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After saying farewell to Thom, my trail angel of James Peak... see previous journal entry for more there... it was a day and a half run from peak to peak before I arrived in Silverthorn Colorado. This destination marked my successful race, starting in Lima Montana, to make a week long trail vacation work. I had made plans to head home halfway through the trail in order to spend time with my special someone, and swap gear for winter weather. A quick bus ride, after stuffing my face with a gluttonous buffalo burger as suggested by a lovely lady who helped me right my accidental detour to the outskirts of town on a side trail rather then Silverthorn's heart, brought me to Breckenridge. Here I found a hostel worth its weight in British humor and gold. I stayed the night before getting picked up by Peak 1 express, an excellent mountain to airport service in this resort town. It was the biggest mind shock finding myself in the SEA TAC airport 2 days after leaving the wilds... my quiet escapade consuming the land before me... only known to the occasional passerby and the many critters around me. A gust of wind rifling tufts of grass on rocky crags.
My vacation from my vacation was exactly what I needed. People, loved ones, temperpedic bed, seafood, sea level, and time in the city brought life back to my ragged souls and my tired soul. It was over all too quickly though... next thing I knew the time was up and it was back to Colorado, half the CDT awaiting to be fitfully devoured.
I had hoped timing would be perfect and upon returning to the trail I would run into my group of friends I had left behind in Lima. The idea was we'd all be able to finish together this way. Not so though, such is trail life.... I spent one more week alone, hauling booty about 6 hours exactly behind 2 of my friends. This was one of that hardest weeks of the whole trail for me.
Not wanting to be alone at all anymore, these things really are more entertaining and safe with buddies, I started having daily breakdowns. I'd cry because I missed my Mom, I'd cry because I missed my Man, I'd cry because I thought I was going to freeze to death, I'd cry because I thought my body would break. So, wanting to quit more then anything, I arrived at Monarch Pass... the highest pass where you can get a sandwich in the USA... a jumble of feels and options. PS... just a day or two before getting to Monarch Pass I saw my first ever Cat in the wild. A surprised as I was Bobcat came within 25 feet of me using the trail for its own travel means. I felt like I was the size of an ant, squishable, as this clawed creature of mystique flew up a tree to the side of the trail. Yowza!
At Monarch Pass I got picked up by a friend of Disco... small world.... Disco made The Walkumentary on the CDT, and let me use his film as part of my fundraising efforts for the SCA. Disco's friend is a very knowledgeable forester who is focusing work on Culturally Managed Trees, or CMT, right now. These trees are altered by native and aboriginal peoples in order to create readable trails, tell cardinal directions, and other things. Disco's friend brought me to Salida Colorado. Here I said farewell and many thanks, before making a blubbering call to Momma about how if I didn't find my friends in this town I was coming home. I did not want to take one more step alone.
After choking out a bye to Mom, I'm sure she loved this... NOT!, I made the next fateful call. Recon, Recon... are you and Quickham in Salida? I've never been so happy to hear YES! In my whole life. And so began the second half of the CDT. Back together with some of my groupies, nothing was going to stop us. Reunions and hugs, gorging, and midnight trips to Safeway... we were back in it to win it together. The guys gave me my game face back.
Leaving Salida meant entering the San Juans shortly, and the coldest sections of the whole trail. Postholing through snow for a week straight, dehydrating to the point of massive bloody nose because our water sources were frozen and we felt no need to drink, 7 degree mornings, feeling like utter dog meat, crazed, feral, pumpkin pur?e. We were a sight for sore eyes when we arrived in Pagosa Springs Colorado.
Here the Trail God's sent us Addi... the only way to explain this Italian woman with a Need to Feed is Embrace the Hospitality. Vortexed for 3 nights at her lovely home... we were nearly human again as we took off for the mountains with our buddy Smokey now in tow too!
After Pagosa was Chama. My fearless brother Magic Stick joined us here for a week of romping. I'm proud and humbled by his courage even as we broke his water filter with cow dung water, broke his feet with 26 mile days, and boiled his brain with the need to wake up at 5 am to make a 5pm buffet dinner at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. He was a total trooper, and loved the time on trail... he said....
Ghost Ranch was the official arrival of the desert. I'll never forget seeing my first cactus coming down the plateau rim towards the campus. Half a mile from the Ranch we found ourselves in a other worldly slot canyon that had dramatically flooded in the last 3 years. We scrambled along the washed out slot following a series of cairns before finally plopping out on a sandy road that took us to the back of the Ghost Ranch.
We made our buffet in perfect time, spent the evening watching a hippy cult practice at their retreat... I was having yellow deli flashbacks from the AT... and saw shooting stars from our campsite. The next afternoon we were out of there with plans to meet one of my favorite AT buddies Deerdog, her partner, and pup at a road crossing in a day and a half for a reunion. I still can't believe they made this all work... and then drove all the way back home to Denver. I owe you guys one!
