Light Years

The trail both humbled and disappointed me when I had to bail off the snowy Colorado trail. But my safety was more important to me. Flipping north and then back south was an expense and logistical mess. But I will soon be in Montana/Idaho and headed for Canada!
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After 4 days on trail, escaping Colorado I finally got signal and with that the sad news that a dear friend (Mr. French) had passed. It’s times like that I just want to go home, or fall to pieces. But I can’t quit or stop I have to keep moving forward, thus is life.

But when things get tough angels step in. At the trailhead I met some folks on vacation from Georgia, Cooper and Jane. They not only offered a ride to town but took us to their rental home for lunch, showers and laundry. Cooper reminded me of my friend, witty/funny, lifting my spirits. Later they took us to dinner in town, lettings us camp on the lawn after chatting around a campfire. THEN…drove us up to catch our bus the next morning!


With all the craziness going on right now, know there are people out there like Cooper and Jane. People so kind and generous, to strangers just stumbling out of the woods.
I’ll be very busy when I get back home, paying forward all the kindness showed to me out here. I can’t wait.

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This next section is for you Mr. French! Thanks for the laughter and believing in me (even on the trail I didn’t finish). I’ll be rockin that AT buff, see ya on the other side.

And wherever you’ve gone
And where ever we might go
It don’t seem fair
Today just disappeared
Your lights reflected now
Reflected from a far
We were but stones
Your light made us stars- Eddie V.

 

Extreme hiking

There’s a sign in Rocky Mountain National Park with the saying “the mountains don’t care”. Yep they don’t. They are there to marvel at and for those, who dare, to climb. I am not a fan of climbing (hiking uphill), heck I didn’t even like biking uphill. So thank the sweet baby Jesus I am out of Colorado, but the mountains don’t care.
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I was told I picked the wrong hobby to not like climbing. I don’t think so. At home I can hike over the mountain or around, hike the city or the desert. Going where I want/choose, at my speed. Out here I’m on the trail (when I’m not lost). Out here is not hobby hiking, it’s extreme hiking.

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More of this please..

“Embrace the Brutality,” the unofficial motto of the CDT, isn’t just hype. On the CDT you face risks that are rare on the other long-distance trails and challenging climbs. Thru hiking ain’t for everyone. But ‘hobby hiking’ is!! Get on the trail, or street (Urban hiking); make your own route. Find your own way, even if it’s around the mountain. That is all……now go!

It’s the climb….

I wake up chilly, no actually cold. Why is it so cold, in August? Stealth camped just outside of Grand Lake, what cute town, I’d live here. From my tent the lake is not visible through the fog it’s only .5 miles away. I don’t want to get out of my sleeping bag, but I have to potty so I’m up. It’s a later wake up than usual, headed into town for AYCE buffet, resupply, and make plans to get back up to Montana.
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The last 4 days have been rough for me. Moral is low, energy is low but the climbs have been high. Guess I’m just trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel but I can’t with all the rain, hail and clouds! Really I’m not good at climbing, toss in crappy weather and I’m a mess.


Just south of Winter Park I got lost. After a huge climb I got to the peak and couldn’t find the trail down. It was covered in rock with like a bjillion cairns. The jagged rocks hurt my feet and I kept tripping, that’s when it started raining, great. I clumsily got myself down to some trees thinking I’d find the trail, nope. My crappy GPS would only show where I was but not any direction. I ended up climbing back uphill then following a forest service road to where the trail crossed it. So frustrating. I had shooting pain in my feet by the time I made it to camp.


It has become hard to enjoy the incredible sceanary when I am constantly just trying to out run the daily rain storm or not roll my ankle on a rock. It is beautiful, really, lakes surrounded by mountains and nice camp sites. I’d like to come back…..and car camp, sometime when I’m not racing to Canada.

