I wake in the early hours before dawn and pack up my final campsite.
The woods are cold and dark, and it’s one-hundred percent night-hiking.
A dim light gradually emerges, but the morning is still void of color.
The few heavily traveled miles to the end of The Colorado Trail take longer than I’d expected. Eventually there’s a gravel parking lot and a sign marking the trailhead, just like all the rest. I’d seen plenty of photos of thru-hikers at this sign, the official end point. The place and moment doesn’t strike me as particularly memorable or dramatic this morning, and I skip the picture in the dim light.
From the trailhead it’s another few miles into Durango. Most hikers easily hitchhike from here, but at this early hour I’m left to walk the road. The first signs of people stirring to life on this Monday of Labor Day weekend are faintly detectable, though I sense that most are still asleep. Newspapers lie dormant outside every home.
Finally in downtown among the chill scent of exhaust fumes I stop in a gas station for a soda and candy.
Then it’s over to Denny’s for a whopping breakfast of a Moons over My Hammy with hashbrowns, six pancakes, and bacon.
Soon the gift shops are open and I find myself a nice cotton T-shirt that says DURANGO in big letters.
Who do I see walking the sidewalk but Ole and Meadow Bruiser! We talk for a while and make plans to meet later for dinner. We’ll all be staying at the hostel tonight.
A six pack of beer from the store, and I wait in the green sunny grass for my friend from Pagosa Springs to come pick me up. On the way out of town we stop at a ribs joint. The owner is apparently quite the Woody Nelson fan – I love the photo of Woody’s profile that says “A NATIONAL MONUMENT doesn’t have to be a PLACE.”
I spend the afternoon hanging out near Pagosa, retrieve my car, and drive back to Durango. The first thing I reach for in my car is a pair of sandals. I won’t wear shoes for almost three weeks – the entire duration of this road trip back to Pennsylvania – allowing my foot to finally heal.
Ultimately I never have my foot looked at by a professional or find out what was the exact injury. It clears up on its own in due time.
Ole and Meadow and I enjoy dinner at a hip pizza place down the street from the hostel. I consume a whole pizza.
The next morning I drive them to the airport and take care of errands in Durango – picking up my last maildrop, a haircut, an oil change on my car…
The next day I go back to my friend’s at Pagosa Springs and have a nice time at an amazing brew pub there.
I take two days to drive across Colorado from Pagosa Springs to Boulder. In Boulder there’s an old friend that I’ve known since grade school, a childhood friend that I haven’t seen in over ten years.
On the way I leisurely drive through all the trail towns – Creede, Gunnison, Buena Vista, and Leadville.
Most of the time spent with my friend in Boulder happens to be at yet another local brewpub.
Peak foliage along the roadside
When I leave Boulder I visit Rocky Mountain National Park, but don’t do any hiking. It all looks the same as the world that’s been my home for the last five weeks.
At last I say goodbye to Colorado, and visit Nebraska for the very first time.
From there I drive north to the Black Hills country of South Dakota.
South Dakota is not-so-surprisingly very cool, with the Black Hills and Badlands.
I drive due east, clear across South Dakota. I turn north to visit Fargo North Dakota (Just because), and make a sort of loop that hits Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula, and Iowa.
When this road trip is over, I’ll have visited every state in the US with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii.
Lake Superior, Upper Peninsula, Michigan
The Field of Dreams is my final and ultimate stop of this year’s adventure. After this I’ll spend a full week with one of my best friends in Illinois, a weekend with another in Ohio, and then finally home.
I roll into Iowa in the late afternoon, and the golden light already gives it a magical quality. I arrive at the field a few moments before sunset. The site is technically closed for the day, but there’s nobody around, except for a single other tourist. He says he’s spending the night in a nearby town, and invites me to come back to play ball tomorrow. For some reason it had never occurred to me that people would actually play baseball here! Hmmm.
“Well I’ll leave you alone with the field,” he says, and drives off.
I sit on the bleacher, dodge the sprinklers, run the bases, and walk in the corn.
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