This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
The third car to pass me picks me up. My ride doesn’t really speak English, so I just chatter at him for the long drive to Steamboat. He drops me at the grocery store. I use the bathroom and immediatly realize I have blood on my face. Well. Brave man.
Getting out again once I’ve resupplied is much harder. I catch the free bus to the edge of town. I wait forever, then two cars pull over at once. My ride isn’t going the whole way, so I play the same waiting game again five miles out of town. I blame Bravo, who called me the hitching queen for getting a ride to Denver. Getting out of Steamboat takes longer than getting to Denver did. Finally I’m back on trail. A few miles in, I see a woman coming down the trail. After a while, you can tell weekend backpackers, section hikers and thru hikers apart. We size each other up and she comes to the same conclusion as me. “Hiker trash!” She exclaims and gives me a huge hug. This is Tour guide, and Bravo warned me she’d do this, which is just as well with my new frightened deer attitude towards people. We chat, batting at mosquitos, until the bugs are too much and we say goodbye. In the morning, I have a stand off with a bull moose. He’s just off the trail and pees defiantly when he sees me. “Ok dude, you win.” I tell him and bushwack around. I might as well keep bushwacking. The trail is all snow and blowdowns. What isn’t snow is mud, which is even slippier. I’ve done ten miles by 2pm, and I check my phone to see if I have service. I have a meet up planned and I’m not sure I’ll make it. I’m going up, above treeline into thunderclouds and from the other side of Bufffalo pass, I’d seen the mountain and the snow covering it. Then thunder rolls, on just the other side of the divide. Screw this. There’s a trail map at the pass and I use it to pick out a low route. Then I drop down and down, through the fourth of July hikers. The sun beats down and I wonder if I’ve made a mistake. But then I look back. Purple clouds run down the divide, like they are hiking a parallel trail a mile above. I run down, chased by the echoes of thunder. I turn onto the road I’m supposed to take but I can’t find the trailhead. What? I finally find some national forest land to camp on as the sun goes down. In the morning, I still can’t find the trail. Oh well, every other alternate has worked perfectly. It’s about time one didn’t. I text Guac and tell her I might have to take the road. She gives me directions. I have no idea how far it is, so off I go. Turns out it’s about 26 miles and I need to do them by 5pm. I duck into Steamboat, then connect with the road to Clark. Roadwalking frees up my hands for more important things and I use a bagel as a vehicle for cream cheese. A man sees me and visibly flinches. I’m not sure if it’s because of my eating habits or my odor. Five miles down the road, a car pulls over. “Are you Fun Size?” They are friends of Guac’s, and they give me an apple. I go all frightened deer over the surprise interaction. Guess I’m forgetting how to deal with people. It’s so hot and while I’ve done 20 by 1, I’m feeling heatstrokey. This does not bode well for the basin. Douglas, another friend of Guac’s, pulls over and asks if I want a ride. I get into the car. I can slackpack the last 4 miles when it is cool tomorrow. I hang out at the store for a while and then Guac is there! Guac was part of my trail family on the PCT. She immediately hustles me into a shower and clean clothes before feeding me and catching up. I’ve met some awesome people on the CDT, but I don’t have a trail family here. I think that’s part of what makes this trail so hard. People are one of my favorite things about thruhiking. Without my friends, everything is so much harder. In the morning, I slackpack the miles I missed and stop at the store for coffee and a burrito. A GDMBR rider comes over to flirt, but once he finds out what I’m doing, he seems less keen. I remember Scout telling me in the car on the way to the start of the PCT that a female thruhiker had told him that doing a long trail was like going to Harvard: a lot of guys are scared off by it. I didn’t find that after the PCT, but the CDT seems different. Eventually the cyclist’s long suffering friend comes over to pull him back to the bike. I hike out and back up to the trail. I have a pity party at the trailhead- I’m feeling lonely again after talking about the good times on the PCT with Guac. I climb up and up through a burn, with the ever present thunderclouds overhead. I sleep well, so I’m fast in the morning, happiness bubbling up inside me. I’m going to hit a border today. New states always make me excited. I stomp through the dust, legs ghost white, kicking up puffs to match the puffy white clouds above. Three miles from the border, thunder growls right overhead. A second later, another round. Then a third. I’m high on a ridge, and while I’m in the trees, I don’t feel safe. I scramble down the side of the ridge to a low spot, sit on my mat and put my hands over my ears. For two hours, the storm passes overhead in a long line. Thunder rumbles deep, and makes that awful reverb noise, like someone driving over a rumble strip. Finally, I use a break in the storm to run for the border. My happiness is gone. The CDT doesn’t care about my goals, or that I’m walking across an arbitrary line in the forest. Thunder still rumbles in the distance as I climb over my last Colorado blowdowns. Things aren’t any better on the Wyoming side of course- there are still blowdowns and the storm still rages. But I feel a little better. Around six, I’m crossing a meadow when the edge of the storm blows overhead. The sun comes out, the temperature rises and the bugs appear. I decide to keep walking- I was going to camp low, but this will help me beat tomorrow’s storm. A mosquito bites my nose, waking me as the horizon glows with first light. I’m up and packed up before 6- I have a long ridge today and I need to be down before the storms start. I hike fast- lightning is a powerful motivator. It’s hard though- the trail is blowdowns and snow and no actual tread. I jump from marker post to marker post. I’m getting good at playing this game. I drop down as clouds begin to build. I’m walking in swamp and my feet are soaked. At one point, what I think is solid ground turns out not to be and I sink to my knees. I wiggle a little to make sure I won’t lose my shoes and then start to laugh. Oh CDT.