look up at the sky and worry about what today might bring.

We are in the middle of a 33 mile stretch above 12,000 feet. Today we are planning on walking 19 miles, 17 of which are above tree line. Squat and I named today “lady lump day”, joking about all the small humps that the elevation profile shows. We have to walk up to nearly 13,000 ft., then down to nearly 12,000 ft. nine times today. 17 miles of continuous up and down and up and down before we finally make a long decent into trees at the end of the day. So far the weather does not look in our favor, but there’s no sign of storms quite yet so I walk fast, very fast down the trail. We stop one more time to change into rain gear and put my pack cover on in anticipation of what’s to come, then we decide not to stop until at least the end of the segment, close to 11 miles from here, depending on the weather.

I have to admit I’m kind if afraid as I walk up into the sky with clouds covering adjacent mountain peaks and looming just above me, some of them starting to turn a darkish grey. At first I’m pleading with the sky to be nice and not get any worse, then I’m singing a song that’s stuck in my head. For the first time in a long time I’m not cursing the clouds in my head or begging Mother Nature to let me off easy. Instead I keep singing, and my mood and fears lift. It’s a Christian song that I like, and I don’t remember all the words to it so I sing the chorus over and over again:

In the chaos of the storm
I have drifted far, far away.
But I call out your name
And you are just a breath, a breath away.
Then through the shadow, your light appears,
I know you’re with me, now it is clear
I can feel you, Jesus, all around.
Like sun on my skin, warm to the touch,
You surround me and I’m held by love,
I can feel you, Jesus, all around.

As I sing this song a smile spreads across my face and I don’t feel so scared anymore. In fact, I feel happy. Not only are my fears eased but I think I’ve started to walk even faster down the trail as I sing, and the climbs I’m walking up seem easier. For several hours I continue to walk down the trail singing this same song mostly in my head but occasionally out loud. Eventually I look up and see a few patches of blue in the sky- rather than getting worse the clouds are actually clearing. Another smile spreads across my face, and I even find a tear building up in my eye. I’m happy and thankful, glad to be here and glad to be safe and protected.

I make very good timing walking up and down all these humps, singing my song and being thankful that the sky is clearing. I’m walking fast, and by noon I’ve caught up to Bibbs who started an hour before us this morning. Just as I catch up to her we round a corner and go down a hill into a meadow that is FULL of sheep. There are sheep by the hundreds, probably thousands. They are all making their sheep noises and standing in the middle of the trail or chewing on grass in the field. We have to shoe some of them out of the way so we can keep walking. They all turn and look up to stare at us as we walk by, wondering why we are in the midst of their territory.

About a mile after the sheep facade we reach the end of the segment. Lunch time! I’m starving and my body is feeling tired- it’s definitely time for a well deserved break. We eat right by a small parking area where a couple is getting ready to leave on a 4 day loop. I spy a water jug in their car so Bibbs and I ask if we can have some as our filter isn’t working very well. They say yes, of course, then we spend some time visiting with them before ending our lunch break and heading off down the trail again.

As we make our way over a few more 1,000ft. lady lumps the clouds are finally looking worse. I’m still not too worried about it, and I stop to take some pictures of the Grenadere mountains in the distance. They have dark, dark clouds looming above them and all the sudden I realize the wind is blowing the clouds towards where we’re walking. Better keep moving.

The mountains to the right of us suddenly disappear under a dark, black cloud cover. The wind suddenly starts blowing harder. Mother Nature is unleashing. We run down the trail and try to get ahead of the black clouds that are quickly enveloping us, but there’s no use. We can’t walk fast enough, and within five minutes I’m in the middle of a dark cloud. I turn around to look at Squat and Bibbs behind me, we all stare at each other with fear in our eyes, unsure of what to do. There’s nothing we can do at this point, there’s no where we can run or hide. We have to keep walking through the wind and rain and thunder and just hope and pray we make it through. I walk faster than fast through the storm, scared out of my mind.

We make it to the other side where a sign points the Continental Divide trail downhill, and the Colorado Trail in the opposite direction, uphill. No! I yell back to Squat, letting her know that we have to go up the hill rather than down, and we all stare up towards the path and then the sky, wondering what the hell we’re gonna do. Thunder rumbles heavily from directly above us. We decide to hunker down in a small ravine by a creek until the worst of the clouds pass before we head back uphill.

At this point we know we’re only about a mile away from the high point before we start heading down. I want to just get there, to the top, so we can start walking down into the trees- into safety and comfort. We sit and wait, occasionally scared out of our mind by the mighty thunder shaking the ground from what seems like only about 50 feet above us. We wait for about 20 minutes, until we see a patch of blue beginning to spread across the horizon, in the direction we need to walk. That’s all it takes. We’re back on the trail in minutes heading up.

A sign finally points us downward. We cheer and yell with happiness and relief that we’re finally going down.

“We might not die after all!” Squat sings.

The scene from this view is absolutely amazing. We’re up above 12,000 feet, and we can see down into the canyon that takes us down to 9,000 feet. There are rocky mountain peaks rising into the sky on the left side of the canyon, and a green valley with two lakes dotted in the midst of the green grass on the right side of the canyon. Between these two drastically different scenes, a slit is cut down the center forming the canyon that we’re about to walk into. A rushing creek flows down next to the canyon walls, beginning just below us and flowing heavily down, down, down, to the bottom which looks like a tiny thin line from this vantage point. It’s extraordinary- it’s hard to take it all in at once.

We spend 10 minutes taking pictures and ooo’ing and awe’ing over the view, then we start our descent. It takes some time to walk down that far, but I thoroughly enjoy the whole trek. It’s beautiful- every corner has a new view, and the lower down we go, the higher the walls rise above us. I take pictures often, and stop to appreciate the canyon walls and the water trickling down, the rushing river and the green foliage throughout. Eventually we make it nearly to the bottom where we find a beautiful camp spot by the river with views of several peaks shooting into the sky close by.

We start a fire, our first fire that WE have made on the trail, eat our dinner, and enjoy the views and the sound of the rushing water until we decide it’s past our bedtime. We retreat back to our tent, our sweet little home, and pass out as soon as the Tylenol pm has made it’s move.

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