Total Miles: 611.2
Like a truck stuck in second gear. That’s what it felt like when my feet took their first steps away from our camp this morning. The evening rains had left only to return a time or two overnight, ensuring that we’d be packing up wet tarps, at a minimum. There was no blue sky to herald the morning, only a thick cloud that we seemed to be finding our way out of little by little.
Only a few minutes down the trail, we spotted a reddish-brown cow seemingly all by its lonesome, happily munching away on some grass at the edge of a meadow before pausing to appraise the two-legged strangers that had interrupted breakfast. Sure enough, she wasn’t alone. As the meadow widened, the rest of the herd came into view, scattered as it was among the wet, green grass.
The litany of small calves was the most interested in our passage, while their mothers either briefly acknowledged or outright ignored us. One particularly inquisitive calf was forgoing the buffet altogether in favor of investigating a nearby lodgepole pine with what appeared to be genuine interest. Another pair watched with bemused looks, standing like statues, their heads rotating to track our progress as we passed.
Getting up close and personal with cattle is an experience that unites all three of the triple crown trails. Another one is the fact that if you spend enough days outside, you’re bound to see just about all that the weather has to offer. Walking through a thick and mysterious cloudscape, it was as though Colorado had temporarily forgotten itself and instead taken on the role of Montana. Through air that was dead still, we wandered across meadows and along the border of active timber operations, with indecisive sprinkles issuing from the clouds that seemed to be threatening more but never delivered on the promise.
Nearing the end of a fairly uneventful day, we were nearly at the bottom of the final descent when a series of brightly colored arrows appeared alongside the trail. The inscription of “Life is good” on the first one seemed nothing more than a novelty, until the others that followed with allusions to food and a place to rest weary feet. Breaking out of the forest and into a meadow, two friendly faces were there to greet us with the proverbial pot of gold that awaited at the end of the rainbow.
At its heart, trail magic isn’t complicated—think of it as any random act of kindness. It could be a jug of water left for hikers at a trailhead in the midst of a long, waterless stretch of trail. Or it could be a full blown barbecue. Hell, I’ve even been asked to settle into a chair, don a captain’s hat, and be handed a beer and a menu to order from. But no matter how small or large, behind it all is a gesture from a complete stranger. Think back to the last time you experienced that. I’ll wait.
Kindness isn’t sexy, and it’s all too often either overlooked or viewed with a world-weary suspicion of ulterior motives. Not here. Here, it’s welcomed with open arms and giant, “I can’t believe you did all this for us” kind of smiles.
In our case, two sisters who’d hiked the Colorado Trail in 2017 had setup shop for a week to cook hot dogs and hand out chips to all of the current hikers who might be passing through. As luck would have it, we were their first Continental Divide Trail hikers to come by.
And lest you think that this magic, perfectly timed with our plans to stop for dinner, precluded the need for us to make our own dinner immediately afterwards, I haven’t done a very good job communicating the undisputed supremacy of food in the pecking order of trail priorities. A first dinner on behalf of perfect strangers immediately followed by a second one? Now that’s magic.
Latitude/Longitude: 38.23127, -106.58163