I got up at 6:30, ate a quick breakfast, and packed up, ready to hike the 10.8 miles to the highway, where I would attempt to get a hitch into Lake City (I had heard this was a very difficult hitch! One guy waited 2 hours!). It was cold and I had all of my layers on. I said goodbye to the couple and said I might see them on the road because I’d probably still be there waiting for a ride. Holly thought I would make it into town in time to have breakfast. “I wish!” But alas, that was not possible… She invited me to join them for their morning coffee, but saw that I looked ready to go and let me be on my way. Last evening, they commented on how beautiful their campsite was, but I didn’t see anything different about it than any other campsite. In the morning, however, once the clouds had cleared, I saw beautiful red rock walls. It was much nicer than where I had camped in the pines!
I stepped over the stream and started my climb. I got warm very quickly and had to stop shortly after to peel off some layers.
I continued up the switchbacks, seeing a peak in front of me, but not able to determine where this path was taking me. Once I found my way around the peak, I entered into more of a bowl in the mountains and even saw a couple of deer (or elk?) at the edge of the forest! I stopped to eat a snack, take off more layers, and resumed the climb, eventually reaching alpine territory again. At this altitude, the temperature had become very cold! I loved walking in the bowl I was in, traversing a path under the rim with beautiful views all around me. It reminded me of Switzerland again.
I headed towards the next saddle, very cold, but not wanting to stop to put on layers again. When I started descending to the other side, I could see clouds in the distance that were below me. It was a beautiful, peaceful sight!
Scraggly bushes lined the trail, and as I made my way through them, my legs got very wet from the dew, and it felt like they were being scratched. I just kept going.
Around six miles into the hike, I felt extremely and unusually tired. I walked over a rocky region and could see an intersection in the distance. I decided to reach that point and then take a little break. I found a place that was out of the direct path of wind, and ate a packet of almond butter and a snickers. I wondered why my energy level was so low. It seemed a bit alarming. My stomach hurt a bit, as well. I continuing walking underneath some rock cliffs and imagined that I could be in Ireland.
Then, I approached an alpine pond.
I wanted to wait until I came to the stream to collect more water. Something had been hurting on the bottom of my foot, almost as if there was something in my shoe or sock, and I couldn’t wait to take a break and see if I could figure out what it was. Ahead, I saw a lone figure standing in the meadow. It seemed to be some kind of animal, but I couldn’t tell what it was.
Finally, I reached the little stream. The animal was still there. I hoped I wouldn’t scare it away with my movements before I had a chance to see it! Collecting water was a slow process as there was only a dribbling flow. I took off my sock, but couldn’t tell what was bothering my foot. I just had to hope that it could take the pain for 5 more miles. I filtered my water, packed everything up, and then resumed my walk, at last reaching the grazing animal. It was a lone sheep! What was it doing out here all by its self? It wasn’t at all scared or concerned about me.
I continued on through Snow Mesa- 3.3 miles of huge, fairly flat expanse at an altitude of over 12,000 feet. It was almost like a Stars Wars kind of landscape. Funny bugs would hop onto the trail, right in front of me, and then spasm with fright and jump away. It was very amusing!
Snow Mesa kept going and going… I could see nothing in front of me but huge grassy expanses with mountains in the far distance.
Then, a lone male hiker headed towards me. He looked a bit like Waldo and was very interested in telling me where I could get water ahead! I told him that I was all set- I had just collected water and was headed to Lake City. (It’s funny how all these northbound hikers feel the need to tell me things like this. I guess maybe they like to get information from people who are walking in the opposite direction, but I get along just fine with only my guidebook!).
On and on, I walked. Finally, I reached the rim of Snow Mesa!
I looked down and saw that it was very rocky below and I knew it would be slow-going. More pikas were squeaking in the rocks and I felt sad that I would only have a few more chances to be among these creatures.
At last, I reached the safety of the pine trees, once again!
For all of the beauty of the open, alpine environments, there is an equal amount of stress that comes with hiking through them, as you are always racing to escape the possible lightning.
