Day Eleven: Hanger and Disappointment

I’m up at my normal time – 6:30, though I’ve heard something , expectation shining in my eyes: I’ve done one 20-mile day; how hard can it be to do it again?

Shortly after hiking on, I get a fun warning about a spot not on-trail:

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It doesn’t seem to be in Camp Hale, but it’s got me wondering what was.

I move on – or, at least, I try to. I’m slow this morning, so slow, turtle-crawling towards Durango. The road should give me heart – people headed towards Leadville – but it’s less poignant since I’ve decided to skip it. Pretty, though.

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The trail crosses the road and the railroad, and I don’t know as I’ve ever stood on proper railroad tracks before. I spend a minute looking off into the distance before moving on.

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The trail winds over and around to a prairie, and the sight, for some reason, reminds me of the coming fall.

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The trail leads out of the prairie and up to an abandoned railroad grade, and while the trail is beautifully graded, I’m still trudging along. I can’t seem to shake this lethargy, and it’s starting to get annoying.

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The remains of old stoves near Tennessee Pass Trailhead.

Finally – finally – I finish the five miles remaining in Segment 8, use the pit toilet at Tennessee Pass Trailhead, sit in the shade of the toilets, have a snack. A woman comes and chats about the trail; there are a bunch of horses and riders getting ready to set off on their own adventure. I beat them on the trail, but not by much.

This is the land of the Tenth Mountain Division, marked by blue diamonds for winter cross-country skiing, landscape dotted with huts (and porch swings!) now used to house tourists participating in various winter sports. The trail is well-maintained through here, and relatively flat – why is my body fighting me today? I adjust my pack on my lower back and rip a growly-face into the back of my shirt. So much for thrift-store gear. I consider going into Leadville to replace it, but the heftiness of the food in my pack – I have too much again, I just know it – and the time crunch to meet Speshul in Twin Lakes make my decision for me.

The horsepackers catch up and I let them by, and I see a couple of northbound hikers – one of them tells me there’s trail magic up ahead, in the form of sodas. Upon arrival, I grab one and take it for the road, appreciative of the extra calories and the brief speed bump the sugar gives me. It’s in this state that I go by a gaggle of teenagers and their adults – wearing my sportsbra (“on my sleeve”, as it were), I realize belatedly, because of the heat. Oops. Oh well. They’re teenagers, nothing they haven’t seen before.

The weather can’t decide what it wants to do, and I’m in the middle of fussing with my rain gear when I run into Hippie Longstockings. I met her briefly at the ADZPCTKO in 2013; I’m not surprised that she doesn’t remember me, but I am surprised by her willingness to talk with a n00b, her warmth, her advice about actually consuming calories. She even manages to get a ride into Leadville from folks who pass by while she’s talking to me, and she leaves me feeling like I have more tools in my arsenal to do battle with my unwilling stomach.

A few still-slow miles later, and I’m in Longs Gulch in the Holy Cross Wilderness, thankful that I won’t have to worry about rutted-out trail for a little while. Not that I’ve seen any in a little while, but thankful anyway.

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About halfway up to Porcupine Lakes, I’m terribly frustrated with myself, and I sit down, close to tears. I wanted to try for a twenty again, and here I am, sitting at twelve, unsure of why I’m so tired. Yeah, I did twenty miles yesterday – and it’s not something I’m used to sustaining – but I should be better than that. Perfectionism at its finest. I think I’m hangry – angry because I’m hungry – so I eat a snickers and feel a little better. Not much, but a little. I have to make more mileage than this if I expect to be in Twin Lakes in a few days, so I check the guidebook and decide to try to make it to a campsite on a lake around the 15 mile mark. Not much more to go, then, and I can rest up and try again tomorrow.

So up I go, over the saddle at Porcupine lakes, where I can see the path scrolling up the hill on the other side.

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I feel a lot better, having made my decision, and now that the pressure’s off and the scenery’s opened up, I actually start to enjoy myself.

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View from the far side.

I power down and power up the other hill, feeling like it should’ve been harder, but the tiredness sinks in right around the time I see the split for Bear Lake Trail. I feel like I’m stumbling down from there, towards the lakes, and the first one I see feels like a benediction.

I get water from the moving inlet, and then meander around the backside, where the trail tilts up again; my body protests, and I look around for the campsite that’s supposedly here – there it is, about 100 feet from the trail, and there’s already a tent in it. It’s still early – 5:30 or so – and I call out, hoping the owner’s not asleep. When he appears, from water-gathering/berry-spotting, Trevor invites me to share his spot – it’s big enough for many, many tents, so mine won’t be in the way. And it seems he’s interested in the company – he builds a fire in the fire ring, and we converse with little pause about tax prep and test prep, forestry and youth corps, mountains and molehills until it’s too dark to see, and we’re chased into our tents by the chill.

Start:  137.1  •  End: 152.8  •  Day: 15.7
Notable Accomplishments: Settled self down • Did not let perfectionism win the day • Rad campspot with new friend

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