The Colorado Trail: Day 11
Today was a day of feast and famine. I knew that I would have to start conserving my food yesterday afternoon when I started looking at what I have left and considering the miles that I had ahead. I figured that this wouldn’t be much of a problem—after all, what’s a single day or maybe two days of food rationing in the grand scheme of things—right? Wrong. I've had all day to think about it, and I can say not only from the way that I felt, but from my logical reasoning, I didn’t bring enough food on this stretch of the trail. I guess it has to happen on every thru hike so I can learn a lesson, but I still have unpleasant memories of when I made this mistake on the PCT. It was much worse for me on the PCT though because for some reason (it’s a story unto itself that I’m not going to get into right now) I ended up with basically 500 calories per day for the last two days of a leg on the PCT. It was miserable. It was like holding my breath underwater, but more drawn out and unending.
This time it’s not nearly as bad, but I know that I am at a food shortage. This only came to my attention in the later hours of the afternoon today. I thought that I was just kind of having a sort of rough day on trail. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying being out here, but it was certainly the most emotionally challenging day that I’ve had on the Colorado Trail so far--even more than the rainstorm day that I had before going into Lake City. I was exhausted, I was sluggish, sort of out of it mentally, and overall just not enjoying the hike like I have on almost every other day of the trail. What really made me worry the most was that the weather was great today, but I felt magnitudes worse today than I did a week ago when I woke up to a cold rain storm that lasted through most of the day.
The day didn’t start with that attitude though. Although it was kind of a rough start to the day on account of the fact that last night squirrels or mice ate the handles of my hiking poles (they’re still functional, but they messed them up pretty good, no doubt they could taste the salt in them from my hands’ sweat), the day turned for the worse relatively quickly. There were two signs on the trail that read “CT Trail Angels” with arrows pointing up trail, and I felt torn about it, but I’ll be honest in saying that I got my hopes up. When I saw them I thought that they might have food that could get me through this stretch. I hate having to rely on trail magic, but it did give me hope. The signs were outdated though. There were no trail angels, and they had just been left there for who knows how long... But soon after I passed the road where they could have been set up, the good Lord shined down on me and gave me a blessing that was perhaps even better than trail angels: RASPBERRIES!
At first there was just one bush, and I raided it at a yield of about one hand full. Then around the next bend in the trail there was another bush with two hand fulls. Then the next bend this repeated, and again and again and again. It lasted for about four miles, and I’m quite certain that I would have made a lot more miles today were it not for those damn raspberries, because considering that I was so hungry (I had food in my bag, but I was trying to ration it through the remainder of the day and have enough left for tomorrow) I couldn’t pass them up. I probably ate 500 raspberries over the course of a couple of hours. It slowed my pace, but it brightened my spirit substantively. I honestly ate so many of them that for the first time in my life I was actually full off of raspberries alone. It was magical. Without them the day would have been a lot rougher than it was.
The energy that I got from the berries only lasted so long though. I stopped for water at 9 miles into my day and ate a “lunch,” trying to be cognizant enough to make sure that I didn’t eat too much since I needed to have some left over for tomorrow, and I thought that I was good, but four hours later is when I hit my slump. The weather was a bit warm (though not as hot as yesterday), the trail was rocky and hard to find my footing on, my spirit was low, my energy was low, and it was honestly the first time on the trail that I fully questioned my coming out here. It’s not that I thought that I was going to quit, but it was just generally unpleasant. Then I started to think about it. I had probably consumed 1000 calories for breakfast. Then I had about 700 calories worth of raspberries, and another 700 calories for lunch. That put me at 2,400 calories for the day (before dinner, which was about 1000 calories too). Let’s say that I’m burning 600-800 calories per hour in hiking. That’s a 10 hour day, so maybe 6000 calories burned from hiking. Plus my baseline metabolic rate which is about 2500 calories. That means I need around 8000 calories a day, but today I only got around 3400 calories. No wonder why I was feeling like garbage!
I noticed in the last trail town that I looked like I’ve lost a little bit of weight, but I didn’t give it much thought. In the six months prior to coming out to the Colorado Trail I actually dropped almost 50 pounds, and I’m not a heavy guy to begin with. It was a big weight loss. All this is to say that I don’t have a lot of body fat to be feeding off of, so I’m not really all that shocked that it was a rough day.
As I started thinking about calories today it led me to start fantasizing about the next trail town that I should be hitting tomorrow afternoon. It’s the town of Salida, and it’s by far the biggest trail town that I will have seen so far on the Colorado Trail by many fold. I am almost certainly going to do a zero day there, but I might actually do two of them. I need to get refed and I need to rest a bit. My concern is that I only have about 2000 calories left in my food supply and I have 24 miles left to get there. So my plan is to get up early tomorrow (I’ve been starting my trail days at 8am, but tomorrow I’m aiming for 6:30), eat half the food I have left, and start racking up the miles. If I do it right I should be able to get to town at around 4pm. That’s a long way to wait for food, but I don’t have any choice at this point. All I can do is hope that I’ve learned my lesson and not let this happen again out here on the CT.
When I get to town I’ll probably check into the hostel, and then I need some protein! If the hostel doesn’t have a grill, then I’m finding a place where I can order a steak, and I'm going to ask for two of the biggest steaks that they can give me. I don’t even care about the cost. I need protein, and I need a baked potato. The pizza in Lake City killed me, but steak and potatoes is what I need right now!!!! If the hostel does have a grill, then I’m going to go to the store and find two of the biggest steaks they have and make it happen. I’m excited, but I’m also daunted by the fact that there are many miles in between here and there that I'll have to cover tomorrow.
But if there is one thing that I learned on the PCT, it’s that I didn’t come out to this thru hike because I thought that it would be easy. I came here for challenges, and this is just one of those challenges along the way.
I hope to write back tomorrow with a full stomach and a pint of ice cream in my hand.