“Wander a whole summer if you can…time will not be taken from the sum of life. Instead of shortening, it will definitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.” John Muir


June 2016

Day 66-67: Salida Bound

Miles: 15 + a zero
Camp: Salida, CO off of CDT mile 909.25
Elevation at camp: 7083 feet

Woke up at first light and was greeted with one of the finer sunrises on trail. “It’s going to be a good day,” I thought.
Just as I had everything packed and ready, Cloud came walking up on trail. She had been just behind me, and was the first person I had seen in 2 days. We walked together to Marshall Pass where we saw Right On and Cowboy Stripper heading up the trail. It was really feeling like a town day as we all made a good pace onward.

At some point I got ahead of Cloud and ended up eating lunch on a beautiful saddle between 2 mountains. It was only 5 more miles to the road to town and that went really fast. Monarch Pass was a busy place with a touristy store and lots of tourists to fill it up. I ran into Lucky outside and just as we started chatting about going into Salida a man on a motorcycle offered up a ride. I could barely believe it…the mythical motorcycle hitch! I never thought it would happen! So cool!

The ride was super fun down the pass, a good 30 minutes of the wind in my hair. He even dropped me directly at the hostel where it seemed everyone had arrived. I even saw Rampage, Cerveza and one of my favorite trail angels…LB! We all got lots of food and had some beers together…though I left the party early. I was just too tired.

I decided to take a zero here, as I had been trying to get on to Twin Lakes to meet a friend who could no longer make it. That freed up some time and it was a good town to relax in. I got everything taken care, went to a movie with the guys (the new Independence Day) and we all went dancing to a bluegrass band after getting pizza. I also had yet another great box from my friend Elaine, who somehow knew that i just recently started craving ginger snaps. So good, thanks Elaine!

Salida is the biggest town we have been in for a while, so it was nice to enjoy the amenities. It will be a while before we are in another town that has it all and I’m pretty fond of this one. It’s going to be hard to leave, but I must. Salida is on my list of potential relocation spots, but there are still so many cool towns to visit on the Divide…and I am still happy in Portland.

Now the relaxation must end and the hiking must ensue. It felt good to take it easy for a day, but I’m ready to get back on trail.





Best hitch ever!
Salida is very artsy

Day 65: God’s Worst Invention

Miles: 22.75
Camp: CDT mile 895
Elevation at camp: 11500 feet

And I am sure one would be able to enter a theological debate on the title of this blog…but right now I don’t want to hear it. Mosquitoes are most definitely a mistake made by whomever/whatever is responsible for their creation. A great big cosmic, “oops!!”

That said, I cruised mile after mile without so much as a break to catch my breath or drink water. Every moment was taken over by incessant buzzing, swarming and not even the hint of a breeze. I went 9 miles before I simply had to stop moving for a moment. I stopped mid trail holding my breath, and after only a couple of the nasty creatures buzzed right into my open palm I decided it was momentarily safe. I sat down and stuffed my face with bars and snacks while I had the chance.

Soon enough I was hiking through clouds of them again. I decided to practice Zen being, accepting the fact that they were there and there really is little I can do. I’m actually quite lucky because even though they bite me (occasionally), I’m not allergic to their saliva, so I don’t get the itchy raised bumps. I don’t wear repellent and they are really more of a nuisance than anything else. I kept it positive as I hiked on, and it really helped!

I got to my mileage goal for lunch as a storm was blowing through nearby. It was a very boisterous storm, thunder and lightning frequently accompanying the dark clouds. The storm was across a valley from where I sat, so I was able to sit and enjoy my tuna tortilla while watching the impressive light show. There was a lot of lightning, and I was glad it was at a constant distance. I tried to get a picture of lightning, but it didn’t oblige.

