I loved you the moment I saw you, Colorado. There was no slow burn, no "starting as friends", just overwhelming emotion for all that you are. When I first met you in 2018, it was a brief but exhilarating experience. You showed me some of your well-known attributes and I was enamored with your multifaceted beauty and the different faces you show the world. I couldn't wait to get to know you better.
Last fall when I returned for your namesake trail, we grew closer and I felt like I understood you in a whole new way. You were still absolutely breathtaking, especially dressed in shimmering gold for the autumn season, but you also became more vulnerable, showing me some of your traumas. Where the pine beetles have devastated your hillsides and mining operations have gutted you, you show resilience despite the toxic feelings still streaming through you. The challenges you presented me helped me to see where I needed to grow and gave me something to work on within myself. Near the end of that adventure, you became cold and I unfortunately wasn't able to manage that at the time.
This year, I came back to you with more skills and an open mind. You fought me most days, pushing me to my limits and bringing me to my knees. You made me work to earn back your trust and often left me cold and weary to sleep alone in your barren wilderness. Some days you welcomed me with open arms, your warmth enveloping me and encouraging me forward. You showed me your burn scars and helped me to understand how the waters that flow through you are as unpredictable as your stormy moods.
Though I still struggle in moments, especially when you are teaching me a new lesson, or an old one that I can't seem to learn, you continue to capture my heart each and every day. Now, as I embark on the next leg of my adventure, I can feel the strength of our bond and know that I will return soon. You still take my breath away and look incredible in gold.
When I resupply, I look at how many miles I need to hike until my next stop and what the terrain is like to determine how many days' worth of food I will need. The more I hike, the better I get at this calculus, but sometimes I still get it wrong. On this last stretch through the Gila River Wilderness, I definitely got it wrong and my hiking partner and I ended up a bit at odds, having some severe food anxiety for days and being VERY hungry. How did it go so wrong?
Usually I make my food before I leave home, dehydrating and measuring and preparing every meal with nutrition, calorie content and weight in mind. I sort all of my food into resupply boxes and label them for post office drops along the way. Sometimes, however, things get messy. A box gets lost in the mail. I arrive on a holiday weekend and would have to wait 3 days for...
Honestly though, this hike has been worlds apart from my thru hike of the PCT. The trail itself has a very different feel, the people are different, and I am a different hiker than I was on my last journey. This hike has been such a unique experience from any of my other hikes and I am so grateful for it.