• Brandon A. Kelone

The Colorado Trail: Day 23

In a way I feel bad that I spent so much time in the preceding days dwelling on the impending end of this hike. I look back on those journals and I wish that I wouldn’t have been so down, but at the same time, part of my goal in writing these logs every night is to document what’s actually going through my head and what’s really happening along the trail. I’d have been lying to you if I said that it didn’t hurt. It did hurt, and I think that’s a phase that I had to go through as I work towards the end of this beautiful journey. But today I don’t feel that way so much anymore. I don’t know if I’ve just come to terms with the fact that this will have to end, or if I've just gained some perspective, but I’d like to believe that it’s the latter. 


I spent a lot of today reflecting back on the early days of the hike. It’s laughable in a way for me to put it that way... “the early days of the hike.” I’ve been out here for less than a month, but in that month I feel like I’ve changed in innumerable ways. I’ve grown. I feel it in my bones. I feel it in the way that I watch the mountain horizons and how I look at the passing of the clouds. I talk less... that might not make much sense being that I’m out here alone. But that is one thing that I notice most on the surface. When I first started this hike I spent a lot of time every day making videos and talking to my camera about the awe and the wonder of it all. It was like I was in love for the first time. Now I go all day and I don’t really say a word. In fact, when another hiker crossed my path today and we exchanged pleasantries, it kind of caught me off guard to hear my own voice. My mind is extremely active during the hours and hours of trail each day, but I don’t verbalize it as much anymore. I find myself stopping a lot to take notes on my phone about things that I want to bring home with me—ideas that I want to carry on after the walk is over. 


In a way I miss the innocence of those early days of the trail. I felt like a child. I was eager and I felt like the Colorado Trail would never end. It’s hard to even imagine the end when there are 500 miles ahead, but now that I’m here, my first time writing a journal about this trail with fewer than 100 miles to go, I no longer have that same disposition. I feel more weathered... not in a bad way, but in a way that is more akin to being experienced. I’ve seen so much in these three weeks, and I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve grown. I’ve changed. I’ve become something greater than what I was at the end of July. But it's hard to find the words to explain those changes. I feel them more than I can explain them. The change is in my bones.  

At the same time, I have been thinking about the CDT. I am changed so much by the Colorado Trail, and I wonder if, starting the CDT next spring, I’ll be the person who I am today or if I’ll be that youthful, playful, energetic thing that I was back in Durango. I’ll find out eventually I suppose. 


There was a moment today when I thought about how this trail in many ways is like life itself. I started off young and youthful. I fell in love with these mountains and the expansive horizons. After time passed I became used to them—never bored by them, never taking them for granted, but just accustomed to the fact that this was the new normal. Then, when an end became visible, I pushed back and I bemoaned the fact that it wouldn’t last forever. Now however... God... I feel melodramatic even writing this, but it’s true... I feel like I’m on my death bed, looking back on all the experiences that this life has given me. But I’m no longer sad to be seeing it to an end. If anything, I’m happy to no end that I was there to witness it all. In a way I do wish that I could be back there in Durango again, just starting out, but I know too that part of the beauty is in knowing that it has to come to an end, and I’m just so happy that I got to be a part of it. Would you judge me if I told you that I was almost brought to tears by it all today? It’s true. I stopped and found myself overwhelmed by how blessed I have been to be a part of this experience, and to know that even though it has to come to an end, the ending is only a temporary intermission between this journey and whatever comes next. 


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I may have slept better last night than I have during any night of the trail. I was the only one in my dorm room at the Fireside Inn, and I feel asleep early. I awoke in time to get a shower, head to the post office to pick up my resupply package as soon as they opened, and come back to the Inn for a quick breakfast and tea. I loaded my pack, checked out, and headed to the bus that would bring me back to trail. Apparently I was in too big of a hurry though, because it came to my attention about twenty minutes ago that I somehow left one thing at the inn... I left my tea. I’m kind of pissed off about that. I specifically went to the store yesterday to get more black tea, and I’m really bummed that I managed to leave that behind. But life goes on. The trail teaches us to “deal with it,” and if not having my morning tea is the biggest challenge that I’m going to have on this leg of the hike, then I suspect that I'll probably survive. 


I made it back to trail just after 10am. It felt good to be back after a day of rest. Although I enjoyed having the time to write and relax yesterday, I’m out here for the trail, and every time I leave a trail town and get back to the trail itself, I feel a sense of belonging that just isn’t the same when I’m away. But I’ve come to terms with these trail town intermissions. They aren’t the enemy that I sort of labeled them to be early in the trail. They are a necessary part of the journey. 


There were two climbs that I had to make my way up today, but both of them paled in comparison with the climbs that I have seen before in the Colorado Trail. In fact, they were quite modest in the grand scheme. And once I made it to the top of Georgia Pass (unbelievably beautiful up there!) I checked the vertical profile for the rest of the trail, and it's all downhill coasting from here on out. Although I haven’t seen a 30 mile day on the Colorado Trail as of the writing of this journal, I’ll be surprised if that doesn’t change in the miles ahead. 

I’m seeing fewer thru hikers now. The season is late now and I think that most of those who went southbound are well behind me now. And of those who I do see now, none of them seem the same as those who I saw earlier on. Now when I ask if people are thru hiking they no longer say yes; they tend to say things like “I’m trying” or “that’s the goal” or “we’ll see.” I have a lot more that I could say about that, but I’ll refrain. Not because I need to withhold, but because I’m growing tired as I type away and listen to the howl of a coyote off in the distance. 


I hope that sleep is good tonight and that the lack of tea in the morning isn’t too much of an encumbrance to my day. 


All the love in the world, 


Wormwood.