The Colorado Trail: Day 26
I’ve been here in front of my keyboard now for more than an hour... trying to figure out where to begin... trying to find the right words. But it’s too overwhelming to put into words. It’s ethereal. It’s beyond description. It’s the feeling of being in absolute presence within this moment. It’s the feeling of complete and total satisfaction. It’s the feeling of knowing that I have no regrets, no worries, and no concerns. It is the feeling of “zen.”
What I gained from the Colorado Trail was more than I ever could have asked. It wasn’t my first thru hike, nor my last, nor my longest, nor the most important in terms of its impact on my life, but it was special in a way that no other trail has ever been for me. The Colorado Trail turned me into something that I could not have been before this hike. It was a journey from birth to death. It gave me a beginning, a middle, and an end. It gave me mountain vistas, days of solitude, sunshine, rain, ice, water, warmth, and so many things that I cannot put into words.
I had a vision for what I expected from the trail, but those ideas were surpassed within my first few miles outside of Durango. The beauty was unfathomable! As I was going into the trail the expectations that I had set were related to the physical, and although I suspected that my time in Colorado would have some impact on me internally, I hadn’t the slightest idea of how much I would be changed by my time out here.
And it’s laughable, because the hike itself only lasted for 26 days! In less than a month I feel like I went from being a child to becoming an adult. I went through a transformation in the time that I spent on the Colorado Trail, and although the trail itself has come to an end, I no longer find myself in mourning. Instead, I find myself celebrating that it happened at all. I find myself in awe that although the miles are behind me, I know with all of my heart that the experience itself will be within me forever!
Next week I have an appointment with one of my tattoo artists to have “CT18” scribed on the back of my ankle right above the tattooed listing of “AZT11” and “PCT15.” Before the hike itself I wasn’t sure if Colorado was going to give me something big enough to celebrate in such an eternal way, but I honestly feel like this trail had an even bigger impact on me than any of my other thru hikes to date. The Arizona Trail was my first long trail, and I learned more about backpacking on that trail than I ever could have thought possible. I didn’t even know what “Thru Hiking” was when I undertook the AZT. Then the PCT was a test of my endurance. It taught me that I was capable of far more than I otherwise could have believed. The CT then was a reinforcement of what I’ve become. It didn’t scare me like the AZT or PCT because I had been through bigger trails, and I think that’s what allowed me to melt into the experience like I did. I wasn’t afraid of anything but the end, and even when that came, I was ready for the next step in life.
And I know that I’ve written about this several times in my journal already, but the small act of taking the headphones out of my ears for this trail absolutely revolutionized my experience in Colorado. I found myself fully present in every single moment, with every single step, and with every little heartbeat. I wasn’t distracted by my phone; I was just there. I was there when it rained, and I was there when it was warm. I was there to watch the sunsets, and to listen to the birds, and the wind, and the rivers, and the thunder. I was in the mountains of Colorado with every fiber of my being, and in doing so, I feel like the Colorado Trail gave me something that I would have otherwise missed.
I learned who I am out on this trail, and I learned who I want to be moving forward. I had a lot of time out there to myself to think about the life that I’ve led, all the events that have gone into creating the man who I am today, and all the things that I want to do with my life moving forward.
There’s so much more that I want to say about my time on the Colorado Trail, but I feel like it would be an injustice to go any further for now. From what I learned after the AZT and the PCT, I know that my time in Colorado will continue to grow and metastasize with time, and that as the days become weeks and months, more meaning will come to me. So for the time being I want to leave it there and hope that in the pages that I’ve written about this experience I’ve succeeded in getting even 1% of it down into words.
I hope that in your reading it you’ve been inspired too. Even if you don’t come to Colorado, I hope that you’ve read through this and decided to step outside tonight. I hope that you step into the woods just for a moment. I hope that you watch the sunrise. I hope that you pay attention to the stars. I hope that you find a way to find yourself, even if its in some infinitesimally small way. I hope that you dream the way that I dreamed my way into Colorado. I hope that you love life a little more in the way that this trail has taught me to do.
We’re all on a journey. We’re all hiking a different hike. And I look forward, some day, to reading where your journey leads you.
As a final note—and perhaps this is just an attempt to motivate myself moving forward—I am planning a book about my experience on the Colorado Trail with the working title, “Birth, Love, and Death: 26 Days on the Colorado Trail.” Undoubtedly I’ll be drawing heavily from the day to day journals that you’ve found here, but I also plan to transcend the trail journals themselves. I hope to connect some larger themes in my life and use the trail as a narrative tool to tie together some things that are much bigger. Maybe, if I’m lucky, you’ll find it on a bookshelf one of these days...
But until then, I thank you for reading as much as you have. It means the world to me to know that there are people out there who read even a single entry from this month that I’ve spent on trail. And to those of you who have sent me messages of feedback, even just to say that you enjoyed reading, I thank you with all my heart!
Until next time, I send you all my love,
PS: Did I mention that I got to see bighorn sheep alongside the trail today? Added bonus to my final miles along this path!