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“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

Month

July 2016

Day 100: Send In The Chacos

Miles: 11

Camp: My CDT mile 1431.3

During the night I awoke to pee and ended up staring at the stars for a while. The milky way was creamy against the sky, even with a bright quarter moon competing for light. I sure love cowboy camping! I look forward to taking advantage of it for the rest of the basin, as long as weather holds out.

The 11 miles into town were painful. The neuroma is flaring up with more frequency/intensity now, and I’m ready to admit it is the shoes. These shoes are great and have served me well in the mountains…but the moment I started pounding hot desert pavement, all deals were off. I need bigger shoes/wider toe box, which used to be what set Altra apart from other popular hiking shoes. They have been narrowing the toe box for the last couple of models and it is finally to the point where I need to go up another size and/or switch shoes entirely. I think it is time to call in the Chacos! I have a pair ready to go at my Mom’s house in NH, just for this occasion. When my feet were unbearable on the PCT, I switched to Chacos and everything improved enough for me to keep hiking. I didn’t want sandals in the snow and had really thought Altra was going to do the trick for the rest of the trail. Oh well, whatever it takes.

When I got to town I immediately went to the Thai buffet. There I ordered a Thai iced tea and began digging in. I  certainly get the most out of a buffet when I am fresh off the trail, so I went for it. Dragon and GregInWild showed up too, so we all had our hiker hunger satiated by delicious Thai food. What a treat in Rawlins, Wyoming!

Dragon and Deco had a room already and offered to let me stay. I took them up on it and picked Deco’s brain a bit about my foot (he is a doctor). He agreed that it sure sounds like a neuroma and gave me some helpful advice, part of which was taking a little rest and taking ibuprofen regularly to break the cycle of inflammation. I decided to take a zero and have my shoes delivered here as opposed to the next town. It would be ideal in my current state and force me off the foot instead of pushing myself through big miles in the face of pain.

My mom is a super hero for mailing those to me ovwrnight…not cheap but a potential hike saver. I’m trepidatious and frustrated by all of it, the rest of me physically and mentally prepared to hike. I want to keep going! I’m fed up with resting and it’s going to start snowing in Canada. That’s what they say anyway.

I’m doing my best to remain calm and know that life happens, to keep the faith that everything will work out. I’m really going to try to be patient and accept it, a challenge I need to work on amyway. Patience hasn’t always been my strongest quality, so I’ll take the opportunity to improve that skill. What else can I do?

Dinner: Burger King. I haven’t had a whopper in over 10 years and it was…okay. wasn’t it supposed to come with cheese though? Do you really have to ask for cheese when eating a whopper? I’m so lost in fast food restaurants! I never know how to order things right. I think it’s funny because it must look so strange to the people who do it regularly. Anyway, whopper.

View from my cowboy camp
I dig Wyoming…it’s kinda lawless.

Day 99: Go Home Morton

Miles: 29

Camp: My CDT mile 1420.3

With nothing but a long road walk without much to look at, I had to find ways to keep myself busy today. I spent a good portion of the morning looking for Uberdude’s lost hat, one he holds a sentimental attachment to. I looked and looked as hard as I could, happy to have something to distract me from the road and my increasing pain in my foot. Unfortunately I couldn’t help my friend, sorry Uber!

The pain begins as a tingling in the ball of my foot and toes, then becomes a sharp, shooting pain in two of my toes. It is intense enough to invoke tears, a pain so harsh that I have to yell to let it out…and I just keep walking.

I decided to distract myself by writing a poem, something I used to do all of the time and stopped at some point in my life. I’m pretty happy with it…it has been a while and I will vow to write more poetry as I hike on. It’s kind of fun…though the WordPress app won’t let me format it the way I’d like:

As the divide crawls north, it is in contrast with itself

The horizon exudes distance, a mountain range just out of reach

When 50 miles past, it was the valleys we could not touch

And so it goes on the divide, always filling us with the unattainable.

After creating the poem, I simply walked watching the horizon become more and more desolate. There will be no mountains for a while, the Great Basin is beginning. Herds of antelope ran across the landscape, water was scarce. I had no water report for this section and began to worry about what I had, was it enough? There was nothing to rely on according to maps, as all areas that are blue are apparently too saline to drink.I won’t die in 30 miles of this…but it was getting hotter and wasn’t going to be fun.

