We wake early-ish and struggle through hangovers of the too-much-fun kind to pack up camp. I’m not ready to leave the comfort that the people around me are creating, the quiet it creates in my heart. I remind myself I never wanted to do something like this again, and I think I was right – it’s hard, so hard to leave. Yesterday was one of those lifetimes in a hiccup, those days that just seem to go on for forever, that just feel right, and that are still somehow over too soon. We drag our feet until it’s late, until we can put off going no more.
On the way back up to Monarch Pass, I’m tempted to leap from the car, just start running back to friends family love, but I know I can finish – I need to finish what I started. I realize I’m clinging to Spesh as I say goodbye to him for the next month1; he lets me, and I find the reserves to be adult enough to eventually break free. Crank’s practically bouncing out of her pack, rearing to go, and we don’t look back as we turn down the path.
We talk talk talk the last few miles of the Collegiate West section away, and the not-quite-ridgewalk rolls by.
It’s a beautiful day, if a little breezy, and I’m grateful that my foot’s not giving me any sass. We’ve got miles to make today – about ten miles, so nothing too crazy, given the late start. They roll right along, and we make the five miles to where the West and East Collegiate paths connect sooner than we expect.
We sit and snack, chat for a while with a father-daughter hiking combo who’ve been sectioning – with llamas! – for a number of months now. To my slight disappointment, there are no llamas at present; they’re just out for a day hike, trying to make it to Monarch Pass by sunset. They’ve got time, though, so they’re just enjoying the view for the moment. We enjoy it with them until our feet start to itch, and we move on down the trail.
The trail is crowded, not only with hikers, but with bikers and motorcyclists as well. I’m not entirely sure the latter are allowed in this section – in fact, I’m pretty convinced they’re not – but they have motors and are legion and it’s easier for me to move out of the way and glare than it is for me to actually speak up. Not like I would be heard over the engines anyway.
A couple miles later, we find ourselves at a cabin/lean-to/open-faced shelter, much like the ones that litter the Appalachian Trail, according to Crank. She’s hiked over 800 miles of that particular trail, and also the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevadas, and she’s strong and sure where I feel weak and incapable. But she’s still hanging out with me, so that’s cool. And hey, there are people over at the cabin – Light Brite and McGuyver, two CDT hikers who flipped up to Canada to avoid the snows and are on their way down for their last bit of trail. We think about staying, but we’re not done yet – only four more miles to our stopping point.
There’s only a little bit of up left, and while we keep up with Light Brite and McGuyver for a little bit, they speed on ahead; then it’s down, down, eight hundred feet down to Marshall Pass Road, where we catch them again. There are toilets here – toilets I’m happy to see, what with the pressing desire to not-dig a cathole – but they’re trashed beyond belief. Normally, the pit is the thing that stinks the most; not so here – there’s leftover spam and fruit roll up and all sorts of food that shouldn’t be in here. I want to pack it out, but it’s too much, too heavy. I take some that’ll fit in my pocket, though. Every little bit helps.
Some bikepackers arrive, relax for a bit – they’ve been meaning to rough it more often, but they’ve found themselves pushing for the next hotel, what with the weather recently. Sure enough, those beautiful blue skies seem to be clouding over, not quite threatening yet, but soon, maybe. There’s so much camping around here, but we’re not tired, so we decide to press on into Segment 16.
The weather continues to waver as we walk, but at least there’re views.
It decides it wants to rain on us, finally, and with the sun going down, it gets darker and darker, the trail wavering up and down, up and down.
We pass Light Brite and McGuyver for the last time as they’re setting up their shelter; there are a lot of dead trees around, and I’m not exactly comfortable setting up amongst them. So we make our way to the Silver Creek Path, where the Goldilocks in me is appeased just off the side-trail, and only then after kicking a number of trees while Crank looks on in amusement. She’s all set up and cozy by the time I figure out where I’m putting my tent, crossing my fingers that I won’t be murdered in the night. We chat until “late” – the sun’s fully down, and in the light of our headlamps, I’m extremely grateful for the company.
Start: 260.2 • End: “270.9” • Day: 10.7 + Old School West is 4 miles longer than East = 14.7
Notable Accomplishments: Kept pace(-ish) with a couple of CDT hikers • 14.7 miles after starting at noon! • Did not get sassy with motorcyclists
 I had better be done with this in the next month – hopefully two weeks; he’ll still be gone working once I get back.