My reading list for the Hayduke trail/updated gear list/other neat things

This was the view from my run yesterday, no lie. Desert magic I love u

This was the view from my run yesterday, no lie. Desert magic I love u

To say that the American desert southwest is an enchanted land with a rich ecological and cultural history is an understatement. I am only vaguely aware of its wonders, however, so I’ve set out to read some books on the area before my Hayduke hike. Here’s my reading list, lifted mostly from the reading list in Spiderwoman’s Hayduke tips (which is an incredibly informative read in itself).

House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest. By Craig Childs. All about the Anasazi! Told in a narrative style.

Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession. Craig Childs. The ethics of digging shit up!

The Secret Knowledge of Water. Craig Childs. Tales of adventure amongst desert extremes.

The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone and Sky. Ellen Meloy. Natural history and adventure.

Desert Solitaire. Edward Abbey. I was torn about this one. Although I love a good radical environmentalist narrative, Edward Abbey was a known misogynist and racist, and I’m not really into allowing more of that business into my brain, on top of what is already fed to us every day in the media. I feel like I should at least give this book a chance, however, as the Hayduke trail is named after a character in one of his books. I just feel like I’m not going to like old Ed Abbey. There are plenty of other quality radical environmentalist texts out there by authors who don’t spew anti-immigrant junk such as the quote below (from his book Confessions). Here E.A. is shockingly ignorant of the fact that the land he waxes so poetic about “saving” was stolen from people of color, who were living in harmony with it, by his own ancestors via genocide-

“According to the morning newspaper, the population of America will reach 267 million by 2000 AD. An increase of forty million, or about one-sixth, in only seventeen years! And the racial composition of the population will also change considerably: the white birth rate is about sixty per thousand females, the Negro rate eighty-three per thousand, and the Hispanic rate ninety-six per thousand.

Am I a racist? I guess I am. I certainly do not wish to live in a society dominated by blacks, or Mexicans, or Orientals. Look at Africa, at Mexico, at Asia.

Garrett Hardin [the author of Tragedy of the Commons] compares our situation to an overcrowded lifeboat in a sea of drowning bodies. If we take more aboard, the boat will be swamped and we’ll all go under. Militarize our borders. The lifeboat is listing.”

Actually, I loath Edward Abbey already. For his shortsightedness. For his lack of understanding about basic history. But hey, times were different in 1963, when Confessions was written. Maybe I can take the good from Desert Solitaire, and filter out the rest. It’s a classic after all. Or maybe not. We’ll see!

Books books books! I like books. Also!

I updated my gear list for the Hayduke. Notable changes:

-I got a Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 degree sleeping bag. I LOVE my feather-light zpacks bag, but I needed something warmer for the Hayduke, as I am the Coldest Sleeper Ever and this trail is going to be Cold as Fuck. So I’ll be carrying a two-pound bag! Woo hoo! I couldn’t be more excited.

-My hiking partner and I will be sharing a ten-ounce tarp. This is the first time I’ll have a dedicated hiking partner, and the first time I’ll get to share a shelter! Oh the luxury! The Hayduke Destroys All Zippers, and our tarp has no zippers, so that’s cool. It’s one of those tarps that’s open at the end, so I hope it protects us in the rain. I think it will!

-I’ll have an 8 liter water capacity, via two platypus bladders and two gatorade bottles. The water on the Hayduke is the most intimidating factor to me! Hopefully I won’t have to carry this much water more than a couple times.

-Layers. I’m bringing a thermal long-sleeve shirt and thermal tights, in addition to my rain jacket and puffy. Hopefully this will be enough. I might add gloves. Even though Haydukers are like “U need pants!” I am not bringing pants, just the tights and my usual shorts for warm days. I hate zip-off pants. Ugh, they are so awful! Will I regret this? We shall see.

-Even though my final base weight is 10.2 lbs, I feel like my pack always ends up being heavier. One of life’s great mysteries.

Peep my gear list here, or click the “gear” tab in the menu above.

More cool things I found on the internet!

