Between my screeching leg muscles and my just-slightly-too-loosely-staked-out vestibule flapping in the wind, I don’t sleep well. The sun rises early on Snow Mesa, and I’m sure it’s beautiful, but I’m burrowed down in my sleeping bag to avoid the light, and therefore consciousness and said muscles, as long as possible.
My alarm goes off shortly after, conspiring with the light to get me up, get me moving, but there are only five miles to Highway 149, and then it’s a 17-mile hitch into Lake City. Eventually, the light and the alarm and my rustling compatriots win the morning, and Crankster, NoDay and I up and moving by 8:15.
It’s only five miles to the highway, but the wide open space we’re traveling makes it sO HARD to judge distance, and we walk and walk and walk and feel like we’re not getting anywhere. It wouldn’t be that unpleasant of a feeling if we weren’t looking forward to seeing our CDT friends and delicious town food and beer and SHOWERS and beds, but the beauty of the morning and the mountains takes the edge off.
It seems to take forever, but our abrupt arrival at the edge of the mesa feels foreboding, like we’re about to walk off the edge of the earth. Crank puts on Walk Off The Earth’s Red Hands in celebration, and we dance down the steep, rocky hill to the cheers of what sounds like a thousand pikas.
I’m a little loathe to leave this section behind – I mean, I’m sore and in desperate need of a shower, but I’m happy, still light on doggedly nagging muscles from yesterday’s accomplishments. The pikas aren’t helping either, because I’m still not hardened to their ridiculous adorableness and I still squeal like a small child every time they bellow out their tiny pips.
Eventually, we descend out of Pika-land and into a partially alive forest – it’s still mostly beetlekill, but at least there’s some greenery about. It’s a nice change as we make our final descent down to the road.
We’re not standing about long before we get picked up by two ladies who think we’re in some kind of trouble, but are quite happy to take us into town. Kay and Sam, a retired Kindergarten teacher and a retired HR director, are from Kansas, and their husbands and friends are climbing San Luis today. They’re a lot of fun to chat with as the miles fly by into Lake City, and they offer to get us lunch in town if we’ll tell them stories about our time on the trail. We agree readily, but insist on cleaning ourselves up a little before we go. We check into the Raven’s Rest Hostel, where NomNom is staring with chagrin at her resupply box while Grim and MeHap loiter lazily on the common room couch. She hardly wants anything inside it, one of the dangers of resupplying totally out of boxes you send yourself. We collapse in a metaphorical heap for a bit, set our things out to dry before getting luxurious showers and changing into loaner clothes to go have lunch.
Kay and Sam meet us at the Cannibal Grill – apparently, Lake City was the location of the trial for a pretty famous cannibal – and we eat (too?) delicious food and swap delicious stories and generally have a delicious time.
Then it’s a day full of all the chores of town – hunting down the laundry facilities and utilizing the beer facilities while we do so, scuttling the hiker boxes for as much resupply as we can manage and going grocery shopping for the rest, goggling at the small-town prices, learning of a shuttle back to the trail tomorrow morning and deciding to take it, stocking up on whiskey and the company of other hikers. Kerry and BlueJay, of the CT and CDT1 respectively, are also staying in the hostel, and they get woven into our fun, decide to come to dinner at the Cannibal with us, where we eat and talk and drink and listen to CrazyHorse, a veteran of the PCT, spin some reggae. Most of us end up around the firepit until the place shuts down, my heart singing and soaring as I talk to one and all.
This, this is what it’s supposed to be like. These are the bonds, the memories that’ll stay with me. I am so, so happy to be right here, right now. This is living.
We go back to the hostel and carouse some more, to the irritation of our fellow hostel-stayers; I try to keep everyone’s volume down, but there’s just too much happiness going on. I head to bed around 1am – SO LATE – but the party goes on until 2am, and even though I’m cranky about it, it’s so hard to begrudge them their fun. Finally, everyone turns in, and I sleep the contented sleep of someone surrounded by family.
Start: 352.4 • End: 357.4 • Day: 5
Notable Accomplishments: Lake City • Good Food, Good Friends, Good Town • Contentment
 And the AT, and the PCT – BlueJay’s trying for all three in a calendar year. He did the Appalachian Trail in 90 days, then did the Pacific Crest Trail, and is hiking southbound to finish the Continental Divide Trail. He’ll have his Triple Crown once he hits Mexico. Holy badass, Batman.