The last few steps had my heart pounding from the effort. Around the late lingering patch of snow that clung stubbornly below the crest of the divide, before easing onto a saddle devoid of the wind that must typically whip across it.
Continental Divide Trail 2020
There's no denying it. This is an addiction of sorts. Less destructive than drugs or alcohol, perhaps, but no less of an obsession. I've met a lot of people over the years who think this long distance hiking stuff is downright crazy, madness.
The heat of the day passed well into the evening last night. The kind of stifling heat that you'd expect from a closed up motel room and that makes you feel as though even the fitted sheet beneath you is oppressive. The middle of the night brought a brief return to cool before the morning sun threatened to turn the thermostat back up.
While walking for hours on end each day, something I often think about is how much harder this would be if the trail didn't exist at all. You can get a small taste for this during the occasional bushwhack or stretch where the trail essentially goes cross country with little to no markings. But I'm thinking bigger than that even…
Thirty miles. That seemed reasonable given the perfect weather we were expecting and the gentle topography after the first few miles of climbing. It didn't go as planned.
Compromise. Deviation from the desired. Challenging concepts that we all struggle to face and to come to terms with from time to time. Peter, the father of my high school girlfriend once told me, after listening to my story of beating a retreat and abandoning an attempt to summit a peak: “The difference between a mountaineer and a fool, is that a mountaineer knows when to turn back.”
As I said in my previous guest post, I’m a rookie. What do I know? However, as we began planning for the CDT I quickly learned that conditions must be perfect (said to the tune of Flight of the Conchords, of course) in order to hike this big ass trail continuously and without performing any mental, logistical or geographical gymnastics.
The cloudless sky was one giveaway. The temperature in the 80s was another. I don't think we’re in Montana anymore.
Repetition, Monotony. Consistency, Banality. When does one become the other? Thru-hiking is about very little else if not repetition, the millions of steps that link it all together being merely the prerequisite for success. In time, the repetition becomes a foregone conclusion, the framework that allows your mind to wander and to wonder…
The sound was enough to wake me from a dead sleep. The confusion that followed was the kind that comes only when your brain, in its sleep-induced fog, strains to make sense of the unexpected. It was the sound of machinery, but it couldn't be. Not way out here.