Some of you have asked about ordering a print of the cover art on my book. The artist, Alejandra “Rocket Llama” Wilson, has just made the prints available for sale! Order a print and support an incredible comics artist! All money goes to her. And check out her other prints too, they are amaze. I hope she makes more!

Manic Pixie Nightmare Girls is a really, really, really good web comic. It’s dark and funny and centers around the author’s lived experience as a trans woman. So good! Also, the author has a patreon, you should probs support her so she can keep making the comic.

Hold Fast is a documentary about some friends of mine who fixed up a derelict sailboat and sailed it to the Dominican Republic about six years ago. I may have posted this before, but it’s a classic, free online, and v entertaining.


“Nothing is as good as the Hayduke” GETTING EXCITED


Planning for the Hayduke trail is really fun. There are all these little bits of information all over the internet on things like water/resupply/caching/routes/alternates and one must gather them up and make some sort of sense of them/choose one’s own adventure. Basically I am going to get to walk through/sleep in/look at/take pictures off/eat snacks off of/climb all over/get scratched up and banged up by/LOTS OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL DESERT THAT THERE IS. It’s going to be freezinghot and there’s going to be quicksand and windstorms and intense vaporizing sun and the alkaline water will give me diarrhea. My pack will be heavy with layers/water/food and my feet will be wet/dry/covered in mud/sand and my cheeks will be windburned and my ass will chafe. I’ll be forced to scramble on slickrock and I won’t fall to my death. Everything will lend itself to hyperbole forever and I’ll be happy and strong and sleep each night beneath the desert sky cozy and warm because I’m bringing a new two-pound sleeping bag which is going to be glorious.

If you’d like to get pumped about the Hayduke along with me, I’m reading Buck-30’s trailjournal of his 2013 thru-hike. It’s a hoot. “Nothing is as good as the Hayduke” is an actual quote Buck-30 said to me yesterday when I was harassing him for route info.

Other cool things on the internet right now!

Jenny Bruso is a friend and queer comrade. Her hiking blog is superb AND dabbles in intersectionality, which is a rare and wonderful thing within the world of hiking blogs. Please there need to be more hiking blogs that acknowledge the larger human world and how it intersects with/informs the experience of walking in nature!

My hiker friend Melissa “The Bobcat” Wyld’s adventure memoir is free on Amazon right now! Only through tomorrow! Get it!! (If you’re seeing this post after Friday, I’m sorry. You should buy a copy anyway b/c she’s a fantastic writer!) And if you do get a free copy, read it, and love it, a good way to say thank you for the free book is to leave her a review. As a new author on Amazon, the number of reviews you have helps determine your visibility on the site. So leaving her a review helps other people find her book. Do it!

Planning for the Hayduke Trail! And other exciting things



Readers! I’m going to hike the Hayduke trail. The “trail” part is actually sort of a misnomer, as the Hayduke is a backcountry route- an 800-ish mile traverse of the Colorado plateau in Utah and Arizona via sandy washes, old jeep roads, slickrock, slot canyons, bits of existing trail, etc. The Hayduke is the creation of Joe Mitchell and Mike Coronella, two chill dudes who wanted a person to be able to see/traverse all of the interesting shit between Arches and Zion on foot in a winding, indirect manner. I’ve been hearing about the Hayduke for a while, and as far as I can tell it is everyone’s favorite challenging/adventurous/potentially sketchy desert route. Desert adventure is my favorite, especially when it involves tricky navigation, climbing over/around steep convoluted chunks of the earth, and complicated water source scavenger hunts. The Hayduke, from what I can gather, has all of these things in spades.

There is no perfect time of year to hike the Hayduke, as temperatures on the Colorado Plateau stay uncomfortably cold until spring, at which point they become uncomfortably hot. The desert southwest has been getting storms aplenty so far this winter, so it seems likely that there will still be snow at the higher elevations come Hayduke time. Right now, my tentative start date is “sometime in March.”

I’m not sure what my blogging will be like when I’m on the Hayduke. I likely won’t do the daily-style posts, as I am bored to death of that format, but I might write a post for each section. That gives me a little more creative flexibility I think. I’m trying to keep it fresh and interesting here, ha. Or, I might take notes and write about it afterward, in an attempt to produce something more quality. We shall see!

