CDT Day 106 – The End-Ish

5 miles hiked to Hwy 550
It’s a pretty lazy morning as we only have 5 miles to hike to the highway. We take our time packing up, and we share a hot oatmeal as we are down to one packet for breakfast!! We each have a bar as well for the rest of the hike. My goodness I am looking forward to food. Have I mentioned that? Mmm fooooood.
To balance out yesterday’s descent, today we are hiking  up up up for 5 miles. It’s not overly steep, which is good as neither of us has much energy.
This has been a tough section – high altitude meaning our bodies are working hard for each breath, lots of elevation gain and loss, inadequate food, cold cold cold. We’ve worked hard for our miles and our views, but it has been absolutely worth it.
It’s also been mentally hard. Back in Durango I received news I would have to go home to sort out some things soon. I didn’t have an exact date, but while in Pagosa I found out I had a couple of weeks. So my thru hike has become a section hike. Hopefully just 2 parts so I can finish it off next year or the year after, but a section hike nonetheless – a dirty word to my thru-hiking wannabe ears. I fought back tears as I spoke to the Qantas agent to change my flight. It’s a tough tough thing to get off trail and although I’ve hiked a hell of a lot of miles, including the hardest miles both mentally and physically I’ve ever had to hike, and having to get off trail is out of my control, I can’t help but feel like a giant failure.
I still have a couple of weeks to play with so we made plans for exploring some of the ‘side trails’ of the CDT up around The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. I’m excited about bougie camping- we’ll have a car to set up a base from, a bigger tent (my half dome I picked up at an REI garage sale in which to go camping with my doggies! Yep I bought a tent for my dogs) and access to as much food as we want. I’m planning on getting fat in Wyoming.
So mentally, today, these last official miles of my hike are hard. We take superfluous breaks as we have the time, and the view looking back down the river through the mountains is glorious. This area around Silverton is simply magic. Hiking through here on the Colorado Trail and back on the Continental Divide Trail I’ve gotten to know the San Juans and southern Colorado well – but I could definitely spend much more time here exploring more and more trails. The land with the soft curves of the orcas perched on top of the mountains, the jagged dramatic canyons, the beautiful blue high lakes and pools, the thin air and crazy weather.
We make it to the road and sit, exhausted, excited yet deflated, proud yet dissatisfied. That’s it. All done.
No longer a thru hiker. No longer a thru hike.
Tourists hustle about us noisily with their giant cars, leading sticky children and slobbery dogs to the roadside view of the trees and valley from where we have just climbed. Everything is already too much. Too many people, things, noise, stuff.
Grizzly’s amazing sister arrives after a long drive to collect us, complete with a cooler full of food and drinks. FOOD! DRINKS! We inhale burritos before even leaving the carpark, bags of chips and dip are opened. I feel the calories hitting my blood with a rush that feels both energising then suddenly exhausting, my body unused to so much food at once.
On to Denver we drive! We’ll wash and repack our bags, fill the car with food and exciting things like pillows, yahtzee, jumpers (sweaters), spare dry shoes and socks (luxury luxury luxury!) and be on the road asap.
Oh I’ve been craving these luxuries, but oh I need to be back in the dirt. I definitely don’t feel like I’m done, and I hope the last couple of weeks will help me transition back into the fast, clean, noisy, connected, everything-instantly world. Although as anyone who has spent a lot of time in the wilderness knows, that transition is neither easy nor ever complete. Wyoming I’m coming!

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