I woke early in the town of Cuba, I could tell it was going to be a warm day. I packed my bag and walked out to the road, looking at the map to figure which direction the trail went. I was loaded up with water. Putting one foot in front of the other I advanced in the routine I knew so well. My stomach was cramping a little but I felt sure it would pass and turn into a brilliant day. As soon as I was off the main road I was walking in the silence that I had come to cherish. After an hour of walking the sun was getting warm and beginning to beat down. I had been wearing the same sunglasses every day for months and the scratched lenses were getting in the way of otherwise perfect views. The hiking poles I used since Helena MT were worn past the tip and made an aluminium clack each time they struck hard ground, like a steady drum beat. Everything felt so worn but settled. I was walking at a reasonable pace.
I came to the end of a mesa I had been on for a few miles and sat down. There was nothing to hear. Nobody about to tell me what to do, nowhere to be. I listened to the silence. Today was perfect.
What ever inner demons that had pushed me to go so fast for so long were gone, or maybe Giardia was just sapping it out of me. I slowly descended from the mesa on the broken trail that wound its way down through the red crumbling rock taking care not to hurt myself. My stomach was cramping but not too bad. I kept walking. I came to a dirt road and sat once more next to a trail marker. I sat for a long time. I thought to myself of how much pain I had been in with these cramps back at Leadville and how weak I felt then, what would happen if I got to the same level here. I thought about how I was so far ahead of the south bound hikers nobody would be on this trail for another few weeks and how ill advised it was for me to be going on. I thought about the thousands of pounds of debt I had waiting for me. Then I stopped thinking and just sat. I enjoyed just sitting in the dirt.
I was content.
It felt a little emotional being sat there after what seemed an eternity hiking. Hiking felt like the thing I was born to do. But after thinking some more, it made me happy. If this was the last day I were alive, it would have been perfect. I started the hike hoping beyond belief after how painful my back had been the months previous, that I would be able to make it to Yellowstone from Canada. I set a goal of 800 miles. I was prepared to finish after the first day if my back gave me trouble. But it didn’t. And I kept walking. I walked further in a day that I thought possible, on one day I hiked 44 miles. I saw Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, Moose, Elk, Big Horn Goats, a Mountain Lion. Forests, towering peaks, beautiful rivers, vast open areas. I felt cold that hurt, dehydration beyond what I thought I ever would, and lighting storms that made me wish I was anywhere but here. I experienced kindness from total strangers. I made some great friends. I learned to be alone.
This was not the story of hiking the CDT, but this was the story of my trail, and this is where the story ended.