I also got a signal and intended to call the hostel in town to make a reservation. Instead I was informed that my dear friend Polar Bear has a stress fracture! She is off trail for 2 months! I was so sad to hear the news and really frustrated for her. She is a tough lady and has pushed through some seriously uncomfortable hiking only to have her perseverance paid off with an injury that will take her off trail. It is a bit scary that it can happen to any of us, a reminder to stay aware of the needs of the body. A reminder that none of us are invincible. I’m going to miss the lovely Polar Bear, her wit, her sheer joy and appreciation of the world around us…but I know she will snap back. She is tough like that.

Now I’m laying in my tent that is covered in mosquitoes, a full belly, town on the agenda tomorrow. The trail was especially rocky today making for frustrating progress, but I’m happy with what I accomplished. I’m happy to be here, mosquitoes and all.

Dinner: refried beans with corn, 2 kinds of jerky, cous cous, parmesan cheese, goats milk (I buy it powdered) and coconut oil.




View from the loo (reenactment)

Day 64: Summer Is Here!

Miles: 23.75
Camp: 872.25
Elevation at camp: 10900 feet

Last night may have been one of my best nights of sleep on trail. After dinner I went straight to bed and passed promptly out. It is a great feeling. I was up and out of camp at 6:30 ready to face the trail.

The trail was pretty nondescript most of the way. It was endlessly rolling hills that I followed an old road through. I spent a lot of time thinking about work and what jobs I’ve loved, sort of trying to dial in what I want to do next. I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up…but I sure miss Hollywood Bowl!

Right at lunch the sky darkened up and I could hear thunder in the distance. We lucked out with good weather for a while, but the past couple of days reminded me of what it can be like when the sky gets cranky. I don’t mind an afternoon storm though, it is so incredibly hot at these lower elevations that the storms bring along cool air…when it isn’t muggy. Most of the day felt like mid summer and there was no snow in sight. Solstice happened right on cue for those of us who just came down from the high mountains. The hot summer weather was accompanied by hundreds of butterflies, bees and various summer insects…including mosquitoes. It is really hard to stop and take breaks without being harassed by the little bloodsuckers. My tent is currently covered by them. All in all, mosquitoes are another reason to welcome the storms and wind, as they keep them at bay.

After lunch I came upon some trail magic: 3 beers and a coke being kept cold by the river. I started to walk away uninterested, but turned back for the coke in hopes it would power me through the next miles. I needed a calorie/energy boost. I so rarely drink soda that it was a real treat, and I got through the next mosquito ridden miles with a good amount of energy.

I’ve really enjoyed finally having a good stretch of time to myself. I take more breaks, but they end up being shorter as I’m not distracted. Then I end up hiking farther because it is too early to camp…I’ll have to make a point to take longer breaks tomorrow. Maybe take a nap just to slow down. My feet are up to their old tricks again, no cold snow to keep pain and inflammation at bay. When we were in the San Juans I had zero foot problems and never took ibuprofen. Today I’ve taken 4 ibuprofen and still my feet ache. Time to put mind over matter…thru hiking is painful, but oh so painfully worth it.

Dinner: mashed potatoes with jerky, coconut oil, sundried tomatoes and powdered goats milk.

Trail magic! (They left a bag tied to a tree for the trash)
Butterflies everywhere!
View from the loo

Day 63: Me, The Marmot And A Herd Of Elk

Miles: 23
Camp: CDT mile 848.5
Elevation at camp: 9900 feet

It was surprisingly warm all night and this morning. I was at 12000 feet and my shoes didn’t even freeze. It made getting up a breeze and I was on trail by 6:45. I did a lot of climbing in the morning, even saw a herd of elk standing on the pass above me. When they saw me they all ran (about 20 of them) across the meadow above. It was a beautiful moment that reminded me that I can see so much more when I walk alone.


To be honest I am way too tired to blog tonight. It is already 8:30 and I still need to eat. I had a tough time with a river crossing today…it took me an hour to find a safe place to cross, all during a thunderstorm. I then hiked an additional 5 miles to camp…wanted to have a big day on solstice and I did.

