Total Miles: 131.2
Most every day on trail I wake up knowing that I’m right where I’m meant to be, but on rare occasions I barely wake up knowing where I am at all. Today was definitely the latter. Whether from a night of poor sleep or from the drain of yesterday’s roller coaster, I woke up with leaden legs and eyes that could barely manage to keep themselves open. The miles that lie ahead, of course, could not have been more indifferent to how I felt, power outage be damned.
The calm, blue sky and early morning sun did little to pry my eyelids apart or shake loose the weights that felt chained to my ankles. Inward is where I go when I feel like this, as if all my mental energy can afford to be focused on only one thing—putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how laborious it may feel.
Midway up the first and largest climb of the day, we caught the attention of a herd of elk lazing in the broad grassy flanks through which the trail now ascended. Turning their heads to stare at us quizzically, they surely must’ve been wondering what these strange colorful creatures that now came lumbering uphill towards them were, right up until they opted to relocate to higher ground.
Another day came and went without seeing another soul, and during a break we talked about the reasons why the trail is so quiet. Aside from the coronavirus pandemic, the trail itself is often hardly a trail at all. Despite being fully signed for its entire length as of 2018, it is certainly not a trail for its entire length, at least not in the sense that you might imagine. A continuous, winding, dirt path this most certainly is not. At the same time, with even moderate navigation skills it isn’t particularly difficult to discern where the route is at any given point. However, its that combination of circumstances that increases the barrier for entry to the CDT compared to many other trails and as a result keeps the experience squarely in the realm of solitude.
Following the initial climb, the rest of the day’s trail was mercifully gentle. First we’d round large meadows with the scent of sagebrush in the air and gaze back on the peaks that looked like they’d been dusted with powdered sugar, only to descend into the forest on trail littered with the pleasant tread of dry pine needles underfoot.
By early afternoon, the beautiful sunshine of the morning had exited stage left and been replaced by overcast, and occasionally blustery skies. Far in the distance behind us, the veil of gray streaks stretching down from the clouds raised our suspicion for another bout of rain that would never come.
Celebrating Sweet Pea’s birthday, it seemed fitting that the late afternoon trail was kind enough to be quite easy, traversing a vast open plateau and then tilting gently down as we walked for miles on seldom used dirt roads. The feeling of smallness was inescapable, four tiny dots on a vast expanse of uninhabited land, the trail pointing its arrow towards the distant snow-capped peaks. Here’s hoping that tomorrow brings new legs for the climbs that await.