CouchtoCDT

Hiking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) Northbound in 2013- sharing my preparation for the hike and my day to day experience while I'm on the trail. Inspiring people to follow their dreams.


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Encampment to Lander, WY

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After spending a few days recovering in the small community of Riverside, where the action is in Encampment, we hit the trail with a new CDT hiker.  Our group got a ride from a very friendly local who drove us back to Battle Pass, where we started the trek to Rawlins, our next destination.  The sky was covered in dark clouds and we prepared our bodies and our packs for the eventual rain that would come.  We started our climb up the rolling mountains and with a flash of lightning the rain started to come down.  We quickly scattered into the thick trees to hide from the torrential downpour that continued for 30 minutes.  After the futile attempt to stay dry we headed out into the rain and made our miles along the wet and muddy trail.  The thunder cracked and shot all around us with deafening sound.  This forced us to find an alternate route, avoiding the high ridge walk on the divide.  We found a new route that stayed low but, missed some creeks we knew we needed for water and cooking dinner that night.  After hiking more miles then we wanted to, we finally found a semi-flat spot that would hold the three of us and provided a small creek for our water needs.  After a good night’s rest we continued on the trail, eventually sitting to rest when another CDT hiker caught up to us.  Now we were four and it was good to have the company after hiking solo for such a long time.  Being in a group is good because it gives you more brains for navigation and conversation.  The trail is your constant standing topic. Experiences and views are always in discussion.

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We gradually made it out of the mountains for this section but dreaded the 30 mile road walk into Rawlins, which would torment us for the next two days.  The road was long and filled with rolling endlessness that seemed to go on forever.  The first night on the road we walked until 11 pm, when we ended up cowboy camping along the roadside in basically what would be considered a ditch.  Rising early at 5:30 am I hit the road listening to my morning dharma talk about being compassionate to all.  I was feeling less than compassionate for this road, but tried to find the beauty in the open desert I once again found myself in.  Not since New Mexico had I been in this landscape and I can’t say that I missed it.  After 13 miles the soft gravel road ended abruptly, giving way to pavement that made my feet scream.

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A man driving by in his truck offered me some water that I gratefully accepted. The water reports for this section included notes such as “Saline water which, believe me from experience, will give you the runs”.  I have enough problems with frequent bathroom breaks that the thought of destroying my stomach with bad water made me want to rather go thirsty. Road walking is a necessary evil on an uncompleted trail and I’ve found myself just going into what is called “walking meditation” where you just let your mind go blank and focus on your steps.  It’s quite relaxing to focus on your steps and breathing and nothing more.

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At the end of the pavement was the sight of Rawlins, WY, a desolate town with not much going for it, as far as I can see.  It seems to be a victim of economic times.  After hitting the local grocery store and Domino’s pizza for dinner I spent the night at a local hotel preparing for the next section, the notorious Great Divide Basin.  This area was a desert that delivered big open stretches of land and even bigger stretches of no water.  The longest water carry was 30 miles between Benton Spring and Weasel Spring.

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The next morning I started my hike across the great desert.  It started innocently enough, parrelling the highway for most of the stretch and a welcomed spring that was fenced in and provided good water.  You had to almost stretch your whole body down into the tube to reach it but it was clear and tasty.  That night we hiked until 11 pm on a road toward a uranium mine.  Cowboy camping next to the road again was fine, but the wind was whipping and cold.  The next day we continued piecing together the trail, following BLM CDT signs which was the only way to figure out which direction to go.  The trick was to assume the sign would be there since 90% of them were knocked down from vicious winds and bad winters.  The walk was long and hot, reaching 109 degrees on one of the four days it took to hike across it.  Reaching each spring was a vindication of your sense of navigation, letting you live another day.  With no trees anywhere, you were a slave to the brutal sun as it beat down on you with very little shade.  When I took my breaks in the sun I felt like a piece of bacon frying on skillet, without the satisfaction of eating bacon.  Benton Spring was a welcome sight as there was a cluster of trees that provided relief from the sun.  I spent several hours there rehydrating and relaxing in the shade, which had become like a valuable currency.

