The plan for this trip was to leave my car at the Wolf Creek Pass trailhead, hike six days up the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) past Hunchback Pass and hook west up the CT (Colorado Trail) to follow the Elk Creek drainage toward Molas Pass where I would meet me friend Rob Graham, who would take me back to my car. But I have accepted now that things never turn out as planned, and that in itself becomes part of the plan. Things went exactly as expected.
To keep myself honest, I decided before leaving to set an intention for each day’s hike, something I’ve learned through yoga. It didn’t really matter what, because there is always a lot to think about, but if you don’t focus you are just out walking around in a bunch of mountains. I decided that each day I would focus on two yamas or niyamas, ethical do’s and don’ts, a moral code of conduct given expression through the vocabulary of yoga. All stuff I knew or felt already, but the actual words give focus. And intention.
Day 1: Swadhyaha and Tapas. “Swadhyaha” means simply self-study; whatever you are drawn to with the intention to know yourself through it, and most importantly in this case, to see the process through.
You will understand quite early when hiking the CDT that it is just one damn mountain after another. You go up one, and it is hard, but you think “when I get to the top, I will have accomplished something important, and I will see more clearly.” But then you get there, and you see the damn trail just goes right back down the other side, and back up another very similar mountain. You have accomplished nothing.
“Tapas” is a burning enthusiasm for what you are doing, the fervor of striving to be the best you can, simply by going against the grain of habit, of complacency, of doing what is easiest. Tapas is important when you look at that damn trail going down again and then back up after you’ve arrived at the top of a hard climb. I spend a great deal of my time amazed out how things work out–I know some people who will say the word “dumbfounded” is more appropriate–but I was happy when I understood that it was not pure chance that led me to pick these two niyamas for my first day on the trail. There were many easier choices I could have made for how to spend this time, but I needed to see this through if it was going to mean anything.The only other people I saw during my hike were CDT thru-hikers, people walking from the southern border with Mexico up to Canada during the 3-4 month window when lack of snow up high makes the trip possible. These were amazing people. So positive, so full of joy and gratitude for being exactly where they were at each moment. And walking so much faster than me! Cardboard, Hercules, Ketzyl, Cracker, Nugget, Kodachrome, and Yellow Mustard: trail names, the only ones that mattered to anyone up there. We’d chat a bit, and then they needed to move on, cover more distance before sunset. And when they were gone I’d say “there’s no way I could do that. What am I trying to prove out here?”
I ended Day 1 camped at a small alpine lake, alone except for a group of mule deer. Getting there was a first for me, my first glissage, sliding on my ass down a frozen slope when the trail was blocked. The great thing about a day like this is that you are so tired that you don’t have the energy to still wonder what you are trying to prove. You just want to eat, get warm, and sleep. I was forcing dinner down when something spooked this deer, and she actually hissed at me. Twice, like a really big, angry snake.And I was at that moment so grateful to be right there, grateful to have set those two intentions for the day and not done what was easiest. To have seen the day through, and gone to sleep on a mountain surrounded by hissing deer.
Tomorrow: Honey Badger, Asteya, and why it all comes down to Satya at the end of the day.