Leadville adventure

We got dropped off by our ride at the Safeway grocery store. After wondering around aimlessly I finally got enough food, sorta. (I’m still having eating issues like on the PCT. I just don’t have a taste for anything while on trail. So basically I’m not getting enough calories and my energy is way low. But only like 800 ish miles to go, I’ll make it, eventually.)

Anyway, we got a ride back to the trail before we even got out of the parking lot. 20 minutes later we’re standing back near the trailhead looking at the looming gray sky. A check of the forecast..thunderstorms, agh. We decided to hitch BACK to Leadville, again!

Ended up getting a ride from two very nice guys. Staying in one of the motels seemed like a good inexpensive option. However, every motel we stopped at was full! There was a mountain bike race going on. That’s when one of the guys said “i have an apartment you girls can stay in, if you want, just lock up when you leave.” Hmmm, ok.

Turns out his friend lived in the main house and we got the entire downstairs apartment to ourselves! The friend came down with beer and regaled us with some interesting stories. Conveniently he had a friend that worked at the liquor store! We stayed for two days, I was glad not to be out in the rain. Kelsey wants to go back for the donkey races in a week! Ah, geez.

Escaping the Leadville vortex I am egar to finish these last miles out of Colorado. Not sure how I’m gonna get back to Idaho yet. But hey, things tend to work out as they should.

Salida social time

Well I made it to Salida by getting a great hitch from a girl named Chelsea. I had been watching cars pass for about 40 minutes before she stopped. Chelsea is from Gunnison and was headed into Salida to meet some old friends.

I hadn’t run into Kelsey on trail and couldn’t figure out how I could have passed her. So I was hopping to find her in town. I ended up at the Simple Lodge hostel. Great hostel in a great location, only blocks from the Arkansas River. The hostel was full of hikers on the Colorado Trail, it was fun talking and hanging out with them. Reminded me of being on the PCT.


I met Blaze (from La Jolla) and Michelle (from Pennsylvania) we all went out to celebrate Tequila Day and watched people body surf in the river. Salida is cute little town, with its own town deer! Yep, actually there is about 3 that just hanging out in town.

When Kelsey didn’t show I resupplied and hopped a shuttle with Blaze and Michelle back to the trail head. They headed south on the CT and I headed north on the CDT.

I passed about 20 CT hikers that day all headed southbound. Just me hiking solo northbound. I have to say I do enjoy hiking solo, there is a different feeling when you are are alone. There is a sense of freedom, independence and self reliance. I also hike differently when solo, my own pace.

I hiked two whole days by myself and enjoyed it. (I do miss having someone else in camp at night though, and I suck at selfies) I hiked out that morning and got surprised by a moose!! I took a picture and watched him standing in water for a bit before heading up the climb to the pass. At the top of the pass guess who comes up behind me? Kelsey! She had taken the alternate route. We exchanged stories of the last days as we hiked into Twin Lakes.


Twin Lakes was not so great. Very small and the store did not have a good resupply. After getting kicked out of the restaurant/inn, yeah that happened. We decided to hitch into Leadville, as I had heard it was a hiker friendly fun adventure. We got a ride quickly and planned on getting supplies and getting right back on trail…..but Leadville.

Rebounding and Ragbrai

After counting to ten multiple times and being on the phone with Verizon for 30 mins I got them to overnight me a new phone! Honestly they did not make it easy. They could not send it to the post office I was sitting right in front of, nope. I was there to get my box with my much needed shoes. Luckily a nice guy at the Coffee on the Fly shop let me use their address.


The phone arrived late afternoon the next day. I worried most of the day that my apps (mostly I was concerned about my trail map app Guthooks). While I sat on the floor of the post office, charging the new phone (and saying prayers) a local lady invited us to spend the night in their “trailer”. Turns out the “trailer” was a motor home with a queen bed, electricity and a shower! The trail does provide.


The next morning after as we headed out I realized that my GPS did not have a locator button. Kelsey was itching to get back on the trail so I told her to go ahead while I headed back into town to fix the problem. I was not going into the wilderness with it not working, nope. It only took about 15 mins to correct once I got on Wi-Fi. But by the time I got on trail Kelsey was long gone.