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This was the beginning of a 30 mile stretch with no water and my strategy was to hike long into the cool of the night.  I’m not a big fan of night hiking but in the desert it’s a different story.  It was cooler, the ‘trail’ was easy to follow and gave great views of the big open sky and its stars.  On one of these nights, the sky to the north was full of thunderstorms which entertained me with an amazing lighting show.  It’s a beautiful thing to walk and watch nature provide its violent, but beautiful array of lightning bolts and spectacular wonder.  It was a night I will not soon forget.  After hiking from 5 am until midnight we made camp near the road.  After setting out my quilt and pad I laid down to what I had hoped would be much needed sleep. However, after only five minutes, rain came through, which forced me to roll myself up like a burrito in my shelter.  If it weren’t for the funk coming off of my tent it would have been a good night.  Rising at 5 am to beat the heat, I walked the remainder of the desert road until getting to a new road that would lead me to South Pass city where a resupply would be waiting.  Arriving in South Pass City, Wyoming’s biggest gold rush city, I grabbed my resupply, toured the old building and walked to the highway to catch a ride to Lander, WY.  There I took a couple of much needed days of rest and let my feet recover from the torment the desert provided.

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Grand Lake to the Wyoming Border

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After being in the ultra-tourist town of Grand Lake, I was ready to get back on the trail. Steamboat was 73 miles away and the hike would include plenty of high ridges.  I headed out of town following the highway, officially entering Rocky Mountain National Park. Soon I would start winding up the never-ending connections of ATV roads that lead to the ridge of Cascade Mountain.  After a couple of hours I reached the ridge that would take me to the top of Rudy Mountain. However, after spying some thick, dark clouds to the west, I decided to get my tent set up and hunker down for the inevitable storm that was going to pass over me soon.  I was correct in my prediction as heavy rain, hail and lighting rushed over my tent.  The gale-force winds and rain were so strong I could feel myself almost being lifted off of the ground.  I laid there knowing I had no control over what was happening, and that was amplified when lighting struck not 50 yards from my tent.  It was an immediate BOOM-CRACK followed by a sensation of electricity flowing right through my body.  My hair stood up like Mr. T and I could feel a complete sensation fill my body.  I had just been a medium for the current to flow through me.  This was the scariest weather-related incident on the trail, for me, so far and I hope it doesn’t happen again.

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The next day, I packed up and made my way around Cascade Mountain and down the dirt bike track, leading to connecting trails to Willow Creek Pass.  The trail was good but the constant up and down was draining my energy.  I only made it a couple of miles past the pass and made camp in a car camping spot that provided some protection from the rain.  In the morning I climbed up Parkview Mountain, which has an old weather cabin at the top that is now littered with mice and spiders.  The cabin was also full of tags from CDT hikers that came before me and other hikers I’d have heard of like D-Low, Andrew Skurka, Lint and the ghosts of many other hikers that came before me.  It was like the CDT wall of fame and I was proud to leave my mark behind for all others to look at, in the future.  Leaving the cabin lead up the ridge at 11,200’ until dropping down and around Haystack Mountain.

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Being up high was great for the views but it makes water sources scarce, so its important to camel up or take enough with you.  The trail remained high on the ridge for most of this section, which I really enjoyed, but made timing really important.  You have to get up early enough to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms because you don’t want to get caught up high when the clouds come bearing down on you.  I also didn’t want to do too many “bonus” miles escaping the ridges.  Luckily this didn’t happen to me, but I got close a couple of times.

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I started my descent from the mountains on Indian Creek Road, which leads to Highway 14 and eventually, Muddy Pass.  It was a dirt road that went on for a long time.  My sunglasses fell victim to my brain dead walk. I left them at the last decent water spot I could find before a herd of cows fouled the water.  I like to think there’s a cow out there wearing my shades right now.  After spending the night in a camping spot off the road, surrounded by cow pies, I started my walk down highway 14, which connects to highway 40 at Muddy Pass and the end of the section at Rabbit Ears Pass.  Walking a total of 15 miles on the highway is hell. Not only are cars passing only 2 feet from you as you’re walking the barely-there shoulder, but it turns your feet into ground beef.  It was a miserably hot day.

