Rocky Mountain Highs, and Lows
I saw my ex-partner during this section. It’s difficult to know what’s appropriate to share. You’ve come with me this far, so here is the roller coaster.
Woke up and got out. Pushed the last four miles to the road. Got to a spot to hitch and stood there for an hour and change. It’s pretty isolating when everyone passes me and stares at me like a roadside attraction. It only takes one, and luckily someone finally picked me up. A Coloradan native, an electrician. He kept telling me I should carry a pistol in bear country. I was just grateful for a ride so I didn’t argue bear strategies and pistol weights.
Got into Pagosa and got a breakfast burrito. Got some new sunglasses and caught up with some writing while connecting with my friend. I got a ride to the grocery and resupplied. Then got a hotel, showered, and cleaned stuff while I waited. We went to a park and connected as easily as we always do. We went to pizza for dinner. Had a beautiful evening of connection.
Woke up and went for breakfast. We hiked a lot of the Appalachian Trail together and really connected over breakfasts. We talked about us, different futures, boundaries, patterns. It was incredibly bittersweet. We connect so well but fall into patterns of fear and codependency. Dejection rose as time came to a close for us. She dropped me off near the outskirts of town where I could hitch. As we parted, her goodbye cut into me deep. She knows my traumas and fears so well.
I went to go hitch to South Fork, but no one was picking me up again. Already feeling alone and dejected, the isolation of standing on the side of a road with no one even stopping began to get overwhelming. I ended up calling a guy to shuttle me. It was expensive but I needed to get out of Pagosa Springs, off that highway. Getting into South Fork, I felt so lost. Went to an RV park and set up my tent. Distracted myself with TV until I fell asleep.
Woke up and went to a grocery for some snacks for breakfast. The RV park has bikes to use, which made getting around town easier. Got back, packed up, and started a 21-mile road walk into Creede. Headphones crapped out on me so I tried listening to music just on the phone speaker. Highway walking is loud, however, so while I attempted to distract myself, everything came up at me. All the storylines.
I don’t deserve to be loved, I’m broken, I’m wrong, I can’t be loved, I’m not capable of being loved, I’m a monster, a burden. I cried, and screamed, and fell to my knees. But I picked my self up and walked through it. I remembered I was my own individual. I was experience, and that in and of itself is worthy of existence and love.
Took a break eight miles in, where I dropped on to some old railroad tracks that paralleled the road. Much more pleasant hiking. My focus was more on the ground in front of me as I needed to step on the logs of the track a lot. Though sometimes the ground would be there and I could lift and open up my experience to include the external world around me. But I also wanted to sit with a lot of what was coming up, so I wasn’t too ultimately distressed.
As I got close to Creede, the wind picked up and the weather got stormy. With some off and on precipitation, the weather felt appropriate. Got into Creede right around the time I thought I would. It feels good to know myself well enough to know my pace over seven hours.
Got some ice cream at a general store and downloaded some stuff to listen to. Went to a bar for dinner. An old couple picked up my tab. A beer and a pulled pork sandwich. I really wanted a burger and fries; the search continues.
Left Creede around 5:30. There was a tent site six miles out but I was just going to see how far I got. It was a good climb, as I’m heading back up to the Divide. Saw two cows and then a massive bull moose. It was reassuring, humbling. The moose didn’t care who I love, or who loves me, what storylines I tell myself. The divide doesn’t care. Why should I? Set up camp and went to sleep.
Woke up and was frozen. Had to write some of my process down so I could get it out of my head. Got out of camp pretty late and made the climb up to the Divide. Met a peakbagger coming down from an attempt at San Louis. He gave me good info on snow up ahead. Made it back to the CDT, which follows the CT at this point. Put on hiking pants and got ready.
Hiking up to the first saddle, I saw the snow. It was stunning, being on the Divide proper again. Had some anxiety rise with the heights and the amount of snow. Got ice axe out, Microspikes on, and went to work. Slow going, as every step needed to be solid and steady. Areas of postholing up to the hip required crawling out until I could stand on the snow again.
