The motto of the CDT is "Embrace the Brutality". About 8 miles south of the Colorado border, I saw the brutality. I did not embrace it. I ran and hid in my tent like a little girl. Beaker and I were up at about 10K feet when hail turned to rain turned to sleet and that, finally, turned to snow. We couldn't find the trail. Our paper maps were shredding in the wind and rain like tissues. Phones and GPS couldn't find us and we could barely read the screens, anyway. It was brutal. We set up our tents and hid, shivering inside.
Connecting with the trail north of Creede, Colorado was an experience. As I made my way up to the 12,300 foot San Luis Pass, I couldn't wait to see what was on the other side. I finally made it over to find that Colorado didn't know that it was June. Still, tons of snow up there. I began fighting my way through this obstacle course for long distance hikers. There were long stretches of post holing in deep snow. There were some steep shale scrambles to climb, there were raging rivers to ford... THIS was the CDT I had been looking for. It was brutal. And I was embracing it.
The trouble with this kind of hiking is that it takes forever. That means carrying more food. That means needing more battery power. You start early in the morning so you can walk on top of the frozen crust over the snow fields. By early afternoon, you're worried about falling through the snow to the river running... right under you! You have to pause constantly to look at the terrain, look at your map, try and figure out a way around, a way through... I became convinced that there was only one way, a small thread that, if I found it, I could make it through. I passed a series of 'no turning back' type features like glissading 300 feet down the side of a mountain. It was fun doing it but, when I looked back up that hill, I knew there was no way I could go back up it. We try not to do this in long distance hiking. Climbers call it getting 'cliffed off'. Passing obstacles that make it impossible to get back the way you came from is not always the best move but, on the other hand, you have to commit at some point. You have to say, "I'm not going back and I will find a way around any obstacles before me."
I finally came down out of the mountains to the lush Cochetopa Valley. Back to the kind of hiking I really enjoy - big miles, beautiful scenery and plenty of water. According to the map, I needed to cross this river. Both a bridge and a beaver dam that used to cross this river were out but I was brimming with confidence, having just forded a dozen rivers of equal intensity. I took all the usual precautions: I took off my boots, socks and gators and tied them to my pack. I unbuckled all the straps on my pack. I checked my phone one last time before crossing to make sure I was on the right track. Tucked the phone into the GoreTex pocket of my shell (see the mistake?). I picked a 'bail out' point downstream - something to aim for if a fell in. As I inched closer to the fast water, my trekking pole vibrated wildly in the rushing water. This was deeper and faster than I had anticipated. Right when I decided to go back and give this some more thought, the 'shelf' of pebbles I was standing on gave way and in I went. I swam for the far shore. One of my trekking poles lodged under water and pulled my shoulder down with it, trapping my arm. I had to get my wrist out of the strap and kiss that pole goodbye before I could climb out onto shore, soaked to the bone. Suddenly, a wave of panic engulfed me. My phone! Did that pocket keep it dry? Nope. It was soaked. As quickly as I could, I wiped it off, wrapped it in a bandana and stuck it in a bag of rice. I had heard that sometimes the rice can draw the moisture out and save the phone. I left it in there for full two days. No luck. Getting a new phone on the trail is a HUGE pain. My only hope is that my trusty Resupply Coordinator can replace it.
Having hiked for a while now without a phone, I see that I was way too dependent upon it. Yes, my phone is my only source for communicating with the outside world and I wouldn't hike without one if I could avoid it but I had no choice. I felt terrible about all the pictures and video that were lost. I had a silver fox come within 10 feet of me and I got it all on video (!) but now it's all gone. That's okay, I have the memory forever. I needed to rid myself of the feeling of needing an outlet and going out of my way to charge the phone. I needed to rid myself of the addiction to email and social media and going off trail just to find a WiFi source. I needed to trust my navigation with paper maps and compass more. I had been using map and compass and just using Guthook's app to confirm my location but not having a phone to check makes you trust your compass. Maybe ruining my phone was the Trail's way of teaching me that I don't need it and to stop depending on it so much. Lesson learned. Just the same, I contacted Super Resupply Coordinator Martha Rogers and she is sending me a new one. I will reload Guthook's app and continue the hike.
Also lost were great pics of my Honor Point backpack, Astro's bandanna, me keeping warm in my Stormy Kromer, etc... Luckily, there's lots more trail to hike and many more pictures to take. Stay tuned for more, soon!