I hiked most of the day til it started to rain and I got wet/cold. About 18 miles in I gave up and set up camp. It was actually a good day even with the rain because CDT joined up with the CT (Colorado Trail). It was fun to all of a sudden see other hikers. All though they were headed in the opposite direction, but yeah people!!

The next day I was sure I’d catch Kelsey but nope. I admit I was distracted by OMG, trail magic! I was gifted rice krispy treats and coke at the first stop. Woohoo!! With that sugar injection I was off to the races. I was really moving, 10 miles by 10 am! Feeling good with good trail I set out for 10 more by 2pm. That’s when I hit the next trail magic stop. Fresh water, hot dogs and yes more coke. With that I took off determined to pull a 30 mile day. Racing the rain I made it 33 miles. Biggest mile day this whole trail. I really need to start packing out soda pop!!! Or maybe it was those spiffy new shoes and insoles. Or maybe all those encouraging comments from everyone, thanks guys! What a difference a day makes, hang in there.

To all you guys on the Ragbrai stay safe and keep the rubber side down!

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Nothing without Providence

Nothing without Providence -the Colorado state motto…..

Colorado started out beautifully, but into each life some rain must fall. The clouds gathered, then there was hail and rain. Not a warm rain, oh no, a very chilly rain. There is no guessing when it will start between 12 and 4pm, maybe, but pretty much everyday. So you either hike in it, put the tent up and wait it out, or huddle under a pine tree, shivering, wrapped in your rain fly. (That rain fly is surprisingly warm, btw)

There was still some spotty snow to traverse, but mostly I just got wet feet. Still managed to get “lost”(i.e. get way off trail). Someday I’ll learn to consult GPS map first instead of going off all Willy nilly. Ended up exhausting myself climbing up to the wrong pass, then down to the valley and up again to the correct pass. I seriously had to almost crawl to camp. I laid in my tent with back spasms, staring at a rainbow in the distance, maybe I’m too old for this.

Lately I’ve found myself mesmerized by the scenery. The wild flowers, the streams, the elk herds..I just want to sit and take it all in, but I have to hike. A little voice tries to remind me ‘enjoy this, this moment, this day’. I push on, to all the things ahead Montana, other hikers, Canada. Well life has a way of slowing you down.

After a quick stop in town, food, charge batteries we raced a storm to camp. It rained most of the night, I awoke happy to hear it had stopped. Grabbed my phone to check the time….and the screen was black! Well partially black but enough to make me panic.

My phone is my everything, clock, camera, phone, gps/map, computer and connection to the world! Omg! Everything is on there notes, blog posts, numbers, passwords…crap. Nearest Verizon store 40 miles away (btw they will not help you unless you come there). I want to scream, cry, throw a tantrum. Is this how this trail ends? I can’t go out into the woods without GPS and no maps. I can’t afford a new phone! Crap are my pictures backed up? Panic, panic, panic, breathe.

Sidenote: yes I know I should not depend solely on electronics and should have papers maps. I typically do, but the paper maps I ordered, well, agh…long story I’ll explain later. 

Going with the flow

Sorry, I know its been awhile. I’ve been in the wind! But here’s  an update:

Ok after the brief July snow it was nice to stumble into Kilgore, ID. A tiny but festive town. They put on a great fireworks show, that I caught from my tent! One little girl even gave us sparklers!

Off trail heading into Kilgore, ID we ran into a group travelling by motorcycles and a van. They were so kind to share snacks and water. It’s in the detours that you find the magic. Read about our meet up here https://carlastories.me.

People have been more than kind in Idaho. In the town of Salmon a guy called us over to this bakery and gave us tasty croissant sandwiches! Later while having dinner at Bertrams Brewery a few customers asked about our trip. When we went to go pay our bill it had already been paid. Oh yea, if you are in Salmon checkout the Sacajawea Inn, great theme rooms!