Some harrowing traverses, but otherwise I could do it. The Microspikes helped bite into the snow so I could really trust every step. I practiced an ice axe self-arrest, which increased my confidence with it. Made it to the base of San Luis Peak, a fourteener, decided not to ascend. I wanted to get miles in and I decided I had enough exposure to this fear so I didn’t need to push much self.
Crushed down a river valley to a trailhead. Had a pit toilet; any chance to not dig catholes is a good day. Pushed a bit farther even though it was late. I didn’t want to stop. When the sun set and the cold crept in, I knew I had to set up camp. But it meant that I couldn’t distract myself with hiking. I had to be alone with my self.
And my self needed to feel all the suffering, pain, and grief I’ve ever felt. It needed it at the forefront of my consciousness. It brought me to my knees, face to the ground. The wave of agony slowed and with each breath I managed to wrestle control back. One knee up. Hand on the trekking pole, I push my self up, and I kept walking. I found a spot on a rise in a little copse of trees. I’m cold, tired, thirsty. Eat dinner and then bed. Tomorrow will be big, as I’ll pick it back up tomorrow.
Got out later than I planned. Pushed along really vividly familiar mountains. Wonderful aspen forests opened up to a massive plain, with some white caps visible in the distance. Stopped at a creek for lunch. Pushed on and met some Colorado Trail hikers who gave me some info on the trail ahead. I gave as much info as I could. Found a cooler with some soda in it; really unexpected trail magic.
Pushed on farther. I saw a Divide mountain biker, but they rolled on before I got to the junction. I pushed on and met some section hikers. It felt good being social with people. Chatted a bit then parted. Took a water break and then I reached it.
Colorado Highway 114. The road I got off on last year. Took a moment. Finished up a letter, saw two bears cross the road. There was also more soda on the fences along the highway. It was like the trail was welcoming me back. This is where I pick it back up. From here on out it’s new trail, all the way to Canada. Hiked a bit farther till water and a flat spot. Late night couscous and the emotional roller coaster of the past few days put me to bed very easily.
Woke up and did some yoga to loosen muscles and joints. Pushed to a spot with service, the first I’ve had in a while. Checked in with the world. Then some ridge walking. Mostly pine forest, but there were some bald spots where I could see out. It’s amazing seeing these white caps rise super high from the earth.
Some folks passed me on dirt bikes. It looked pretty fun, quite exhilarating, and probably less physically exhausting. But I was grateful to be walking, connecting to the earth with only my body. Walked ridge until Sargents Mesa, where I was treated to a wonderful view of some peaks in the distance over some mountains of green pine and aspen.
Ate some dinner as I decided my path. There was a shortcut I could take that would put me into Salida early in the day rather than in the evening. And I have enough chores to do where it’d be best if I got in earlier. Found a spot along the trail and went to bed dreaming about ice cream and burgers.
Woke up and got out. Pushed down a river valley to an ATV track that paralleled a road. It had some steep elevation change that the road did not but the road was down a steep mountain and across a flowing stream. So followed the track to the tiny town of Sargents, CO. There was a gas station that sold ice cream so I indulged. I’ve never had a better scoop.
Made a sign and stood trying to hitch for an hour and a half. Getting progressively more desperate. Finally an older woman approached me carefully and offered me a ride. She’s never picked up hitchhikers but she was tired and wanted me to drive. It was a bit unconventional but I just tried to exude gratitude and excitement as I adjusted the mirrors. I did drive when I flipped up to Wyoming and back down again, so I wasn’t too unfamiliar. I told her about the trail and then tried to connect with her on a religious level. She was immensely interested as I told her about my Quaker upbringing. She told me about some tragedies that have happened to her. And without judgment I can see why she holds to religion as she does. I don’t know how I would get through the things she has.
We got into Salida and she dropped me off at the hostel in town. She gave me some eggs fresh from her daughter’s chickens. And I really love fresh eggs. The hostel opened in an hour or so and Link messaged that he was in town. Went and connected up with him. I’ve been solo for a while so it was really nice to connect back up. And this post is crazy long so I’ll leave the rest for next time.
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