The final leg!

Day Eighteen: 28 August 2013
Start: 410.5 miles 2:15PM 75 degrees
End:426 miles 7 PM Cascade Creek (10904′)
15.5 miles
Lowest elevation: 10800′
Highest elevation: 12400′

So I ended up leaving my trekking poles in the car of the guys who gave me a ride to Silverton from the trailhead. Anyone who owns trekking poles can verify that they are not cheap items, thus I was not willing to give up on them so easily. I did not know where the guys were staying last night, but I did know they would be back on trail today. My solution was to wait until late afternoon to get back on trail, insuring they would have already started and I would be able to catch them. The outcome: I found them within a few miles, hurray!, but they had left them with the mom who had picked them up, boo! We had a delightful afternoon shower, accompanied by lightening, so I opted for camping with the guys that night to guarantee the use of a trekking pole for my tarptent. It was nice to have company for the night. Of the three guys, I am camped with Robert and Herb. The third, Tony, went ahead to log more miles. Robert and Herb are planning a five day finish, Tony a four day finish, and I am planning a three day finish. Robert’s mother is the woman and vehicle who picked us all up at the trailhead for Silverton. Fortunately, she lives in Durango and I can be reunited with my trekking poles when I finish the hike! The guys all started at different times and hike different speeds, but had made a little group and traveled a short while together. All of us are first time thru hikers. 
Silverton is actually a great little place. It is definitely reliant on tourism from the twice daily train out of Durango, but sweet nonetheless. I also quite enjoyed the hostel experience because of the manager, Julian, and my hiking buddy, Joe. Joe and I were the only two guests, so I would have been very alone if he hadn’t decided to spend a few days in Silverton. Julian was incredibly nice. He drove out to the trailhead to pick up Joe last night, he drove me out today, and will drive Joe out tomorrow. He also let me use the hostel washer and dryer for my clothes. This morning, Joe and Julian went together to cut wood for the hostel furnaces. Also, Julian has a <2 year old dog, Valor. He is possibly the best behaved dog I have ever met. 
Today it hit me that my trip is winding down. I am in self sabotage mode: leaving my trekking poles and today almost losing my map book at the coffee shop. This is my second to last night. With the delay I will have to make up mileage over the next two days. The surreal count down has begun and I feel as though I have only just come to terms with being out and away. I suppose these feelings and transitions are why the longer trails (PCT, AT, CDT, etc) are so much more fulfilling. I would have had months to find my pace, gain comfort being alone and camping, pushing myself, building bonds with strangers, and experiencing new things. Every day is an adventure regardless.
Day Nineteen: 29 August 2013
Start: 426 miles 7:30AM 55 degrees
End: 463 miles 7:30 PM Kennebec TH (11635′)
37 miles
Lowest elevation: 10388′
Highest elevation: 12264′
It did not rain last night. It was actually a beautiful, star filled night. Yesterday’s afternoon shower was the only bad weather. I slept wonderfully and headed out strong this morning. I caught Tony quickly and we pretty much stayed together until lunch time when we reached the last water for a 22 mile stretch. I did not want to stop until reaching the next water at Taylor Lake. Tony only wanted to make another ten miles or so. By 2PM I was 19 miles down when rain broke out. This would not have necessarily have been eventful if I was not spending the whole day walking along mountain ridges and to my right was a lightening storm. I waited out the worst of the rain, but I did not want to risk being stuck in lightening and continued forward through the rain to put as much distance between myself and the storm. Despite having a fair amount of rain interactions over the last three weeks, I have had hardly any lightening. Yesterday and today had afternoon lightening and rain. I suppose it is only fitting to go out with a bang right? 
I made my desired mileage to Taylor Lake, only to be pushed off my camp spot by a bear hanging out among the willow bushes. I continued another 1.5 miles down trail to the next viable place, a trailhead parking lot. Since I did not find people and do not have my trekking poles, I need a flat spot near a tree to fasten to my tarptent. After setting up camp and crawling in for the night, I heard another large animal stomp the ground not far from me. I was of course instantly paranoid and knew it had to be another bear. I continued to hear noises but decided I was being harassed by a raccoon or similar, pesky rodent. (Though the next morning I did find fresh bear droppings not 20 feet from my resting spot…)

Day Twenty: 30 August 2013
Start: 463 miles 7:30AM 50 degrees
End:485 miles 2:30 PM Durango (6512′)
22 miles
Lowest elevation: 6977′
Highest elevation: 11750′

My last day. I hit the trail this morning ready to crank out my last miles and finish strong. My body had a different plan, however, and started resisting forward progress a mere four miles into the day. After all the hard work and other struggles I have put my body through over the last three weeks, I wanted a grander finale. I wanted to go skipping into Durango, full of energy and happy as a lark. Instead I was simply exhausted and ready to be finished. I did meet the Vice Chairman, Jerry Brown, of The Colorado Trail Foundation, at the Durango Trailhead. He recognized me as a thru hiker and congratulated me on my accomplishment. I was oddly satisfied with that interaction since I was again near a city with lots of outdoor enthusiasts, making my presence on the trial a common site. When coming in and out of high traffic areas, I occasionally had a feeling of insignificance. While out alone, you gain a sense of power and accomplishment. You are doing something that few people dare even attempt. But when you are surrounded by other out door enthusiasts, you somehow become invisible. I am not expressing my sentiments with much clarity ha. I suppose I am trying to make a connection of how strong and empowered hiking makes you feel when you are alone and in solitude, but once you are with people again, the whole venture seems irrelevant. 
I am finished and it feels great to be done. My feet are ready to rest and heal. I met Robert’s mother in Durango to retrieve my trekking poles and she generously took my to lunch. I have been so fortunate in all the interactions I have had on my hike. There are so many wonderful, kind, generous people in the world. I am delighted that so many seem to be related to the hiking/outdoor world. I am staying tonight with one such individual, Mike Kelly. Whom provided a hot shower, washing machine, and comfortable place to sleep. He even helped me get a ride back to Denver, removing the need to hitch hike. 

Day Twenty-one: 31 August 2013
Durango to Westminster

I slept like I had not slept in months. And of course I was starving when I did wake. I went to Doughworks. Amazing! Breakfast burrito, french toast, and maple long john. Followed by a chai and cookie at a coffee shop. My hunger only just began to set in a couple days ago, just in time for me to be off trail. It is a bit strange to be finished. 

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