The Light at the End of the Tunnel
With approximately 450 miles left out of a 3,100-mile hike, the light at the end of the tunnel is becoming visible. After three months on trail, it is crazy to think that this hike will probably be over in about two and a half weeks.
With fall present in most states and after a few days off trail spent in Arizona, it is time to get back on trail and hit those road walks of New Mexico. Trail through Colorado was beautiful but challenging, and with its 720 miles, it felt like a very long state. Spending a lot of time in and on mountains, a majority of the time was spent hiking in strong winds and on mountain ridges.
After reaching Grand Lake, we were hit by some heavy rain, and as we reached James Peak at 13,300 feet hail and thunder came upon us (which we had to try and outrun, and in doing so I fell once again and hit my knee), only to be followed by very strong winds when we were summiting Mount Flora. Freezing from the weather conditions we decided to stay the night in Winter Park, hiking out the next day. With some pretty cruisy miles between Winter Park and Breckenridge, we reached the old mining town of Leadville where we took a zero before heading into the Collegiates.
When reaching Twin Lakes, it’s time to make the decision whether to do the Collegiates West or Collegiates East. Collegiates West has an elevation gain of 19,800 feet and Collegiates East has an elevation gain of 17,800 feet. We opted for Collegiates West, starting our climb up and over Hopes Pass, which was to be followed by many more mountain passes.
When reaching the road leading to the town of Buena Vista, I was feeling really tired to the point of almost falling asleep sitting upright. I was asked by a passing couple if I was a thru-hiker —because it looked as though I was through with hiking! And even though I felt done with hiking for the day, we still had another 15 miles to go and another fiave mountain passes to conquer, leaving us with a total of 32 miles for the day. But apart from one or two shorter thunderstorms we made it through the Collegiates without any major happenings and were rewarded with a double zero at Toasted Toads house in Salida, a true delight in every way!
Leaving Salida we had about 2.5 days to complete 99 miles and make it to the next town of Lake City. Hiking into a town on a Saturday means the post office close at 1 pm and as the next day is a Sunday, it was also closed. Luckily, Toasted Toad was not done doing trail magic for us and offered to drive all the way to Lake City to get my box from the post office before they closed as well as picking us up at the trailhead. And more trail magic was about to come our way that day – having no place to stay because of a festival going on in town, we were offered to stay in Kerry and John’s house while they were away, many thanks to my friend Lauren!
And so, after a short break and resupply in Lake City, it was time to enter the San Juans and get going on the final stretch in Colorado. But as we hiked out of Lake City I hit a low point—one of those moments when you really feel like you don’t want to get back on trail. But again, the trail provided and as we got back on trail some other hikers joined us and lifted my spirits. First day, however, put us to the test and we were in for a really windy and cold night. Not being able to find a suitable campsite, we had to backtrack about a mile to find a place amongst some boulders late in the night and find some shelter from the wind. After a night of pretty much no sleep because of a bad pitch, which had my tent walls flapping all over, we woke up to a cold morning.
Luckily the wind subsided later in the day as we had a long day of hiking ahead of us. Arriving late into camp after yet another climb and mountain pass, the wind was gone but I was again in for a night of no sleep, as I woke up feeling sick and even getting sick.
The following morning, as I was still feeling ill, I decided to take a side trail to get into Pagosa Springs earlier. Starting my hike on the alternate trail, I quickly realized I was hiking in the wrong direction and decided to turn around and get back on the CDT. But as I still wasn’t able to keep any food or drink down, and was pretty much hiking on zero calories, I was forced to take another side trail to Thirty Miles Campground, again arriving late that night. The following day and three hitches later, I was finally in Pagosa Springs – where I yet again received some great trail magic and had pretty much all my meals paid for during my entire town stay! Feeling grateful and blessed we hiked out to conquer the Southern San Juans – the very last bit of Colorado.
Entering New Mexico
After our last stretch of 74 miles in the San Juans, it was finally time to enter New Mexico—the last and final state on this trail. We’d been warned about bad weather coming in from other hikers in Chama, but decided to make a go for it anyway.
Rain and thunder hit us late afternoon that day and kept going for a good while. Being cold to the point where I could barely move my fingers we decided to cut the day short and set up camp at a nearby campground. As hunting season was in full force, two hunters invited us to warm up by their fire while they served us food and hot tea, turning a miserable day into a great night.
Being prepared for New Mexico to be hot and dry, I was yet again surprised when we were hit by flood rain hiking into the small place of Abiquiu, making every step feel as though I had cement attached to my feet our last four miles before hitting the road into town. As more flood warnings were issued, we decided to take a zero in Abiquiu – but no rain came until late that night. Disappointed about missing out on a full day’s hike and being behind schedule to make it to Grants before October 6th, we had to push some big miles between Abiquiu and Cuba before reaching Grants. Luckily most miles were easy and cruisy, and we could make it without any unexpected events.
After rushing to make our deadline, there was definitely a light at the end of the tunnel knowing I was gonna have six days off for some much-needed rest and recovery!
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