After making it to Rabbit Ears Pass and hitching into town with another hiker named Pacer, I was happy to have the comfort of a hotel and a hot shower.

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Leaving Steamboat and rejoining the trail at the pass, I was excited to be entering the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area.  This area is famous for its high passes, alpine lakes and gorgeous scenery.  It had been a place I’d wanted to visit for some time and I was happy it was on my route.  It was also the first place I had seen the name ‘Wyoming’ so far, following the Wyoming trail 1101 until I hit the border.  The Zirkel did not disappointment, with its many lakes such as Round Lake, Luna Lake and dozens of others.  Going over or near Mt. Ethel, Lost Ranger Peak and The Dome which was spectacular.  I took an alternate path down the Three Island Lakes trail as it was a little shorter and described as scenic on the Ley maps.  I was not disappointed with a great lake to dip my feet into after some rough down hill and hot weather.

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Dropping down to the forest road and following it on my way to Diamond Park I was flagged down my some campers next to the road.  They asked me what I was doing and I gave them the now-scripted story of hiking to Canada on the CDT.  One of the guys in the group quickly advised me that “well hell, you must need a beer!”  Yes, yes I did need a beer!  I quickly became friends with this group of campers that consisted of two families and their kids, out car camping.  They were great people; feeding me a burger, potato salad, beans and BBQ chips.  Before dinner it was customary to drink a couple of beers and then shoot off some guns, which I was happy to do, since I don’t own guns nor shoot them off very often.  Turns out I’m a pretty good shot!

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In the morning I said my goodbyes and headed up trail knowing I was getting close to the Wyoming border.  I hurriedly made my way on forest roads and deadfall trail.  I tried to make it to the border that day, but fell short by only 7 miles.  In the morning I got up early and bolted up the trail knowing Wyoming was close.  Finally around noon I saw a sign nailed to a tree saying ‘Wyoming State Line’.  I was elated!  I was so happy to had known I walked into Wyoming.  I took about 40 pictures of myself with the sign, near the sign, funny face, serious face, thumbs up and the victorious arms raised pose.  There’s a white line of rocks that marks the borderline of the two states and I couldn’t help jumping back and forth between the two and lay there so that my upper body was in my Wyoming while my lower body was in Colorado.  I’m a dork but it was fun to play around.

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Not long after that I was at Battle Pass hitching my way down to Encampment where my resupply was hopefully sitting at the post office.  I was excited be in Wyoming and knew that I now only had one more state to go!


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Tennessee Pass to Grand Lake

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Coming back from an injury isn’t easy, especially when you still have to hike over 1,300 miles to finish your trip.  I had spent the last 2 1/2 weeks sitting on my sister’s couch with my left foot elevated.  It needed time to heal from the infection and new diagnosis of gout that the doctor gave me.  It was good to be home to see family, friends and the whole series of the Stanley Cup, but after hiking 20 miles a day for the last 6 weeks, it was hard to sit still.

Finally, after giving it some time to heal and a somewhat ‘thumbs up’ from my doctor to continue my journey, I started back on the trail on Tennessee Pass outside of Leadville, CO.  I picked this spot because it was where I would be if I didn’t get hurt and most of my trail friends were still about a week behind, giving my body and foot time to get back in shape.  I hit the trail again with my ginger foot and started out slow.  Doing only 15 miles my first couple of days and constantly worrying about it as I walked.  I didn’t want to screw it up again.

My first section was from Tennessee Pass to Frisco/Dillon, which would take me up some high passes, pounding the 2 weeks of sloth out of my body.  The going wasn’t easy but I was happy to be back out.  You do miss the views and daily walking and this section brought the views and some rain along with it.  The daily occurrence of 3 pm rain clouds with frequent thunder was my new reality from the clearer days of New Mexico.  The change of scenery and increasingly great ups and downs of elevation was enough to remind me that I was on a whole new section of trail.

Starting back up at Tennessee Pass

Starting back up at Tennessee Pass

After 3 days I arrived at the base of Copper Mountain Ski resort, a tourist town in the summer with mountain biking and bars.  I slept that night behind the convenience store off of I-70 and listened to the cars and trucks drive by all night… I was back to being hiker trash.

