I'm sitting in a basic but very comfortable motel room. No TV in here but it's warm and dry. It even has running water and a fancy flush toilet! Far from the cold, wet, caveman-style existence that I've been living while hiking this trail. The snow is STILL coming down. Big, wet flakes that build and build. Early tomorrow morning, three other hikers and I will stomp through this snow and climb thousands of feet up to the Highline Trail that will take us to the goal we've been working toward for five months: the small monument that lies just over the border into Canada and marks the northern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail.
Reaching that monument means so many things to me. It will mean the end of this long hike. It will mean that I've earned the Triple Crown of long distance hiking. It means saying goodbye to dear friends. It means I need to figure out a way to get home. It's all I can think about and it's SO CLOSE. I just need to get there without getting injured or dying.
There are a myriad of risks: hypothermia, frostbite or just feet so cold that I can't walk on them, dehydration because all the little streams that I take for granted will be frozen solid and, of course, falling hundreds of feet to my death. I always try to assess risk by asking myself two questions: Is it possible? and is it probable? Take bears for example. Is it possible that I could be attacked by a bear? Yes. Is it probable? No. It's just not statistically likely to happen so why worry about it? Now take the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Is it possible that I will die of a heart attack or stroke someday? Yes. Is it probable? Well... Actually... YES! Most Americans die from cardiovascular disease. That tells me I need to worry about obesity, hypertension and diabetes, not bears. Now look at the risk of suffering from hypothermia. I'll be up at 8,000 feet, soaking wet from the snow while the temperature hovers around 23 degrees. Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? Hmmm... Just not sure. It happens to hikers every year. Will it happen to me?
Despite these risks, I'm going. There is no stopping me from at least trying. If we can't get through, we'll fall back and try some lower elevation routes. As a last resort, we'll just road walk up there but we WILL get to that monument.
I've got a couple more blog posts spinning around in my head. One about all the amazing wildlife I've seen, another one about bears and one about my next big hike. I'll save those for later. For now, I'm solely focused on finishing my hike and earning my Triple Crown.
|Beaker looks out over Old Man Lake. |
|Me squinting into the sun on Triple Divide Pass.|
|And then there's this guy...|
|I hiked for a (very) short time with this rookie from Chicago. Look at the size of his pack!|
|(L to R): Me, Beaker, Northern Strider (from Montreal, Quebec) and Snowplow (from Bern, Switzerland) as we toast the final push to the border.|
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