Two cars don’t run us over in the morning, when it’s too cold and we’re too half-asleep to have done much of anything about it anyway. One flashes its lights and hollers a greeting, and we’re forced into consciousness sooner than we’d like.
This is it. The last day. Both Crankster and I can feel it. My entire body’s thrumming, all the pain from yesterday evening forgotten at the prospect of devouring the last twenty miles; it’s slavering for the pain, the pleasure, the sheer unbridled joy that is simply walking, one last time. I’m both anxious to have finished my first thruhike and woefully ill-prepared to face what that means.
Crankster’s up first, all smiles and anticipation.
That smile’s contagious, and we quickly stow our things and make our way down the forested trail.
It’s practically all downhill today, a short climb in the middle interrupting what should be one of the easiest day on trail. I can’t imagine coming the other way – literally can’t imagine it; I try, but it’s pushed out of my mind by how smooth, how easy the trail seems, how much stronger I am than I was thirty-five days ago. We’re soaring down the trail, criss-crossing Junction Creek, taking a rest break just before the final crossing.
We lay out our things to dry, saying little: we’re both in our heads this morning, both taking it a little differently; me, I’ve reverted to clinical-analysis mode, watching Crank’s reactions to the situation to avoid having to feel my own.
It’s warm in the sunlight, chilly in the shade, and it’s on again off again on again with the windshirt as the miles fly by. Eventually, we find ourselves cruising up our very last up.
We’re climbing, talking lazily about life after the trail, when we finally finish our last climb.
We’re making good time, enough to stop and take lots of pictures, even though it’s not particularly scenic, and get excited when we see signs pointing us towards our final destination.
We’re close to the end when the conversation takes a more serious turn; shit gets heated as we talk about millenials, poverty and plenty, back in the day and here in the now. We argue back and forth about education, about the booms and busts in our economy, how who makes it economically isn’t entirely about skill. How our parents raised us. We realize we’re talking loudly when more than one day-hiker openly gapes at us, but while we quiet for a moment, the philosophical conversation always heats right back up. I’m passionate about all of this; I care about what others, particularly others of my generation, think. I like to think we can still make a difference, and how we make that difference matters.
The conversation’s eating up the last of our miles, and I finally put the kibosh on it – I want the hike to end on a high note between Crank and I, and while I’m not offended or mad or anything, it just all seems… too real. It seems appropriate, though – appropriate that I spend my last day talking about what I talk about all the time in the real world. It’s like a warm-up for the days to come.
We stop to marvel at the beauty of even this section of trail. This is a wondrous place, a wondrous thing we’ve done.
And then we snake around some trees, and once again, I am unable to keep my shit together.
We made it. We walked 484.6 miles, from Denver all the way to Durango. And I’m crying and I’m hugging Crank and taking pictures and generally grinning like– like a thruhiker.
Because in that moment, I am.
Start: 465.5 • End: 484.6 • Day: 19.1
Notable Accomplishments: Finished the Colorado Trail! • 60 miles in three days • 485 miles in five weeks and a day