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The next day I opted to take the 14-mile bike route to Frisco and Dillon versus the up and over Breckenridge to give my foot an easing-in period.  The walk down the bike path was nice and easy and just what I wanted.  Once I arrived in Frisco I had to stop in at the local brewery to try their stout, which was tasty and satisfying after the past couple of days.  I ended up staying in Summit County for a couple of days because my foot was hurting and I didn’t want to push it too hard, too soon.

After two days of rest I headed back on the trail, opting for the purple alternative route on my map that took me over Ptarmigan Peak and the subsequent high ridges for the remainder of the route to Berthoud Pass.  Staying at or near 10,000 feet for the next couple of days was a great experience and provided me with the opportunity to play weatherman.  You have to watch the weather as you hike because you don’t want to get caught up on a high ridge with lighting.  It’s a game that I was playing with the mountains, watching clouds to see if they were going to play nice or were going to unleash rain and lightning on me.

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One afternoon after coming down from a high ridge I found the Denver Water Jones Pass water station, which was right below the road I was to walk up for 4 miles to get to it’s pass.  An open garage was a welcome site to get out of the rain for a little bit and as I huddled under it’s overhang, like a hiding animal, a worker came up to see what I was doing.  I introduced myself and told him what I was doing and he acknowledged me with a smile, saying I was the first CDT hiker he’d seen this year.  I was surprised, but not really, because I’m guessing not many hikers cower in garages on the trail.  He invited me to stay in one of the many open rooms he had in the cabin, which was great because it had been raining all afternoon and a warm cabin with a nice bed was a welcome treat.  We ate ham sandwhiches, applesauce chips for dinner (that tasted amazing), while watching Discovery channel’s new show “Naked and Afraid”.

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After a nice night’s sleep I headed up Jones Pass and walked the horseshoe loop past Vasquez Peak and up Stanley Mountain.  At the top of Stanley Mountain, which sits at 12,400 feet, the sky opened up.  The rain started coming down in sheets and lightning was striking in the far distance.  I really had nowhere to go.  I know the smart thing to do would have probably been to head straight down the mountain. Instead, I kicked it into overdrive and hiked like hell to get to Berthoud Pass.  I made the 7 miles in just over 2 hours, finally getting out of the hail and rain at the shelter on the pass.  I know it was stupid to do but, I was playing the odds and this time the lightning decided to save me for another day.

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It was the 4th of July on the day I reached Berthoud Pass. Seeing how it was only 5 pm, I decided to hitch down to Winter Park, assuming they would have a fireworks show.  4th of July just happens to be my most favorite holiday, so I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to see some fireworks. I wasn’t disappointed to find out about a show happening in Fraser at the local ballpark.  It was great to sit there watching fireworks with a local community, watching the families and kids running around enjoying the day.

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After some rest, I started back up the trail on Berthoud Pass, going up to 12,000 feet and staying there for the next 3 days.  I went up and over peaks such as Colorado Mines Peak, Mt Flora, Mt Eva, Parry Peak, James Peak and Rollins Pass.  A particularly tricky section of trail between Parry and James Peak was a knife-edge traverse, with sheer cliffs on both sides. Of course with my luck, a heavy rain came down as I was traversing it.  After that scary section I was welcomed with a talus field that was wet and treacherous for my enjoyment.  After some time and careful footing, I made up to James Peak.

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That night, as I sat just north of James Peak in my tent, a small fox came running up to my tent to see what I was having for dinner.  It came to just within 5 feet of me and just sat there, staring at me, waiting for me to feed it.  I didn’t.  A fed animal is a dead animal in my book but I enjoyed its company, nonetheless.

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After arriving at Devils Thumb, I headed down the High Lonesome Trail, passing Monarch Lake, which is absolutely gorgeous and should not be missed, if you are in the area.  I arrived at the Big Rock Campground and met two CDT hikers that I had last seen at the Mexican border.  We talked about the upcoming section heading to Grand Lake. We had all heard that the ‘official’ route was full of blow-downs and shore-walking that was treacherous and had been shunned by most who had hiked it before us.  I opted for the 14-mile road walk into Grand Lake and was happy that I did.  I camped next to the lake my last night before hitting the town and enjoyed a wonderful sunset over the water that me reminded why I’m back out on the trail and why I will keep going until the end.

