The Experience

Man oh man. Where to begin? I guess I’ll just get right into it and start by talking about how absolutely brutal this trail was. I kept asking myself, “is this trail hard because I’m not coming off of 4 months of hiking?” Or is this just an overall difficult trail? It was definitely a combo of both, but regardless if I did just came off of 4 months of hiking, this was going to a be a struggle either way. Over the course of the 486 miles I climbed a combined total of 89,000 feet. So right there was one half of the battle. The other half; rain. Thunderstorms. Lightning. Hail. If I had another local tell me that Colorado was just having a really rough “monsoon season” I was going to snap. Yeah, no shit guys. In all honesty though, I have never been more afraid for my life than having lighting strike within a half mile from me. Walking on rock scramble with tree line about a quarter of a mile from me and I was about to get my first experience on what I was truly getting myself into this time around. Before I could barely get the words “one Mississippi” out of my mouth after see the flash of lightning was no sooner than I heard one of the most terrifying sounds that one can hear while out on a hike. It’s one thing when you hear lightning strike and you’re in the safety of your house. . . .the safety of your house being the key words. But when your 12,000 feet up and it’s right above your head, it’s a whole new beast. It becomes an entity at that point. Its own life force. The moment the lightning struck I took off running on the rock scramble headed for tree line a quarter of a mile away. . . .only to trip. Gear goes flying everywhere. Hit my head on the rocks and can now say I’m the proud owner of 3 new scars. After scrambling to get all my gear I continue my mad dash for tree line. I thought for sure that the next strike was coming for me considering I had zero coverage and was running with my umbrella; flipped inside out at that point collecting water none the less. I know what you’re thinking. Why on earth are you using an umbrella during a thunderstorm? Well I’ll tell ya. Up until that first strike of lightning I was only dealing with heavy rain. Plus, this time around I left my pack cover at home and solely stuck with the umbrella/rain jacket combo. So anyways, running with the umbrella flipped inside out at this point not wanting to put it down because I would be drenched in seconds and all I could say was “God, please stay with me right now. Don’t let this fucking umbrella be the reason I die.” So yeah, that was the first of five mad dashes trying to get away from lighting while hiking out on this trail. One of those resulting in me having to breakdown camp at 9:30 at night and run 3 miles back down trail in the pitch dark during a thunderstorm. That’s a story for another day though. Do another thru-hike they said. . . .

Just so you can get some perspective; I didn’t run in to my first day of rain on the PCT until my last day in Oregon. Out of the 30 days on the CT, I would say that in some way, shape, or form, I dealt with rain for at least 20 of those days. I think that mentally this was the hardest to deal with. Day after day of rain will break your spirits. Someone told me that while on a thru-hike you need to “embrace the suck”. I couldn’t agree more. Being able to find humor in a shitty situation on the trail can be the thin line between successfully making it to the end or catching yourself calling it quits early. This applies to life back in the real world as well. You know, the real world. Where you actually have responsibilities to worry about. Anyways, being able to find humor in shitty situations is going to go a long way in life. Bouncing sarcastic humor back and forth with some of the other hikers while we were in the midst of experiencing a mild version of hell made all the difference out there.

As for the physical aspect of things, the word brutal would be an understatement. I felt that while I was on the PCT I didn’t really get into the swing of hiking until about a month in. Some more perspective. I could also kick myself for not doing any sort of serious training before heading out there. But then again nothing can properly prepare you for a thru-hike than doing a thru-hike. Excuses aside this trail was physically taxing if you couldn’t tell already. The trade off for all of this? The views.

I kept telling the locals how good they have it in Colorado. May or may not have been a little bit of jealousy in the tone of my voice as I was saying it though. I mean I don’t think there was one day that I wasn’t blessed with an extraordinary view. And the people out there are unreal. Everyone is extremely friendly on top of living a hustle and bustle kind of lifestyle. I’m not talking about the New York hustle and bustle kind of lifestyle either. I’m talking about a daily marathon run, mountain bike riding, 14er bagging (hiking a 14,000 foot peak) kind of lifestyle. I think when people have their own space, we tend to be less agitated. Having that option to head to the mountains for the weekend to decompress versus being trapped on an island is a game changer. This also isn’t to say that everyone has to become a hiker but I can confidently say there’s a calming effect that comes when you spend time in nature that is rather hard to find on the island. It’s gotta be hard to be lazy over there when you know that everyday people are out there getting it done. There will always be someone doing something a little more rad than you is what I’ve come to learn while being out there.

So in a nutshell that has been my experience on the Colorado Trail. As hard as it was I think it was extremely beneficial and of course taught me a lot which you can checkout over in “The Takeaway”. Anyways, to finish this off, I came to the conclusion after hiking this trail that after trying to pick between Colorado or Washington state, I’m giving myself two years to move out to Colorado but would like to make it happen sooner than that. The more I think about it the more that seems like the right move for me. As always, thank you for reading.

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