• Brandon A. Kelone

The Colorado Trail: Day 12

I finally feel like a thru hiker. I know that might sound like a ridiculous thing to say considering the miles that are under my feet at this point in life, but I don’t know that I ever felt like I do now until this moment. I have *been* a thru hiker before this trail, but only now do I feel like a thru hiker is what I am... I hope that makes sense to some extent. 

I was actually dreading today. I thought that it was going to be a struggle getting into town on how few calories I had left in my backpack, but to be honest with you, today was glorious. It may have been one of my favorite days on trail so far, which is quite a surprise considering how rough yesterday was. To be real with you, I sort of played down the misery yesterday. I didn’t want to admit that it was as rough as it was, but the truth is that I struggled yesterday. I’m comfortable with it now because I know with full certainty that the reason for my struggle was not because I was tired of the trail (as I had feared), but because I was severely underfed. I basically undershot my caloric needs yesterday by 5 or 6,000 calories. That’s way too much and it’s no surprise that I bonked as a result. It was even more firmly validated when I sat down for dinner last night. After the meal my miles actually felt quite good. I just needed more food, and you can be assured that my upcoming stretches of trail are going to have a lot more food than this one did. Even if it means carrying more weight than I had to on this stretch, I’d rather have the extra weight than the struggle of hunger that I had to suffer through yesterday and the latter part of today. 

Anyways, I thought that today was going to be a struggle because I was so low on food, and because I had to set my alarm to get an early start on the day, but it actually ended up being the opposite. I fell in love with the trail again today. It was a little bit of a struggle getting out of bed this morning, but luckily the weather was a bit warmer where I camped last night than it had been in the other places that I’ve set camp on trail, so the cold wasn’t much of a struggle. It was just a struggle getting my brain rolling on such a small breakfast, and thinking about the miles that I still had to hike to get to town. But honestly, when my alarm went off this morning I was excited to get hiking. I was able to get my 8 hours of sleep last night, and I’ve reached a point in the trail where I sleep like a stone in my tent. Honestly, now that I’m in a trail town I worry that it might be a struggle for me to sleep in the hostel, but we’ll see. Hopefully it’s not as hard as the last hostel was. 

So after a night of listening to an elk rummage around outside my tent, I hit the trail early, and I have to say that those early morning miles were nothing short of glorious! It was beautiful watching the sun come up over the eastern horizon, it was nice getting miles in before the temperatures got too hot, and when 9:00 rolled around, I thought to myself how nice it was to already have 6 miles under foot for the day when I’d normally just be getting started. The caloric restriction wasn’t even too much of an issue this morning. The miles felt like heaven. I was in love with it again. I felt so good this morning that it made up for every bit of the struggle that I had yesterday. And I guess that it didn’t hurt to have in the back of my mind that after I got my miles done today I’d have a trail town and food to revamp my fire.


I met a really cool hiker on trail this morning too who made me wish that I was hiking NOBO, but our trails were going in different directions, so until our paths cross again, I had to say my goodbyes. I like hiking NOBO and being mostly alone on trail, but no doubt there is a big part of me that misses being a part of the social scene of the trail. That’s okay though. I’ve had that social trail life before from the PCT and I know that I’ll have it again when I hike the AT, but that’s a long ways away still, so no rush looking that far into the future just yet. 

Maybe one of my biggest surprises today was just how beautiful the trail was. After a couple of days of being huddled in the forest (a beautiful forest though it was), the trail broke above the alpine line late in the morning today and I was absolutely flabbergasted by the views! I felt like I was in those early miles of the San Juans again! I knew that I needed to make miles so that I could get to town and get food, but it seemed like every bend of the trail I was stopping to take pictures, and I swear upon all things holy that if I hadn’t been out of food, I would have spent more time out there today... I may have even camped out on the trail tonight if it weren’t for my food shortage. 

I ate my last trail bar (a 350 calorie ProBar) at around 1pm today, right as I started out on the Western Collegiate Loop, and I could see the highway in the distance. It was bitter sweet in a way. I needed to get to town for food and so the Hunger Game could see its end, but I was in love with the trail again. In the back of my head however, I knew that after my time in Salida I’ll have another beautiful 250 miles to go. It’s glorious to think that I've still got more than half the trail ahead of me, but it hurts to think that it’ll have to come to an end at that point. I’d like to note however that every day on the CT so far I’ve been asking myself if I really want to be out here for 5-6 months and hike the CDT next year, and I’m so happy to tell you that with every fiber of my being the answer is yes! And I’m happy to know that I have a path in life that will make that possible. It’s exciting to be thinking in that direction and be dreaming about living out here for the better part of half a year. 

When I arrived at Highway 50 I was surprised to find a gift store that had candy and snacks and whatnot. It was hard to withhold myself from bingeing on snacks, but I did pretty good. I got some jerky, some pretzels, and one piece of fudge as another hiker came up behind me and asked if I was hiking the CT. His name is "Atari" and he’s hiking SOBO, but our paths met today at Highway 50 and we’re both on our way to Salida, so we teamed up in our hitch into town. He told me that he’d been trying to hitch for about a half hour, but literally the first car that came by as I stuck my thumb out pulled over and gave us a ride. I am not at all exaggerating when I say that this was the best hitch that I’ve ever had on a thru hike! It was a kid who was about 22 who had hiked the CT last year and was nothing but a ball of enthusiasm. His trail name was "Happy" and he had what can only be described as the coolest hippy van that I’ve ever had the honor of riding in. He brought us into town and dropped me off at the Simple Inn and Hostel where I am now. 

I got a quick shower once I arrived, and promptly made my way to the closest steak house. The owner of the hostel told me that the prices were a bit high but that the food would be good. Both reports were 100% accurate. I ordered a shrimp cocktail appetizer, followed by their salmon special, and once finishing the salmon entree, I promptly asked for the biggest steak that they had on the menu. The price was high, but considering how much I needed to refeed, it was worth every penny. Also, since I don’t drink anymore, that made the meal a bit more affordable. After the meal I went across the street to the grocery store and bought a pound of organic M&M’s, a chocolate bar, some coconut chips, and an orange which I ate as soon as I arrived back at the hostel. Sitting here now I can say that I’m mostly satiated, but I don’t feel stuffed like I did after that pizza in Lake City. I think that my body needed it a lot more this time. My metabolism has picked up a lot, and it burns through food like you wouldn’t believe. All the more reason that I need more food on this next leg of my journey!

My plan is to take my first zero of the trail tomorrow and stay here tomorrow night as well. tomorrow I’ll resupply for this next leg of the trail, and I plan to send a resupply box to both Twin Lakes (my next trail town) and to Leadville. I’ve been told that those two towns are a bit minimal, and since I can get organic foods here, I want to take advantage of the access and be able to eat good, clean, healthy food for the rest of my hike. No more hunger games for Wormwood on this trail. 

I'll write back tomorrow though. I’m sure there will be stories to tell from my first full day in a trail town. Until then, happy wishes, and thanks for reading!


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