I have some catching up to do, and I promise I’ll get there. I have to admit, what I’m writing about in this post seems long ago and far away. In a way, I guess both are true. I am sitting back in Champaign now, earlier than I’d intended…but that’s a topic for a later date. When I last left you all, we had launched from New Mexico heading north towards Montana. The first stop was just a short hop to Salida, Colorado. We stayed just outside of town and, though I was only there for two nights, I took the opportunity to take a hike.
I discovered that the Colorado/Continental Divide Trail was not too far down the road. That made the decision on where to hike an easy one. Last year, I hiked ten miles of this trail at a spot not too terribly far from where I found myself at the beginning of July. This time, I started at Monarch Pass. The weather was blissfully chilly as I started off in the not-so-early morning hours. I love high mountains in summer. The fact that I had to don layers made me instantly giddy. Call me crazy, if you want. I don’t mind.
The parking lot was already fairly full when I arrived at around 10-ish. That had me a little concerned. I don’t mind seeing a few people, but I am not keen on crowded trails, especially not in these crazy times. Fortunately, it seemed there were a lot of bikers and...fortunately...many were finishing up their rides. Two 20-something girls on mountain bikes passed me as I started the first incline, but they kept on a Forest Service road where the CDT veered off. From that point, I didn’t see anyone else for the first half of my hike.
In the beginning, I was not sure if I would get the views I was hoping for, as the trail sank into the trees. Don’t get me wrong. I love trees. Yes, I have been known to hug them, even. But any of you who have read this blog over these past two years is aware of my preference for contrasts in the landscape. I like it best when I get a mix of trees and rock and water. Broad vistas and intimate surroundings. Meadows and rugged outcroppings. And, at that moment, I was in the mood to feel like an eagle perched on top of the world.
If only I could fly.
But…I’d be happy with the perch.
I got my wish. The trail climbed out of the trees, and I was treated to the gray caps of 14’ers laced with remnants of snow dripping down steep peaks like melted ice cream running down the sides of a cone. The trail etched a path through high tundra covered in wildflowers, lichen, and rocks, and hugged the side of a slope that slid perilously down, down, down. Oh, and I got my perch in a spot where the ground rises up to meet the sky at the edge of a cliff. A perfect spot to pause and take it all in, and, of course, to grab a snack, before continuing on.
As had happened on my hike last year, I was filled with a strong desire to keep on walking until I reached the end. And then go some more. And I’d love to do it solo, though the thought terrifies me as much as it thrills me. Oh, I’d happily hike in good company, too, but there’s just something about the idea of solitude in nature that always appeals to me. Hiking the Colorado Trail seems more doable for the life I currently lead than hiking the entire CDT. I feel like I could step away from this life (and the cats) for a few weeks to hike 487 miles much more easily than I could manage the 3,100 miles of the CDT, or the PCT or AT.
We’ll see. Perhaps I’ll get my chance.
This time around, I only hiked four miles out and four miles back, but it was enough to leave me wanting more of those views and the peace and quiet I felt on the trail. It’s impossible to capture the magnitude and scope in pictures. I tried, but the images in no way do it justice. The lens can’t even begin to see with eyes that experience such grandeur. I still hope they manage, even if just a little bit, to transport you to a mountain top 10,000 feet above sea level, with a bird’s eye view of the beauty all around.
The nine trail miles I’ve hiked on the Colorado Trail gave me just a tiny taste of the adventure I could have, but it was enough for now. I’ll take my opportunities where I find them, and follow those paths wherever they may lead, even if only for a few short hours.
Perhaps, someday, I’ll make the remaining 477 miles.