The Continental Divide Trail has been difficult.
I once believed I was a great hiker. I am no longer certain of it, but I try. And I do what I can to be safe.
With the snow levels right now, being safe has meant cutting mileage and setting up camp early in the evening in order to prevent having to camp on high elevation ridge lines. It's smart. And it's slow. It's meant having to call it a day because the alternate we took to avoid snow included a river crossing which was absolutely impassable. Sure, we avoided some snow, maybe. But the snow up top was melting so rapidly that the river was chest deep and flowing at an incredible rate. We were defeated, scared, and uncertain how we would cross, if ever. So we camped, hoping that over night the snow would freeze over therefor reducing morning water levels. It did. We crossed a less dangerous river and continued north. Slowly.
We hike with wet shoes for the entire day. We wake up to frozen boots most mornings. It isn't pleasant, but after ten minutes of walking yours shoes will thaw and your feet will warm.
We've taken a great deal of zero days (days in which we do not hike). This strategy has left me feeling like less of a hiker and more often a tourist, but it's smart. And slow. Hopefully much of the snow will melt out and I will be able to make up the lost mileage later in the journey.
The trail, all trails, are nature based experiences. However, they are nearly equal parts personal and interpersonal experiences. The trail winds from mountain to mountain and between these ranges lie (usually) quaint little towns. It's important to me to interact and be a part of these places. To meet people and do things besides hike and sleep. In the past two weeks I've worked at a folk and bluegrass festival, bar hopped with locals, slept in peoples backyards and living rooms, hitch hiked, and am now attending FIBark (First In Boats Arkansas River Festival) here in Salida, CO. We hooked up with a incredible couple who hiked a large portion of the Pacific Crest last year and have allowed us to stay at their relatives home. They also prepared the best breakfast I've had on the entire trail! To me, experiencing and being open to such kindness is a large portion of why I hike.
It isn't, and cannot be, nature or people. The two concepts are absolutely linked. We live on this planet and we consume the goods that it provides for us. To consider one without the other is an absolutely useless endeavor.
So my forward progress is limited. And in truth, the concept of completing the entire trail and becoming a "triple crowner" has shifted. Those are great things, but they are ego-based. I'd like to complete the trail, and I would like to call myself a Triple Crowner. But I cannot, and will not, rush forward into poor conditions that put myself at risk in order to achieve them. My desire to finish this trail is not greater than my desire to enjoy nature and experience the absolutely vital human elements.
I do believe I will finish, but at the moment, I have a men's professional freestyle kayaking tournament to attend.
* Sorry about the old photo featured on top. It has no snow, and I wish that was the way the trail looked currently. I'm having an issue uploading new ones at the moment. But, it is a killer shot, isn't it?