CDT day 116: strangers with magic, Colorado Trail hikers and the dark uncaring universe

August 28
Mileage: 17.5
2,244 miles hiked

I wake up bleary on the little hill above the town and sit in my tarp, waiting for the rising sun to dry the cuben fiber a bit. It rained all night but I was cozy and warm. The weather this year has been nearly perfect for southbounders. Nearly perfect! I almost feel guilty about it.

As I was tucking myself into my sleeping bag last night I got a message on facebook from a woman named Dana- Hi Carrot- my husband and I are hiking the CT and we were having dinner tonight in the Twin Lakes Inn. I think I saw you pop in, then you left. We’ve got extra food, esp bars and homemade dehydrated dinners. We are departing north in the morning but lemme know if you want some food.

This is amazing! It doesn’t happen that often, but it never ceases to astound me when strangers in town recognize me and want to say hi. My blog, and by extension the internet, just doesn’t feel real. It feels like it exists somewhere else, in some parallel other reality. So when the two worlds randomly intersect like this, it kind of blows my mind. It’s very disorienting- as though I can actually feel the fabric of space-time getting all ripply. I also get nervous, because who I am in reality is not the same as who I am on my blog. Will they like me? I think. Do they already hate me? What are they expecting me to be like?

I meet Dana and her husband in front of the Twin Lakes general store just as it’s opening. She and her husband are newly retired professors, and they seem super stoked to be on the Colorado Trail, and at the prospect of being free to hike in general. Dana had wanted to do the PCT this year, but it hadn’t worked out logistically. We talk about the fires in Washington, and how sad it is that so many PCT hikers won’t be able to properly finish the trail this year. There are fires in Montana right now too, forcing NOBO CDTers to roadwalk their way into Canada. I feel some more SOBO guilt wash over me.

Dana and her husband haven’t been eating as much as they thought they would on the Colorado Trail, and so they offer me a big box of homemade dinners- and among the dinners I spy something more valuable than gold- freeze dried chicken. Like six dinners’ worth! I feel like I’ve won the lottery. Thank you Dana!

I make one of Dana’s quinoa pasta dinners for breakfast and sit outside the general store, sorting my resupply. I plug in all my electronics, caffeinate, eat some of the gluten-free fig newtons from the box I sent myself. I spread out my tarp in the sun to dry all the way.

I start chatting with a few other Colorado Trail hikers- one is a woman named Amanda- turns out she worked all summer in Boulder with my friend NoDay. The other hiker is a dude named Special, who’s hiked a bunch of stuff. They’re headed south. Spark and Track Meat are a day behind me as they triple-zeroed in Breckenridge, and I’m not sure when they’ll catch up. But here are friends! People to talk to!

I finally hike out of Twin Lakes around midday. My first order of business will be to climb three thousand feet, up to Hope Pass. I stop on the way up at a crumbling cabin to make lunch and Amanda and Special join me. I grill Special about his hiking history and he reveals that one summer he and a friend hiked all of Colorado’s fifty-eight 14ers in a single season– as a thru-hike. Special and his friend were the only people to have ever done this, and no-one has replicated it since.

Amanda and Special are coming off a long summer of work and they’re having a super chill time on the Colorado Trail.

“I’m sure getting far today,” I say sarcastically, as I pack up after my hour-long lunch.

“We’re only going as far as camp,” says Special, as he drinks from a small flask of gin.

“It’s good to not go any farther than camp,” I say.

The climb up Hope Pass is steep but the beautiful well-maintained switchbacks of the Colorado Trail make everything seem happy and light and good. This goddam fantastic tread continues to buoy my morale like nothing else. I hadn’t realized how fatigued my brain was from constantly having to navigate until I stepped onto this moving sidewalk of wonder. I love a good cross-country adventure as much as the next person but for some reason, maintained trail calms me and makes me feel loved. Like I’m not floating alone in a dark, uncaring universe. You know?

After Hope Pass the trail drops down through aspen forest and I plod my way happily along. I start a new audiobook to stave off the inevitable loneliness of hiking solo and camp partway up the second climb, next to a stream that crashes loudly down the hillside. My instant lentil dinner has freeze-dried chicken in it, and that is awesome.

Photos on instagram