Magic, Miracles, and The Kindness of Strangers!
Walking 486 Miles. 380 of those miles alone. Just me, wide open nature and a heavy backpack.
Solo Thru Hiking on The Colorado Trail ~ Part 4
I hit my low point between Buena Vista and Salida.
The Colorado Trail leaves the wilderness at Mount Princeton and follows actual paved roads for 6 miles.
It was hot, and walking on paved roads with a heavy pack with cars whizzing by me was not my idea of a wilderness adventure.
I saw it as a test.
Another level acceptance.
This is what I am being presented with right now.
There is not that much I can do to change it if I want to do this walk and make it all the way to Durango.
So this is where I am.
This is what I am doing whether I am liking it or not.
Developing equanimity is what they call this in Vipassana meditation.
Accepting reality as it is:
I am walking for 6 miles on a paved road with a heavy backpack and it is hot.
This is my reality.
It is my choice how I react and respond.
I can feel grumpy, angry, and irritated that I am hot and walking on paved roads for 6 miles, or I can just walk, dig around for some Gratitude (how amazing that I can do this walk for 40 days, how amazing that my body is strong and healthy, how amazing that I have the time and resources to be here right now…..) all with the knowing that
THIS TOO SHALL PASS.
The choice is mine.
To be honest I was somewhere in the middle. Not 100 percent grumpy but not 100 percent in harmony with the moment either.
Doubt began to creep in (why am I out here again? why am I doing this? is this dumb?)
The battle began in my mind.
There is a story that I absolutely love about two wolves.
There are always two wolves living in our heads fighting.
A white wolf and a dark wolf.
The white wolf symbolises light, positivity, highest thoughts and my best self.
The dark wolf symbolises negativity, doubt, anger, negative emotions and low vibration thoughts and beliefs.
Which wolf wins ?
The wolf that wins the fight is the one I choose to feed.
Things were beginning to feel monotonous and the honeymoon period was over.
I was walking in the lowlands for 37 miles whether I liked it or not. Not many views, flat land, hot days, and thunderstorms.
Somehow I knew though that if I could get through this things were going to get better.
I was nearly to the half way point.
My night time fear was almost gone which felt like a massive achievement and miracle, but my morale was low.
I was spending most of my mental time asking infinite source for guidance on the next step on my life path. Just tell me what to do next and please make it clear, was my request over and over in my head.
What I got back was “go back to Bali” over and over and over.. loud and clear.
And to contact a certain retreat centre about teaching yoga and meditation there.
I trudged through those 37 miles, thunderstorms, low moral and all,
making it to HWY 50, the trail head to hitch hike into Salida for my next resupply.
Before I even crossed the road to start hitching a van spotted me and pulled over! I couldn’t believe it!
It was another Dad with little girl in the van!
He was running Mountain Bike shuttles and said he always picked up Colorado Trail Hikers when he saw them at the trail head.
He was an outdoorsy guy living in Salida enjoying the lifestyle and making ends meet.
and he gave me all the vital information I needed.
Like where the best health food store was, and where to get a shower.
He dropped me off in Poncha Springs 5 miles out of Salida and within 10 minutes another outdoorsy man stopped and picked me up, and dropped me right outside of the health food store!
The little healthfood shop was like walking into heaven.
I hadn’t been in the shop for more than 5 minutes when I saw someone familiar. It was Andrew! A solo thru hiker (PRO) that had passed me around Tennessee pass a few days earlier.
He was with another solo hiker girl who had past me with her three dogs around the same time Andrew did.
We had a long chat there in the healthfood store entrance about the last section and they felt exactly the same as me!
Their morals were also low!
They also were struggling.
They had taken 2 days off in Salida already and were having a hard time getting going again.
This was like music to my ears!
Knowing it wasn’t just me feeling this way.
They were also feeling the same way and Andrew was even PRO.
It felt like a sign.
The universe saying “come on Polly. You CAN do this. You are not alone.”
Andrew and Erin eventually carried on with their shopping and we said our goodbyes.
I was loving every minute in that health food store, and spent ages looking through everything.
I eventually made my way to the check out with my goodies and had a very uplifting conversation with the check out girl.
I sat outside the shop checking the internet as I polished off an entire bag of Blue Corn Chips, an entire tub of hummus, and 2 cans of coconut water.
I looked up the email address for the Bali Retreat Centre and fired off an email.
Next, I made a call to my great friend Ashley in Boulder who was my touch stone throughout the entire trip.
I told her I was struggling. Moral was low, the weather sucked, I was sick of thunderstorms, and it was feeling long and monotonous. HELP!
She was another angel and said exactly what I needed to hear.
“You are half way. It is going to get better. Stay positive. Shake it off. You have to finish this. You are meant to finish this. You can do it!”
