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.