Waking in the morning we waited around for Tribhu for a while before deciding to do a slow walk up our next pass. We passed a gent on his way down and he asked ‘Hey, are you Beads and Ben? Your friend is racing ahead looking for you!’. I told Beads I would head off and try to catch up. Hiking off ahead and gaining the top of the mountain, I could see Tribhu all the way down in the next valley. I jogged the next few miles and caught up. We ambled along to the next pass then hitched into Leadville. This town is at around 11,500 feet and the air up here feels clean and dry. We book into the hostel for the night and went for a grocery shop, buying a few beers and heading back to drink them. There is an ultra race going on and the hostel seems to be the epicenter of the it, with competitors from around the world staying. I had admiration for all those people heading off to run 50 to 100 miles in one push. They seemed equally shocked though at the thought of doing over 30 miles a day, day in and day out for months. Beads arrived a couple of hours later, and we chat away the evening with other adventurers before getting a ride back to the trailhead the next morning.
This day becomes my worst on trail. We ate breakfast a short way out and came across a cooler box with iced drinks for hikers on the trail. Its pretty cool to come across unexpected cold drinks when the water you have to drink is always hot and unpleasant. We had planned to climb Massive Peak on the way past as an extra bit of excitement in the day. I was going slow, so told Tribhu I would catch up with him at a junction for the summit trail a short while ahead. I hiked, I sat, I tried to eat but couldn’t. My stomach hurt. I hiked a short distance more. I sat down. I hadn’t felt so drained in a long time. What should have taken forty minutes took a couple of hours. I felt like I was going to pass out on a gentle incline and knew this wasn’t right. When I eventually arrived at the junction, Tribhu was concerned. We opted not to hike much further that day and for my second time over the last thousands of miles, we had a camp fire. Eventually Beads caught up and joined us. I couldn’t stomach dinner and went to lie down. I felt like I had been booted in the stomach. A couple more hikers from the Colorado trail joined our camp and after a while I got back up feeling a little refreshed. This had happened for a few afternoons previous and I put it down to a small stomach bug.
The next morning I felt fine, so me and Tribhu set off ahead of Beads to climb Mt Elbert, she would keep to the trail and see us later. We started up the trail and an overpowering smell of laundry detergent lingered in the air. It was confusing to say the least. What was this chemical smell doing up the mountain? It became stronger as we climbed. It was a busy Saturday with low lightening possibility and within minutes we started running into people. We pretty much ran past the crowds on the way up and it was so bizarre, all of the individuals had this smell. It could have been that each member of this particular crowd was just overzealous with the detergent the night before. But I like to think I had adjusted to being in nature more, and using less detergent, was ultimately starting to notice the unnatural things more than ever. It’s no wonder bears and elk run as soon as they are near people. Reaching the top and running the final ridge to the summit we snacked then started our descent to Twin Lakes, dropping the 5000 feet we viewed as a pleasant side track.
Once at the general store in town we found Beads sat outside with a few more hikers drinking a beer. We found out Mumford and Sons were playing a big gig in the town of Salida that evening. Not wanting to miss it, we hitched off trail for some festivities. After talking with Bead and Tribhu in the town we decided I likely had Giardia. The symptoms I had had over the last days fit in with the parasite. One of Bead’s friends who had come to see her, happened to have half a course of Metronidazole sat in the glove box of his car. It had been there for a few years, but not wanting to waste a trip to an expensive hospital, I opted to take what was on offer and at least see if it fixed the problem. If it seemed to, I could go get more. I forgot to mention earlier in this blog, somewhere around Yellowstone, my water filter had began to block up and became a hindrance. I stopped using it and decided to be like the other hikers not filtering. It felt pretty cool just drinking directly from streams. Beads was another hiker that didn’t filter water. I guess when you try to be like the cool kids, you get caught out. I have wondered how many of the hikers that don’t filter water carry the parasite without any symptoms? How many are able to kick it themselves? I guess all I know is my body isn’t that good.
The gig was good fun and the next day we headed back to trail. I said I was going to hang around for a day in Twin Lakes and didn’t want to push while being on antibiotics. But after the others left and I had finished breakfast and sat for a couple of hours I felt a renewed energy. I picked up my pack, and headed out once more. I didn’t walk this day fast. I intentionally mozied along, listening to music and enjoying the sights, while packing in a couple of mountain passes before nightfall. The Collegiate peaks are beautiful, grey mountains skirted with deep greens and browns with trails running close to their summits. It had a very different feel to the peaks further north on the divide. Its funny through here, I was trying to take is slow but still found myself covering a lot of ground. I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt so energised and awake, it was like being back at the start of the trail again. I figured that coming up higher into Colorado, it had been altitude making it harder. But now began to suspect it had been Giardia. I felt like I could have ran a marathon with my pack on, such was the return of the energy. I didn’t think I would see Beads and Tribhu again, but guess with the extra spring in my step, soon caught them up. Later in the day I found them at a lake, beneath Tincup Pass sat in the shade. I joined them and hiked on. We camped by a second lake and enjoyed hot chocolate after a ramen dinner supplemented with cashew nuts. This was becoming an enjoyable way to pad out the same mush, giving extra crunch. By this point I really felt I needed to hike at my pace. Neither faster or slower than the others, but to listen to my body and have a little trail to myself again. I hiked out at Monarch Pass with them but opted to give myself an extra evening off in Salida and a little more space on the trail.