I had a couple more miles of descending before I would reach the highway. I could see the road and cars passing along it already. I tried to keep my pace steady, even though I wanted to reach the road as quickly as possible. As I neared the road, I saw a parking lot across the street, and a black SUV. Part of me hoped that my “friend” had at last come to meet me and help me out by giving me a ride into town! I reached the road at 1pm, and kept my eye on the vehicle. It didn’t move. I took my pack off, and stuck out my thumb. No cars stopped. A construction crew was nearby and I could hear them talking about me, wondering what I was doing and where I wanted to get to. Lake City was about 17 miles away, but in two direction along the highway. A car pulled out of the parking lot and headed past me. I stuck out my thumb, but the lady driving just smiled at me. Then, I saw some people headed to the black SUV! Maybe I should ask them if they could give me a ride! The woman and younger girl used the restroom and took their time getting into the car. I decided not to bother them. I continued trying to hitch, but still, no one wanted to stop. The, the black SUV pulled out of the lot. It sat facing the highway, not moving. The driver was looking at me. I wondered why he couldn’t just pull over to me. It seemed like he wanted to say something to me, but was frustrated because he was too far away to be heard. “Are you going to Lake City?” he called out.
“Yes!” I excitedly answered. He motioned me over. I threw on my pack and dashed across the highway, happily moving as fast as I could to their car. Without any hesitation, he helped me put my pack and poles in the back seat, next to the girl. He asked if I was hiking the CT and said they had just dropped off 2 CT hikers and picked one up. It took me a long time to understand who the girl next to me was, and who the hikers they had dropped off were, and how they were related. I finally understood that they had dropped off their son and his girlfriend who were hiking most of the trail this year, and the girl next to me was their friend, who had hiked the last section with them and was now being brought home with the parents. She was hiking the CT in sections. I felt very comfortable and happy with these people, and so grateful for the ride. The timing had worked out perfectly! The parents talked a lot about wanting their college-aged son to find something that made him happy. I am always, always struck and surprised to hear parents express these kinds of sentiments about their children, because it is something that I did not experience from my parents at all (quite the opposite, in fact). We talked about the AT and PCT, as well.
We reached Lake City and they dropped me off in the center of town, across from the Silver Spur Motel. I had been having a hard time deciding if I wanted to stay at the hostel, or pay more money to stay at a motel where I could have my own room and privacy. I opted with privacy, as that was what I was feeling like I needed the most. It took me awhile to find the “office” of the motel. It turned out to be the check-out counter of the store. Two guys outside of the store with their dogs said hi to me and asked me what I was doing. We chatted for a bit. They were from Fort Collins and out here driving from mountain to mountain, climbing several of the 14,000 footers. I told them that I think I would prefer what they were doing because they got to see all of the best views, and got a huge feeling of accomplishment after reaching the summit of each mountain they climbed. A lot of thru-hiking is walking through forested areas or plains, where you don’t get to see so much.
I got a room, which turned out to be extremely basic, but it would do. I took a shower and was surprised that it didn’t feel nearly as luxurious or necessary after hiking for six days and 105 miles! I was proud of myself for not wanting to reach town any sooner than I had come to it. I had made good on my intention and was happier for it.
Clouds had rolled in and it looked like it was about to rain. I put on my rain gear and walked the half mile or so to the post office to pick up my package. The woman who worked there was very nice!
I then headed over to the Soup Kitchen, where one previous thru-hiker had mentioned that he had had his best meal on the trail! Unfortunately, it was after three and they had just closed! The lady said they would be open for the buffet at 5:30. I felt disappointed, but there was nothing I could do about it. I started the walk back to my room. Along the way, a car stopped and the woman in the passenger seat asked if they could give me a ride. I said I was fine and that I was only going to the store. The man seemed impatient and nearly drove over my foot a few times, wanting to take off! The woman said she would be back…
When I was almost there, she beeped and pulled up to me. I got in, even though I was merely feet away. I told her what I was doing out here and thanked her many times for her kindness and the ride. She told me that she could never do what I was doing and that she was so happy that she got to meet someone like me!