Not a lot of pictures again, I walked through a valley almost all day. It was super hot until the storm and then it cooled off a bit.

Hopefully I’ll have more time to write tomorrow.

Dinner: mac and cheese with jerky and broccoli.


View from the loo

Day 62: Flying With My Own Wings

Miles: 12
Camp: CDT mile 895.5
Elevation at camp: 12000 feet

I woke up with nausea and a bit of a headache and assumed I was dehydrated. Yesterday was a bigger day than most in town, and I may have neglected my water consumption. Though, after drinking a liter of water with minimal improvement I wasn’t sure why I felt ill. I decided to go get something to eat and see if it helped, otherwise I was looking at a zero while everyone else moved on.

Wonderfully enough, food worked miracles. I guess I didn’t eat much yesterday either. After I ate a big breakfast sandwich at a cafe, I went back to the hostel to find Charge making his special french toast. He makes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, batters it in eggs, rolls it in frosted flakes and fries it in butter. I split one with Freebird and then went to run my last few errands.

The guys had booked a 10 am shuttle back to the trail, but I just wasn’t ready to go. I also wanted to give them a head start so I could do some solo hiking for a change. Just as they were leaving, Uberdude and Cloud showed up and I hung out with them for a while. I started strattling the fence on whether I would zero or not and ultimately decided that I would try to hitchhike and decide after an hour or so.

As it turned out, I had a ride in less than 20 minutes. Baggins, JimmyB, Scorpion and Animal had squeezed into a ride but were kind enough to make room for me. When we got dropped off I hit the trail right away while they dallied.

The trail climbed up 1500 feet in the first 2 miles causing me to take lots of short breaks to breathe. I crunched numbers while I walked and hoped I could pull off a 15 mile day, partially because I’m trying to get back on schedule. I’m a couple of days behind and want to see how far I can push myself now that the snowy section is over.

After a few big climbs, I found a campsite near water. It is only 12 miles, but that is pretty great for starting at 2pm. I feel good about it and am not intimidated by the upcoming elevation profile. I may eat my words later, but currently feel strong and ready to make more forward progress. My pack is 8 pounds lighter after shedding snowshoes, ice axe, waterproof socks and my second base layers. It feels great and makes the pack so much easier to load/unload.

It has been a great day of hiking alone and camping alone for the first time since New Mexico. I love my friends, but I also came out here for solitude. I can’t hear what the trail is saying when there are constantly conversations going on. For once I can hear my own thoughts next to the flowing river and the night critters. I can make my own plans of how I want tomorrow to flow, timing out my day around whatever miles I want to accomplish. I can plan my arrival in the next town to be as efficient as possible without lingering too long. In, out and back on trail. Trail is where I want to be…and though I’m loving these Colorado mountain towns, I don’t want to get lured into vacation mode. I want to stay focused and immerse myself in this amazing experience before it is all but a memory. I’ll always want to go to town for food, showers and laundry. It is necessary, but this time spent in beautiful places is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Even if I came back it wouldn’t be the same, which is why I crave time alone, because it is easier to savor the moments without distraction. I am completely present.

Dinner: cous cous with refried beans, corn, jerky and salsa.

Looking back on the San Juans





So little snow!

Day 61: From Snow to Snow Melt

Miles: 2.5
Camp: Lake City, CO off of CDT mile 813.75
Elevation at camp: 8850 feet

It was a casual morning, just Squirrel and I with 2.5 miles between us and the highway. We got there at 7:30 and caught up with Handstand and Charge who had chosen to camp next to the road. They had been in touch with the hostel, and Freebird was going to borrow the owner’s truck to come and get us at 10.

