Take a Trek

Day 23: Cow-Abducting Alien

Upper Razor Trail to Rd 787.2D
Day: 21.7 Miles
Trip: 323.5 Miles

I wake up thirsty, as always. Despite the precipitation that occurs almost daily, the air at this altitude is incredibly dry. My morning typically begins with crusty, stuffed nostrils and a parched pallet. I reach for my water bottle, take a swig, and spit the contents of my mouth through the air. I’m nauseated, discussed, horrified. If I don’t vomit in the next three seconds, I’ll be surprised. Manure! My mouth is contaminated with the taste of cow shit! I cooked with the water I retrieved from Razor Creek last night, but that was the only thing I did with it. The taste of cow shit was disguised by the flavor of macaroni and cheese.

I’m packing up my gear, when Diptop passes my campsite. He and the rest of the Three Stooges stayed down the trail, about a mile behind me. “That water we got from the creek is pretty nasty, huh?” I nod, fearing what will happen if I open my mouth. “We filtered it twice, and added iodine, but it’s still gross” I continue to nod, with a grimace on my face. “Oh well, I’ll see you up the trail.” As Diptop trots away, I consider what he just said, and drop three iodine tabs in each of my water bottles.

Late in the morning, I cross a marker in the trail that commemorates something I’ve already celebrated in my head. I’ve crossed the three-hundred-mile mark on the Colorado Trail. I’m almost one-third of the way through this hike.


300 mile mark

I’ve always felt that long-distance hiking is a form of meditation, a method of practicing focus and commitment. As with all practices, however, some days are more successful than others. I’ve spent the majority of my time on this trail hiking alone, and my mind is getting tired, starting to wander helplessly, from one irrelevant thought to another. One minute, I’m a high school hockey player, gliding seamlessly across the Ice, getting elbowed in the face. The next, I’m in the emergency room of a hospital in Hanover, New Hampshire, saying goodbye to my cancer-ridden Grandmother. She shouldn’t have smoked for so many years, I think to myself. I’m at a college party, thumbing through a pack of cigarettes, I’m skydiving, I’m a child listening to my parents scream at each other.

I’m fucking losing it.

Ahead of me, on the trail, Diltop has stopped to dry out his gear, filter water, and wait for the group to catch up. I’m so happy to see a familiar face, even if its one that I’ve only known for a few days. We’re social creatures, over-evolved monkeys with vocal chords, and there’s a limit to how much solitude is good for us. Also, I need to fetch some water that doesn’t taste like cow shit.


Diptop, Sprout, and Bastard Sherpa

Despite rinsing out my water bottles nine-hundred times, they still taste like the inside of a cow’s butthole. I guess I’ll have to get used to it, deal with the flavor of Cowlorodo, untilI I get to Lake City, fifty miles down the trail. I can savor the flavor for a couple more days. I don’t have a choice.

At least I don’t have feet that are smashed to hell, like Bastard Sherpa.


Bastard Sherpa’s bastard feet

It’s late in the afternoon, when I notice something absurd on the horizon. There’s a giant dome, an alien aircraft that has landed on the side of the trail. Aliens like cows, I think to myself, so this makes perfect sense.


Apple, the Cow-Abducting Alien

The cow-abducting alien turns out to be a man named Apple, another trail angel. Apple is a retired IBM worker, with a fat pension, who spends his time catering to long-distance hikers. When he isn’t providing water, Gatorade, and snacks to folks on the Colorado Trail and Continental Divide Trail, he does the same for Appalachian Trail and Florida Trail thru-hikers. Gorging on a bunch of unexpected calories is awesome, being able to switch out my shitty water bottles is pure bliss.


Treasure chest of high fructose corn syrup

I tell Apple about Razor Creek and the lack of fresh water, throughout the past thirty miles, but he’s heard it all before. “I had a girl show up and go Into convulsions, a couple years ago,” he tells me. “She was completely dehydrated, so I drove her to the hospital.” I frown, stuffing another Little Debbie snack into my mouth. I’d rather drink poopy-tasting water than die.

The Three Stooges arrive and have their share of trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. it takes more than an hour to pry ourselves away from Apple’s box of goodies. Daylight is turning to dusk, as we waddle away from the cow-abducting alien aircraft. “The trail provides,” Bastard Sherpa says. With a stomach full of chocolate and a few Gatorade bottles full of water, that taste like water, I couldn’t agree more.


Leaving Apple

Daylight is at a premium, as we begin prodding for a suitable campsite. The Three Stooges and I do out best to pitch our tents away from from the four-legged ladies that rule this land. There isn’t an utter in sight, when we drop our packs and unload our gear. Sitting around an unlit fire pit, cooking dinner, and reminiscing about the awesomeness of Apple’s generosity, a few dozen familiar faces appear before us. The funniest thing about these ladies is that they don’t leave. They just stare at us, as if we’ve intruded, somehow interrupted their evening ritual. I suppose we have. This is their land, not ours. Maybe this is where they wait for the cow-abducting alien.


Bedtime visit from the ladies