This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
Our hitch drops us at REI, which is the ultimate place to be a thruhiker in Denver. I buy socks and shoes, while Wild Land looks for somewhere to stay. Everywhere is expensive, but we find a little hostel and go drop our stuff. An hour later, I have a new phone and, short of redownloading everything, my chores are done. Now all I have to do is eat.
In the morning, I buy food. We eat and eat and walk around people watching. I mail my ice axe home, guaranteeing I will need it on the next section. I get to talk to friends back in Alaska, which makes me so happy. We go watch a movie. Wild Land buys a giant bucket of popcorn and I challenge him to finish it, but he accidentally dumps half of it on the floor. In the morning, Wild Land’s brother comes and gets us. We leave the city, up to Rocky Mountain National Park. Thunderclouds hang heavy on the divide. We pull over at the touristy overlooks and gawk at the elk. They drop me at the CDT. I shoulder my pack, and then I am alone again. I hike up towards Bowden pass as thunderclouds build and clear, build and clear. I don’t sleep much that night. I have a bunny visitor, less aggressive than his Chama cousin, but his rustling in the grass still keeps me awake. Then, a midnight thunderstorm starts directly overhead. I listen to it hit the mountains around me, less than a second between flash and thunder. In the morning, I’ll be on the pass it’s hitting. The birds wake me up at five. Normally I’d try and sleep more after such a bad night, but the threat of thunder on the pass is large in my mind. I pack up and climb through blowdowns and snow to treeline, where two bull moose watch a female. At the pass is a snowfield that would have freaked me out two weeks ago, but now it is mostly melted out and I am suddenly very greatful for the time I have taken off. The pass is clear on the other side to treeline where I almost immediately lose the trail in snow and blowdowns. Lack of sleep makes me slow and dopey- I don’t notice a stream is icy until I am sliding off a rock into the water. I land mostly on my feet, soaking my already frozen toes. The trail doesn’t improve much all day, and I am so slow and tired, but at least the building clouds don’t come to much. In the morning, loneliness hangs heavy over me. I haven’t seen anyone in almost two days, which isn’t unusual, but so much time with other people over the past week has made it hard to adjust. I listen to the Sounds of the Trail podcasts as new thru hikers talk about the friends they are making. It doesn’t help. In the afternoon, I’m high on a ridge, in and out of treeline. I watch the sky carefully, but the only clouds are fluffy and non threatening. I’m high on the shoulder of a mountain, trying to see where the trail has petered out to when I see two young guys carrying huge external frame packs. I ask if they are section hiking and they seem mildly offended. “Just a really big section of 700 miles” they tell me. I smile and tell them that’s awesome. I meant no offense- some of my best friends are section hikers. They ask where I’m coming from and I tell them Mexico. They don’t have much more to say after that. My loneliness lifted, I run into another section hiked just an hour later. Crowded section of trail! He started in Wyoming and is quite content to stand around and chat. I say goodbye and drop down into the valley to camp. It’s early, but the trail immediately climbs back above treeline and I do not want to camp high after my last midnight thunderstorm. I wake up in the middle of the night to something by my tent. I sit up quickly and my nose immediately starts to bleed, while whatever is out there rustles off. I don’t have tissues, so I just try not to let it drop on my sleeping bag. Hitching tomorrow covered in blood is going to be fun. I’m tired in the morning from another bad night. I immediately lose the trail in a meadow and then it’s up, up,up to meet a road high on a ridge. Thunderclouds are already building and I am glad that today’s program calls for dropping way down. I race the clouds all morning and they keep pace with me. Around 3pm, tired of being stalked, I sit down. Either the storm will hit me or it will pass right over. It seems to be passing over and I’m standing up to continue when Bravo, a flip flopper, comes around the corner. I bribe him with bug dope to stay and talk to me and we swap trail condition reports. Then I’m off of the dirt and onto pavement. There is no where to camp, so I keep hiking on and on. Finally, I stop in some bushes by the highway just two miles from steamboat. Not my greatest campsite. But it keeps me safe from the stormclouds still overhead in the morning.