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The Exceptional, the Good and the Ugly in My Pack

all my gear

Since I began hiking the trail, my gear has been with me the whole time and nothing tests gear more than thru-hiking a long trail like the CDT.  Here is the gear that I find exceptional, gear that is good enough and some stuff that just hasn’t met my expectations.

The Exceptional:

Hyperlite Mountain Gear WindRider 3400:

My pack is always with me and having a good one is essential to enjoying yourself on the trail.  Not only does it need to carry everything I need on my back, it has to be comfortable and a trusted friend on the trail.  The pack has held up great through these 1,300 miles. Its two lightweight stays keep it nice and formed on my back, while carrying everything comfortably.  The outside mesh pockets have held up well with all of my frequently used items like my rain pants, water treatments, snacks and anything else I can cram into them.  The large collar on the pack allows me room to roll it up when not full or to have it fully extended during those long sections that demand a full load of food and supplies.  The hip belt is comfortable and the hip pockets keep my snacks close at hand while I’m hiking.  Overall it’s a great pack and would recommend it for all your hiking needs.

Gossamer Gear “The One” Tent:

This shelter is my home away from home and has not disappointed.  Its storm worthiness has proved itself time again in heavy winds and rain.  It’s roomy enough to hold all my gear and its mesh has helped eliminate condensation, even in downpours and while camping near creeks, which usually bring lots of moisture to the air.  Its full mesh door and vestibule keeps the bugs out and my pack and shoes protected in bad weather.  Setting up the tent does take some time to figure out, but once you have it down with your two trekking poles, it’s a great shelter for all your needs.

EyeFi 8GB SD Card:

I don’t know what I would do with out this little card.  The SD card is Wi-Fi enabled so I can upload the pictures to my phone, which then upload to the Eyefi site when I have reception.  This lets me keep taking pictures even when I’m not near a computer.  I also don’t lose any pictures since they are already loaded onto my phone. Even if I did lose my camera (lets hope that doesn’t happen), I don’t have to worry that those memories might be lost forever.  Basically if you’re looking to buy an SD card, buy this one.  You won’t regret it.

Earplugs:

It might seem odd to include this, but I’ve found them to be indispensable.  At night, when you’re tired after hiking a long day, I don’t want to be woken up because of a strong wind or unusual sound in the woods.  I guess I’d rather be ignorant to the bear walking around my tent in the middle of the night then waking up and worrying about it.  Also if you hike with people that snore loud, you can’t hear them in your blissful sleep.

Nemo Equipment Zor Pad (Short):

At only 10 oz, this sleep pad has been my mattress out on the trail.  It’s quick and easy to inflate and makes any hard surface that I sleep on comfortable.  It’s long and wide enough to cover my shoulders, and its 3/4 length protects me up to my knees.  Its gives me the comfort that I need to sleep soundly and comfortably in any environment I encounter and packs up small.

The Good:

Delorme InReach System

Honestly I really didn’t want to carry any kind of SOS or tracking system while on the trail but for my family and friends it gives them comfort that I’m not dead.  The unit itself is not exactly light, at 8 oz.  It does have cool features like dropping a ‘tack’ of my progress every 10 min, 1 hr or every 2 hours, so you can see where I am in real time (See “Where’s Pete” in the navigation, above). Its preset messages let me check in my exact location at night .   The problem that I’ve had with the unit is that messages only go through about 70% of the time because the connection with my Android phone gets “unpaired” frequently. This requires me to do some technical work on it, when in town.  The service for it also isn’t cheap –  $69 per month,for the expedition package.  In the end, it’s good for my family and friends but it is a pain to deal with when it doesn’t work.

Goal Zero Nomad 7

This solar charger could have been in the Exceptional section as well, but I’m a little frustrated with it lately.  It is lightweight and is essential to keeping my phone, camera and headlamp charged when I’m not near an outlet.  The only problem I have with it is that when you have your phone plugged in and you go into shaded areas, it has a tendency to drain the battery in my phone and sometimes turns it on.  My phone charges much faster when it’s off.  I guess I’m not complaining, just annoyed with that little error in charging.

