CDT day 120: coconut soup, a new friend and some gentle trail

September 1
Mileage: 11
2,313 miles hiked

In the morning I walk back to safeway to resupply, marveling at the warm empty streets of Salida, the closed-up shops with their windows reflecting the early light. There are no breakfast places nearby so I buy gluten-free toaster waffles in addition to all the usual- salami, mayo, chips, bars- and eat my leftover spaghetti on the waffles back at the hostel. It’s awesome. Then I sit in one of the overstuffed chairs in the comfy hostel living room and work on my blog while a couple on a bike tour pack and repack their panniers. The couple is young, cute hipsters with tattoos. They’re biking from West Virginia to Oregon- although they don’t know where they want to live or what they want to do when they get there.

Just before noon the small Cambodian restaurant tucked into a side street finally opens, yay! (it was closed yesterday), and I order a big bowl of chicken coconut soup. It’s begun to rain a little and I eat my soup at a table facing the window, watching the rain. The rain lets up right when I’m ready to hike out.

“Hey hikertrash!” I’m walking towards the highway where I’ll hitch back to Monarch Pass when I hear the familiar call. I turn to see a man with wild blond hair beckoning me over to his vehicle. His name is D-Bone, and he’s a long-distance hiker who lives here in town. He offers me a ride back to the pass. I can’t believe my luck! It would’ve been a hard hitch otherwise. I put my pack in the back seat, next to a sleeping toddler in a carseat.

“Cute kid,” I say.

“He’s conked,” says D-Bone. D-Bone is originally from Alabama, but he’s lived in Colorado for eleven years. As we drive to the pass D-Bone talks to me about Salida- “All these yuppies with ten thousand dollar mountain bikes, but I’m only mad because I want one too” Ski towns- “Flat-brims smoking dubs, call em skittles because everything they wear is neon” Accidental thru-hiking- “The second time I hiked the AT I only had five hundred dollars, ate out of hiker boxes and drank a lot of olive oil, my sister didn’t recognize me when I was done.” He hands me a handful of photos from the center console- tiny climbers clinging to a nearly smooth wall of rock. “That’s me climbing El Cap. Took us a day and a half.” By the time we reach Monarch Pass I feel as though I’ve made a friend.

“I don’t want to stop talking,” says D-Bone, as we say goodbye. Me either, I think. “It’s my day off,” he says, as he gets back into the car. The kid is awake now, gazing out the window. “I think I’ll go fishing.” I wave as the car pulls away.

It’s 2:30, and I only plan on hiking 11 miles today, which will get me to the last water before a long dry stretch. The trail for the next two days is gentle, relatively- it meanders along the ridge at around eleven thousand feet, no massive climbs. Today it’s cloudy and cool and the tread is still wonderful, on account of the Colorado Trail, and I listen to podcasts as I walk and look out at all the layers of mountains in the distance, watch a storm do its thing on the horizon. I think about life after the trail, things I want to write about that aren’t hiking, people I wish I could be talking to/hanging out with right now, and where in the world I would go/what adventures I would try and have if money were no object.

There’s a small undeveloped campground and a dirt road at the stream where I’d planned to camp, so I have the luxury of a pit toilet and a perfectly flat spot in which to pitch my tarp. I heat up water for instant lentils and eat dinner in my sleeping bag while looking at my maps, thinking of how little I have left of this trail. I can’t even begin to process this summer, much less imagine that the trail is actually going to end. Oh well. One day at a time.

Photos on instagram