Total Miles: 1814.1
Cleanliness is a relative concept. At least that’s what I tell myself. It’s an especially handy rationalization for days like today when I watch each step conjure its own dust cloud on a trail pulverized by a summer’s relentless heat and the traffic of ATVs. I am the real-life incarnation of Pig Pen.
The further we descended, the trenches of the dirt track evolved into a true footpath and the dust gradually became littered with something else: brightly golden aspen leaves. Their crunch under each step and the excited fluttering of those still clinging to their respective branches completed an idyllic autumn afternoon of hiking.
Our first full day back in Colorado would also be our last, as we finally closed the loop back to Steamboat Springs where we’d begun our southbound journey through the state back in July. Well, almost.
The story of fire, both past and present, is one that has been indelibly written across the miles of this hike and today would yield another chapter. Directly ahead of us, an 8000-acre wildfire was being allowed to burn outside of Steamboat Springs, blocking a 40-mile section of trail that divides us from fully closing the loop back to those first steps in Colorado.
Time has been the medicine for the disappointment, as word of this likely roadblock had first reached us several weeks ago. Chalk it up as curveball number 47 of this hike, a fact of life on trail that can alternate between fun and frustrating. Today, it was neither. It was simply the reality in front of us, albeit a cold and indifferent one.
The upside of that reality was that just shy of the smoke that billowed angrily into the sky our friend Hoa would be waiting to pick us up for a night in Steamboat Springs. The following day would be a restful one at the home of her and husband Mike in the red rocks outside of Denver. Beyond, New Mexico awaits. The final piece of this CDT puzzle.