In planning for the Hayduke, I’m using these resources:

Buck 30’s advice for future Hayduke hikers
The Hayduke Trail guidebook
Andrew Skurka’s info packet

Another really exciting thing in my life- I found a place to live in northern Arizona until Hayduke time! For the fist time in eight months, I have an indoors. I live at a place. I don’t have to worry about where to park my van, or about being stealth. There are outlets to charge my electronics, I can make tea whenever I like. I can prepare simple balanced meals and eat them at my leisure. I have a refrigerator for storing leftovers. I have HEAT. If I go running in the cold winter until I’m near-hypothermic, I can return home to a hot bath. And best of all, my new indoors place provides me with the quiet, unmolested, comfortable, temperature-controlled environment in which to WRITE. A room of one’s own, as they say. As much as I love the romance and idealism of vandwelling, and the way I slept in the wide open desert and woke to the sunrise each morning, the logistics of it can become a full time job, especially in winter. I NEED stable, consistent, low-stress indoor space like what I have now in order to really focus and be productive with my writing. I literally can’t have anything else blocking out the emotional bandwidth in my brain. I need ALL of it. I’m using these next two months-ish before the Hayduke trail to work on the first draft of my next book- I’m attempting to FKT that shit. Here’s the challenge: write the shittiest first draft imaginable in sixty days. Nothing matters but word count. Part of the first draft is already written, so two thousand words a day until Hayduke time should get me there. Distance = Rate x Time. Just like thru-hiking.

I wish I could tell you about the book, but I don’t really know how to describe it yet. It’s my train book. The title is The Sunset Route.

I found some cool stuff on the internet this week!

The most recent episode of This American Life is incredible, especially if you’ve ever been a woman online. Or if you’ve ever trolled someone. Think before you troll, people. The things you say as a troll are real, even if they don’t feel real when you’re hiding behind your computer screen. You’re actually attacking another human being. And casting some very dark magic against yourself as well. That shit is real.

This American Life: For Whom the Bell Trolls

I found a really good trail journal! There are hundreds of trail journals out there, and lots of them are entertaining and nice to read, but now and then one rises above the others and leaves the reader like WOW, OMG. A hiking blog in the hands of a talented, dedicated writer is a wondrous thing. A magical escape from regular life. An internet treasure! I actually met Amanda on the Colorado Trail/CDT last summer, but just now found her blog. She’ll be hiking the PCT in 2017. I’m stoked to follow along.

Brown Girl on the (P)CT

Also, have you read Rocket Llama’s trail webcomic yet? I think I’ve linked to it before but it’s really good and the only thing of its kind, as far as I know. And she’s consistently adding pages. Her illustrations are dreamy!

Rock on Rocket Llama

Speaking of graphic novels, here is a superb interview with graphic novelist Nicole J. Georges. I met Nicole when I was 26. She was the first person I ever met who actually made a living off of her art. Like, she had quit her full time job, and she was making it work. There was a hand-written schedule taped to her fridge, breaking her day into productive chunks. She worked seven days a week, from morning until bedtime. At the time I didn’t know anyone else who even thought it was possible to make a living off one’s art, and yet here was Nicole, doing it.

Women and Comics: An Interview With Nicole J Georges

Ok! I’ll keep you all posted as I get ready for the Hayduke. I’m so excited for desert adventure magic.

p.s. come find me on instagram, I’m doing a book giveaway there.

My book, Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart, is now available in paperback

Happy Wal-Mart Stampede Day! I hope you got to eat some pie yesterday, and that you feel loved. My book is now available in paperback! I was initially hesitant to release it in paperback (as opposed to just an ebook) because actual physical books cost more to print and so I have to charge more for it, which is a bummer. But it’s also nice to have an actual book, no? So now, if you read the book and hate it, you can set it on fire! Or throw it into the air and shoot it full of arrows! Or drop it from a helicopter into the sea!

You can find the book on Amazon here.

