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Begins: Jul 13, 2013
Date: Sun, Sep 14th, 2014
Trip Distance: 488.7
Entry Visits: 815
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A Day on the Colorado Trail--a woman and her dog
The light leaks in through tent walls and darkness turns to grey; another morning is coming and I stir, anticipating shedding the warm sleeping bag for cool morning air. I pull apart the pillow made from my clothes and put them on the exposed upper half of my body while they are still warm from my sleeping head. Alone with Mr. Cody, my giant border collie, I will get myself ready and eat my breakfast while the bottom half of me remains tucked warmly in the sleeping bag. As the grey light resolves into color, I know it is time to go. I feed Mr. Cody who has been waiting patiently for breakfast, then leaving the warmth of the sleeping bag, pack up my remaining gear.
Mr. Cody is dry this morning. Many mornings he is wet either because he went to bed that way or because curious about something going on in the night he let his body slide out from under the tent. Rain doesn’t bother him. His coat is thick and water repellant. In the tent, he smells like a wet wool blanket, but today, mercifully, he is dry and just smells like dog.
On the trail he follows me along, happy to be a part of the journey. While I look at the incredible world around me, Mr. Cody is making sense of his world in a different way: his nose is in full gear telling him what animals have passed this way and which ones are still in the neighborhood. Stream crossings are the best because all creatures eventually come for water and it is there that he insists on taking time for “sniffage.” I indulge him for a while as I try to imagine what he would tell me about this place if he could speak.
This morning, I see a herd of black cows and tell Mr. Cody to stay behind me. I say “No hunting.” He cocks his head to one side and stares at me with those big brown eyes as though to say, “Really?” He understands this expression to mean, “don’t go chasing the animals” and since that is exactly what he is thinking about, he checks in to make sure that’s what I meant, so I say, “Yes, really.” We continue in single file, with me in front and hundreds of pairs of cow eyes focused on us.
As I move ahead of the cows, I lose interest and mentally move on to the vista ahead. Then I realize something is not quite right and I turn around to see Mr. Cody out in the middle of the field trotting ahead of an army of cows like the Pied Piper of Hamlin followed by the village children. I am surprised but not nearly as surprised as Mr. Cody. He has a look on his face like, “what do I do now?” I am a little bit worried because I am thinking these cows are used to herding dogs, and the dogs probably lead them to food or some other creature comfort. I wonder what will happen when they realize Mr. C. is all show and no substance. Mr. C. seems to be thinking the same thing because as I raise my arm in the signal to come, he doesn’t hesitate to return to my side. Cows, fortunately, are creatures of short attention span and thankfully, they quickly lose interest in Mr. C.
I walk on--I am working on keeping my mind quiet and just being here in the moment. It is easier some days than others. But when I am just walking, I am happiest. The world passes before and then behind me like a movie with no purpose and no end. I see wildflowers so numerous that I have given up trying to identify them. I see butterflies and birds and sometimes I see rabbits or moose or I hear bugling elk or coyotes yipping, and if I’m really lucky their yipping turns into a symphony echoing off the mountains. Mostly, I think how blessed I am to be here.
Mr. Cody always walks behind me when it’s just the two of us, but today as we start to ascend yet another mountain, he is butting me behind my knee as though to say, “get a move on old woman, you are going too slow.” I put up with this for a while and then I turn around and say, “ok, I get it, you go on ahead,” and he does. I am feeling tired, but as he forges on, I get a second wind and pick up my pace behind him.
Mr. Cody and I have walked thousands of miles together, but this trip is different because usually there are three of us: my husband Kerry, Mr. Cody and I. On this journey it is just the two of us on the Colorado Trail. We walk for days over mountains that touch the sky and in the afternoon the rain always comes and we are deluged, then thunder cracks and the lightening strikes around us. It is deafening and frightening but Mr. Cody and I keep walking because there is no shelter on the these high treeless plains, there is nowhere to go. After weeks of weather I no longer fear it. Aside from the umbrella, which keeps me comfortable, I have given up trying to stay dry. The sun will come in time to work its magic and I will be dry enough by nightfall.
Toward evening, I look for a place to stop and because I am high at over 12,000 feet, it is a challenge to find a flat place to sleep. There is nowhere to hide myself off trail, but since I have seen no one for half a day, I think perhaps I will be asleep and then up again before my next encounter with people.
I put up the tent, feed Mr. Cody and eat my nightly muffin with cheese and bacon. I am tired but I take out the paw cream and massage it gently, messily into Mr.Cody’s feet. I have no idea if this helps him, but over the years it is our routine and I know he enjoys the attention. Before I get to the last paw his eyes are closed and Mr. Spa Dog is breathing in the gentle rhythm of sleep. I read my book for a few minutes but I too am sleepy. Today was another day, like all the others, a joyful day full of wandering and wondering. I put away the book and before the light has faded I join Mr. C. on the journey into night.
This essay appeared in the Aldha-West Newsletter in early 2014. Rather than one day in particular, it reflects a composite of days on the Colorado Trail. Details of the journey can be found in my journal.
Looking For Josephine
The Colorado Trail is a 486-mile long-distance trail running from the mouth of Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver to Durango in Colorado, United States. Its highest point is 13,271-foot above sea level, and most of the trail is above 10,000-foot. Learn more: www.coloradotrail.org
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