CT Days 15–16
Day 15 – 0mi
Not much to say about this day, except for that Salida is a very cute town, and I don’t put my backpack on.
I go get a big breakfast and try to enjoy the fact that a giant sugary waffle doesn’t make me feel like shit when my metabolism is amped up from all the exercise.
Then usual chores: groceries, laundry.
What’s in my food bag is so gross right now. But I had to get honest about what I am actually going to eat. So, candy trail mix it is. I have no desire to do any food preparation whatsoever, so it’s whatever I can pick up and throw in my mouth without gagging on. I do wish I were more attracted to whole foods. I would puke if I tried this diet outside of hiking.
My shoes and socks smell so bad. So bad that storing my socks with the rest of my clothes has made them smell terrible, even the unworn items. So everything in the washing machine. I pick out a khaki button-down shirt and green gypsy pants out of the loner clothes box, and the outfit makes me feel like I might belong in this brown dusty town – the fabrics give my skin space to breathe. I feel new, if only for a moment – a shade of confidence drifts by. Amazing what a change of attire can do. I savour the dress-up game, the character, until I collect my old perma-stinky uniform from the clothesline.
But it’s not long before the doubt returns. The constant questioning, what am I doing here? What is it all for? Feeling undeserving of this experience, I look at my bank account and feel strange about the money I’ve spent – doing what? What am I doing here?
I have no regrets, but still there is a darkness that I don’t know how to navigate. I seem to find myself here often, on the edge, at an utter loss for words, not knowing what form the answer might take. Doubting if there is an answer.
But why do I keep walking?
There’s no question I’ll be out there tomorrow, continuing to cross off the miles.
The part of me that continues to strive baffles the part of me that doubts this life.
Now that I’ve scheduled some of these blogs to publish soon, I find myself editing my words more, wondering how they will sound to others. I don’t know if I like that. I kind of want to take them back, keep them to myself. Shield them from the eyes. What am I even doing, oversharing with the public? What do I hope will come of it? What compels me to broadcast my personal experiences in this way?
I feel a bit unprepared for tomorrow, even though it’s nothing I haven’t done for the last two weeks. (As long as I don’t leave anything behind in town). I try to sleep and gather my strength for the next leg.
Day 16 – 21.9mi
I say bye to my bunkmate who’s off to fly home tomorrow, and a kind shuttler picks me up from the hostel to take me back to Monarch Pass. We also drop two hikers where the east alternate crosses the highway, a bit before.
I ask Debbie the shuttler about the weather, as it’s looking dark like rain. I confess that I carry a lot of fear around with me all the time, and for some reason this time it’s directed at the sky. She has some really supportive things to say, and I almost cry, giving her a hug when she drops me off. It’s true, we can do hard things, more than we know. There’s a whole world on the other side of fear that we deserve to be strong enough to see.
I set off from the parking lot, continuing along the wide open ridge line. I share the trail with tens and tens of bikers. I overtake them on the uphills, and they zoom past me on the downhills. It’s a game of leapfrog, me versus the wheels. I even see a man with two horses on the trail, and I flinch a little at the amount of near misses he must be having today.
Soon the clouds darken and a low rumbling echoes. Ah, the thing I confessed about this morning. But I’m in the trees, and funny, I can see where the thundercloud starts and ends, with blue skies on either side. So I don my rain jacket and… walk straight under the cloud. I even get a little bit of hail, in an open meadow, near the top of the hill where the cloud is lurking. And soon I’m in the sun again, and all is well.
The latter half of the day, I spend wandering along a forested ridge, getting glimpses of the surrounding rolling hills. It’s overcast again, and the young pine forest is so silent: no birds, just the rustling of my clothing. It feels solemn, with the cavernous canopy supported by uniform trunks sticking out of the bare ground. A plantation for sure.
The day goes by so quickly and smoothly, I’m surprised. The elevation changes were small and gradual, and the mild entertainment of the passing bikers both help. It’s true, the scenery isn’t as jaw-dropping as the last section, but I still enjoy the day, enjoy the feeling of movement. I barely look at my watch or map.
I descend to Tank Seven Creek and find a spot out of the danger zone of any widowmakers.
I’m in camp at 4.20. It feels like a luxury to be here before 5, given my long days in the Collegiates. I second guess myself a little bit about calling it for the day, but no, I planned it out and I will be fine, no need to push more. I have lots of food if I need an extra day anyway.
My shoulders are really, really sore. I hope it’s just my heavy load of food and it’ll get better as this stretch goes on.
I immediately sink into a head-squeezing nap. I’m vaguely aware of a larger group passing by, and then some people start to start up camp near me. I feel a bit of pressure to socialize (I should really go out and say hi…), but I’m a get to camp and pass out kind of person. Their footsteps solicit a reaction. I recognize the pressure as an expectation I don’t need to meet. I can do what I want, so I continue to sleep.
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