Wherein I try and catch you up on everything

Southern Oregon fall is cold clear nights and days of fire-yellow big-leaf maples wrapped in fog and the grounding reassuring rhythms of harvest; living and working in the dirt on a friend’s farm and sleeping each night in my camper van floating in deep starry blackness, buried beneath the old zero-degree sleeping bag from my trainriding days, one down comforther and two wool blankets (one is a Pendleton blanket; after a visit to a Roseburg junkshop I am at last, after years of longing, the proud owner of a Pendleton blanket). I dream calm dreams and wake to the asshole rooster. I make tea and run and then work until eleven p.m., laughing and suffering alongside dear friends. After the CDT everything fell apart and nothing was working anymore the way I was used to doing it and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong and then I decided that I was ok and that I should stop trying so hard and that there are many things (all of them) that I’ll never be able to control. What’s that saying- something about how the speed and grace with which one is able to let go of things that aren’t meant for one is directly proportionate to one’s happiness? Well I got frustrated and let go of kind of a lot of things and I’m glad to report that for the past month I’ve been happier with myself/my life/my relationships with other humans than I have been in a long time. Pema Chodron says “I am the sky, everything else is just the weather.” So if I cling to the weather I can only be happy when everything is calm. And when is anything ever calm? Only for brief, almost comically illogical moments, and if one tries to find a pattern to those moments in order to make more of them happen one will drive oneself insane and greatly annoy all of the people around one.

I’ve always had a problem with wanting to control everything. And the more cool shit one tries to do, the more exciting plates one sets spinning, the more things there are that can and will go horribly, comically awry. This is the math of life. So one can just stay home and do nothing or one can go out into the world and attempt to follow one’s dreams and watch everything go infinitely, tragically wrong and laugh and laugh at the absurdity of it and at the Universe’s cruel sense of humor but keep showing up and showing up and eventually things will work out as though the Universe was like “Oh hello, I didn’t see you there, here’s that thing you’ve always wanted” but at that point it won’t matter because one has transcended everything and become the sky.

I love it, you know? I love it all. This fucking tragicomic that we’re all living.

After the CDT I was burnt out on blogging and for the past few months I haven’t been writing at all. It’s interesting to see what happens in my brain when I stop writing- basically I’ve learned that I make everything into stories, everything that’s happening around me all the time. It’s kind of alarming, like, have I always done this? The people I know become characters and life becomes a TV show. Which is actually kind of fun. It turns out I fucking LOVE creating characters who are loosely based on real people and all of a sudden I very very much want to write fiction in which everyone is an exaggerated version of themselves and there are dance numbers. My friend Lia, who also works on the farm, and I have worked out several episodes of this TV series, as well as the entire plot of an action movie. I want to write a screenplay for this action movie which I can see so clearly in my head when I’m stoned and listening to The Who, but I don’t know how to write a screenplay. As soon as I’m not working twelve hour days I’ll google it.

I finish work on the farm in mid-December, at which point I’ll pack up my oil-burning darling of a high-mileage camper van (her name is Old Blue) and drive to “the southwest,” the vague place in which I hope to settle for the winter. I am going to visit a few friends and a few towns and generally follow a trail of breadcrumbs through the beautiful desert until I end up wherever it is that I end up. I imagine desert sunrises, clean light and dramatic skies, a small wooden table with a sunbeam on it, at least one friend nearby. This is where I’ll work on my next book until our frigid country begins to thaw and hiking season begins again. I’ll also be training for an ultra-marathon- there is no ultra, but the training schedule helps gives structure to my runs and I have to run or everything seems terrible.

I am behind on this blog- I need to make an index page for my CDT hike and write a few other hiking posts, but there is literally no time right now to write. Soon!

I was interviewed by Pox and Puss for their cute hiking podcast: Episode #56- Anish & Carrot (also available on itunes and stitcher and here if that link doesn’t work). Being on the podcast was fun. Pox called me in Ashland when I was sitting outside of the library in the rain. I got heavily caffeinated beforehand in an attempt to sound smart. And of course I am honored to be on the same podcast as Anish, who is actually so badass I can’t even comprehend it.

