Last Tuesday I woke up to another cold gray morning alongside the Belly River in northern Glacier National Park. I was 6 miles from the northern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail, so I pried myself from the warmth and comfort of my sleeping bag, slipped on my shoes, & undid my bear hang. After chucking everything in my pack I started off down the mushy, muddy trail along the Belly River.
Soon I came across some fresh Griz tracks and started singing some made up songs out loud to scare any bears with musical taste far far away. As I hiked, the mountains turned burnt pink with an early alpine glow. Thimble berries lined the trail all the way to the border, and before I knew it I was standing on the Chief Mountain Highway hugging the border monument.
A half hour later I found myself in a friend's van on the way to the Park Cafe where their slogan is "pie for strength"- my kind of place! We ate a whole peach pie and they gave me enough tokens for a 12 minute shower. I left Saint Mary's heading up the Going to the Sun Road in a car, full, clean, & in good company, satisfied.
Now a week out from that day, the sense of satisfaction is slipping away. Indulgence in frontcountryactivities like watching movies, drinking beer, checking my email 20 times a day, eating fresh fruit, taking a friend's dog for a walk on pavement around the block, sleeping under a roof, has me happy, but recovery from the trail has it's own challenges.
Leaving the trail is not easy. I want to eat like I did out there but wind up with a stomach ache if I even consume half the calories I was pounding. I want to run for a workout but my body feels stiff & clunky, my lungs burn, unaccustomed to the quick cardio.
My daily mileage has decreased to about 5 per day rather than 25. I feel slow and sluggish, sore and tired. The weight of the distance I covered this summer seems to be slamming into my body, but not really sinking in to my mind yet. All my expectations about fitness & enlightenment seem unmet when I look through this lens of post trail recovery. All I can say about the past 4 months of my life is that I experienced true wilderness, kindness, adventure, and solitude. Stepping away from the constant feed of direct experience hurts.
Eventually I will readjust, but for now I have decided to continue adventuring instead of committing to this challenge of recovery from trail life. Friday I am heading out to Maine to see what the East Coast is all about & hopefully stay long enough to catch some fall leaves. Soon my feet will be back on a trail & the comforts I have at the moment will be things I dream of. I guess I like having a lot of dreams so when one does come to fruition I can always have a new one to try and breath reality into. CDT, you were a wonderful dream & a spectacular reality. I miss you.