Same trail, second weekend in a row. We’re roundabout the Indian Peaks Wilderness, our supposed destination the Saint Vrain Glacier, but really, I’m out here to walk: find my stride, stretch my legs, see what I can do. It’s easy terrain, gently graded, and while I know it’s nothing compared to the Colorado Trail, I glow when Special informs me I’ve been setting a 3mph pace.
Last weekend was different – all thunderstorms stutterstepping around mushrooms and a noticeable absence of the appropriate permits, a combination too rich for my blood. We pulled an about-face after about five miles, searched high and low for a camp spot until we were back to the car, making for a ten-mile day. I wasn’t exactly opposed to a day on the couch before another workweek, but still, it was highly disappointing. A week later, rejuvenated stubbornness, and I feel – I am – faster already, covering those five miles in a few steps, only a few mushroom sightings to slow us down.
I’m still slower when we hit new territory – more methodical – partly because I’m terrified of getting an injury a month and a half before I set off and partly because there are so many new sights to run my eyes over. The trail, for one, is underwater – sometimes narrow stream, sometimes broad delta, sometimes lake parked in the middle of everything – and I’m alternating between a near-compulsion to Leave No Trace and making sure my feet don’t freeze in the snowmelt.
I like the way my brain is focused, here, present. At least, when it’s not bombarding me with the weird ass, trekking pole rhythm-based jukebox that’s been alternating all day between the orchestral Jurassic Park theme and that Flying Purple People Eater song that was way before my time.
I know we’re making progress when the snows start to pile up, around the same time when I start to hear my mother’s voice in my head, concerned that Special is cheating me out of a learning experience by showing me the trail before I have time to suss it out for myself. It’s half past four, and he’s jumped ahead to push us, push the pace, see if we can make it all the way to the glacier, or at least a dry flat area to settle in a little closer before nightfall. I start postholing, and it’s just enough for my body to realize how much work it’s done in comparison to the last workweek. It growls, low and deep, at the fact that my right trekking pole has no basket, is getting stuck in the deeper snows, is virtually useless for stabilization. “Duly noted,” I mutter.
I spot a cairn from a ways off, and we move down and around, to the tune of a roar. Getting closer. In our way stands a stream, overflowing its banks from the recent rains and the warmth of the summer, which has taken out the log bridge and is flowing just a little fast for my tastes. Special tries a snowbridge, but it’s too soft – too late in the day.
He leaves the call to me, and I err on the side of caution – I’d come back to it in the morning, when everything was a bit calmer, or at least, I’d hope, calm enough. We backtrack to the first dry spot we find, find the maps, figure we’ve done about 8 miles, all told. I pout that we haven’t gone farther – it’s only six, and tomorrow’s solstice! So much daylight left! – but I eat clean write wash launder things in a ziploc. Tedium turned meditiation.
We turn our backs on the sun and watch the reflection of the sunset on the rocky cliffs above, talking of training and trails and backpacking boot camps, until I start to freeze in my nice but ultimately too-thin synthetic. He sets up a tarp to test it out, but ends up helping me test the capacity of my Rainbow – two six-foot-plus people don’t squish as much as either of us expected, but it’s not exactly comfortable, and my Klymit slides around more than usual.
I love the way morning comes so slow-quickly outside, and I wake at 5, as usual, go back to sleep to wake at 7, resisting the urge to poke Special awake so I can get out the one door and get the coffee started. I know we’re going straight back today – it’d be a 14-mile day and an hour drive and then prepping for a long workweek – but I’m going to enjoy my coffee beforehand.