I had a very elaborate dream starting around 5-something in the morning, and I didn’t wake up again until 6:39- my latest yet on the trail! It was okay, though. I only had to hike just under 5 miles to get to the road that I would be hitching into town from. I ate a tiny bit while sitting in my sleeping bag and noticed that my hair was looking worse than ever (I had gotten my hair cut before I left for the hike and asked her to cut an inch off. She ended up chopping off 8 inches of my hair, with an even shorter layer all around my head!!! So bad!). But today, I decided not to care. No one was going to see me, anyway. I packed up all of my wet stuff, and started walking around 7:30. The miles were pretty easy, but I had to remind myself not to try to go too fast, as 5 miles was still a decent distance to walk. I made it to the first (small) highway, and then crossed the railroad tracks.
I saw a black Mary-Jane croc hanging on top of a wooden post on the other side of the train tracks! My first thought was that was someone had found my lost Croc and left it for me where I could see it! Then, I realized that didn’t make any sense, because I had lost it miles back. I went to take a look at it. It looked very small for being a size 7 1/2, and was a different style than mine, but what a miracle it would be if it were the opposite shoe of the one I still had! I took it off the post and set my pack down beside a large cairn of rocks to take my Croc out of my pack. It turned out to be the same foot as the other one. Too bad! Because my pack was off, I decided I might as well eat a power bar.
As I was eating, a cyclist walked towards me, crossing over the traintracks a few hundred feet above where the trail crossed, carrying his bike over his shoulder. “What’s going on?” he called to me in a southern accent. “Nothing…” (I never know how to respond to greeting such as ‘What’s up?’).
“This grass is wet. Now my shoes are wet,” he complained. I thought to myself, “if you were walking on the actual trail, they wouldn’t be wet!”.
I saw gear on his bike and asked him if he camped last night. “If you call 48 minutes camping, then yes.”
Knowing that the Denver-Durango bike race started that morning, I asked him if he was racing. He said yes, but I was confused as to how he could already be 140 miles into the race. He told me that registration was full when he entered, so he was doing the race on a time trial basis and started 2 days before the field. He asked me if I had seen another biker pass through this morning ahead of him. (I had not). He told me that he was chasing down his tracks and almost took me out when he saw me, thinking that I was his competitor. He complained about the heaviness of his gear and how it was slowing him down.
“Let’s have some fun,” he said, taking off his pack to let me see how heavy it was.
He told me that he didn’t have money to buy lighter gear, and that he ran out of gas money on the way to Denver and had to have his brother wire him money from Japan. He was going to try to make it to Durango with the $80 he had left! I was in disbelief. I asked him if he needed any water or food and he ended up taking some of my water (later, I realized this was probably against the rules of a self-supported race).
As he got back on his bike, he said, “I would stay and play, but I have my ego to stroke!”
He started to pedal away, calling back, “What are you doing here?”
“I’m walking from Denver to Durango!”
“I love you!” he yelled back. “What’s your name?”
He took off, and I walked on, thinking about guys and their egos. I wished I could tell him, “More heart, less ego…”
I walked through a meadow and heard a dog barking in the distance. I wished the owner would quiet him down! The howling had its own echo. Then, I saw the shape of a grey canine in the far distance and realized it wasn’t a dog making those sounds. It was a wolf! My very first wolf! Wow! As I walked on, I thought about the bike race . All of a sudden, a bird flew right next to my head! I couldn’t believe it! This was the first bird who was not scared of me at all! It flittered around me, hopping from branch to branch. I stayed, talking to him for a little while.
Looking ahead, I saw the cyclist at the edge of the meadow, leading into the woods! How could that be? He should have been so far ahead of me! His bike was pointed in my direction, and he looked disoriented. Maybe he decided that he wanted to hang out with me after all! Then, he turned around and headed into the forest…
A little ways after I made it into the forest, I saw his bike in the woods. Then, I saw him peeing. I put my head down and kept walking. When he caught up to me, he said, “You walk fast! How fast do you walk?” “I was trying to put some electrolytes in the water you gave me, but they kept falling on the ground.” He ended up riding his bike alongside me until we made it to Tennessee Pass. He said he didn’t know why, but he felt that he should hang out with me. We talked about the good things that happen while out here in a vulnerable state (spiritual moments), our crooked spines, yoga, and awareness. He told me that I am “open and strong.” He talked about how he had lost many years of his life with a crushed spirit and how he needed to come out here more than anything. I told him I knew exactly what he was talking about. I too, had given up far too much of my life. He told me that he wasn’t sure if he should come out here with no money, but kept receiving the message, “Go and you will be taken care of”.
