Originally from the Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia, I thru-hiked the PCT southbound in 2019 after graduating from college. I’ve been intoxicated with long trails and the individuals that traverse them ever since. I am currently blogging a retrospective series about my 2020 Colorado Trail thru-hike turned dirtbag fairytale. In an effort to give back to this community and to sustain my thru-hiking fixation, I’ve built trails and worked as a wildland firefighter. You can read more by me at IsabellaZenadiah.wordpress.com
I used to feel awkward in this position; thumb out, hip cocked, chin up with a wide smile for passing drivers. Embarrassed and personally wounded by each rejection as cars sped past me.
One moment, I was trying to decide which protein bars I wanted and what to pack for dinner, the next I was on the floor trying to fight against a singular, all-consuming feeling of angst. A feeling that I genuinely feared had the immutable power to snuff out my very existence.
I didn’t have to walk very far to the Colorado Trail House but when I came upon it, I stood stunned on the street. The Trail House was an enormous Victorian the color of lilac blossoms whose edifice was accentuated with dark purple details. The side yard was bursting with yellow and white flowers which sprouted delightfully out of control around a patio area, a fire pit, and a hot tub.
Trails are an exotic and transient world where connections form quickly, burn brightly, and then abruptly extinguish.
There is a state—a bodily, mental, and spiritual plane of existence—wherein absolution is achieved in endurance. Awareness tightens in a gyre of relentless focus. Begets a black hole, a pinprick through which all concerns must pass, reshaping themselves into essential forms: breath, thirst, longing for reprieve. In that place, there is a peace that surpasses understanding. The loosely bounded self is released to the task. Ego eclipsed by the demands of the labor, the will to go on fills the field of vision until survival is all that remains.
Dark spruces interspersed with slender Aspens adorned with silver, grey, and sage green leaves fluttering in the wind. Columbines appeared in dense patches, swooning softly as though their silken white and violet star-shaped bodies were dancing to a secret song carried on the velvety breeze.
I felt the thrill of heading to trail and beginning my thru-hike gathering in my limbs as we sped down the interstate toward the Rockies and Denver’s skyline faded into the horizon at our backs. Even as we approached the trailhead at Waterton Canyon, I was in a state of disbelief that I was actually going to start the Colorado Trail after months of pandemic induced uncertainty. In fact--if it hadn’t been for COVID, losing my job, and forcibly relocating--I wouldn’t have been in a position to thru hike at all.
In the summer of 2020, when the world was still at a stand-still in the early months of the pandemic, I walked from Denver to Durango along the 485 mile Colorado Trail. “Walked from Denver to Durango” is just five words and there’s no accounting for the people, the places, and the pure magic that is contained within that single sentence.