Two days outside of Salmon, ID I got a call from my friend Tom (Toasted Toad)! He’s been camping, fishing and helping hikers/bikers all around Montana. Since he was heading back to Colorado we decided to catch a ride. Plan change!

We spent a fun three days traveling back. First visit to Jackson Hole! Camping in a cool back road spot in Yellowstone and in between mining towns in Colorado. I got a bit tipsy at the Yellowstone campsite. Fireball and red wine will do that. We stayed in a hotel in Rawlins and ran into hiker Fun Size! It’s good to know most hikers that hiked Colorado are just entering Wyoming. With luck we can get through Colorado then flip up and be around other hikers.

The CDT is a lot of isolation. Flipping north meant not seeing hikers on trail, and only one in town. I’m kinda a social person so this wears on me.

It’s gonna be rainy going through Colorado at this time, but that is way better than snow. So off to tackle the mountains again!

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I can’t thank Tom enough for hauling us ALL the way back to Chama, NM. It was a fun road trip, thrift store stops and sightseeing and catching up with a friend.

For me this journey is not just about cranking out 3000 miles as quickly as possible. In the end it’s about the experiences and a lifetime of memories.

Just waiting on a friend

I was super excited to see Tom (aka Toasted Toad)! He’s a trail friend from the PCT.

 


We met up at the Ole Faithful Village, can’t believe we found each other in that mess of people. He loaded us up with Mountain House meals and then set us up with lunch. He was hiking the CDT but had to get off due to an injury. He was out camping and helping hikers.

We also ran into Samson again and met Mary and Rodger from St Cloud, MN!
Tom offered us a ride but we declined, staying to see the geyser and hike out. (Hmmm) Call if you need anything Tom says, thanks we say.

Long story short we hiked out into a mosquito attack of epic proportions. We were practically jogging down trail chased by swarms, after hiking through a swampy area. Kelsey had so many bites she looked she had chicken pox, she might have zika. We had but one option, ok we had others but….we called Toasted Toad to come save us. That man is saint, do you know he drove like an hour to come get us then drove us ALL the way to Bozeman!

We stayed in Bozeman it was a great zero day. Catching up with an old friend and making ones, loading up on deet!

(PSA: if anybody ever asks you to play Sing-O, just walk away). Toasted Toad, bless his heart, took us ALL the way back to the trail. Thanks again…..hope to see ya, on trail, in Colorado!

 


After being dropped off we hiked right into a snow storm…yep summer on the CDT!

See thrilling video here!

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan S.

Road walked it right on into Tetons NP. Not a fan of road walks, that pavement is a killer on the balls of my feet. But wow the view was breathtaking and the mosquitoes had us picking up the pace.

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Ran into Samson on the road also after Togotee Pass. (I met Samson back on the PCT in Etna! He’s fun guy to hike with, he’s from Mississippi) We all headed into the park via the gate since the trail was closed due to bear management. Kelsey and I opted to hitch into a designated hiker campsite. There was a ridiculous amount of people, kinda over whelming (but there were bear boxes, so yeah). We high tailed it out of there early and ran into….Samson. He kindly got us breakfast then we hitched 27 miles into Yellowstone for our backcountry permits. (Man if the trail was open it would have been only 6 miles and we wouldn’t have had to pay to get in).


Grabbed our permit and headed out after lunch. There was about 10 miles to our campsite. Samson was out front warning the bears with his harmonica, then me and Kelsey behind yelling “bear aware” every now and then. We made great time with Samson leading, that dude is long leg fast.

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I was mad sweating when we got to camp. But no time to lollygag, the mosquitoes attacked as soon as we stopped moving. Agh!!


The next morning Samson took off early and we weren’t to far behind. We had 15 miles to Old Faithful where we were meeting Toasted Toad, my hiker buddy from the PCT!!