We reached Tennessee Pass, where I had to try to hitch a ride 9 miles into the town of Leadville, and we exchanged numbers. We then sat on some wooden steps for a little break before he continued on. He took out his left-over french fries from his stop at Copperhead Resort, where the waitress let him sleep for awhile in the booth. He commented on my shaved legs, checked out my shoes and socks, and we told each other our bear stories. Then, an SUV pulled into the parking lot and the driver proceeded to pick up speed as it headed straight through the puddles, splashing mud all over! “No! Not on my pack!” He turned around and did it again before stopping the vehicle. Chad told me not to give him any eye contact. He then took a large tupperware bin out of the back and told us he was delivering trail magic from Leadville Hostel. My ears pricked up. “That’s where I’m going!”
“That’s your ride!” said Chad.
Howard wheeled the bucket of candy and soda a few hundred feet up the trail while Chad and I finished our conversation. The same kind of bird that flew so close to my head was now nibbling on Chad’s french fries. “I want a hug before you go,” he said.
I asked him if he wanted $20 and he said no- that my company was more than enough. But he asked if I could take some of his extra food and mail it ahead for him. It took awhile for him to figure out where he wanted it sent. I suggested Mt. Princeton Hot Springs because it was right on the trail, but he wanted it sent to Buena Vista, a little ways ahead.
“Crazy Howard” and I took off and headed into town. He asked me if there was anything I needed to buy in town. I told him I was hoping to buy a new pair of Crocs, and he suggested that I check out the thrift shop. (Really?? The thrift shop? The outfitter doesn’t have them?). We arrived at the hostel, and he showed me the hooks in the garage for hanging our tents and sleeping bags to air out, and then took me down to the bunk room. I wanted breakfast more than I wanted a shower, so I headed downtown to eat, calling Laura on the way. It was the first time I had gotten ahold of her on the trip. It turned out that I was 10 minutes too late for breakfast, which greatly disappointed me. I love breakfast food the most!
I ordered a chicken BLT and white bean soup. The party of 3 that were seated next to me, asked to be moved…
For desert, I had a huge brownie with cinnamon ice cream. Some middle-aged woman seated near me were ogling it the whole time. It was too big for me to finish!
I headed out, found a store to buy Chad some extra treats and a postcard to add to his own food, walked to the post office, and waited in a long line. It began pouring rain outside! After I mailed his package, I headed to the outfitters. They had almost nothing there! I couldn’t believe it! A Colorado trail town with outdoorsy people constantly coming through and your best bet to find something was a thrift store? I bought another canister of fuel for my stove and headed back down the street. (Along the way, I checked out the thrift stores and also found nothing that I needed). I returned to the hostel and started on my next chore-laundry!
In the upstairs hang-out room in the hostel, I met Jasmine and Chad, a couple who had hiked the PCT a couple of years ago and who were now hiking as much of the Colorado Trail as they could before getting off to go to a wedding. They were very nice, relaxed, and easy to talk to. We talked about our long hikes and people we knew in common. They were the very first thru-hikers I met on the Colorado Trail! They were father ahead on the trail than me and had come back to spend the night here from a different road, so unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to hike with them.
I tried to rest while my clothes were in the washer, but didn’t manage to fall asleep. By the time my clothes were dried, my little towel had disintegrated and my clothes didn’t smell any better than when they first went in! A kid in the hallway outside of my bunkroom, sorting through his stuff, asked me if I could watch it “in case anyone gets curious.” He turned out to be the 19 year old (actually 20 year old ) thru-hiker who was ahead of me! I met him without trying to catch him! He was also farther ahead on the trail, coming back to the hostel from the same place as Chad and Jasmine. I told him how I knew about him and we chatted for a bit. We had both been invited to join some others for dinner at a steak restaurant, but I wanted to eat sooner than later so that I could watch the Olympics (this was the first summer I would miss being able to watch them!) and I wasn’t loving the idea of steak. I told Andrew that he was welcome to join me if he wanted. I was going to head back to the place I had had lunch.
He did up joining me. I had my bacon cheeseburger and we had a nice chat. He needed to hike so many miles per day because he had to get back in time to start school again! I was glad that I didn’t have such a tight deadline.
I made it back to the hostel a little after the Olympics started. Chad had called me a couple of times, so I went out on the deck to talk to him and ended up missing synchronized diving. He sounded like he was hallucinating. It was crazy talk that I really couldn’t connect at all with, so I finally asked him if he was okay and if it would be okay if I watched the Olympics. He said he was always okay. The Olympics weren’t over until 11- several hours past my new bed-time and I was getting very tired. I lied down on the couch, as I continued watching the TV, but was sternly admonished by a man I had not been introduced to. “This isn’t a flop house! You have to sleep in one of the beds!”
I told him that I was awake and watching the Olympics. He said he was turning off the TV and told me to go downstairs. I sat up, stiff and upright, my eyes wide open. “Please let me watch the end.”
I got into my bunk at 11:15. I was completely exhausted and slept hard.