 

Darn Tough Socks:

Keeping your feet happy is a key to any hike.  These socks are comfortable but don’t last as long as I would like them to.  My system is to change out my socks mid day and wash the used pair to dry out on my pack as I walk so I can wear them the next day.  This continuous cycle of wearing and washing really wears them out quickly. It quickly creates holes and thin areas of fabric, which can cause blisters.  Luckily, Darn Tough has a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so they do replace the damaged socks when you send them to the company.  That’s good customer service, but having socks that don’t get holes in them would be even better.

 

The Ugly:

Enlightened Equipment-Revelation 20 custom Quilt:

I’ve been a quilt user for many years and find them superior to regular sleeping bags.  When getting ready for the trail I wanted something that would be warm enough, wide enough and long enough for my sleeping style.  This company had great reviews so I decided to order a custom quilt from them that was 58” wide, 84” in length and have 16 oz of down.  This quilt cost me over $300 and I couldn’t be more disappointed.  First, the quilt is designed with “Step Baffles” with the idea that you can move the down around to specific boxes on the quilt where you want the down to be.  This has been a disaster.  The down never stays in place, instead it ends up falling to the sides of the bag leaving me with just a thin layer of 10D nylon to keep me warm.  The advertised 2.5 inches of loft is completely wrong.  The down is so thin and uneven that I can’t see where you would find such a measurement of loft.  I would estimate no more than 1/4 inch of loft anywhere on the entire quilt.  I have to wear my down jacket when I sleep to give me the warmth that I need to sleep.  The adjustable neck closure is placed right in the center of the quilt so you have this annoying cord in your face all night as you sleep.  The design of this quilt is so basic, I think that an 8th grade sewing class could have designed it.  The quilt has been the biggest disappointment for gear on my trip and would highly recommend against buying this quilt, for any reason whatsoever.  Unfortunately, I am still using this quilt because I have nothing else to replace it with, and I did spend over $300 for it .  I did speak with the owner/designer of the quilt and he did offer to add 3 more ounces of down for me, but it would have just fallen to the side like the rest of the down already inside of it.


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Coming Home to Recover

I’m laying on the couch with a cold drink in my hand, watching the latest daytime show. I’m wondering whether or not the weird-looking guy on the screen is the baby daddy.  This was what was on my mind the first week after returning to Denver to recuperate from an injury I got in my last 25 miles of hiking in New Mexico.  I made it to Cumbres Pass, CO, before hitching to the nearest town to resupply. That happened to be back in New Mexico at Chama.  My left foot was completely swollen, warm to the touch and had turned some nasty colors.  I knew this wasn’t good and figured in the back of my head that this was not going to heal overnight or even after a couple zero days.  In a town of only 1,200 people, I knew finding a doctor wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew there had to be one nearby.

The waitress who was working that morning in the restaurant below my rented room gave me the number of a local doctor who she thought could help.  She mentioned that he was older and worked a “flexible” schedule, which, I later found out meant when he wasn’t fishing, hunting, painting or doing anything else with his day.  The other option was the vet clinic in town but since I’m not a golden retriever I didn’t think that was reasonable.  I walked the couple of blocks to a local trail angels business and asked for her advice and she said there was a clinic about 20 miles away.  There was no bus or shuttle that could take me, but she did volunteer her elderly mother who, she said, would be happy to take me there.  I hesitated, at first, because I didn’t like the idea of bothering someone to drive me that far and then have to wait to drive me back.  I decided to call the clinic before making any decisions and they said I could come in as a walk-in, but they didn’t know how long a wait I would have.  I relayed this to the waitress, but she said, “ it doesn’t matter, she’s not doing anything anyways”.  I looked at my foot, looked at her and then looked again at my swollen foot and accepted her offer.  Her mom was there in 10 minutes.  She really didn’t have anything to do that day.  I got into the car slowly and started profusely thanking her for her kindness, for taking the time out of her day to drive me to the doctor.  She just said, “No problem.”