We sat around eating the remains of our food bags as we waited, reflecting on all we had been through as a group in these mountains. It was an intense section, exhilarating and intensely rewarding. There has never been a time in my life when I have felt so accomplished. We really are only a few, and I can’t even imagine what people ahead of us went through, the ones who blazed the trail we later followed. It took so much time, energy, fortitude, quick decision making and commitment. It took grit, perseverance, focus, teamwork and passion…all of which added up for an intensely exhausting experience. It took everything, and now that it is over I feel stronger and more capable than ever. I am filled with gratitude for the experience and the people who helped make it possible. Not just the people on trail, but the MANY of you who are on the sidelines cheering me on, supporting me and helping me with the details that are sometimes difficult to manage from the trail. I have never felt more blessed.

Thank you all! Let’s see what else this trail has in store for me now that the “hardest” part is over!

Dinner: a big huge homemade arugula salad with avocado, tomato, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds and ham.

Charge, Squirrel, Dust Bunny and Handstand

I almost forgot that the man at the hostel hooked us up with a rafting trip too! We got to raft through Lake City on class 2-3 rapids. It was my first rafting experience and it was SO.MUCH.FUN! We got to raft on the very snow melt we have been traversing…kinda cool! I am extra pooped though and pretty sure my arms are gonna ache tomorrow! Off to dreamland in a bed all to myself…it has been a while.

Dust Bunny, Titan, Right On and Slingshot go rafting.

Day 60: Farewell San Juans

Miles: 20
Camp: 811.25
Elevation at camp: 11250 feet

Squirrel and I ended up getting up and out of camp before anyone else was awake. I was about 15 minutes after Squirrel in fact. I didn’t have big mileage goals today, so I just let myself wake up naturally, which happened at 5:30 am. That’s about the time the sky changes color with the rising sun.

Since I left after Squirrel I got to hike alone for the first 6 miles, which I haven’t had in ages. It felt great. I came across a group of 4 guys I hadn’t met yet who had camped ahead of us. The timing was bad because I had been hoping to have my visit to the loo near their camp, and there was no tree cover for miles. I had polite but uncomfortable conversation before I excused myself. I would have to go a while before I was our of their eye sight, and I have no idea if they are fast hikers who might sneak up on me doing the deed. It became ever more urgent as I raced along, no place suitable for a proper LNT (leave no trace) duty for a few miles. I began to sweat when finally I saw a snow drift that had receded from the mountain side up a valley. I squeezed my way on up and took care of business while still wearing my pack because there was no time left. Everything worked out in the nick of time and I took care of everything using full LNT principles. I felt so much better.

Hiking was wonderful after that as I dropped in elevation only to know I would have to climb up over 13000 feet later. It was beautiful though, watching snow melting away, grass appearing greener, flowers in bloom all around. It is a different world below 12000 feet, a different season. We even saw a bear cub running through a meadow today. I got video, but can’t seem to upload it to my blog. We cautiously proceeded knowing mom could be anywhere close by.

At about 6 miles I ran into Squirrel taking a break at the bottom of our big climb for the day. I decided it was time to start wearing shorts again and to ditch my waterproof socks for more comfortable wool. Not only was the environment around us changing, but our heavy duty winter stuff just isn’t necessary anymore.  Pretty soon we can send a lot of it home, saving many pounds off our backs.

We cruised along comfortably today, miles so much easier without fields of snow. It is the day we officially hiked out of the San Juans. The day we earned a self pat on the back. We did something that less than half of the people attempting the CDT even tried to do. A lot of people took lower routes, some decided to head up to Canada and finish the trail southbound, others quit. Only a small number of us can say we hiked the San Juans in the snow and never even thought of going another way. I feel accomplished, strong, capable, proud and humbled. Those mountains are serious, the snow was serious, the elevation, the storms, the postholing…the views. It was single handedly the most challenging and rewarding hiking of my life, and there is still more CDT left! There is still more Colorado. The San Juans are merely a rite of passage and I feel great having passed. It was worth the fear and frustration for the exhilaration and accomplishment.

Dinner: mac and cheese with tuna, salsa and extra cheese.





View from the loo

Sorry, not a lot of pictures today.

