Filled with tired relief, we skirt the cold alpine waters. Slowly make our way across the marshy meadow, over the meandering creek. Arrive at the place we’ll call home tonight.
Sitting on a rock, wiggling my toes in the crisp autumn air, I’m tempted to lie back and never get up again.
Between twisting into the mountains to reach the trailhead and trudging more than 2,000 feet higher into the Indian Peaks Wilderness, we’ve reached places with gorgeous views and thin air. Climbed to heights far beyond my sea level adjusted body is prepared for. Once a child of the mountains, I now suffer altitude sickness like a flatlander. Climb slowly. Stop often to sip water, inhale deeply. Give up wishing that the headache and nausea will recede, just hope it won’t get worst. My Colorado card has officially been revoked.
Watching the last of the golden day sweep across the meadow, I rally. Guzzle water. Gladly accept ibuprofen. Smile as Baylor stares, mentally willing me to serve his dinner.
Tent erected, Baylor fed, we follow the group into the woods. Fjallraven has teamed up with Leave No Trace for a trip that combines outdoor adventure with an education. It really couldn’t get any better.
Head tipped back, I stare in amazement at the line taught between two trees. Jason and Dean explain how to properly keep food away from animals in the wilds and I realize how inadequate my bear hangs have been up to this point. Oh well. Now I know; will do better next time.
Stars shining, fire blazing, Baylor sits six feet behind the group looking miserable. Food gone, there’s no motivation to withstand the dark night. He’s ready for bed.
Having created a sleeping bag nest and tucked Bay in for the night, I turn back towards the group. Pause momentarily in the meadow to enjoy the unadulterated night sky.
I don’t know exactly what the next phase of OMD will entail. Traveling through the more heavily populated lower 48 will make freedom camping much more difficult. In many places impossible. Instead of wandering through the woods alone, we’ll regularly accept kind offers and hospitality from strangers. Exciting and nerve-racking.
And then I realize, that until last night the eight people sitting around the campfire were strangers. Five miles and one day later we’re a happy camp family.
As laughter floats through the air, I smile. Turns out the line between stranger and friend is a fine one.
93 days down. Many to come.