I ended up getting lunch at a little outdoor place near my motel. They were out of chicken, so I got a turkey sandwich with chips. It was good! I bought I raspberry square for dessert and brought it with me to the coffee shop to have with a latte. I sat inside at a big table and was joined by two older gentlemen who were seated outside at first, but had come in because of the weather. I was perfectly content. At one point, I saw two hikers in rain gear with bright orange pack covers walking down the street. Buzz and Holly! They had reached town 2 hours after me. I went out to try to call to them, but they were already too far down the road. I went back inside and finished my snack.
The hostel was next door and the owner was outside his truck, working with a pile of wood. I asked him about getting a ride back to the trail, but he said he couldn’t give me one (even if I paid him) if I wasn’t staying at the hostel. He did give me the number of a woman in town who gave rides to hikers and told me to get back to him if I still needed help.
The Fort Collins guys were packing up their car in front of the store and were friendly to me again. I stopped and chatted with them for awhile. One was particularly nice. They were on their way to Silverton, which I was, as well, but I would take a lot longer to get there on foot, and they would unfortunately no longer be there by the time I arrived. So, we wished each other goodbye. I went back to my room, hand-washed some of my clothes in the sink, left a message with the ride lady, and tried to rest for a bit. It was difficult again! It is amazing to me how little I sleep on these thru-hikes, even when I come into town! It is completely opposite to my non-thru-hiking life, where I could easily sleep 10 hours a night, take 2 two hour naps during the day (even right after drinking a coffee) and still never feel rested! I think when I turn my body into a hiking machine, it wants to stay active! And sleeping in a new (and often uncomfortable) environment, makes it always on alert. There is also a very limited time-frame within which you have to complete all of your chores!
I wondered if you had to be at the buffet at 5:30, or if you could go at anytime… I walked over around six, listening to my ipod along the way. (One thing that I miss while hiking is the ability to move more freely-and in more than a single plane! Being able to listen to music and dance becomes so special! I was looking forward to being able to do yoga again, too!). The Soup Kitchen was quiet. I got some lasagna, salad, and warm bread with butter. I didn’t do a good job of eating, though. Maybe it was too soon after I had eaten my big sandwich and dessert. My tummy felt full and the lady working there asked me if I was okay. “You suddenly got quiet!” she said. I ordered a piece of carrot cake to take back to my room and headed back. (The owner thanked me for returning).
Along the way, I thought about how differently people see me on the trail, as opposed to in “real life.” Out here, all people see of me is that I am open, brave, courageous, and strong, whereas, in real life, people see me as small and fearful, shrinking and afraid. I thought about the contrast between my mother constantly striking me down, not wanting or allowing me to be the person I am, forcefully exerting her control to stomp out any trace of the spirit and life inside me, and the many years I have lived in a state of un-living and depression because of it, and what I was displaying out here, so evident to everyone that crossed my path, even for a moment. I felt very emotional and cried for the realization of the truth of who I am, for all of the time that I had lost not living it, and for the strength I have shown in persisting through incredible pain and obstacles. I am living proof that no matter how much darkness overtakes your life, a bright spark always remains deep inside, waiting for the chance to burst open and be given life.
I had e-mailed Chad back, curious as to how the end of his race was and he called me back and left a message. Once back in my room, I gave him a call back. After telling me that he finished the race in eight days and sharing some stories from it, he said that after meeting me, he decided to turn his ride into a spiritual one, instead of a competitive one.
He told me about his stay in Silverton, mentioning a gun show in the street, and staying in a hotel that was haunted by ghosts. He also said that he wants to go on an adventure with me, but doesn’t know what kind because he doesn’t like to walk! As we finished the conversation he said, “What I love about you is that you are a wild child.” I found that to be quite amusing, because I am far from wild…
I called the ride lady back and we agreed to meet around noon. “You’re my kind of hiker!” she said. “All of the other ones want to be picked up at 6am!”
I tried to sleep, but my mind was occupied with thoughts and had a hard time quieting. I also had to get up to go to the bathroom three times during the night!