CDT Day 82 CT Day 23

20.7 miles hiked, camping @11129ft
Staying in a town that prides itself in being ‘wild west’ and catering to the RV / ATV and ride-in-on-the-train-buy-an-icecream-and-leave tourists, we aren’t that hopeful for a decent brekkie. We look at a couple of menus, find nothing and try one last little cafe on the edge of town. “How can I help you folks?” the server / owner asks as we peruse the menu. “We have vegan options too”. Um whaaat? “You said the magic word!” “You had a vibe about you, I could just tell”. Um…ok. Unsure exactly what that means, but we take our seats as he promises us delicious breakfast burritos.
He doesn’t disappoint and hot tea and a breakfast burrito are the perfect start to the day!
Afterwards we wander to the small market where I buy a bottle of green juice, a banana and a beer to pack out for Grizzly for a birthday surprise. Beer on the trail, especially beer packed out by someone else, is pure gold on the trail.
We get a ride to the trailhead with the manager of the hostel, with Grizzly and another hiker from China named Green Machine sitting in the tray of the pick up. It’s sunny today and I carefully lather the sunscreen as we start hiking. There are a lot of day hikers around, lots of mountain bikes. We hike fast to pass people and get away from the traffic jams, stopping for a speedy lunch before the flies get too overbearing and we zoom off.
We enter a fairy tale land of steep streams, white rocky staircases and an abundance of wildlfowers. The creeks cascade over perfectly misaligned rocks, reaching high above us as we hike. The flowers, bursting from the red earth around us, are shoulder high and home to the incessant buzzing of flies and bees around us. The roar of the waterfall across the canyon disappears as we head up over the top. An amazing vantage point at the top would be the perfect place to camp, except there is no flat or cleared ground here, so we hike on.
Deer prance across the meadow in front of us, amd we get to the other side disappearing once again into the branches of the forest.
A fabulous flat bougie campsite is just before the end of the section we are hiking so we excitedly set up and make dinner while avoiding the mozzies as best possible. Green Machine sets up here too and we chat a little as our mini stoves roar under our pots.
I bring out Grizzly’s beer and he acts half surprised, although he saw the conspicuous paper bag in my hand when we left the store this morning. Birthday beer!
A deer wanders past camp to wish us goodnight, and we fade away into a lovely windless, noiseless night.

CDT Day 81 CT Day 22 Silverton

I wake after a deep hard sleep. I try to ignore the call of nature for as long as possible but give in and awkwardly crawl out of the small tent door and into a sunrise alpenglow wonderland. Best 2016 trail sunrise prize! I stare for a loong time until the reds and golds fade away off the mountain and the clear daylight takes over.
I pack and head off down the other side of the mountain. Gah so beautiful again today!
We come across a gorgeous meadow with something strange on the other side.
“What do you think that is? A person?” It’s standing very still. We continue hiking and get closer. “Is it just a rock?” Closer…it moves a little. “Is that a horse??” It’s a horse. In the middle of a meadow. In the middle of nowhere. We are very confused by this very still horse with no explanation, until we hike even further and see a big tent setup on the meadow’s edge. Ah!
We hike down down down through this magic part of the trail until finally we are in the little town of Silverton.
There are so many RVs, so many ATVs, so many people eating icecream and stopping in the middle of the footpath with 5 family members to chat about nothing while obliviously blocking the rest of the world from moving through.
We wait in the lobby of the hostel for the manager to arrive so we can check in, staring at our tiny screens and trying to get things to load so we can see what is happening in the world. She arrives, I hand over too much money for our little space for the night, we throw our packs in, search unsuccessfully for our boxes of food and head down the road to the post office to find them. The postal worker rolls her eyes and sighs. “She’s not supposed to do that. If she tells hikers you can post to her hostel, she should pick up the boxes”. We agree, especially as by lucky chance, we arrived at the post office just 10 minutes before they close.
Boxes of food and a shiny package from REI containing new shoes clutched in our dirty paws, we head back to the room, throw them inside with our packs, and head off in search of disatisfying food. One mediocre cheeseless pizza and half a beer later, I stumble back down the road as it becomes clear very quickly that I cannot hold any quantity of alcohol. Half a beer + altitude + hungry Snakebite = fast drunk. Embarrasing. Half! I have no words. Or actually I have many as I trot down the road in a beer-d haze.
Back at the room it’s time to de-stink with a shower, and we give our things to the hostel people to wash in their laundry. Then – nap time. Glorious nap time! Best nap of the trail – who knew the secret was just half a beer?
I wake sober and hungry and we go in search of some decent food. It’s Grizzly’s birthday tomorrow so hopefully something yum will appear! We have amazing luck with a restaurant on a side street away from the overly themed Western saloon rubbish. Delicious fresh veggie tacos, roasted beets, hand cut fries, amazing kale salad. This time I stick to lemonade, of which I drink about 3! Yuuuuum dinner!
With happy bellys we head back to the hostel on the now deserted street – most of the tourists come in on a steam train from Durango and the town clears out after the last train leaves. It’s like being in a theme park after it’s closed.
I curl up under the sheets (sheets!), pop my earplugs in and I’m off to the land of nod once again. Goodnight world!