Soon, a pickup truck stopped. Two young men offered me water on their way to work! I filled up my bottles, thanking them profusely. Lifesavers!

Not long after I found a drainpipe running under the road. There was no water in the creek there, so I crawled in for lunch. It was shady and offered a steady breeze. “This is paradise,” I thought as I elevated my feet against the opposite wall. The thought only of one hiking through the desert sun on a long road with no shade in sight. I didn’t want to leave, but I was determined to get to town and figure out my foot. 

The day continued on, hot and shadeless. I found a random spring near a saline creek and filled all of my bottles for the day, heaving a very heavy pack down the road. About 5 cars stopped all day to offer water and one man even gave me an apple. People in Wyoming are very nice!

When I couldn’t stand walking any longer, I found a spot to call home for the night. It was nice and flat, nestled among some sagebrush. A baby coyote ran behind me, following the calls of it’s mother somewhere in the distance. Boy, I do love the desert. I even decided to cowboy camp for the first time since New Mexico. It feels right to just lay on the ground looking up at the sky. Now what to do about this painful foot?

Dinner: mac and cheese with tuna, bacon bits and more cheese.

Nothing but road.
Drainpipe lunch
Cowgirlin’

Day 98: Back To The Desert

Miles: 25.3

Camp: My CDT mile 1391.3

Today started out.quite relaxed as Pink and I enjoyed coffee in camp. We said goodbye at 9 am and I began making miles as expected. My Morton’s Neuroma was acting up again and actually became tremendously painful. I’ve had it ache and hurt before, but this is a whole new level of pain. Ah, thru hiking…if it isn’t one thing, it is another.

The day was pretty nondescript, going through trees without many views. After lunch there were so many blowdowns in the forest I started losing time quickly. I was getting super frustrated because I couldn’t go faster and I was constantly losing the trail as I went around miles of piles of dead trees. I got so turned around at one point that I started hiking south again! 

Between that and the extreme pain in my foot, I was a little miserable today. The foot hurt so badly at times that I would cry out in pain…but I had to keep walking. I took some ibuprofen which helped for a little while, but not for long. How do you relieve Morton’s Neuroma? It is probably the most painful ailment I’ve had on trail to date. I couldn’t possibly deal with it every day if it keeps up.

Anyway, I didn’t get to camp until 8:30. I’m back in the desert, camped in the sagebrush. I’m beyond tired and completely over today. Tomorrow is all road walks and if it doesn’t hurt too much, I’m going for my first 30 mile day! That will get me into Rawlins pretty fast and then I can hopefully catch up to my schedule (I’m only a day and a half behind).

I wish I could write more but I’m just beat. Goodnight.

Dinner: mac and cheese with broccoli and turkey bacon bits.

I thought this guy was pretty cool
Not much out there!

Day 97: Trail-ish

Miles: 8.6

Camp: My CDT mile 1366.6

After my usual routine I set off into a beautiful morning of hiking through alpine meadows down to the pass. Huston Park Wilderness doesn’t have much of a trail really, it is rather inconsistent in its markings. Sometimes it is trail, sometimes cairns, often posts held up by cairns. You make it to one and then have to hunt for the next…and it is often obscured by trees. Sometimes you have to guess and hope, sometimes the trail is just…ish.

It was entirely pleasant walking, if not occasionally more work. My Morton’s Neuroma began flaring up a bit which made me happy that it was a short day to the pass. It is a very uncomfortable sensation and nothing really seems to relieve it. Usually it flares up and disappears, so resting half of the day should help with that.

Once I made it to the pass I realized why everyone refers to this as a tough hitch. There was zero traffic on the road as I stood there watching for any car to stick my thumb out for. “This could take a while,” I thought as I heard an engine approach. I stuck out my thumb and smiled big as a big truck towing a big trailer moved on down the road. Another passed behind it and then I noticed something. The first truck had pulled over a ways down the road and seemed to be gesturing for me to come on over. As I began hurrying to the potential ride, I wondered if they were calling to me or the other truck. I decided to play dumb and see if it got me to Encampment. 

