The Colorado Trail: Day 19
Well, at least I finally got a day of rest... funny writing that now... somehow a “day of rest” has become a day where I hike 22.6 miles with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain. But that’s thru hiking for you. I was thinking about it today at the end of my hike how it takes the body a little while to adjust to doing this day after day after day after day, but by now, almost three weeks into the journey, my body has adapted. My metabolism has picked up (which means I’m constantly ravenous and never able to meet my caloric needs), and every day my body yearns for miles. I also brought my Garmin watch with me which has a constant heart rate measurement reading, and I’ve become quite comfortable with how I feel during the hike in correlation with where my heart rate is at. The 120-130 zone has become my comfortable place, but in the mountain climbs it hangs steady around 145-170. Getting to that point on a treadmill is usually a challenge for me, but out here, these have become my happy places. I like it. Every day gives me purpose and meaning. Every day my body longs for this physical push, and every day it is given that push. It feels good. Have I mentioned how much I love thru hiking? Is it getting redundant yet?
Last night was a bit of an unpleasant night unfortunately. You see, after cleaning myself in the river and cleaning my clothes in the river I put on the only clean set of clothes that I have... and that turned out to be a very bad thing. Apparently I have a sever allergy to the detergent that they use at the last hostel I stayed at. So I woke up itching all over, and had to strip everything off to find (sorry for the graphic detail) a terrible rash all over my body. I probably wouldn’t even be sharing this with you except that I was happy to find that in the morning it had gone away. But it absolutely sucked in every way possible, and it gave me a terrible night’s sleep. Happy to be better this morning, but when I’m hiking like I have been over the past week, sleep is a very high priority that I missed out on last night.
So I slept in this morning since I didn’t sleep much during the night. It was frustrating, but it is what it is. As I’ve said before, thru hiking teaches you to just deal with it when life or the trail hands you hardships. There aren’t really any other choices.
As I drank my tea in my tent this morning I looked at the trail maps. I was thinking of going to a mountain resort along the trail tomorrow, but since Leadville was only 22.6 miles away from where I camped, I set my sights on there. I hadn’t planned another stop between Twin Lakes and Breckinridge, but since I messed up my food supply by forgetting to factor in my day of mountain climbing yesterday, I’m going to run short on this segment without more than I picked up in Twin Lakes. Also, Leadville had a hostel listed, and I needed a true shower and I needed real laundry. So I started on the hike and was pleased to find that the terrain was quite mellow... at least compared to the Western Collegiate Loop and all the mountain climbing that I went through yesterday. It felt good hiking today knowing that the hardest parts of the trail are behind me, but it was also kind of saddening. The thing that brought me joy however was knowing that I’ll be out here again next year for the CDT.
Late in the morning I was surprised by a lake alongside the trail. I usually don’t check my maps anymore—I just hike. So when lakes like I found today come up, they’re just pleasant surprises. As I’ve done time and time again on this trail, I hiked by it, stopped, hesitated, and then backtracked. I’ve committed myself to not having regrets after this hike, and hiking by a lake when there are patches of blue sky without going swimming would absolutely produce regret. So I went back a little ways, stripped down, and swam around for a bit. As always, being cleansed by the waters alongside this trail was worth the 10 minute detour from forward progress. And it’s good that I hit that lake when I did because the weather was good then, but it didn’t last long afterwords.
Around 11:00 today it started to rain. At first it was light rain, but by the time 2:00 rolled around it was straight up heavy rain. It rained and rained and rained and rained. Lucky I suppose that I was climbing those mountains yesterday and not today. Today wouldn’t have been possible. The gods of the trail did me a favor in keeping the rain out until today. The rain fell until the trail was soaked and my feet were soggy, but that wasn’t too big of a deal because I knew that at the end of the day I’d be able to hitch into Leadville and get clean and dry.
The hitch into town wasn’t too hard. A guy named Ben picked me up and drove me to the grocery store and then insisted he wait and give me a ride to the hostel too. Sometimes people can be really amazing! Unfortunately this is the absolutely worst week of the year to be in Leadville... literally the worst of the year... the Leadville ultra marathon starts in two days, so every single room in town and every hostel is completely booked out and has been since January. So I had to come to the laundry mat to clean my clothes and get a shower (thank god they have showers here), and I’m going to find a place to post up in the woods tonight after I finish writing this (which needs to be soon because the laundry mat closes in five minutes). I would hitch back to trail, but hitching in the dark is next to impossible, and both Ben and the guy at the hostel told me that there is a place about a mile from where I am where I can safely camp tonight. So I’m going to go post up there and be on my way at sunrise. Tomorrow morning I’ll hitch back to the trail and it will be about a day and a half to Breckinridge where I’ll get a true zero and day of rest.
Will write again soon about the adventures of camping in the woods next to Leadville.