My positivity on the rise I started walking to the laundromat,
when a man came dashing out of a liquor store and wished me luck on my journey! He said his daughter just finished the AT (Appalachian Trail) and it took her 6 months! He was another needed moral boost.
Found the laundromat and quickly got that task accomplished, next stop shower!
The guy who picked me up from the trail head in the mountain bike van told me there was a bike shop in town with a shower and I could take a shower there for $5.
I set off in search of said bike shop.
I walked about a block down the road when a couple stopped and asked me if I needed a ride into town! Really! I wasn’t even hitch hiking! Unbelievable! I was feeling really taken care of by this point. Smiling, happy and back on track I could feel it was all conspiring to keep me going.
The very nice couple took me the mile into town and dropped me at the bike shop.
The girl behind the counter asked me what kind of music I liked and said you even have your own sound system in the shower!
I felt reborn as I emerged from my bike shop shower and now only had one stop left and the clock was ticking.
I wanted to make it back to the trail head and still get in some miles before dark and it was already after 5pm.
Coveniently the outdoor store was close to the bike shop and I quickly found the fuel canister that I needed for my stove. Purchase made I asked the salesman what the easiest way back to HWY 50 was as I was hoping to hitch hike back to the Colorado Trail head.
He replied, “Actually I know someone that might be able to drive you there!”
I almost started crying, with the unbelievable kindness of strangers and the unlimited amount of support I was receiving!
I said “that would be amazing” and he made the call to Louis the “trail angel”
Louis was an older retired man who just liked helping hikers on the Colorado Trail!
As I piled myself and my very full backpack into his car he laughed at me and said “its always the smallest people who have the biggest packs”
Oh well, I thought, I know I am not PRO. Obviously!
We set off towards the trail head and it is looking like I will make some miles after all!
We had been driving for about 3 minutes when I spotted PRO hiker Andrew! The one from the health food shop. “No way, there’s Andrew !” I exclaim.
“Louis you have to stop!”
We pull over and pick up Andrew who was also on his way to the trail head! This is all unbelievable.
Louis and Andrew banter “trail talk” (which is all above my head) the whole drive and we successfully reach the trail head.
Andrew and I thank Louis hoisting on our packs and head off walking together.
It felt like another massive gift to walk these few hours with Andrew.
I questioned him about his life and it was a welcome reprieve from my own brain.
He was also vegan, but ironically worked as a chef in his families cheese steak restaurant in Florida. He was proud of the fact that they were the best cheese steaks around. I said “but Andrew your vegan.”
Somehow it all worked out in his mind and he loved his job and thats what counts.
We walked together until just before dark. Making some good miles walking at his PRO pace, which I knew would be very unsustainable for me if I had to do it for an entire day.
Just as well because altho I was extremely grateful for those few hours walking with Andrew, I knew I needed to continue on alone.
It was important.
So the next morning Andrew set off as I finished up my yoga/meditation/journalling routine, and I never saw him again.
Finally things were looking up.
The trail started climbing again bringing me to my favourite place…above the trees!
I reached the top of the pass at the same time as a group of mountain biker ladies, a whole posse of them.
They were all really friendly and I chatted with them for ages.
Happy to be up high again with views of the mountains.
This is why I am here I said to myself.
Feeling a second wind I knew the next 2 weeks was going to be good.
The next morning I had my first bear encounter.
He was on the trail about 10 metres in front of me. We both stopped and stared at each other.
He ran off after our 10 second stare down.
I was excited to have seen him, and took it as a good sign.
The trail eventually went back down again and meandered through wide open cow pastures for miles.
I passed by a dead cow lying on its back legs straight up in the air in the middle of a wide open windy field.
Just me and the dead cow.
It felt surreal and a bit bizarre.
I kept moving. Not liking the vibe and put in another 15 mile day.
Back again in the trees my morale started wavering.
The mental game was starting to get me.
There hadn’t been any thunderstorms for the past couple days, and my nighttime fear was significantly diminishing, but somehow I was still having a mental struggle. The journey was feeling long and inside I was still feeling lost.
I started asking myself the BIG questions:
Who am I ?
Where did I go?
What do I want?
How do I want to feel?
That kept my mind busy for the day, and desperatly hoped that in the next two weeks I would find myself.
It felt like it was time to dig deep.
Inner guidance told me:
You are out here for a reason. Now is the time to find out who you are. You are being guided and protected. It will all unfold and become clear in the next 2 weeks. Stay on the path!
The next day I was still dragging.
Feeling sad, low, angry and frustrated with life and God.
As I was collecting water at a beautiful mountain lake I had an epiphany.
It was these FEELINGS that were holding me back!
My sadness, anger, and frustration were NOT serving me, and somehow I just gave up.
I gave up the inner fight. The battle between the two wolves in my head. I was sick of the struggle.
