For me, the Colorado Trail started at the Sanibel Bean Coffee Shop last December.
On Christmas holiday in the Florida Keys with my family I sat sipping an iced mocha and contemplating post-graduate life. I had just finished four and a half years of a relatively intense undergraduate career, decided to wait to apply to graduate school for another year, and, honestly, had no clue what to do with my life. As someone who has almost always had a plan this combination pretty much entirely freaked me out! Fortunately, I had already planned a trip to South America for Feb-April…but come May what was I going to do?!
Thus, the Google searches, brainstorming conversations, and many many scribbles in my notebook commenced as the ice melted in my latte. I looked for jobs and travel opportunities, considered adventures and growing experiences. This was time to do things I might never have the opportunity to do again. Suddenly, I remembered a friend recommending spend as much time as possible outside during my year of “freedom.” On a whim I turned to my mother and asked if she wanted to fulfill her dream of hiking the Colorado Trail with me. I did not really know much about it, but why not? Of course, she said yes and my heart sang with stokedness but there was a part of me that didn’t really believe we’d do it…it was just a dream…
Until, we started hiking a little over a month ago!
I am still unsure of how to put the magic of the trail into words. It is simultaneously pure bliss and utter challenge. It is one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had and also one of the hardest things I have ever done. Just as the elevation profile on our map shows, there are peaks and there are valleys on this journey.
The valleys come in all shapes and sizes; suffering does not discriminate. We have hiked over so many rocks our feet cried with aching arches and yet we pushed on. We have hiked over twenty miles in a day, two days in a row. And been so very sore the following mornings. We have gotten sun burnt hiking the unnecessary long way around Twin Lakes. We have hiked for hours over beautiful high mountain passes with gorgeous views…that we could NOT see because the wind threw cold drenching rain into our gust-slapped faces as we hiked along the high ridge in the middle of the gray clouds. We have felt starvation gnaw at the inside of our stomachs no matter how many beans we eat (and trust me, we eat A LOT of beans!). We have woken up with rain dripping onto our faces. We have battled armies of mosquitos with Zen patience…and lots of bug spray! We have hiked up so many thousand feet that we do not think we will ever make it to the top. There have been many moments when we have not wanted to go on…but we always do.
We keep placing one sore foot in front of the other because we have also experienced the most wondrous peaks. We have hiked 16 miles above 12,000 feet in one day, going over five glorious ridges and passes to stand in awe of the expansive views behind, in front, and all around us! We have hiked through fields of wildflowers—Indian paint brush in a plethora of colors, plump purple clover on steroids, delicate pink stars that smell like lilacs, thickets of bluebells, purple and pink and white Columbine that tell us we can do it, and so many others whose names I do not remember but whose beauty have touched my heart. We have slipped out of our tent in the middle of the night to cry at the beauty of shooting stars streaking across the Milky Way. We have laughed so hard we cried over who-knows-what in our end of the day exhaustion. We have had the best meals of our life—because everything on the trail suddenly tastes amazing when you are starving and because when resupplying in town things like bread, salad, and ice cream are beyond luxurious! We have gazed out across fields of what I call “12,000 foot sunflowers” at many high mountain passes. We have gone skinny-dipping almost every day (often twice a day), sometimes jumping in cool deep lakes surrounded by pine and sunshine, sometimes dipping into brisk creeks, and sometimes just doing push-ups into tiny streams just to get the dirt off. We have spent hours without speaking a word and also talked endlessly. We have reveled in sunsets painting the sky with effervescent wonder, breathed in the scent of piney air, soaked up tons of Colorado sunshine, and, overall, filled up our souls to bursting!
We have pushed our selves harder, grown stronger, been more astounded, built more confidence, cultivated deeper connection with each other, with ourselves, and with the earth, than I ever thought possible!
In 24 days we walked 360 miles! It feels like we have seen both heaven and hell. We have met amazing people and had amazing experiences. The challenge has been both physical and mental. And, most importantly and fabulously, we are doing it together! It is an unexpected gift to spend this much time with my fabulous mother, every day I am grateful for the opportunity to make a team of Columbine Goddesses with her!
We’ve still got a little bit more to finish off the 485 miles of the Colorado Trail but now I know we can do it. The accomplishment seems unreal; part of me still cannot believe that we are going to do it…that we are doing it! I sometimes feel that maybe I’ll wake up and it will still just be a crazy idea in a coffee shop in Florida.
Photo by Carl Marvin.