When I woke up this morning, headed up to the hostel’s kitchen for breakfast, and found myself out of breath after that single flight of stairs, I knew I was in for a challenging day. But, there’s only so long I could wait at the hostel; I’d decided I was either hitting the trail today or getting back to Kentucky.
And so, after loading up my gear and getting hugs from the hostel managers, I set off with Ian (a Denver-residing EMT and the EABO whose comical disenchantment with thru-hiking I referred to yesterday) to hitchhike back to the trail. We got there eventually — after a trip down 91, another back up 91, and finally a hitch to Tennessee Pass.
The first couple we rode with were returning to Denver after a weekend in Aspen. As I was nauseated and exhausted, it took every ounce of mental fortitude I possessed not to ask to just go back with them. But, I kept my mouth shut, and at 10:00 I set foot in the woods once more.
There weren’t any easy miles, but the uphills were absolutely exhausting. Gasping for breath behind the buff that was keeping the air I was breathing blessedly moist, I stopped every ten steps or so. Eventually, I made it to the top of each climb.
And then, the woods began to work their magic on me again. I found myself gazing at high-elevation lake after high-elevation lake. I took in the wildflowers and the hawks. I savored the breezes and the blue sky. Yes, the miles were difficult, but they were worth it.
To top it all off, as I was nearing camp, I saw a rainbow.