Relatedly, my book cover was designed by Alejandra “Rocket Llama” Wilson. If you’d like to order a print her facebook is here: Rocket Llama

I may not be blogging every day right now, but I still post fairly often on instagram:

This is the song that will play during the climactic end scene of the action movie I want to write:

Continental Divide Trail 2015: Afterword

I finished the Continental Divide Trail two weeks ago. The last two weeks have been super hectic for me- the job and housing situation I had set up for after the trail fell apart, there was lots of shuffling from one place to another while I bought a vehicle/tried to figure out my life, and I got a super brutal cold that lasted for a week. Now I have a new job and a new place to live for the fall and I finally feel like I can breathe. So, time to reflect on my CDT hike! Which I’ve been sort of dreading. Because, to be honest, I didn’t love the CDT.

I wanted to love the CDT. But the CDT is hard to love- as another hiker put it, “This trail hates me and everyone who steps foot on it.” There are some beautiful sections on the CDT, but there are also many demoralizing sections. I’m going to write a more detailed post about this later, but for now, all I can say is that I didn’t love the CDT. And not for the reasons I expected. But I really, really wanted to.

I also had giardia for two months on this trail, and that really colored my experience. Maybe if I hadn’t been sick, this would’ve been my most favorite trail ever! The adventure of a lifetime! I really have no idea. Mostly I felt tired and sort of ill, and hiking felt like drudgery, with a few transcendental moments of joy and wonder thrown in. I hate to admit this- that I spent an entire summer hiking a trail and my heart just wasn’t in it. It feels taboo to say that- like I’m a failure as a hiker. But you know what? It’s fucking honest.

I love hiking. I love the PCT. I loved the Lowest to Highest Route. There are lots of other routes and trails I want to do. I’ve already started planning for them. I fucking love walking all day, overcoming challenges, and sleeping on the ground. But this was just not my summer. It feels weird to admit that.

It’s sunny and fall is here and I’ve started running again (it’s painful) and there are vegetables and absolutely everything and nothing is possible, all at once. I have a job and a place to live and dear friends to plan adventures with and even though the human world makes me feel like crawling into a hole to hide I know that it’s up to me, completely up to me, to make my own life and my own happiness and sometimes the pressure of that is so intense it feels like it will crush me. But it won’t.

Rihanna wrote this song abt the CDT, obvs:

CDT day 133: fin

September 14
Mileage: 35.5
2,590 miles hiked

It’s not as cold as I thought it would be, camped next to this stream with the wind, and I actually sleep pretty well. I wake up at six in the dark, and blearily boil water for tea as the sun lightens, still wrapped in my sleeping bag. Am I going to miss the bitter, high-altitude cold of September on the CDT? No. Am I going to miss sitting in my sleeping bag drinking tea and watching the sun rise? Yes.

Most of the trail today is cross-country, on a sort of high alpine plateau. Lumpy meadow that’s hard to walk on, alternating with piles of rocks. Lumps and rocks, lumps and rocks. From cairn to post to cairn. It’s slow going- all of Colorado has been slow going for me. I’m embarrased to say that, at the end of the day, I’ve been averaging about 2mph. I don’t know if my ability to hike fast is busted forever, I’ve gotten lazy, or if Colorado is just hard. Probably a combination of the last two.

Storms blow over all day, spattering me with rain and then the sun returns, roasting me. I feel meloncholy today on account of the trail ending, but also so excited about everything I have to look forward to. I keep bursting into tears and then feeling suddenly happy for no reason. My mood is like the weather- sad clouds mixed with bright sunshine. It’s not unpleasant.

My plan today had been to hike 30 miles, camp, and hike the last 5 miles to Cumbres Pass in the morning. In case you’re just tuning in, here’s the short story- I started my hike northbound from the Mexican border on May 5. When I got to the Colorado border/Cumbres pass the snow in the San Juans was too avalanchey, so I flipped up to Canada and hiked south. The ribbon of asphalt that is Cumbres pass will be my weird transcendental flip-flop terminus, journey complete.