Sure enough, the nice man was stopped for me! First car! I hopped in and his sweet dog curled up on my lap. I gave her lots of pets and love as he and I discussed the trail. He used to work for the forest service and was once in charge of marking the trail I had just walked. He said it was better in his day. We also talked about the natural way that forest fires control a forest and how the bark beetle became so invasive. He was a cool ride…even waiting for me to pick up my package at the post office before dropping me off at the campground. I never got his name, but he was a great first impression of the people of Wyoming.

The campground let me take a shower for $5 as Pink would be coming to camp with me on trail later on. Once clean, I went to the cafe and ate a patty melt with fries and a giant deep fried brownie sundae. Man, I love hiking for the ability to eat alone sometimes! I tried to catch up on blogs, but the small town wifi couldn’t keep up. Guess it will have to wait until Rawlins in a few days.

I met two new hikers named Dragon and Deco as well. When Pink arrived, he took all of us to the pass and made us homemade meatball subs while making sure we had plenty of beers and music too. We had a lovely campfire, shared bourbon and stories and ate until there was nothing left to eat. I found Deco particularly interesting, as he is a surgeon from Alaska. He has a very cool demeanor and lots of stories. I hope to learn more as we hike on.

Dragon and Deco took off just before sunset to hike over the next climb while Pink and I enjoyed the evening and fire. It’s likely our last visit for the trail as his work schedule is rather demanding, but good for me to quit relaxing so much. It is time to hike! I’m ready to make some progress here, though I’ll miss the wonderful trail magic and seeing my friend.

For now, one more night of the easy life. Last one, I swear.

Dinner: meatball subs!

Old boat at our campsite
Dragon and Deco enjoy meatball subs with maps for plates

Day 96: WY, Hello There!

Miles: 25.4

Camp: My CDT mile 1358

This was the first morning since I got back on trail that I had my usual get up and go kind of morning. I was excited by the prospect of finishing another state and of course, starting a new one. The trail has been so much easier as well, making it pretty easy to add up miles.

I knew I had to stop just 3.6 miles in for water, but was determined to take lunch at the border. As the trail was mostly jeep roads, I put on some music and moved steadily. I’ve recently been upset that Neil Young is no longer available on Spotify. He is a go to choice for me, always making me feel good as I hike along to his songs. Apparently he is not pleased with the sound quality of the streaming they offer, so he doesn’t want his music played there. I love the man, but c’mon Neil! I want to listen to your music and wish I had your ear for quality, but let’s be realistic. Anyhow, I had downloaded some Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young determined to hear him somehow. I had forgotten about their version of Helpless, so when it came on I was filled with happiness. I listened to it 3 times and never had to pay attention to the old jeep road. What a luxury to get lost in music without getting lost on trail.

The jeep road turned to real trail just before the border where I stopped for lunch. I had hoped to see GregInWild for pictures, but he was still behind by the time I was done eating…so I used a stump and hiked into Wyoming…which was more dirt roads for a while, eventually going into the Huston Park Wilderness area. It is a pretty cool place with sweeping views back into Colorado. It amazes me to no end how far I’ve come…and how far I’ve yet to go.

I’m currently camped in Huston Park in a wide open sandy/rocky area with cool trees. I hiked late so didn’t take pictures before it got dark. Hopefully i will remember in the morning. The whole area looks like it was once underwater and there is quartz and mica everywhere. The mosquitoes weren’t even too bad here. Last night I had to wear earplugs because there were so many buzzing around, but tonight I don’t hear even one making noise. It is perfectly quiet and I think I’ll sleep great. Goodnight.

Dinner: linguine with a mushroom sauce, bacon bits, cheese and coconut oil. Tomorrow I eat town food again! I’m sooo hungry!

Day 95: My Last Day in Colorado

Miles: 23.7

Camp: My CDT mile 1332.6

As my last full day in Colorado (I’m currently 12 miles from Wyoming), I was treated to some wonderful hiking and wildlife. I had a Ptarmigan hiss at me while protecting her young, a staring contest with a moose and an antelope ran through my camp; I saw both rugged and lush mountainsides, millions of wildflowers, a new bird I’ve never seen before (it also had a beautiful song), rivers, lakes, meadows…you name it. I also ran into GregInWild, the first thru hiker I have seen in 4 days. 

