Take a Trek

Day 26: Zero in Lake City

Spring Creek Pass to Lake City, Colorado
Day: 0 Miles
Trip: 364.6 Miles

It’s one o’clock in the morning, when a full bladder begs me to wiggle out of my sleeping bag and venture into the cold, dark night. I hate midnight piss breaks. There’s nothing fun about waking up, crawling in and out of my tent, and trying to fall back asleep. I’ve heard tales of men who urinate into plastic containers, so they don’t have to partake in the fiasco. I normally scoff at the idea, but I would gladly refill a Gatorade bottle or two right now.

The vestibule to my tent is heavy and crackly when it moves. I open the door and a wave of cold air washes over me, bites into my exposed skin, like a fresh sunburn. My shelter, coated in a thin layer of ice, is glistening in the moonlight. I tap on it, with my index finger, to confirm that I’ve been sleeping in an igloo. Tick, tick, tick. I’m urinating as quickly as possible, watching my breath dance into the night, when it occurs to me that a swollen bladder isn’t the only reason I’m awake. I’ve been freezing my ass off, since the sun went down.

I toss and turn for hours, hugging my knees and wiggling my phalanges, trying to stay warm inside of my Ice box. I chuckle at the irony of my predicament: my coldest night on the trail is in public campground, next to a highway. The sun finally rises, evaporating the layer of frozen crust on my shelter. My body temperature slowly rises, one degree at a time. I’m paralyzed by the contentment that often accompanies exhaustion. I’m gone.

The Three Stooges are hitching a ride into Creede, to pick up a mail drop at the post office. I’ll be heading in the opposite direction, later this morning, so it’s possible that I won’t see them again. They’re getting back on the trail today, whereas I plan to stay in a hostel and binge eat until tomorrow. “I remember your real name!” Sprout yells, as she walks towards the highway with Bastard Sherpa and Diptop. “I’ll find you on Facebook!” I wave, musing at the thought of a digital reunion with my friends from Cowlorado.

I’m biding my time in the campground, sipping coffee, drying out gear, and waiting for the flow of traffic to pick up, before I head out to the road and wave my thumb in the air. A white van, with some jargon about a grocery store written on the side of it, stops in front of my campsite. Two dogs are smiling at me, from the opposite side of a drool-stained window, as a gangly man with glasses gets out of the vehicle. He introduces himself as Pete, and asks me if my name is Fidget. “I am,” I reply. “Some hikers out by the road said you’re looking for a ride to to the hostel in Lake City. I’m heading back that way.” Pete, the owner of a small market in Lake City, runs daily errands to Creede. During the sixty-mile roundtrip, he looks for hikers in Spring Creek Pass and offers to bring them into town. Hitchhiking in Colorado has been pretty easy so far, but finding a ride, while sitting on my ass and chugging java, is a convenience that I never considered. “I’ll be ready in two minutes,” I tell Pete, while squishing my tent into a stuff sack.

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Unable to locate the owner of Raven’s Rest Hostel, I turn my attention towards a hiker box that’s overflowing with disregarded food. I swallow a variety of Little Debbie snacks, six in all, while contemplating what I’ll have for breakfast. There are other guests here, including a geology student, from New Zealand, and a blonde woman with a dog. The three of them are watching me, judging the new guy that just showed up at the hostel. I try to introduce myself, between mouthfuls of chocolate and fudge. “Hey, my name is nom, nom, nom. I’m thru-hiking the nom, nom, nom trail…” The Kiwi man and the blonde woman seem concerned. The staring canine tilts his head slightly. I’m brainstorming an explanation for my glutinous behavior, when I notice a lone bagel perched on the edge of the kitchen table. It’s wrapped in white parchment paper, decorated with a smily face that’s drawn in black magic marker. “Is this up for grabs too?” I ask, reaching for my new discovery. “No, I actually just bought that from the cafe next door,” the unamused blonde woman replies. “Oh, geez. I’m sorry,” I explain. “I just got in from the trail and haven’t been to the store yet…”

This is one hell of a first impression.

I cook a pound of spaghetti, add a cup of frozen vegetables, and smother everything with a jar of pasta sauce. I toss a handful of sliced mushrooms and two sticks of string cheese into the concoction. I do all of this, while snacking on a bag of Doritos.

I eat it all.

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Pasta Party at Raven’s Rest

I’m sitting on a bench outside of Raven’s Rest, writing in my journal, taking a break from the kitchen, when the voice of Mr. Oddity startles me so badly that I wonder if I’m dreaming. “Fidget!” he exclaims, while laughing his way through the patio. My Irish trail-friend is wide eyed, jovial, and reminiscent of the insanity that I felt when I arrived at Lake City. I embrace Mr Oddity, the man I’ve been crossing paths with for nearly three-hundred miles.

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The Return of Mr. Oddity

Naturally, Mr. Oddity and I go to a pizza parlor to reminisce. I’ve been craving a calzone, since I finished with my pound of spaghetti.

When we return to Raven’s Rest, I reintroduce myself as a functioning human being. The blonde woman that I tried to steal a bagel from is named Sparkle. She and her dog, Jude, are also hiking the Colorado Trail. To my amusement, Sparkle is mingling with Pippy, Zippy, and Hobbit. “Dr. Nooooo!” Pippy and Zippy shout, in unison, as I walk through the front door. “His name is Fidget,” Mr. Oddity corrects them. “No! His name is Dr. Noooo!” Zippy exclaims, with help from Pippy. I laugh, unsure of what to say. I feel an identity crisis coming on.

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Sparkle, Mr. Oddity, Zippy, Pippy, and Hobbit