As I hike I realize that I don’t want to camp five miles from the end. No matter how tired I am, how will I be able to just set up my tent and go to sleep when I know that the end is so close? I’ll have to hike until late to reach the highway, but so what. The little bones in my feet are sore from all the lumps/rocks, but so what. I don’t have to hike tomorrow. I can take a hundred zeros if I want to. Tomorrow I return to the land of chairs, the land of things made by humans, the land where you don’t hear elk bugling every night or notice the ptarmagins turning white or listen to the coyotes yip as the sun sets. The land where it doesn’t matter if it’s raining or if the wind is too strong for a tarp or how many hours you have before dark comes. The land where water doesn’t flow magically out of a hole in the mountain and the nights don’t rotate between silver-white and pitch-black as the moon waxes and wanes. The land where animal/nature magic is smothered beneath the asphalt, and a little part of you dies as well. The land where the stick-breakers don’t dance around you while you sleep, in a circle, holding hands.

Oh, I’m going to cry again. It’s cold as fuck and the wind is blowing and the night is black and there aren’t any stars, and the elk are on the bare ridges watching me pass, and the trail is an eroded ribbon through the heart of all things, and I want to keep walking it forever, just to see what I can see. But my feet are sore and my body is tired and I’m all empty inside. It’s time for me to return to the land of the humans.

It’s late when I reach the highway, and I’m so weary I can barely stand. Luckily the last twelve miles were on good tread, and I was finally able to cruise a little bit. Everything is dark- there’s a trail register (meant for day hikers but I write in it anyway- CDT hikers take what we can get!), a railroad trestle, the smell of creosote, the black ribbon of the highway. Where am I? I don’t know. I’m tired. What? I pitch my tarp badly beneath a huge tree next to some trampled corn-lillies and crawl inside just as it begins to rain. I manage to stuff food into my face, blow up my neo-air, and crawl into my sleeping bag. The damp, lumpy earth cradles me, and water drips off my tarp as I fall asleep. I’m done.


CDT day 132: we all have our vices

September 13
Mileage: 24.5
2,554.5 miles hiked

I have all sorts of crazy dreams but sleep ok then wake up, eat salami sandwiches while watching the sun rise, start to hike and then promptly sit on a rock to get some things done online that I forgot to get done because suddenly I have service. Turns out that this year on the CDT I’m a spacey, A.D.D. hiker, lots of stopping and starting. I’m also very addicted to my phone. Spark once said

“It’s hard for me to imagine you without your phone.”

This coming from someone who has only ever known me in the woods. In the woods! I cringed to imagine what he would think of me if he saw me in the regular world.

“We all have our vices,” I said. I don’t drink or smoke drugs or gamble or play video games, so…

The tread is nice again today! Not Colorado Trail nice, but very, very good for the CDT. There are lots of cows in this section so far, and I give credit to them. If I learned anything in New Mexico, it’s that cows are excellent trail builders/trail maintainers. What tidy footpaths they make! Not like all the horses in the last section. Do horses erode trails? Is that why the last section was so jacked? I don’t actually know.

There’s some cross country today, but only short stretches. The trail stays between eleven and twelve thousand feet, and the elevation profile is gentle. Green ridges, nice trail maintained by cow friends. Sun and clouds.

In the evening I see a tarptent next to a stream below a ridge- oh my god another human being! It’s a woman named Samari, out here to hike the Colorado section of the CDT. She lives in Lake Chelan, Washington, near Stehekin!! And every year her work gives her six weeks off to hike. I’d planned on hiking for another hour, but it’s too nice to talk to another human and also now it’s suddenly getting really cold. It’s gonna be a cold one tonight! Cold front coming in, said the man who gave me a ride back to the trail from Pagosa Springs. You’re finishing just in time.

I set up my tarp, feeling glad for the company. I was really missing my friends today, and the social aspect of trails in general. I’m also PMSing, and so everything seems super dramatic. I keep imagining myself reaching Cumbres Pass the morning after tomorrow, which is the Colorado/New Mexico border and the end of the trail for me, as that’s where I got off to flip up to Canada after hiking New Mexico in the spring, and wondering if I’ll cry. And then of course I start to cry.

Photos on instagram

CDT day 131: 2 Feral 4 Town

September 12
Mileage: 8.5
2,530 miles hiked

I barely sleep in that special hotel-room way, everything being too cold/hot/loud/quiet/unnatural seeming and animated from within by electricity, like a big machine. How am I supposed to sleep inside a big machine?

