Day 18 of the Colorado Trail

August 7

19.7 miles

I did not sleep well! I was unusually scared, being camped only 0.7 miles from the trailhead, that someone from town could easily come and “get” me, I was sleeping on a huge slope (comical to see from the pictures), it rained for awhile, and I heard a variety of animal sounds (including a horse-like noise- probably from a deer). I also had to go to the bathroom. I don’t like getting out of my sleeping bag or tent when it is dark out, but I finally had to at 5 am. I went back to sleep until 7. I always sleep hardest in the morning hours before it is time to get up- even at home. But it it amazes me how little I sleep each night while thru-hiking, compared to the amount I sleep at home! I also burn tremendously more calories and eat a lot less! Everything is opposite.
I was on the trail at 7:53, resuming my climb up Raspberry Gulch Mountain.
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As I walked, the environment became arid again, the trail having the consistency of chalky gravel. I had to be very careful on my downhill steps. It was incredibly easy to slip.
Throughout the day, there was a lot of uphill.
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As I descended one slope, I saw a medium sized animal dart through the bushes. It seemed like it could have been a little deer or a fox or something with a tan coat. I never found out what it was because it hid in a bush and wouldn’t come out. I saw a tent set-up at the bottom of the hill, then continued on through some trees and a meadow-like environment, with the terrain leveling off. I entered back into the woods, and sat down for a little break, where I found that I had some reception.
Around Brown’s creek, I slung off my heavy pack, adding an “ugh” outloud. Then I looked up and saw some campers- all guys. I wondered where the girls were!
I continued to walk, and around the bend, saw three girls. There they were!
Farther along, I saw a couple. They were stopped on the trail and the girl was turned to face the guy and looked like she was rubbing the top of his head as he looked up at her. When she saw me, she quickly turned around and marched on! I got the feeling that she didn’t want me to pass them. They were hiking at the same pace as I was and were almost always in my sight. When I did catch them, they seemed socially awkward and not very friendly.
I reached Sand Creek at mile 10 and saw a piece of paper hung on a tree, congratulating the thru-hikers. We had reached the half way point of the trail! A big smile spread across my face and I paused for a minute, reflecting on the meaning of this point in my journey.
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The couple approached behind me and asked me if I was doing the whole thing. They seemed impressed. As I sent the picture out to a few people, they went on, eventually finding a spot on a ridge to have their lunch. I continued on aways so I could have my own space. I was so tired! It took some work to set my pack out of the way, but not have it fall down the slope. Thunder rumbled in the distance. I couldn’t sit here long…
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I packed up and trudged on. As I reached the top of the climb, I heard a sound in the forest. It was a big cow! There were lots of cows! It was a funny sight to see these large, slow moving animals up here. There were also enormous cow paddies all over! I was suddenly glad that I didn’t collect water from Sand Creek. (And I remembered that Hellbender got giardia in this area of the trail when he tried to hike it a couple of years ago and had to end his hike in Salida).
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The thunder still rumbled and rain began to fall as I walked on. Crossing a dirt road, I saw a herd of turkeys! I tried to follow them off the trail to get pictures, but they were too quick!
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I had a choice of whether to stop around mile 15 and camp, or go 19.7 miles all the way to the road, where I would hitch into Salida. I was exhausted. At 4:00, it began raining. My body was tired, my mind was numb, and all I could do was keep counting down the miles that passed incredibly slowly.
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I reached a creek at mile 15.2 and sat down for a break, wondering if I should collect more water. I decided that I had enough water for a few more miles.
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I started the next climb, knowing that I could reach the road by 6pm. The rain continued to come down. (The idea of setting up my tent in the rain was not appealing).
On and on I went, checking my phone every so often to see if I had reception to call the hostel and ask if they had room for me. Finally, when I reached a spot that looked like a crater in the middle of a field, I got ahold of them. They had room! “I’ll be there in an hour,” I said.
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I finally reached the last creek, with one mile remaining in the segment. There was a campsite there, and I hesitated for a moment, wondering if I should spent the night there and make the most of my day in town tomorrow, or spend the extra money to stay another night in town. I then heard and saw a squirrel and decided I didn’t want to deal with it getting into my food. So, I marched on. It was an extremely long and slow mile! I was completely exhausted and it seemed to go on forever! I crossed under the power lines and tower (reminiscent of the AT), then started down the long, slow hill. I could see my road, but it was taking forever to reach it! It almost didn’t seem real!
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I finally reached it, exhausted and completely out of energy, at 5:40pm. I didn’t know which way to hitch so I just stuck out my thumb. The first vehicle stopped. It was a shuttle, but going the opposite way. So, I crossed the road and stuck out my thumb again. Car after car passed, but no one stopped! Out of energy and wanting desperately to be able to rest, I dug into my pack for another power bar. I stuck out my thumb again, and still no one stopped. Then, a jeep coming from the opposite direction pulled in! I ran over and told the girl I was trying to get to Salida. She had passed me earlier and then thought that I seemed harmless and looked like I needed a ride. So, she turned back. She said that she used to pick up hitchhikers all of the time, but now that she is alone, she only picks up female hitchhikers. (Thank goodness I am female!). I put my pack in the back with Fred, the 2-colored eye dog and joined her in the front (warning her that I smell and that I could stay in the back…). The ride was pretty quiet. We did see a rainbow along the way! My first of the trip!
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We found our way to the hostel and I checked in for 2 nights. It cost $88 to stay in the bunkroom for the first night and the private room the second night (not including towels or sheets). My roommate was an older woman, who was traveling, and her dog.
I went to Amica’s for dinner and had a panini and salad and the lightest beer they had (a blond bomber) to celebrate the half-way point. I drank 1/3 of my beer and started feeling the effects! This was a very popular and crowded restaurant and I sat at the community table in order to get a seat. Again, I felt quite lonely. The food was okay, but I was left wondering why I look forward so much to coming into towns, only to be disappointed by my experience. I decided that I would try to enjoy wherever I was more- being happy in the moment and not wanting anything else. My journey was already half-way over and I had to make the most of it!
They were out of the desert that I wanted, so I had a piece of chocolate cake and coffee instead. Back at the hostel, I took a shower. I was disappointed there was no TV to watch the Olympics. I was in my sleeping bag in my bunk by 10 and tried to drift off to sleep with the sound of snoring in my room.

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