Colorado Hates Me


I walked through the town of Creede and up through the historic mining district on a dirt road. There was a lot of road, a lot of elevation gain, a storm forming for tomorrow and I figured on a low mileage day, a campsite was listed on the far side of San Luis Peak for about 15 miles. It was a brutal day for me. There was no juice in my legs, my stomach hurt and I had no appetite. I climbed slowly from 8:30 to 3, had a brief respite, then climbed some more, getting to nearly 13,000′ more than once, stopping frequently and wondering if my problem was the altitude, the zero days, or what. But I was acclimated to altitude by now and in excellent trail shape.

Even though I intended to camp earlier than most thru hikers, I could see another tent in the not-so-flat little campsite near a creek. I just couldn’t go any further, so I asked the hiker, new to me, if he would mind sharing. Bark Eater was fine with it and we chatted a bit as I set up camp. I forced down my dinner. Two or three CDT alternates have kind of led to a bit of a traffic jam on this stretch. Because of the San Juan National Forest closure, there were hikers on the official longer CDT San Juan route already, there were hikers on the shorter Creede Route and there are hikers rerouted off both of those from Woof Creek Pass. Not to mention hikers rerouted from further behind from Cumbres Pass. Anyway a bunch of unknown hikers walked past as the evening wore on and 3 others crowded in with us in 2 more tents. Dark fell and all was quiet.

I woke the next morning and packed with the others. They headed out. I followed, unable to eat breakfast. I puked up my protein powder enriched morning coffee. My legs were weak. Not good. It was a beautiful gentle downhill as rain started spitting off and on. On my map, a trailhead was listed in a few miles. Here’s what I thought: “I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to call Search and Rescue. If I’m at a road access trailhead and I get sicker I can figure out how to call the Forest Service or someone with a truck. I’ll just pitch my tent and see if I feel better with a little rest first before I decide.” I satellite texted Dan telling him my situation and asking for input.

I got there, a wonderful clean vault toilet and a single car in the tiny dirt parking lot. I felt pretty puny and put on some layers against the cool and damp and leaned against my pack to think about things. A couple hikers went by. 20 minutes later a guy walked in from a slightly different direction. “Is that your car?” I asked. “Yes.” “Can you give me a ride to whatever town you’re going to?” “Yes.” I am so very lucky. So very lucky that Chris, hiking Colorado peaks on vacation from teaching Chemistry at a Kansas college, didn’t hesitate to help. He didn’t hesitate when I said I was not feeling well. He didn’t hesitate when I asked him to pull over and I got out and puked some more. It was an hour and a half to Gunnison where he was going. I’ll never be able to hitch back to that obscure trailhead. But I am so lucky to lay in a hotel bed for 18 hours, feverish but comfortable inside instead of in a tent in a rainstorm. Some people have the impression we spend 100% of our time camping, but it’s not true. For every 100 or so miles, you have to go to a town and resupply with more food. And I think towns are where you get your dose of germs too.

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