This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
High on the Continental divide, there is a meadow. It is lush and green and surrounded by snowy mountains. There are two small ponds, one with lillies in it. And from there, a brown trickle flows. I stand with my feet on either side of it and watch leeches bury in the mud. From here, hundreds of snowmelt streams feed into this one tiny stream. It grows and swells, before being tamed by dam after dam. It passes through lakes and reservoirs. And then, hundreds of miles away in Arizona, it carves through red and pink sandstone cliffs. This tiny river, so small I could dam it with my hands, will become the mighty Colorado, sculpter of the Grand Caynon.
I find the hostel in the morning. Glimmer, Arcade and Wild Land are all there. I saw Wild Land north of Twin Lakes, but I haven’t seen Glimmer and Arcade since Lordsburg. There’s a chili cook off down town and we go crash it, eating chili until my mouth burns and my stomach bubbles. There are so many dogs there and Glimmer and I chase them around, spending as much time petting them as eating. My favourite is a Boston terrier in a wheelchair. I’d put her in my pack and carry her to Canada. In the morning, Wild Land and I head out to day hike part of the RMNP loop. There are beautiful waterfalls and no one is on the trail at 6am. We hike five or six miles, and then the blowdowns start. We turn around, but not before I rip my short shorts on a stubborn downed tree. Somehow I convince Wild Land to try and reach the headwaters of the Colorado with me the next day. Back at the hostel before noon, we grab Arcade, Glimmer, Cheeseburger and Radio and head to an all you can eat breakfast buffet. We put away obscene amounts of food. Radio struggles with his sausages and bacon, turning red. We rename him Meat Sweats. In the morning, Wild Land and I head out. The CDT shoots through RMNP, and as with all national parks, the wildlife is spectacular. A pine Martin performs for us, running around a tree. We meet Cheeseburger and Meat Sweats at the highway. We walk the mile road walk with them, stopping to moose watch. Then Wild Land and I hitch the five miles to the Colorado River trailhead. The trail climbs along the river, past the abandoned mining town of Lulu. I cross the Colorado on a footbridge. It’s big enough I’m glad to keep my feet dry, but small enough I’d be happy to ford it. We climb up towards a pass, gaining hundreds of feet of elevation. It’s hot and Wild Land disappears on his long legs. Why do I even bother trying to keep up with Canadians over six feet? Then, at the top, we follow the Grand Ditch to a meadow. The Grand Ditch steals water that would flow into the Colorado and diverts it to the opposite side of the divide. Before the Colorado is even born, people are already messing with it. We find the headwaters and sit and eat lunch. Wild Land just thinks this is a cool spot, but this is so important to me. Without the Colorado, I wouldn’t be here. It was rafting the Grand Canyon that really changed my life. Before, I knew I loved the outdoors. But 24 days on the river wasn’t enough for me, so I started scheming for longer trips. First, the PCT and now the CDT. And the river has brought me back full circle to it, high on the divide. We head down, faster now. When we reach the valley floor, Wild Land turns back to me. He’s been thinking. He’s supposed to meet his brother in two days in Steamboat and can’t make it. I want to see my friend Guac there, but unless I kill two days in Steamboat, I’ll miss her. Do I want to hitch to Denver with him? I think about it. I need new socks and shoes and a new phone. Those things will be easier to aquire in Denver. On the PCT, I was hesitant to hitch to big towns because it’s so hard to get out. But Wild Land and his brother will be driving back past Grand Lake and I can ride with them. So I tell him sure, I’ll go. It will be an adventure of a different type. We go back to Grand Lake for the night, then hitch in the morning. Our first hitch isn’t going far, but they take us a little further, then a little further. Finally, they decide to turn around at the top of what the radio tells us is the highest highway in the US, at 12,000ft. I’ve never hitched this high before and I’m giddy with the ridicuousness of it, smiling and laughing as the wind tries to steal our sign. A man and his grandson pick us up quickly, and we cram into the back of his nice truck. He deposits us at the Denver REI. Let the big city adventures begin!