Lake City, Colorado
Day: 0 Miles
Pippy, Zippy, Hobbit, and Sparkle aren’t surprised when I decline their offer to give me a ride back to the trailhead this morning. “No, I’m not ready,” I explain. “I still need to get a resupply.” They exchange smiles, while slinging their packs into the hatch of a rental car that resembles a small monster truck. “Whatever you say, Dr. Noooo,” Pippy and Zippy reply in unison. The ladies are slack-packing (hiking with minimal gear) through short sections of trail, while hobbit drives the monster truck from one road crossing to another. Its a service he’s happy to provide, considering the experience he was having before he joined the group. “I was doing thirty miles a day, by myself, hating life, before I met these girls,” he confesses. “Now, I’m having the time of my life.” I look forward to catching up with this little trail family. They put out a good vibe, make me smile, and have a dog.
I’m pacing in the town park, talking to my girlfriend on the phone, waiting for a one o’clock shuttle that brings hikers back to the trailhead. Children are scurrying through the grass, dangling from monkey bars, celebrating the brief and fleeting rituals of summer. I have my pack on, loaded with three days of provisions to get me to Silverton. I’m probably carrying too much food for the fifty-mile jaunt, but temperamental weather makes it hard to predict daily mileage. The voice on the other end of the phone speaks of text books, school schedules, and a poodle that needs a haircut. I miss my girlfriend, my home, and my life in Vermont, but all of it seems so foreign to me right now, irrelevant to the daily grind of craggy mountain passes and calorie deprivation.
A white truck stops near a curb, and a tall man in shorts steps out of the cab. He’s scanning the park, looking for something. I walk towards him, still on the phone. He notices me. This is the ticket I’ve been waiting for, a free ride back to the trail, but I can’t end the phone call abruptly. I lower the rectangular device from my ear and explain that I’m not ready to leave. “Thanks, but I’m gonna hitch a little later.” We exchange waves and I return to my girlfriend’s stories about a place that feels as far away as the moon.
I’m walking towards Highway 149, flexing my thumb, getting ready to wave it in the air, when the rain starts. A blanket of gray overcast smothers the sky, hides the sun. My shadow disappears, the temperature dips, and thunder grumbles from behind the towers of rock that encompass Lake City. I’ve never had to hitchhike in a thunder storm and I don’t have to right now either. I’ll take a rain delay and stay dry at Raven’s Rest Hostel.
While sitting on a shabby, maroon couch that I thought I’d left behind forever, evaluating my situation, weighing out my options, Mr. Oddity walks through the front door. His rain parka is drenched, dripping water onto the floor, and his glasses are turning white with condensation. “I’ve decided to live in Lake City forever,” I joke. He laughs, removes his spectacles, and wipes them clean again. “Well, would you like to join me and a couple other fellas for food at the pub then?” My old, irish friend is as wise as he is soggy. Aside from returning to the trail, stocking up on calories is the most productive thing I can do right now.
Four beers, a calzone, and several billiard games later, it occurs to me that I just took a double zero in Lake City.