Monday, August 27, 2018 — 11.7 Miles for the Day
We successfully avoided making any serious decisions last night, too busy huddling in our sleeping bags while the storm raged on.
When the morning dawns, we begin our normal camp preparations and wait until coffee is made to re-broach the subject. Isaac begins by saying that he feels pretty strongly it is time to call it. End the hike. We’ve had a good run, but he doesn’t feel good about the idea of continuing, knowing my foot is getting worse over time. When he says these words, I feel such a tremendous amount of peace. Followed by some guilt at the idea of quitting. Followed by excitement at the thought of going home.
In the end, we agree that we’re ready to go home. 60% because of how much pain my foot is causing me. 40% because we feel the journey has run its course.
Going into this adventure, I knew that the majority of people don’t make it the 480 miles. I had always assumed we would be in the minority who go the full distance. But here we are agreeing to bail out at mile 280.
And I feel glad about it! Who would have guessed?
It turns out that I’ve learned a lot these last three weeks. Learned some things about God, about nature, about relationships, about myself. I’ve experienced so much fun, wonder, and excitement.
The achiever in me laments not finishing, but I don’t hate it as much as I thought. I actually feel really good about what we did, and satisfied with the idea of going home.
But it turns out, that it’s not THAT easy to quit. Once we made the decision, we consulted the data book and mapped out a bailout route. A few miles up trail, then 12 miles down a road to the small town of Sargents.
We set off, and it’s a beautiful day. We thoroughly enjoy our last hike through the woods. The sun is shining, the views are lovely. Our friend Dave always says, “never quit on a bad day.” He was totally right. It’s a beautiful day, a good day. A good day for quitting.
We make it to the forest road and head down a few miles when it abruptly ends. In the middle of the woods, the road just disappears. We’re confused, but we see a small side trail that says “dead end”. It’s oriented roughly the northwesterly direction that we want to go, so we plunge on. It careens steeply down the side of the mountain, but we follow it for half a dozen tedious, pain-staking miles, feeling reassured that it’s still roughly headed the right direction.
Finally we emerge on the valley floor, and we can see a major roadway a couple miles away. After three river crossings we reach the road and continue walking. Not much later, a miner named Liam drives by and offers us a ride into Sargents, sparing us 5 more miles of road walking. Yes please! And when we reach Sargents he says he can get us back to Salida, nearly 45 minutes away. Absolutely!
The drive flies by, and we enjoy the conversation. Liam is a great guy and a good conversationalist. Incredibly thankful for his kindness.
He drops us off downtown, and we check into a hostel. After some research we book a bus that will take us back to Denver first thing in the morning. This was almost too easy.
We spend our last evening with a special dinner at the Boathouse. The food is delicious, but more than anything, we appreciate the opportunity to talk through the last few weeks.
Isaac asks me what my takeaways are from this experience. I think about it, struggling to find the words.
If anything, the biggest idea I meditate on is a simple, overwhelming gratitude for my life as it is. A realization that God has given me purpose and meaning in a basic life. The harshness of nature has reinforced how big God is, how small I am. How thankful I am for small things. My job. My home. My marriage. My family. There’s so much to be thankful for!
I think about why we wanted to do this trip in the first place. There were a lot of reasons; but if I’m being honest, my overwhelming purpose was to find an outlet to process grief over our inability to have children, to spend time with Isaac away from life’s distractions and envision a different kind of future. I’m not sure we fully accomplished that, but I do think I’ll be looking at things a little differently moving forward. I want to focus on all that I have, and not what I lack.
And that in itself makes this whole adventure worth it.