The next town was Cuba. We pavement walked into here. Ouch. My brother unfortunately had to leave. I will cherish our woodsey reunion, the CDT just felt more Right getting to have him out there for a bit. He's the one responsible for cultivating the thru hiker bug in me.
After Cuba came Grants. First in town, Smokey and I found a Asian Super Buffet where we all ended up filling out gullets not fearing any ailments that might follow. PS we all got off Charmin Free!
Leaving Grants I was given some turquoise earrings made by one of 3 Navajo women. She wanted me to have them because they would keep the God's eyes watching over us through the rest of our journey. This may be one of the most meaningful gifts I have ever received in my life.
Pie Town came soon after... noticing a theme here? New Mexico is full of tiny po dunk towns that the CDT literally walks though. We stayed at The Toaster house, an amazing feat of trail angel Nita... who we also got to meet and receive the town tour from. Yes, we ate pie at all 3 Pie Town pie establishments. The Pioneer won out hands down.
It rained in NM, it poured in NM, while we were in Pie Town. We were caught by our long lost buddies Top Shelf, Bard, and Anchor at the Toaster house just an hour before we were planning to leave. They came in soaked to the bone and nearly convinced us to take a 3rd zero day. We made it out by the skin of our teeth, though very reluctantly. In leaving we were greeted with NM mud, the stickiest stuff you've ever seen, and but an hour or so into walking... another deluge. We slid and squelched along till our sanity was gone.
In another day or two we left the degrading mud behind. Walking became free and easy again. Our race to Mexico ensued. And, I got a shin splint. I've never had one of these before in my life. I had heard they were awful. But, it takes one to know one. For the next 200 miles every step would feel like razor wire was slicing into the front of my left ankle. Ibuprofen did nothing, and the only thing truly helpful... not walking... was not an option. I hoped everyday, as my ankle swelled and squealed, I was not doing too much further damage... Mexico was just too close.
The last week on trail was a blur of wonders, thank God... they kept me distracted. We saw the Gila River Wilderness. An amazing canyon of lush quality that was the first ever Wilderness designated. We saw the Gila cliff dwellings, amazing sandstone cave homes that were built around 1200 AD and lived in for 5 year before being abandoned completely. Then came meeting Tugboat, a recently retired fire chief whom took on the CDT in order to live out a boyhood dream. An inspiration, story teller, and excellent company... he had a folklore quality that enlivened the end of this trail for me. He also informed us of a pure magic saloon that Smokey and I ended up hiking to on an alternate route. You ever get the chance to check out the old town of Pinos Altos... don't miss the Buckhorn.
Finally we came to our last town before the border. Lordsburg. Here we fueled up on McDonalds preparing for our final escapade into the wilds. I called Border Patrol before we left town informing them that we would be entering their realm of hidden sensors, avoiding a unnecessary investigation. The man on the phone started off quite serious, but in finding out we were CDT hikers he let out a chuckle and said Good Luck! Thanks for the call. Everything just seemed unreal. Borders....
We left Lordsburg and began the CDT cross country bushwack of the century. We saw a supermoon, and ate prickly pears by moonlight. We became dependent on water caches for the last 80 miles of trail. No natural water sources exist in this area.
On our final day we slowly pushed through a 12 mile chunk of cross country thick with cactus. 3 inch long spines stabbed you with every step. Our goal was to make it to The Monument by sunset in order to achieve a naturally lighted photo. With a 15 minute lunch break, we did exactly that. Recon, Quickham, and I grabbed our photo unable to hoot and holler with joy because of our exhausted state of being. Unable to process our feat completed, we only thought of how the hell we were going to get back from the monument.
Thank heavens for Quickham's InReach. We ended up texting away to the right people allowing us to book a 120$ ride from The Monument back to Lordsburg. The first 25 miles of this ride are along a washed out rock hop road that leaves even the strongest faint of heart. It took 3 hours to drive the 25 miles in our monster truck. Many thanks to Dan! Even in his rig we still bottomed out a couple times scaling the edges of washes.
Back in Lordsburg the reality of our journey being complete started to surface. Having found our buddy Smokey, whom abandoned the 12 mile cactus bushwack for a 31 mile roadwalk to Antelope wells border crossing instead... I think he is the smarter man..., we all gobbled down a El Charro meal thanks to Quickham's Mom. Then it was busing to Albuquerque. Thrift store normal clothes hunting. And, planes to our respective homes.
I miss the guys a lot already. It's like a dysfunctional but brilliant family has been disbanded.
I have no idea what exactly to do next, there's tons of coals in the fire.
The one thing I do know... the friggin' Triple Crown is over. And now... begins the rest of my life. Kow A Bunga!