It felt like all of a sudden something clicked.
I was ready and willing to have the white wolf take over, and get out of my own way.
I surrendered right there by that mountain lake,
and at the same time the handle on my water filter broke.
I had enough water to make it through the day.
The next day I would reach the trail head and hitch hike into Gunnison where I could sort out getting a new water filter.
So it was all ok.
My spirits were lifting slightly after my surrender, but I was still in the trees and dragging on the uphills.
I only saw one other person that entire day.
A thru hiker going the other way.
He said the next segments were going to be long, hot, and through cattle country.
I decided it would be a great idea to get headphones so I could listen to music for those flat days.
I knew I was going to need some help to keep me going.
Right when I was about to go up another hill, right when I was needing a boost I saw a piece of purple lace fabric. Under a rock, or tied to a branch. It was as if there was a trail fairy leaving these bits of fabric for ME! Another sign! That I am not alone out here. I am being helped and getting lifted right when I need it. It was like seeing magic with my own eyes. I hadn’t seen anything like this up until now and the pieces of purple fabric continued to be there for me for the remainder of that day, appearing just when I would need a boost.
That night I slept amazingly! A good peaceful sleep!
NO FEAR! Unbelievably incredible, massive inner progress, and something changed.
I woke up happy!
Like a weight had been lifted off me. I smiled to myself and just knew everything was going to be ok!
I drank the last sips of the remaining water I had left within steps of the trail head, and
started to set my intentions:
I get a quick easy enjoyable ride to Gunnison
I easily get all my stuff done
There is a great health food store
I see my friend Erika
I get a second wind
I let the future go
I stay present
I trust that things are unfolding exactly as they are meant to
My next miracle appeared before me as I reached the trail head.
A trekking pole (which I had asked for days earlier) and a plastic container of water with the words written on it “fresh water for you” were just sitting there on the side of the trail!
I almost started crying.
This is truly incredible!
I said a silent thank you, took the trekking pole, filled up my water bottle, and made my way to the highway.
I crossed the road and stuck out my thumb sending out my best positive vibes.
No one was stopping to pick me up.
This is weird I thought.
Why isn’t anyone stopping?
All of my other rides had been within minutes of trying.
I took it as another sign and decided to double check my map.
Under more close inspection I realised I was standing on the wrong side of the road!
Oh my goodness, I laughed at myself and my own stupidity and crossed the road.
That was why no one was picking me up!
Not more than 5 minutes standing on the right side of the road I got picked up!
another unbelievable experience!
A guy in a big pickup truck with a massive american flag waving out the back picked me up.
The driver was wearing a camoflage outfit and looked like a hunter and a I could feel a little fear creeping in, hoping he didn’t have a lot of guns.
I quickly changed my fear into the positive holding the best possible feelings for this ride and person.
Silently repeating to myself thank you I am safe and protected over and over in my mind.
I began the conversation by telling the driver how I had only met nice people on my journey and silently was holding the best possible intentions for him.
He went on to share with me eventually that he had been involved as a bystander in a gun shooting in a movie theatre in Denver, which had left him completely traumatised.
We changed the topic to his job as a solar panel installer and how positive that was for the environment and that there was always a lot of work for him.
His wife bred some kind of rare lizard and recently sold her lizard breeding business for good money so she could come be with him on the job site. So things were looking up in his life and we ended the journey on a positive note.
He dropped me off at the outdoor store in Gunnison.
It ended up being a great ride, and he was a nice person. Phew.
It always felt like a rush when it would all work out. When I would get where I needed to go and jump out of the car I would feel a wave of relief and happiness. Thank you! For another mission accomplished!
I quickly bought a new water filter and got out of the crowded outdoor store asap.
I was easily overwhelmed when I went into town.
After days and days of solitude in nature, being back in civilisation felt overwhelming.
My next stop was a coffee and massive salad!
I walked into a groovy looking cafe and couldn’t focus on reading their menu board.
I explained to the girl taking my order at the counter that I just got off the Colorado Trail. I was starving and vegan and could she please just make me a massive plate of everything vegetable they had. She said they could and handed me my coffee.
After connecting to their WiFi and waiting a few minutes another angel appeared carrying an amazing salad to my table!
She said she overheard me saying I was hiking the Colorado Trail and she and two of her friends had just finished it. She handed me a plate with exactly what I was hoping for!
The cafe angel said this is what she would have wanted and was impressed that I was hiking the trail alone.
Tears again came to my eyes.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
It was these moments that meant so much to me on my journey.
These brief connections with people that cared. They were so beautiful.
People are so good.
The simple, random acts of kindness from strangers has altered my entire view of humanity.
I believe in the innate goodness within.
Thank you for restoring my faith, and helping me to feel the interconnectedness of us all.
To be continued…..