DAY 49: GLOBAL WARMING AT ITS FINEST

18.7 miles hiked
754.6 total miles

I wake up to my alarm only to discover that my phone battery is about to die. When I figure out that my external battery has mysteriously died overnight, I am perplexed. Luckily it has a solar cell on it, so hopefully that will suffice for the next few days until the next town. All morning in the sun gives my phone only about 3% charge. Frustrating. Luckily I am hiking with others who have batteries, and I bum some electricity, though I feel guilty. But now I can continue to rely on my phone for maps and navigation rather than the poorly printed paper set that I have. (A word of advice when printing maps: suck up the weight and price of heavier, higher quality paper.) The day is a roller coaster of ups and downs, literally and figuratively. We cross the infamous knife edge with little trouble; there are only a few patches of steep snow. The views are possibly the most spectacular yet, but in the afternoon the smoke moves in from the 416 fire and obscures the distance. Some members of the hiking party are lethargic and a bit grumpy. My mood improves throughout the day, early frustration over the solar battery giving way to the flow of hiking and hearty views. Still, as the smoke moves in, I worry about my family’s cabin, and about the earth in general. I know the fire was started by a train, but I want to blame it all on global warming.

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DAY 48: CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN

20.3 miles hiked
735.9 total miles

We awake to clear skies and before I know it I’m slogging over a pass above the lake. The sky is bright blue and the air is cold. Willows and stunted trees give way to alpine tundra. All day we oscillate, up and down, between treeline and tundra. In the afternoon, clouds form and I worry about exposure and lightning. We hear some thunder in the distance but it never amounts to anything overhead. Eventually the sky clears again, and with it, my mind. I enjoy the views of endless mountains in all directions until we make camp in some trees on a wide ridge.

DAY 47: ON TRAIL ZERO

0 miles hiked

5am brings drops of rain and dark clouds. Today is my first on-trail zero. I spend the day listening to thunder and hail and raindrops on my tent. A few times the sky clears, and we exit our tents and chat together until new rain sends us scurrying back into our shelters. I have a wee bit of cell service so I try and get updates about the 416 fire. From what little intel I can garner from 1x of Verizon service, the rain has had little effect at lower elevations. Shame. I take a couple naps out of boredom. The day is kind of nice, but I am restless and definitely ready to crush miles in the morning

DAY 46: FIRE AND ICE

10 miles hiked
715.6 total miles

We do not get an early start. Pagosa’s modern Motel SOCO has sucked us in with its charismatic owners and free breakfast. Plus some of the others still have town chores. It’s 1pm before we hit the trail. I am worried because a thunderstorm is coming and the miles ahead are all above treeline, mostly on exposed ridges. I’ve had my hair, electrified, stand on end one too many times above treeline in Colorado, and I don’t care for the experience. I am also worried about the cabin burning down. News and social media state the fire, named the 416 Fire, grew quite a bit in size overnight. We hike up and up, eventually setting up camp near a lake at treeline, 10 miles from the pass. We agree that if we wake up to storms, we’ll take an on-trail zero. Maybe the coming storm will put out the fire.

DAY 45: #416 FIRE

0 miles hiked

We decide, naturally, to take a zero at the cabin. The morning is lazy. Candyman and Ddubs make delicious crepes, a staple in France and Belgium, their respective countries. I drink too much coffee and hurriedly sort my resupply. In the early afternoon, our neighbor walks up the hill to deliver some interesting news: a fire has started on the mountainside above us and the area is under a preevacuation notice. Shit. Shit because of the fire. Shit so much for a relaxing zero. We debate briefly about what to do and decide we are not going to be able to relax with a fire nearby. My dad and brother agree to drive us to Pagosa, closer to the trail, where we’ll spend the night at a hotel (which before the zero decision was the original plan anyway). As we pack our bags into the vehicles, we can see a huge plume of smoke rising above the hillside behind the cabin. Shit.

DAY 44: ICE AXE

5 miles hiked
705.6 total miles

It’s a long 5 mile morning traversing wolf creek ski area. When we get to the pass, I’m more than ready for town. I spend the last half mile hiking like a bowlegged cowboy because my inner thigh chaffe is so bad. We hitchhike to Pagosa, and Ddubs and I get a ride from a man who lives in Tucson. We have great conversation about the city, the CDT, eachothers’ lives; it’s one of those rides where you feel like you’ve met a long lost friend. In Pagosa, we line our packs up on the sidewalk and sit in dwindling shade, gorging on asian fusion tacos. Soon, my dad and brother, Isaac (who’s name, the foreigners note, sounds vaguely like ‘ice axe’) arrive to whisk us off to my dad’s cabin an hour’s drive away. They are amazing and I am so grateful, but lord, also so not ready for the paternal drama. We stop to resupply and it’s hectic. Finally in the evening we arrive at the cabin, where good company, burgers, beer and wine end the day right.

DAY 43: MELTDOWN

17 miles hiked
700.6 total miles

Today is cold and begins with snow travel. I almost appreciate the slow going on snow because it gives me a chance to take in the beautiful views. The snow gives way and we make good progress before lunch, eventually stopping by a creek to partake in the daily stuffing of faces and dozing. Soon after, we begin a long descent and the sky turns overcast. We can see wolf creek ski area in the distance. So close but so far. The afternoon is full of bad narrow tread and a horrific amount of blowdowns across steep slopes, forcing precarious navigation. I keep scraping my legs on the downed trees, not to mention my chaffe is bad today. The final straw is a branch that rips my shorts, exposing my commando ass cheeks for all to see. I lose my shit and announce I’m taking the easy bail out route to wolf creek pass, rather than continuing up and over the ski area in this mess. My compadres are very understanding. We continue on, but right before the bail out point I have an epiphany: this is the fucking CDT man, no one ever said it was going to be easy, I gotta woman the fuck up and embrace the brutality. I announce I will join the rest of the group on the harder route. To my surprise, they cheer. The CDT, so full of ups and downs, literally and figuratively.