We drove the 20 miles to the La Clinica del Pueblo, a local clinic that had only two doctors and lots of patients.  I filled out the paperwork and waited my turn.  The lobby was crowded, so I started playing “what’s wrong with that person?”  One guy I figured for Diabetes, another with heart problems, one guy looked a little nuts and then there were the couples of pregnant women and their supportive boyfriends/husbands.  After about a 1-hour wait the nurse started asking me all kinds of questions. I explained what I was doing, how it might have happened and how I was feeling.  I was lead to a larger room and waited for the main doctor who turned out to be a woman who has worked at the clinic for years.  She looked at my foot and knew it was infected for sure but she also thought it was possible Gout.  Unsure of what it was, she did what she called “sloppy medicine” which means she treated me for both.  Sloppy or not, the two injections in my ass hurt.   I walked into the clinic with just my foot hurting but now I was walking out with my ass hurting as well!   I got a total of 2 injections of antibiotics and another injection of something else, which I didn’t ask about.  They also took x-rays of my foot and said I had soft tissue damage. This was no surprise to me, since I did just walk 600 miles across New Mexico.

We drove back to Chama with a Ziplock bag full of meds and a $300 medical bill.  I said good bye to the lovely ride, giving her $20 in gas money and an offer for lunch the next day.  Now there was only one thing to do; decide if I wanted to stay the next two weeks in Chama laying in a hotel and watching my bank account dwindle or find a ride to Denver to recover.  The thought of staying in Chama for two weeks wasn’t appealing so I started searching for ways to get home.  Chama had no bus service, no Amtrack, no car rental service, not even a horse and buggy.  The nearest car rental place was in Pagosa Springs but they didn’t want to rent me a one-way car. Finally and fortunately, I ended up getting a ride from my awesome sister who came to Chama and picked me up and drove me the 5 hours back to Denver.

The first couple of days felt like I was in some parallel universe.  There was TV, running water, electronics, sliding glass doors, a fridge full of food and a toilet.  I realize I didn’t come from the moon or some barren planet, but to go from walking 25 miles a day in the woods for the past 6 weeks, to this was kind of a shock.  I found it really hard to just sit on a couch with my foot elevated, taking meds and watching TV.  Before I left I would watch TV or play video games all the time, but now it had become this weird activity.  I was no longer on a great adventure, but sitting in my sister’s living room.  Honestly, I didn’t do anything that week.  I just rented movies, caught up on all the episodes I had missed from my favorite shows and played around on the internet.  I found myself getting depressed like I had been before the hike.  Of course, I was mad that I had gotten injured and knew I would miss a huge chunk of the trail in Colorado. I would have to come back and do over again.  It really is true that exercise is great for depression because when I’m out there I don’t feel depressed.  I don’t have the anxiety I had in the city, the negative thoughts and self-loathing I had felt before.  Being active as I had been does do something to your brain; releasing chemicals that change you and make you feel good.  My body wanted to feel good again and it wanted to move.

After 7 days the swelling was mostly gone but the pain persisted.  I couldn’t walk far without the pain beginning in the front, bottom portion of my left foot.  I would try to push it, but it hurt and I didn’t want to cause any damage that would take me out of the game completely.  I took it easy.  I saw friends for happy hours, lunches and dinners.  I got to watch every game of the Stanley cup and NBA finals.  I got to catch up with friends and learn what was happening in their lives instead of just thinking about what was happening with me.  Everyone has been very supportive of my trip and sorry I got hurt, but they all encouraged me to accomplish my goal.  I have a great family and group of friends supporting me.

So, its now Wednesday and and I’m getting out of here.  I’m getting back on the trail in Leadville, CO.  I will miss about 300 miles of the trail which I will make up once I get to Canada. I’ll make a beeline for Cumbres Pass, making Leadville my official end to the CDT.  This is NOT what I had planned for my hike but this is my hike now.  I’ll go from being in the rear of the CDT herd to the middle.  I want to get my strength and speed back so when my friends catch up to me I can hike with them the rest of the way.

I’m so ready to get back to the CDT.  Its been hard for me because I love the day to day of my life on the trail. Every day is different.  Every smell is different.  I lift my head in the morning, not knowing where I will put it down again at night and I like that.  I will make it to Canada and I will finish the sections I missed.  I know this isn’t my last setback, but I’ve learned from this experience and know it will make me stronger and more determined than ever.