Day 59: Ten After One

Miles: 10.25
Camp: CDT mile 791.25
Elevation: 12250 feet

I made a point to get up and out the door for breakfast before anyone could join me. It was all I wanted for the day, some time to myself with my favorite meal of the day. I had banana pancakes and sausage and couldn’t even finish it all! The pancakes were huge and delicious, I was a happy bunny.

After finishing the last of my town chores I joined Slingshot, Right On, Cowboy Stripper and Cloud for lunch. We got our fill of burgers and fries and then decided to get out to hitch back up to the pass. Before we even made it to the curb a nice man was asking us about our trek. His son is currently on the PCT, so I used a technique called ‘Yogiing,’ to get him to offer us a ride…and it worked! He had a truck big enough to fit 6 of us and we all got a ride up to the trail just like that. The trail provides.

We started the day thinking we would hike 5 miles, which increased to 7.5 by the time we hit trail. Then, 3.5 miles in we realized we were making great time despite hiking over 13000 feet, at which point we decided to make it a 10 mile day (after 1:00). We only have 33 miles to the next town, so this will certainly turn into our shortest leg of the whole hike. I guess we could have skipped Silverton, but it was worth it.

Now we are camped 23 miles from Lake City with our eyes on bigger miles tomorrow. We feel so much stronger, our packs are lighter and the snow is becoming less of a blanket. We usually have snow patches we can get around, though occasionally we still do some serious postholing or slush shoeing. It’s becoming easier now that the San Juans are ending…and I look forward to seeing what else Colorado has to show us.

Dinner: cous cous with salami, coconut oil, garlic and mushrooms.




View from my tent tonight
View from the loo

Day 58: In Footprints I Trust

Miles: 7.5 trail miles plus 5 road miles
Camp: Silverton, CO 10 miles from Stony Pass CDT mile 781
Elevation at camp: 9300 feet

I woke up to the sound of Freebird packing up camp, as he intends to hike on to Lake City and not stop in Silverton. None of us carried enough food for that, plus we like checking out the cool towns along the way. I’m kind of scouting out Colorado towns for potential relocation spots…maybe.

I got up and hit the trail before the guys were even packed, but I knew they would catch me eventually…and hoped that Squirrel would catch up too. As I headed uphill out of the valley I looked back and saw 2 moose strolling by camp. It was a mom and her calf, a bit too far for me to get a good photo. I respected the distance and continued my ascent.

I hadn’t had to depend on my own navigation skills for a while, so I spent a lot of time with my nose in my map. There were a series of trails that connected and interwove all over the place, so I had to really pay attention to my course. At some point I chose a route that must not be common because there were no footprints anywhere. I usually use those in conjunction with my maps to find the right way…or at least the popular way where people have already forged a path in the snow. At this point, I had no clues but my own sense of navigation. I was postholing all over, even in snowshoes and making it nowhere fast. I gave myself that moment of frustration where I let out a good yell and slammed my poles to the ground. It felt good to get it out and soon after I discovered trail.

The rest of the day went smoothly to the pass where Handstand and Charge caught up to me. We had to walk a road to town as there were no cars that time of day. It was a pretty isolated road with no reason to go up unless you have time to kill. Beautiful of course.

I’ve never liked road walking so much before! I put on wool socks (I always wear waterproof up here), and some music and took every step with confidence…you can’t posthole on a dirt road! As we lowered in elevation the air became warmer, the trees more vibrant and the walking so easy. A Jeep drove by on its way up the pass and promised to pick us up on their way back down.

When they finally returned to give us a ride the rest of the way to Silverton, Squirrel was in the car! I was so pleased to have our friend back as I had felt guilty for heading to town early without him. All was right in the world.

Silverton is a gorgeous town, small and full of mining history. At one point it consisted of 40 saloons and brothels on 2 tiny main streets. It is a happening and sleepy mountain town with towering mountains all around. I would love to come back some day…but for now, pizza, tv, ice cream and a warm dry bed beckon.

Dinner: pizza and salad.




Snowy road
The long and winding road

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