CDT Day 80 CT Day 21

22 miles hiked, Camping @ 12818ft
Oooh it’s been a long night of 8 bodies tossing and turning. Everyone else is up so I finally give in and take off the sleeping bag, and run straight to the stove to make coffee. We are having a super bougie backpackers pantry oats & quinoa brekkie today too! Mmm hot food.
It’s a beautiful morning as we head up the mountain and the long switchbacks to the highest point on the CT! I chat to some marmots and deer along the way and look at beautiful views below. The climb isn’t too lung busting and I’m there before I know it. 13258ft! We don’t linger long as clouds are building, and we make it about halfway down the other steep side before having to put on rain gear.
We have a food break at the water stop, where 5 of us have traffic jammed, then onwards and upwards along the side of a mountain. There aren’t any trees up here (above treeline) and I love the way that makes the contours of the montains and valleys stand out. So dramatic with the varioud shades of green grass and bushes, the purple and white rocks jutting out. Grizzly spies a moose down eating the willow below! Then another! And another! One is huge! He’s pretty far away but the size of his antlers is stunning. Continuing up the climb I look up to the top of a ridge and see a deer perfectly silhouetted against the stormy clouds. Gah I wish I had a decent camera with me! Some things are just for my memories only.
There are so many climbs today. Up and over abother little saddle and the new world ahead on the other side looks like lots of orcas lying on top of the mountains. Little patches of snow curve around the tops making bodies, with melted circles that form eyes. I imagine whale songs as I hike. Or maybe I hear them as the air is thin and I’m a bit spaced out!
So many climbs. So many beautiful little worlds at each one that so few people get to see. I’m up in the actual ridge of the continental divide. It’s wonderfully quiet up here, the kind of place I imagine smarter people than I thinking the world’s greatest thoughts, writing books, penning songs. My mind wanders around in its little altitude daze and doesn’t land on anything in particular, other than to stop me every now and then just to stare and soak it in.
It’s beautiful but exhausting. Definitely one of my hardest days, whether from lack of sleep, altitude, the actual hard climbs or something else I don’t know but I am so ready for camp. My phone dies so I’m not sure how far I have to go. I think I’m on the last climb  – the campsite is supposed to be halfway up but when I’m nearly at the top it’s not there. “F*CK!” I yell at the world. I’m at that 2 year old tartrum-tired point and feel like crying, except I’m too tired to do that and the marmots have no extra tissues..I asked them. “Any spare food?” Nup. None of that either. Soooo sleeeepy.
Finally hooray! I’m at the top! And there is the little lake. And there is the little tent already set up. And there is the most beautiful view I’ve had at a campsite. I got it wrong and it was always at the top, not the middle. So high! So much altitude!
We are both shattered and starving. We boil water to share a backpacker’s pantry dinner, and while we wait the preposterously long time for it to rehydrate here at altitude, we make more water and eat some miso and some ramen. 3 dinners!!! Good thing we have town tomorrow and more food coming…we decide eating now is much better and we can stretch out what we have for tomorrow. Eating now and screwing ourselves out of calories later on is always the best choice…
Oh happy tummy! We lie in the tent and listen to Harry Potter on audiobook before fading away, with orcas swimming in the mountains around us. Oh sleep! Oh beautiful day!

CDT Day 79 CT Day 20 Yurt!

9 miles hiked, Camping at 11942 ft
I wake up early because my body is stupid and likes to wake up early in town. If I was on trail I could easily roll over and sleep another 2 hours, but because I don’t have to get up I can’t get back to sleep. Stupid Murphy and his laws.
I have a quick shower before the masses of people invade the bathroom, then trot down the road to get yummy coffee.
We pack and repack and charge and recharge all our things. A lovely older gentleman that I met while on my walk around town yesterday with Lindsay offered us a ride back to the trail, so we and Grizzly hang out in the sun in the yard while we wait for him.
The road is very very curvy and bendy and windy back to the pass with an amazing view back down to the valley. I spill out of the truck and wish I’d packed out some kind of ginger ale as my stomach lurches. I find a lovely rock to sit on and wait for the carsick head and belly ache to pass, then the 3 of us start our mini hike up the hill.
The skies darken with the promise of storms and we head on up as fast as we can. Not fast enough. The rain gets us and we pull out the magic tyvek to hide under while the hail hits. Thankfully it doesn’t last long and we march up and away over the hill.
9 miles done. That’s all. That’s our beautifully tiny number for the day, because at 9 miles we come to a yurt that is open for CT/CDT hikers to sleep in. Our first zero backed up by our first nero. BOOM! All the non-miles. All the resting. Yay for being bougie small-mile hikers 😀
The yurt has 4 bunks and 4 little cots that fold out, a propane tank powered oven and light, a bunch of folded chairs and a small table. It is nestled in some trees and looks out over a valley with a small stream running through the middle. It’s not luxurious, but it means no setting up a tent, no packing up a wet tent in the morning, and more hanging out with awesome people. Yay 😀
There are 5 hikers in the yurt when we get there- they were staying at the hostel last night as well. We chat and hang for a while until they hike out, wanting to get some more good miles in now that the rain has cleared. They are quickly replaced by 5 more who appear in time for dinner. We cook ramen on the stove and chat about books and travel and then I zone out as the subject moves to American football and other sports I have no clue or care about.
“Remember that sports of 19xx?”
“Of course! When all the sports happened?! The best sports ever!”
“No way! The best sports was when that sportsperson did that other sporty thing!”
All nod in agreement.
The cots come out and we decide that we have no need for our sleeping mats as we are on luxury beds tonight.
“Goodnight John-Boy” a voice echoes around the yurt.
“Goodnight!” we chorus back.
The temperature in the room drops fast. With 8 in the small space and the beds all tetris-ed to make us fit, it was pretty warm when we said goodnight. It didn’t last. I contemplate getting my sleeping mat out for warmth but decide it will be too noisy. Instead I stay cold and awake staring at the stars through the skylight. The stars are bright and I doze dreaming dreams about log fires.