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  • Writer's pictureBriana DeSanctis

America on Two Feet: Take a ride on the struggle bus!

It’s hard to explain the amount of sheer beauty I’ve been experiencing while hiking through Colorado, still by far my favorite state on this trail. The wildflowers are in full bloom and the air smells like sage, pine, and greenery. The snow slowly continues to melt from the mountaintops, creating many creek crossings.


I found myself screaming obscenities after a hard 24-mile day, hiking up, over and down two mountain passes, both above 12k feet and having hiked for 8 hours nonstop since my last meal just to see the 6th water crossing of the day. The annoyance of removing my socks, shoes and gaiters over and over again had bit my ass for the last time. Frustrated, I begrudgingly crossed the knee-deep creek and held up a 4×4 glamping vehicle while I put my shoes back on in the pouring rain.


I was able to hike with my Maine friends Borealis and Bahalla Na, who are hiking the Colorado Trail. Along with the Continental Divide Trail, the American Discovery Trail follows these scenic trails collectively for around 300 miles. It was a blessing to have so many other hikers around. The hiker camaraderie at the end of the day is like watching the evening news. What is the trail like ahead? How was everyone’s day? Why did that last climb suck so bad? After a few glorious days, I split from the other trails, the American Discovery Trail using the Timberline trail west to Taylor Park and Crested Butte. I was sad to depart from my friends and the other hikers, but now is definitely not the time to get soft.


This past week alone I saw two mountain lions, barely missed a large black bear, and climbed an ice wall on the scariest mountain pass of my life. I saw a man attempt it twice and turn around. I made it across, but barely. The sun was starting to hit the wall and our time window was closing. Borealis slipped and lost her trekking pole, and Bahalla Na fell from the ice wall, luckily only shaken. The only reason I made it up this wall was because I pulled every ounce of strength and focus from within myself. I kept my head together and held a steady rhythm with every meticulously planned foothold by shakily verbalizing, “It’s okay, you’re alright, it’s okay, you’re alright…” When I pulled myself up over the crest and threw off my pack, all the emotion I’d suppressed immediately surfaced as I bent over, hands on my knees, sobbing with relief. Freshest tears on the Continental Divide.


Top of Hope Pass


The mind-blowing vistas continue to pull out all my emotions, although my body is exerting so much energy that when I start to cry all I can do is hyperventilate and try to catch my breath. My sweat has recently started to smell familiar; the smell of an old enemy. The smell of not getting enough protein. The smell of my body beginning to devour its own muscle: Ammonia.


I’m becoming sick of most of the food I’m eating. I’m competing for survival with apex predators. I haven’t showered in over a week and I don’t know if I have a sunburn under all this dirt. The bugs are thick and the bug spray makes me dirtier. Sometimes I forget to slow down and find myself hugging a tree, dry heaving from who-knows-what.


My maps hardly indicate water sources nor most primitive campsites I’ve seen, and are sometimes totally incorrect altogether. I have no reception to cross-reference my maps with Google or check weather. I can check it on my Garmin but I need to pair it with an app on my phone, which drains the battery. I am struggling to keep my phone charged while trying to navigate and take photos and videos.


Ice wall on Lake Ann Pass


My two pairs of socks have lots of holes, but Darn Tough’s lifetime guarantee is pretty darn tough to cash in on nowadays while thru-hiking. You used to be able to bring your old socks to any dealer and they’d replace them on the spot, but now apparently you have to send them in. My mail orchestrations are dwindling.


This trail used to be weak to me; a mere, annoying road walk peppered with single track trails full of ticks and pointless ups and downs. It is now gathering strength, and believe me, I am being tested. However, I’ve almost made it through the Rockies, and new challenges are on the way. Every step is a lesson. Every step brings me to the next test. I’ve done my homework and I know I’ll pass.


Every step takes your breath away.

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