The day was full and fulfilling. Even as I lay here, confined to my tent by mosquitoes, I feel so accomplished. I’ve never been so challenged and rewarded in my life and I will never be the same as a result. I’ve hung onto my ice axe for my life, slogged through miles of mashed potato snow, miles of postholing; I’ve climbed up and over 14,000 feet, spent days at a time over 12,000 feet, and I have never seen beauty so profound. I have seen things that very few people will ever see, I have built relationships with others and myself. I believe in myself more than ever before, because I did some seriously hard stuff in Colorado. I feel like I grew up a bit, I definitely became stronger.

I know the rest of the trail holds new challenges and I look forward to facing them. I look forward to showing myself that there really are no limits if I want to do something. I wish I was more articulate right now, but I’m ravenous and tired. Dinner is hydrating, the mosquitoes are buzzing, my feet are aching, the birds are singing and I am all smiles.

See you tomorrow, Wyoming!

Dinner: mac and cheese with salsa, bacon bits, oregano and extra cheese.

Day 94: Zirkels

Miles: 22.5

Camp: My CDT mile 1308.9

I woke up naturally, wondering how long before my alarm would go off. When I checked it was 30 minutes later than planned. I shrugged it off remembering that I had a donut for breakfast. It was a little on the dry side from traveling, so I put it in my coffee and ate it with a spoon. What a treat! I smiled remembering my sweet trail angels who helped me manifest this donut.

I got to hiking by 6:45, so I wasn’t too far off schedule and I am honestly in no hurry. The alarm was more to reset my hiker clock from my town visit as I can’t afford to sleep in out here. I started my day in some beautiful meadows, full of wildflowers, wet from last night’s rain, mist rising in a morning sun. It was a picture perfect morning and the air was fresh and pleasant. I love the smell of the air after rain. 

I realized that my pace was pretty fast again and it hurts my feet. With new blisters on the ball of each foot, every step today was agony. It reminded me how much this all can hurt sometimes, how you have to hike through the pain because it’s going to hurt and that’s that. I’m frustrated because I thought I was past blisters and also because my feet have been fine until now. It seemed to come out of nowhere…but alas, I’ll live through this too.
Despite having tender feet, it was a gorgeous day. The temperature was perfect, the breeze was just right, there were minimal bugs and I hiked into the Zirkels today. The Mt. Zirkel Wilderness is now one of my favorite that I’ve seen. High, rocky alpine meadows, large, crystal clear lakes and streams, rugged mountains, views from the desert to the mountains. It is stunning. Plus, the terrain is nicely managed and easily graded. I could stay here awhile if I had the time. 

I stopped myself early today, mostly because my feet made me, but also because my timing is on point for the post office in Encampment. If I go any further I will end up needing to hitchhike on Sunday night. Therefore I’m able to cut the pace back a little which I’m sure will benefit my feet. Oh to be in my 20s again, what I would give to be hiking 30-40 miles…if only my body would let me. 20 years of the service industry has really done a number on my feet. The rest of me has the stamina and desire to go more, but my feet kind of run the show with this whole walking gig.

As it is, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m camped over 11000 feet for perhaps the last time (there is one peak in Wyoming over 11000 feet), there is a lake on one side of me, a moraine on the other, the wind is blowing in the stubby alpine trees, flowers are dancing in the same wind and I am comfy in my tent. I have a sewing project to tend to, so I must use the last daylight now. A storm might come through, but I’m in a good spot…As long as the wind doesn’t completely change direction! Goodnight!

Dinner: mashed potatoes with summer sausage, cranberries, cheese and dried peppers.

What turned out to be some cheesy engagement plot…I hope they picked up their signs.

Coming into the Zirkels

Day 93: The Trail Provides 

Miles: 25.7

Camp: My CDT mile 1286.4

As I was just editing this blog a waitress appeared with a deep fried brownie sundae and I somehow deleted it. WordPress changed their format and made life more complicated…but again, it is what it is.

