So, it’s been some time, hasn’t it? The roller-coaster of life manifested in a way other than the ups and downs of the trail. It happens. Be forewarned, this is a long one!
When last I posted, I’d been having a rough go of the trail, at least weather-wise. It had rained steady all night and Relentless and I woke to a sodden, cold day. We hiked out through the lovely field from the day before, only it had since turned into a mud pit…the kind that balls up on your shoes and even trekking pole tips, making everything it touches instantly weigh 10 lbs more.
I’d already had it with this day by the time we got back to the highway but little did I know that it was going to get much worse. The forecast was for at least 24 more hours of solid rain and we were on a straight-shot hwy into Grants. Rather than deal with the hypothermic weather, we made an easy decision to hitch into Grants, spend a night or two, then hitch back to this spot to resume our journey.
Much to my surprise, we got a ride from only the 3rd vehicle to pass. Bless the soul that will pick up 2 vagabonds soaked and muddy, daft enough to be walking a desolate stretch of road in the rain. Paul was on his way to Albuquerque to go to his son’s college graduation and we were so happy for his celebratory mood that made our day so much easier. By 8:30 am, we’d already scored a hotel room and I was taking advantage of the continental breakfast (which is of course meant for patrons following a night’s stay, not just arriving). Sorry, I was just some really cold and hungry hikertrash at that point.
After taking a hot shower and relaxing into the luxurious bed, I got “the phone call”. The one that makes that firm ground you’ve been hiking on all these years seem to shake a bit. I learned that my dad had been diagnosed with melanoma cancer that had spread all throughout his body. He’d been fighting skin cancer for many years and this one just sneaked by. His prognosis was not good.
So I immediately decided to leave the trail and took the most miserable bus ride of my life back to Colorado to spend time with my parents. It’s been a rocky few months but things have settled down a bit. Dad is getting treatment with one of those “miracle drugs” that costs way too much but is thankfully not too hard on his body. We’ll have to wait a few months to see what effect it is having. We got some affairs in order and I felt it was time to try to get back on trail. My parents have encouraged me to do so, even though I feel a pang of guilt about it. Everyone will be much happier this way and I can always rush back home if things change for the worse.
I have been dealing with all the stress and grief by doing many miles of local day-hiking, which I am so grateful for. Wilderness Therapy works wonders and is very affordable.
I have also been able to spend some time with my 2 beautiful cousins in Denver, benefiting from the love and support of extended family. I am so glad for their help.
I just completed a warm-up hike on sections 1-5 of the Colorado Trail. I hiked the whole trail just two years ago, kicking off my long-distance hiking journey of 6000 miles and counting. I am happy to say that I crushed it, walking over 75 miles in 2.5 days, starting right from my cousin’s backyard. I busted out 31 miles the first day, with a whole lot of climbing but rocking a new ultralight pack that has helped me shave almost 2 lbs.
This hike was a good test of the Cutaway pack from Nashville Pack, a brand new cottage company that I met at Trail Days. I liked the pack but have decided to stick with my HMG pack for the remainder of the CDT. Camping at 10,000′ and getting rained and hailed on multiple times reminded me that these mountains are no joke. I am having to carry much warmer and bulkier layers as well as my warmest quilt. There are also some long food carries of 6 plus days on the CDT, so I will need the extra carrying capacity and familiarity that I know my HMG provides.
Well then, I am physically ready to tackle the CDT again, and I hope my mental state follows. I am happy to report that I should have some help in this regard. Relentless and Salty decided to flip north to go SOBO and are actually waiting for me to arrive East Glacier so we can all set out together! What a great reunion it will be and I am so very grateful for their company. It is a huge relief to have safety in numbers in grizzly country and Relentless has been taking care of all the logistics up there while he has spent a few weeks in a work-for-stay near East Glacier.
So many of my friends that I met in NM are displaced all about the trail. To mention just a few, Bearman and PDiddy went back to the east coast to wait out the snow and are also going to Montana to hike south from the Canadian Border. They will be a few days to a week behind. Dahn, who I followed days behind the whole way down the TA and then finally caught up to going south on the PCT, is also hiking the CDT SOBO this year. As is our 3-long-trail-custom by now, he is starting a few days ahead. My role is that of a stalker, as he puts it:) I hope I get to run into him again and that he does not actually think I am stalking him. Open is still flipping around the trail and just resumed hiking north through Colorado.
For those not already aware, this year has been one of the toughest on record for both the PCT and CDT. There is record-setting snowpack left from the winter and it just keeps on snowing! There is more snow forecasted for CO this weekend, the last of JUNE! Some thru-hikers have been struggling through the San Juans and as far as the Collegiates but it has been extremely difficult and slow going. Many more gave up and began doing sections through Wyoming. Some gave up entirely. And now is the time that SOBOs are making their move. There is a bit of snow left in Montana but not near as much still left in CO. So I will do what has worked so perfectly for me on all my past hikes and go south.
I fly up to Kalispell, MT on Monday and depending on permits, will begin hiking in a day or so. Wish me luck!