Simba Hikes the CDT - Dispatch #6
If you’re looking for a happy-go-lucky backpacking blog, this isn’t the one for you. I’ve reached the lowest low I’ve ever felt in all of my hiking.
I sat in Winter Park three days ago and thought about all the better things I could be doing, rather than forcing my body to walk unhappily through the wilderness day after day. Painting, skateboarding, being with my family and friends, .... not waking up to a frozen tent in the mornings. Yeah.. that sounds nice.
At least I ate some Indian food, but sadness can make food distasteful.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention my dog died... He slipped a disk in his back, ultimately paralyzing himself. We had to put him down. In a matter of 24 hours, my mom had taken him for routine walk back in Pennsylvania where he ran around with endless happiness, and then shortly after he was in the most pain he had ever been in. I loved him so much.
He was only 4. I'd been watching videos of him in my tent at night, super excited to see him when I finished this trail. And now all I have left of him is in those same videos and all the memories with him back home.
Anyways.. Last I checked in was Rawlins, Wyoming.
I walked out of town mid day. Bad idea. The sun was scorching down on my back and reflecting up from the blacktop highway, a road walk I was on for the next 36 miles. No trees in sight for shade, so I took refuge under the entrance of a pit toilet for a few hours. This was my first real break down..
I don’t know what got into me, but I was done. I didn’t want to walk in the sun any more. I stood up and screamed at the top of my lungs, then started throwing rocks into the endless sage brush. Then the tears came.
I wanted to go home.
It took everything in me to not hitch back to Rawlins, hop on a Greyhound to Ogden, and crawl into my bed. I wouldn’t have told anybody till I was there. I would walk into Gear 30 with my head down and tell everyone “Sorry.. I just couldn’t do it anymore”.
Well.. that didn’t happen.
I kept going, knowing deep down that I wanted to finish this trail and that I would hate myself if I didn’t give it everything I had. I walked into the night and set up my tent on the side of the desolate Montana highway with plans to cross into Colorado in two days.
Two days slogged on, and finally just before it became pitch black, I saw a Colorado state license plate on a tree.
I was finally here.
It’s time for a new set of challenges and a serious moral boost.
Colorado's Rocky Mountains
The night before I noticed that my Zpacks Tent had some holes in it. It was leaking even with a light rain. I could see a massive storm rolling in, so I booked it towards a camp ground with a pit toilet. Yes, I slept inside. It was a shitty situation, literally. I burned pine needles as an incense and drifted off as the rain pitter-pattered on the tin roof.
Steamboat Springs was a refreshing town to relax in. Good coffee, multiple types of food, and tasty wine. I picked up my new Big Agnes Fly Creek Carbon Tent there, and bounced my Nemo forward to Leadville. I was veryyyyy excited to try this tent!
Within 48 hours and only 1 successful set up, this tent was broken.
The carbon fiber poles snapped with barely any force during setup on my second night. I was devastated... how could this be? Well, it was. I am SO SO SO lucky that the weather was clear skies into grand lake. I cowboy-camped in 25 degree weather the next two nights, then hitched back to Steamboat to get my tent replaced at the Big Agnes HQ. They were awesome & I swapped it for a Tiger Wall Platinum 2p, and now I’m cozy.
I was super happy to be back hiking with Dreamer, one of my closest friends from the PCT. But since my tent broke, I became 3 full days behind him and back to hiking by myself.
The loneliness began to set back in. Remember I said “I am a solo hiker”? Uh, yeah... about that. I’m not sure if I feel that way anymore. Sure, I like being solo for a certain amount of time, but once it gets to be the only option.. I start to get into a deep loneliness. It sent me into a depression.
I lost all motivation to hike. I forgot why I was out here. I lost touch with what I loved about hiking. I was.. lost. I was alone for so long that the spirit of backpacking was sucked out of me and spit into oblivion.
For a second time, I was done.
I sat in Winter Park and thought about quitting the CDT.
I told myself “You can’t hike the CDT”.
This is a desolate, lonely, soul sucking trail, and I was done being unhappy day in and day out. I was done sitting in my tent at night, looking at pictures of my family.
“Experience is better shared”
In “Into The Wild” he says this, and this statement couldn’t me more relatable.
As I sat there in that Indian Restaurant stirring my spicy Chana Masala, I recognized a girl with a pink hat walk inside.
"Pineapple!!!!" I shouted to her.
It was Pineapple and Seadog, two of Dreamers friends who were a few days behind me. Wow.. other hikers. I felt like my motivation skyrocketed. They sat down with me, and the CDT blues came up in conversation. I wasn’t alone in this trail depression.
With this amazing trio we formed, we hiked out together with haste to link back up with Dreamer, who also has been feeling down.
I WILL NOT QUIT THE CDT.
With company by my side, we will embrace the suck together. I’m well over half way, so I’ll chip away at CO and before I know it, I’ll be in New Mexico.. the home stretch.
Alone time is a recharger for introverts, but community is part of our human nature.
Experience is better shared.
Till next time,
- Brandon Long