CDT day 109: not all miles are created equal

August 21
Mileage: 19
2,029.5 miles hiked

It’s so cold- there’s a cold front and fall is here for sure. I wake up to an icy wind and frozen shoes. I put on a pot of water for tea while still lying in my sleeping bag, and then stuff my numb hands back into my sleeping bag to warm them while I watch the blue flames dance in the early light. Brrr!

We’re taking the old CDT today, as opposed to the new CDT- the new CDT is longer, nicer tread, and to the east. The old CDT is shorter but includes a bit of exposure and climbs over five thirteen-thousand foot peaks. Five. This is all well and good except as soon as I’m walking I know that my gut is having an off day- there are shooting pains in my stomach and I really, really just want to lay down on the ground. But instead I have to climb. Straight up.

I’m not sure how to describe the trail today. It follows the literal divide and so is an epic, rolling ridge without tread, climbing way up into the sky, the hazy earth falling away around us. James Peak, Mount Bancroft, Perry Peak, Mount Eva, Mount Flora. I wish I could enjoy the views but instead I just feel sick- I plod along in a black mood, imagining all the nice things I could do after the trail is over. Some days, for me, this hike is just a sufferfest. It’s just that kind of year.

As we walk Spark and I joke about the Hardcore Colorado Dayhikers- everyone we run into on the trails out here seems to be training for an ultra, or sprinting up a peak, or doing some sort of hardcore loop. We tell them what we’re doing and they hardly blink. They are totally unimpressed with us and I feel slow, struggling up the mountain as they jog on by.

Each ridge we summit has a steep peak in the distance, and that peak always ends up being the trail. There is talus and scree and a cool section where we’re scrambling along a narrow ridge that is like a bridge between two mountains, with notches in it where one can look out at one side of the earth or the other. The climbs are some of the steepest I’ve ever done- I one mph my way up them. At one point Spark and I are sitting on a ridge looking for the trail- there’s an impossibly steep snowy peak to the east and we keep saying, that can’t be the trail, that can’t be it. We turn the maps around a couple times, trying to convince ourselves that that is not, in fact, the trail. But of course it is.

And the wind. Icy 50 mph winds all day long, battering us. We struggle against this wind, lean into it. I’m out of water and dehydrated, but I don’t mind. At least my pack is light!

“I want the fuck off this mountain,” says Spark, at one point. “You can quote that on your blog.”

It takes me 4 hours to do the 4.5 mile section of the old CDT. Then there is a long descent to the highway, on real actual trail, and I am flying down it. At the bottom at Berthoud Pass I find a rest area with a “warming hut”- a warm little house with benches and sunbeams, empty except for Track Meat and Spark, their things exploded everywhere. Track Meat’s face is windburned and he’s sitting on one of the benches, staring at nothing. We’ve only done 19 miles but none of us care.

“I never want to leave this place,” says Track Meat.

“So warm,” says Spark.

We sit there for hours, watching the day-hikers come and go in the parking lot, wishing they’d give us snacks. I drink a liter of water and then I’m actually able to pee again. I cook dinner on the concrete floor of the hut. Finally, around dark, we emerge and walk just far enough into the woods to set up our shelters. Nineteen miles today but none of us care. I decide that when I get to Silverthorne I’m gonna take a few days off. This fatigue, and what’s going on with my gut, is just too much. Colorado is hard and my body is telling me to rest. Rest.

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