The charm of town wears off a soon as I am no longer hungry. Get me out of here! In town people stare at me. They think I’m a smelly homeless person and there are taboos against that. And there are people everywhere, always looking, always expecting you to act a certain way. In the mountains I am free. In the mountains I can poop in a hole. In the mountains I can floss my teeth with a piece of grass. I can lay down in a meadow and eat a sandwich. I can pee where ever I want. The mountains and forests are my home right now and that is where I live. There may not be hot showers or interesting meals there but everything in my pack and everything that I do makes sense. In the woods I might be hungry or cold or lonely, but I am never dirty or homeless or poor.

I get a text message from Track Meat- he and Spark had to stay an extra day in Lake City to wait for a package, and won’t get into Pagosa Springs until tomorrow. I wanted to hike this final section with the two of them, but I already bought my plane ticket back to Oregon, and waiting an extra day would make me miss my flight. Dammit! So I’ll finish the trail solo. There’s probably some sort of zen lesson in all of this.

I finally hitch out at 3:30 p.m., and hike just eight miles once I get to the trailhead. There’s a forested saddle there, a low point around 10k feet before the trail climbs back up again. I want to be warm tonight, so I’m camping here. I eat all sorts of things for dinner- I purposefully packed too much food for this final, 69 mile section. I don’t want to worry about food now at the end. I just want to really, really enjoy myself. Salami sandwiches for days!

I can’t believe I’ll be finished so soon.

Photos on instagram

CDT day 130: Pagosa Springs

September 11
Mileage: 5.5
2,521.5 miles hiked

Today feels like a holiday. I get to eat! Eat! I am ecstatic as I walk to the highway in the warm morning sun. I stop to chat with all the bow hunters on horseback, looking for elk. What a wonderful world!

I’ve been hitching for ten minutes when a rental car pulls over. Inside is a burly white dude with a shaved head, covered in tattoos and listening to metal. This is all well and good, except this dude seems super twitchy, like drugs twitchy. Am I about to have a sketchy experience? Hitchhiking alone as a woman is actually pretty fucking dangerous. Like legitimately so. Hitching with another person is not really dangerous. And if you’re a dude (or if you look like a boy from the side of the road, as I did in my twenties) you’re also less likely to be seen as a potential victim. But hitching alone as a woman- 99.9 percent of people mean well… until you get the one who doesn’t. When I was 21, a friend of my housemate’s was raped and murdered when hitching alone from Portland to Seattle. This is always in the back of my mind when I’m hitching alone, and I wish I didn’t have to do it. But it’s pretty much unavoidable on a long-distance hike, especially if you ever want to hike solo!

This dude, of course, turns out to be totally harmless. He’s just really twitchy and looks like an ex-con. Not that I have anything against ex-cons. I guess it’s just the twitching that I find alarming. The man is headed back to Arizona, for work. He works outside. Manual labor. He’s always done manual labor. My heart softens. He’s Dude In A Pickup Truck, only in a rental car! I didn’t recognize him without his truck. Patron saint of hitchhikers!

Pagosa Springs is a bit of an anti-climax, but then I’m not sure what I was expecting. It’s pretty spread out, and manages to be touristy and rundown at the same time. Straddling the line, like many small Colorado towns. I eat yellow curry in an asian restaurant and drink green tea. I order their house-made kimchi. Everything just tastes like salt. Then a cheap hotel room with its 1970s furnishings, awkward showerhead and thin walls letting in all the street sounds. Resupply in the small supermarket with no hippie icecream but a whole half-aisle of novena candles. I wish I had somewhere to put novena candles, I would buy a dozen. The sacred heart. St. Francis of Assisi. Money luck.

Dinner is tacos at the place next door- they’re actually really good. I’m still hungry back in my room so I eat GF toaster waffles. Only 69 miles until Cumbres pass, where I’ll reconnect with my footsteps headed north. And then… I’m done. I’m bringing lots of food- this last section will be a feast!

Photos on instagram