Day Thirty-One: For-Real Goodbyes

The rest of us are hardly stirring when BlueJay gets up and out – he’s ready to be done with his triple-crown adventure; we all wish him well, and hope he makes it. As for the rest of us, we dawdle, for various reasons: it’s still too dark to see outside, NoDay doesn’t want to leave us, it’s supposed to be wet today. Also, this is really-really the last time we’ll see each other, and we’re gonna stave off those goodbyes as long as possible. 

But even that isn’t forever, and eventually, there’s yet another round of goodbyes:

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MeHap…

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NomNom…

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Grim…

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…and a very sleepy NoDay.

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Also to the yurt.

Then it’s up and very quickly back onto the Continental Divide, and up again some more.

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Elevation is our primary concern today: the afternoon’s supposed to be stormy, and we’re set to hit the highest point on the Colorado Trail relatively soon. The weather’s holding off so far – only blips of rain, rain jackets on and off and back on again before we give up and leave them on. Grim and NomNom quickly pass us, but MeHap loiters in our general quarter-mile vicinity – he seems to be not-too-into-it today, maybe the weather getting him down. I’m happy to watch him on the trail in front of us, showing us where we’ll soon be. Meanwhile, the views are helping make up for all the climbing.

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It seems to take forever to get up up up to the highest point, but when it comes, it comes rather quickly, not at the very pinnacle of a hill (mountain?), but kind of on the side of one. We’re happy to see it, though.

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It’s all, quite literally, downhill from here.

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Photo Credit to Crankster.

And then, in what seems like an egregious waste of all the up we just did, it’s pretty much straight down to Carson Saddle, looking down on numerous zig-zagging paths to abandoned mine shafts and a single mylar balloon, looking like a ghost riding the wind.

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We can see the CDTers as tiny, tiny dots at the end of Segment 22, before they disappear into the slight down and up of Segment 23. Bye, guys!

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Just around the bend, its hi guys! There they are, lounging by the water source, eating lunch. It’s never really goodbye on the trail.

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They wanted to make sure we knew about a low-road alternate – the Pole Creek Trail – to the high road listed on our CT maps and apps; they figure it’s a wise decision, what with the weather still threatening and it closing in on noon and ripe-for-storms time. We start to pack up and it starts to rain; better start moving, then.

Everyone pulls pretty far ahead of me pretty quickly, so it’s a quiet, introspective walk, punctuated by debates with myself over whether I’m reaaally going to stop in the rain, haul my phone from its pocket hiding place, and take another picture. (Of course I am.)

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Middle Earth, anyone? (Cataract Lake)

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Either Middle Earth or the Scottish Highlands.

Everyone’s pulled out of sight ahead of me at this point, but the rain’s stopped, and I stand about a quarter of a mile down the trail at the Pole Creek Trail junction, alone. Crankster usually waits for me at big junctions like this, but she’s nowhere to be seen. The weather’s looking to get better rather than worse – so which way did Crankster go?

I stand there waffling for about five minutes – I want to go up, want to see the sights, but I can see up to where the trail runs and it is exposed as hell to the elements: there’d be nowhere to go in case of lightning, even. I eventually follow the plan we’d made.

I am cold and damp and lonely and edging on fairly miserable at this point; there’s still no sign of Crankster, and in my misery, I’m pretty sure she’s abandoned me. After three rad days with people, there’s no sign of her or anyone. I mean, I get it – I’m still slow, so slow, and so it makes sense that she’d just kind of melt off in an effort not to hurt my feelings too much, but it still hurts. I wish she’d told me. I’m finally coming to terms with that when I see the red flag that is her jacket, downhill and ahead of me, and I’m full to bursting with hope and some indignation and happiness, so much happiness at the sight of that emblem in the misty afternoon. I don’t see her for long enough that I’m almost convinced I hallucinated her, but then I round a corner and there she is. There are so many things I’ve prepared to say, but instead I fall into her arms, sobbing that I thought she’d abandoned me. She hugs me tight, tells me she was worried about that, but that I shouldn’t have worried: she’s been with me so far, and she’ll be with me to the end. Eventually, I get my shit together, and we continue on our now-a-little-merrier way.

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Tributary of Pass Creek

Eventually, we come to a place where a bunch of trails intersect, and as we try to puzzle it out, we spot our CDTers one last time. They’d wanted to make sure we didn’t follow them – this is where the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail alternates split, the CT heading west to Durango, the CDT continuing southward to Mexico. This is really-really-actually goodbye.

It’s been so much fun hanging out with them, that we hang out for a few more minutes; they tell us that we’ve already been 19 miles today, and it’s just after 3pm. We’re a mixture of shocked and stoked, rearing to go as we give out last-minute hugs, then watch them travel off as our paths diverge. Many wishes for a safe journey.

Crank and I have to climb back up to meet the CT proper, so we take a super-old CT route, the Maggie Gulch Trail, in an attempt to make it back to the current trail by nightfall. Gorgeous, but so. much. up.

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It’s so much up and we’ve been so many miles already that my foot starts to scream when we’re almost back to the intersection – I’m close to crying again, not sure how much farther I can limp. Crank feeds me some ibuprofen, and ten minutes later, I think I can hobble on. We’ve been 21 miles today.

We make it back to the trail and then some, climbing some more, because I’m a glutton for punishment there’s no good place to camp with the weather still threatening.

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Finally, finally, it’s around and down, descending to the headwaters of the Rio Grande.

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We agree to make it to Stony Pass tonight, try to see if we can get a hitch into Silverton, but even on our approach, no one’s out on the road, and we quickly scrap that plan.

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Still, on arrival, we try for cell service to no avail, and stand near the top where the trail leaves the road for several minutes before finally hunting out the best place below the pass to put Crankster’s tent. It’s freezing, so we’re bunking up together tonight, and as we settle in to our sleeping bags, the sun goes down. As start cooking dinner a car comes by – of course it does – and pauses and flashes its lights at us. We think about it, but we’re too cozy, so there we sit and eventually the car continues on its way.

We eat and guesstimate that the detour we took was about as long as the trail itself through this section, so we didn’t miss any miles. Rad. We suffer the howling wind a little longer before it turns into a lullaby that puts us to sleep.

Start: 366.1 •  End: 390.6  •  Day: 24.5
Notable Accomplishments:  Nearly 25 mile day •  Fewer than 100 miles left •  Walked through the pain and wet

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