August 24, 2010
Today’s Miles: 9.8
Total Miles: 305.7
Breakfast Elevation: 11,160 ft
Dinner Elevation: 10,280 ft
High Point: 11,860 ft
I’m still half asleep and lying in my tent after sunrise when I hear Ole and Meadow Bruiser pass along the trail. I’d hoped to be up for sunrise, but laziness got the best of me.
These morning views aren’t so bad.
My foot is in extreme pain today, and the opening miles are very slow. It feels as though it takes forever to limp a mile and a half to the Silver Creek Trail, where I must stop to resupply with water.
It’s a quarter of a mile downhill from the Colorado Trail on a rocky set of switchbacks to reach the stream. It seems as though the footpath has an inordinate number of loose rocks that make walking difficult for me. I must land completely flat-footed with each step, or else a sharp pain shoots up from the sole and radiates into my ankle. The base of my second toe also hurts when bent at the end of each step, so I’m raising my leg completely flat footed as well. I’ve even loosened the laces to account for the swelling.
This makes the activity of walking all day long on loose rocks extremely unpleasant. I’m considering leaving the trail, just unable to see how I can go on like this for over 200 more miles. I begin plotting on how to get back to my car in Pagosa Springs from Salida, and planning how to re-schedule my drive back home to Pennsylvania and overall itinerary for the coming months, moving everything ahead by about two weeks.
From here it’s about 75 isolated trail miles to my next town stop, Creede, and I don’t see how I can make it in this condition. To go back to Salida would be just 20 miles, so if I’m going to leave the trail, then the time to do it is now. In addition to the physical pain, Every step forward is now wrought with indecision. There could be a stress fracture in there, or surely one developing. Am I doing permanent damage? Should I really quit this thing?
At Silver Creek I fill my water and take a long break, contemplating the situation. A light rain passes, and the early afternoon is gray. Two mountain bikers roll down the switchbacks, oblivious to my presence. They’re the only people I see on this quiet day in the mountains.
Eventually I pack up and continue forward on the Colorado Trail, discouraged and slow.
This is about as handsome as the trail looks today.
Somewhere along the way I decide to go on for about 7 more miles to the next water source to spend the night.
Most of the trail is in the trees, but there’s a few nice views later in the day.
Finally I come to the water source where I’d planned to spend the night – Tank Seven Creek.
There’s good camping nearby. To my dismay it’s already occupied by two middle-aged women. I resign myself to filling my water and moving ahead to find another campsite, but one of them approaches me and strikes up a conversation. When I announce that I’m moving on for the night they invite me to stay.
My first instinct is to decline, but I gather that they truly don’t mind.
I choose to stay.
I’m introduced to Sally and Ginger, nurses and coworkers from northeastern Colorado. They already have a fire going, and I join them as I enjoy my dinner of Teriyaki noodles and tuna. They’re avid hikers, and very familiar with all the nuances of trail culture, doing the Colorado Trail in sections. They also regularly hike other trails in Colorado and especially Utah, one of my favorite places.
The guy that’s semi-famous for cutting off his own arm when it was trapped under a rockfall in Utah is a friend of theirs (Aron Ralston from 127 Hours, and literally lives next door to one of them.
They’re planning a trip to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon in a few months, so they’re full of curiosity about the Canyon and my other hikes. In fact, there’s so much common ground to talk about that there isn’t enough time to cover all the topics that come up. We find ourselves still sitting out in the open when a heavy rain begins.
With comments like “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be right now,” they’re filled with enthusiasm, and have no qualms about sharing how happy they are to be hiking… something I’d lost behind the haze of my pain.
It’s infectious. Even more importantly, they share with me a decent quantity of precious Ibuprofen, something I’d tragically neglected to restock in Salida.
There’s a raging thunderstorm tonight as I lie in my tent.