Had some weather roll in yesterday evening and dust the higher elevations with snow, and us with rain. The cold and wet conditions lingered into the mid morning, but the day ultimately cleared up and became beautiful. It didn’t really matter, because all of us needed to tweak our gear and we needed most of the day to get around town and find everything we needed.
My plan is simple. I’m carrying two of every clothing layer. I have two major insulating layers (a down jacket and a fleece jacket). I have three base layers (one long underwear, and two tops). Last but not least I have three shell layers (rain pants, a rain shell jacket, and a wind shell jacket). I have possum down socks, possum down gloves, and rain shell mittens along with a wool skull cap and a down hoodie. I’m set.
My strategy behind the double clothing layers is this…I’m not taking any chances. I know I’m going to be in some very exposed places, possibly during bad weather. If I get caught in a place where I can’t take shelter and I’m forced to push on; I need to be able to keep warm while hiking through rain, snow, wind (or all three) until I can hunker down. Normally in bad weather I would wear as few layers as possible in order to keep them safe and dry in my pack for when I finally do stop to camp. If conditions became too miserable, then instead of putting extra layers on, I’d just quit while I was ahead and set up camp early. That won’t be an option out here in some places. If I can’t stop, then I’ll need to put on layers while I hike, in order to keep going until it’s safe to stop. Unfortunately, most of my layers will be worthless when I stop if they get soaking wet. So I’m keeping an extra set of layers; one set to wear (if need be) while I’m hiking through bad weather; and another set (that will be kept dry in my pack) to wear when I stop to camp/hunker down. That’s my grand plan.
So that’s what today was all about. Running around sourcing gear, eating, exploring, riding the bus, eating some more, and resting. Steamboat is a cool little town, but you can tell its outgrown itself. There is way more people here than there should be, and it makes for a very crowded and touristy atmosphere. The prices of everything reflect that atmosphere as well. Me personally, I’ll take beach touristy over mountain touristy any day of the year. The beach is so much more relaxed and laid back, even when chock full of tourists. The touristy mountains feel…angsty. On the beach, everyone wears their own skin. Way up here, it feels like more of a fashion show/dress to impress; and rightly so with the much lower temps. Just my personal opinion, and being from the beach, I’m obviously bias. So take that for what it’s worth, a grain of salt.
I suppose I’ll give some updates on the folks I’ve been hiking with and around. Funny Bone has decided to get off trail. He’s talked about it for weeks, and he’s finally done it now that we’re in Colorado. He cites relationship commitments. So no more Funny Bone; man down. Mongo and Honeypot both road bikes from Rawlins to steamboat in an effort to gain some ground going south, and as a result are far enough ahead of us now that we probably won’t see them again. Stomper is having continued foot issues and may flip down to do the San Juans. If he continues south like he is, I’m not sure he’ll be able to keep up with Puma, Red Bass, and myself. Stomper is a strong and fast hiker, but the pain in his feet prevents him from putting in the extra long days; not much more than 25 miles. If the four of us were to remain together, it would most likely mean that we’d have to slow down to match Stomper’s pace, which may not be something we can afford to do right now. We’ll just have to see how that plays out in the upcoming days. Merlin, Hummingbird, and OG are here too. We all hang out and have been hiking around each other, but have yet to meld into a single group. We’ll see how that evolves through Colorado. We are the southbound caboose.
For as few people who are hiking this trail in either direction, I’ve seen a surprising amount give up/quit. The majority of them were on their triple crown hike or their second thru hike at the very least. The number of people doing the CDT as their first hike is very small indeed. This trail is deceivingly hard. It’s not as scary as people make it out to be, however it is definitely more intimidating than the other trails, without a doubt. The challenges of this trail are more subtle. It’s a lot of little things that add up and slowly wear your down like fine sand paper. As the year gets older, the sandpaper is getting more coarse, grinding you down just that much quicker. I stay in touch with other hikers on the trail and hear news through the grapevine; a lot of people are hanging by their last threads. I’ve seen two people end their hike here in Steamboat already; Funny Bone, and another hiker named mousetrap. I know of three others just ahead who have also thrown in the towel in the past week.
When you see others ending their hike, it can have one of two affects. It can serve as foreboding/motivation to end your hike; misery does love company after all. Or, it can serve as positive motivation. Perhaps you viewed one of the individuals who quit as being stronger than you or someone to look up to. Now they’re gone, but you remain. Perhaps you were the stronger one, and you never gave yourself the credit. Perhaps they looked up to and admired you. Personally, the more people I see drop off, the more motivated I become. I liken it to being an evil villain who draws power from the demise of their enemies; except these aren’t my enemies, they’re my peers. Regardless, I’m not deterred by other’s lack of grit. We all have our thresholds, mine has not been met yet. However that’s not to say that it won’t be…
I’m feeling good. My body feels strong and my mind feels resolved, healthy, and equally strong. The thought of quitting or not being able to go on due to some mental factor doesn’t even register to me anymore. It never registered before or during this hike. I’m simply out here, and I’ll continue to remain out here until the objective is met. There’s nothing else better I could be doing. There’s nothing I could possibly gain by going somewhere else. This is it. This is my situation. I’m here, now.