I wake early in the morning at the hostel, brew coffee, and make pancakes and sausage. It’s great to have access to a good old regular kitchen. Carol and Richard take their shuttle to Monarch Pass, where they’ll continue on the Continental Divide Trail.
My plan is to take two days of complete rest here at the hostel to let my foot heal. I get right down to the business of setting up for a relaxing afternoon, sitting at the table and doing rotations of ice on my foot. I spend much of the day in the same spot, on the computer and conversing with the other guests.
Potter is from Pennsylvania, like me, and works as an industrial mechanic on a large freighter ship. His work schedule is something like four months at sea and two months off, allowing time for some elaborate travel. One of the most interesting things he tells me is about a hiker he met from New Zealand. This guy from New Zealand is apparently obsessed with hiking and has been around the world, and he says that all the best hiking trails are in the United States. This strikes a chord with me, because so many of us Americans that love to travel tend to view New Zealand as the place to go… and here’s this guy who’s from that country that says the best trails are in America. Interesting.
Potter calls himself a “lazy hiker” because it has taken him a relatively long time to get here to Salida, starting from Denver. He’s been up all the possible fourteeners along the way, including a few that I considered but ultimately chose to pass by. Frankly I’m a bit jealous, and the word “lazy” doesn’t apply to his attitude. He started the trail with his brother (who had to go home) so now Potter is waiting on another friend to arrive to finish the rest of the trail with him.
A Continental Divide Trail hiker arrives, named Gil from Israel. He started the CDT at the Mexican border, skipped Colorado and went on to hike Wyoming and Montana, and is now back down here to finish this section in more suitable weather.
Another guy arrives on a mountain bike – he’s bicycling the Continental Divide from Banff Canada down to Mexico.
The conversation just flows. Both of these guys did the Pacific Crest Trail in 2008, and the CDT biker was one of the very first hikers that year to go through the snowy Sierra Nevadas. “So you’re the one who kicked out the steps for us,” Gil says, with a knowing look that says thank you.
Some more people from the trail crews come in, and a bunch of us end up going out for dinner with the weekend host of the hostel, Kimberly. The restaurant has a patio along the main river through town, and we have a fun table with beers all around, and seven or eight heads that have been all over the United States and the world. One of the trail crew guys did the TransAmerica bicycle route last year, and it’s fun to reminisce with him about all the obscure little towns along the way.
Walking in Salida at night, I notice that the town has a big “S” on the mountainside, like many other towns out west. This one is different, however, because it’s lit up and visible from the main street, and there’s a big heart that lights up around the big “S.”
Later at the hostel I get into more talking with Gil, the CDT hiker from Israel, trailname “GQ.” He’s about 25 years old, and is probably the most fascinating person I’ll meet on this trip. His English is great, and he has a very matter of fact, thoughtful way of speaking that lends itself to engaging conversation. He came to America to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2008, and then went on to travel extensively in South America.
This spring he came back to the states to hike the Continental Divide Trail. He and his friends started the trip too early, and they saw quite a bit of snow in New Mexico. So they skipped the high peaks of Colorado to continue in Wyoming, only to find more snow. “Then we discovered this magical thing called snowshoes,” he says, “I had never heard of snowshoes before.” They snowshoe-ed all the way through Yellowstone National Park and beyond.
Gil loves that fact my foot is painful and swelled up like a balloon. “This is challenge,” he says, “It’s good, so good… the perfect reason to quit… you walk so much, your foot it breaks.”
We get into it about the psychological nature of these long hiking trips, how all these simple luxuries in town are so wonderful, food and electricity and shelter and showers etc., and how the appreciation of it goes away so fast.
On the trail these things are so desired more than anything, but then when these things are fulfilled, the appreciation is gone. Gil hasn’t been home to Israel in a few years. It’s been almost two years for me, so we share that sentiment.
And then there’s the topic of being on the trail – when on the trail, it seems like all we think about is returning to civilization and “real life.” And then when we’re home, all we think about is getting back on the trail.
It’s also interesting to hear about things in Israel like the mandatory military service and their overall attitude with daily life in general.
…but most conversation is dominated by sharing our anecdotes – bears and lighting and fords and peaks and passes and people met and places seen.