This day in particular was pretty special. It started out wet and sloppy as I searched for trail among the tall wet grasses, climbing out of a valley to the dreaded 30 mile road walk…9 of which I had already done. It was hot and long dirt roads most of the day and I was craving donuts fiercely. There has been a lack of good donuts on this trail and funny enough, I don’t usually like donuts. Not one bit. This day, all I could think about was seeing if I could get them mailed to me…and also, why aren’t there more Goldfish in my resupply? Why isn’t there more food in my bag? I was sooo hungry all day long.

When I got to the road to hitchhike, I was nervous I wouldn’t get a ride. If I had to walk it again I’d be pretty upset. Correction: very upset. I stuck out my thumb as very few cars drove by and it didn’t look good…until only 5 minutes later I got my ride! I didn’t catch his name, but he was super nice and I’m ever grateful for him! Thanks nice guy! 

I had done 19 miles by 2pm when I got my ride and my feet were screaming. The road walking gave me new blisters and sore feet, so once he dropped me off I rested under a tree until the rain started. It was minimal rain, but enough I didn’t want to sit still in it. As I walked further, dreaming of donuts and feet that don’t ache, I was stopped by two children and their grandma. 

“Do you want some trail magic?” The boy asked.

“I do want some trail magic!” I said.

He and his sister (Talon and Kiera) laid out the treats they were offering. They each had small bags labeled, “Trail Magic,” full of goodies. The selection was mostly candies which I’m trying to avoid, but then Kiera said, “oh and there is a donut,” and she pulled the pastry from her bag.

I lit up and accepted the donut as well as a bag of Fritos. The kids’ grandma (Oma/Smile) had hiked the AT but couldn’t finish the trail due to an accident involving a cheeseburger. I wanted to chat longer, but miles needed to be hiked and it was beginning to rain again.

I felt a reborn love of the trail as I walked away from the cutest trail angels ever. I needed that boost…and just the things I was craving no less! Thank you Talon, Kiera (sorry if I spell your name wrong) and Oma! You really made this hikers day!

I hiked another 5 miles in rain and thunder, finally arriving at my destination. It was a long day but everything I needed was provided. Everything worked out great. The trail does provide.

I forget what I ate for dinner.

Road walking boredom

Day 92: Back To “Reality”

Miles: 21.5

Camp: My CDT mile 1260.7

*Now that I’m out of the big mountains I won’t be keeping track of elevation.

I’m pretty sure last night was the best night of sleep I have had since starting this trail. 4 days off sure must have  worn me out…though I completely threw off my sleep schedule. I stayed up late and slept in every day I was in town which made it extra hard to get moving this morning. My whole routine felt rusty and took longer than usual, though I was excited to climb Parkview Mountain today. 

The day started with a steady climb, getting my blood moving early. I felt good but not quite as strong as normal, my muscles perhaps having too much recovery time. Not really a worry though, as they’ll come back quick. It did cause me to move slower and take more time than I had planned for today. I’m really trying to finish this section fast to make up for time lost in town, but can only move so fast. There were unexpected ridge walks that really slowed me down, especially since the trail doesn’t have any tread in those sections. I wandered off a couple of times, but never too far off course.

I was pretty wiped from climbing Parkview, but it was amazing up there. I may have seen a lot of ridges, but they never grow old. The grassy slopes covered in wildflowers, the views that come with being on the highest point around, always feeling like you are literally on top of the world…it is a special kind of place, exhausting as they might be. That, and Parkview is the last time we are over 12,000 feet on this trail. We spent a good portion of Colorado around 12,000 feet and now we head into the great basin. There one more set of mountains between me and Wyoming- The Zirkels. They top out close to 12,000 feet but don’t quite make it and then there won’t be any ‘real’ mountains until the Wind River Range. 

Today was successful, though I would have liked to bag a couple more miles. I’m at the last reliable water for 32 miles, so I wanted to camp here and carry a little less. I do get to take a 9 mile hitch tomorrow because I already walked it! That takes a chunk out of the waterless stretch, and now I don’t have to do a 9 mile paved road walk. Kind of cool, but feels a bit like cheating. 

It’s been raining since I set up camp and a big thunder storm just passed through. The trail is welcoming me back with a big dose of reality today and I’m tired enough to prove it. I’m very excited to go to bed before 9 tonight. I think tomorrow is going to be a great day…I just needed to work out the kinks from taking a little time off.

Dinner: mac and cheese with bacon and bell peppers. 

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