Utopia Is Where You Call Home

What a slow and relaxed drive home. George and I are both retired and we had no agenda. We slowly drove from one state to another looking for Utopia. We started in Durango at the end of the trail and made our way to Utah’s Park City. Park City is known for the 2002 Salt Lake City’s Winter Olympics. There are bobsled and luge courses, ski jumps and ski race courses that are still reminisces of the games. But it wasn’t the city I could find myself living in. We traveled north to Idaho and visited our most favorite people. The Millers are in Nampa, a nice superb of Boise. It’s surrounded by farmlands and has many golf courses that would keep George happy. Then we headed to Northrop which is minutes from Coeur D’Alene. Another beautiful forested area with large pastures filled with livestock, horses, mules and donkeys. My dear friend Muriel left California for Idaho a couple of years ago and says she will never return. She has made herself a new life filled with love and passion for her mules and new friends. Life is what we bring to it, our beliefs, our God, our attitude and the community we belong to! George and I traveled west over the cascades and to the coastline. We loved the area just east of the cascades called Cle Elum. It is at the base of the Cascade Mountains, near Mount Rainier and has many lakes and rivers. It is remote but close to Seattle, which can be a double-edge sword, yet far enough to feel like you are out of the city. It has most the modern conveniences yet has the feeling that you are in a remote mountain area. Both George and I agreed that this could be a great option for a new beginning. We continued west and spent the last few days on the coast, Astoria, Newport, Golds Beach and Brookings, Coos Bay and Fort Bragg. The Oregon Coastline is breathtaking with long sandy beaches and foamy waves crashing on the shores. We both loved this area of Oregon with less traffic, clean beaches and the lack of crowds. It’s a bit far away from everyone we know and once again, we were scratching our head as to where is Utopia?We walked the beaches, loved the minus tides with all the marine life, tide pools and sea urchins that were exposed. We met others with their clam digging boots on, obviously more prepared than we were. But what a lovely place to visit. Still not sure if I could live at the beach as there are no true mountains and the four-seasons are non-existent! George drove over 4000 miles in a bit over two weeks. That’s a lot of towns, cities and states to drive through. We finally arrived home a couple of days ago and all I wanted to do was to take a long, long bath and collapse in my bed. After all those miles, and all the weeks on the trail, honestly the only place I want to be is home! Home is my utopia. It is where I feel grounded, where my God follows me, and where I am truly at peace. My home is in a small unincorporated area near a lake, where the four seasons are only a short drive away, where hiking trails are outside my front door and where God is always one prayer away!

My faithful dog Zoey accompanied me on my first hike to the lake. She was thrilled to walk to Folsom Lake with me, never turns me down and has the excitement of, well, a dog! She is the best partner ever for hiking. She will accompany me anytime of the day or night, and never ever turned me down. She is much like our God, always ready to talk, to listen, and to accompany me through all of life’s ups and downs! So where is your utopia? I hope it is right where you are.

You keep me in perfect peace as I trust in you.

Isaiah 26:3

Life After the Colorado Trail

I have been recouping and reacquainting myself with life after the trail. There is something so magical about being in the mountains, away from the nonsense of this daily rhythm of life. Something so simplistic as waking up to a sunrise, packing up your few possessions and walking the thin line. The sometimes not-so straight but ever-so narrow path that God provides for me is all I need. The unseen is what I strive for. Not knowing what will present itself ahead of me, only the anticipation of Gods glorious provisions is all I can dream for. Oh, how truly loved I felt on the trail, how completely protected and cared for as I hiked mile after mile, day upon day, weeks that turned into a month. Even though I was only on the trail for five weeks, 34 days of hiking, it puts you in another mindset. They say a habit forms in 21 days, and hiking with God was a habit I didn’t want to break. My wonderful husband George picked me up from the trail and we have been relaxing and checking out the sights of Park City, Utah. There are ski mountains that surround this town, beautiful rugged peaks that rise up around such a gorgeous place. It just so happens that my 60th birthday and 25th anniversary fall on the same day, August 19th. George asked me how I feel now that I’m 60 years young? Honestly, I feel absolutely blessed. God has provided me this incredible body that is His temple, a shell that allows me to climb mountains, hike trails and enjoy our Lords creation that only a few experience. Life is good but God is better! He is the one and only reason that I am who I am. He created me, ordained my days and put these passions of my heart. All I need to do is take care of myself the best I know how, ask for wisdom to make the right decisions and to live the life that He has given me.

As I look back on the trail, I long to be back out there. It is a selfish desire I have to want to be so close to God, to hear His voice, to feel His breeze upon my face, to know His desires for my steps. I understand that He also wants me in relationship with others, my husband and family, my friends and foes, and my community of believers, and ones who He wants me to share His word with. Hiking is a passion of mine that will never cease, but there must be a balance. Until I hike again, I will love my Lord right where I am. Sitting in my yard, I can hear Gods quiet voice. I can feel His breeze on my face and truly know His love for me. He never leaves me whether I am in the mountains or tilling the soil in my backyard! That is His promise to all of us. Wherever you are, I am with you! Never hold onto to anything tighter than you are holding onto God…

Day 33: Humility- Taylor Lake to Durango Terminus 22 miles

God has a funny way of keeping us humble. This trail has taught me that I’m not all that I think I am. Yes I can hike but there’s always someone that hikes faster and gets in more miles. I’m not the best selector of tent sites because last night I moved my tent three times before I could pitch it correctly! And still had to wake up in the middle of the night because my guide line was detached. It always humbles me when I hike a long distant trail. I always learn that I’m not all I think I am, and the only reason I arrive at the terminus is that God provides a way! I woke up this morning feeling the best I have in a week. My lovely husband had already arrived in Durango so I sprung on an idea to Triple-Z. Lets see if we can wrap up this trail today?!?! That’s a lot of miles but I’m up for a challenge. We had a mostly downhill slide. The trail was shaded for the first bit with cedar and pine trees. It had some shale areas that are always tough for me, keeping my feet firmly planted on the ground. We kept running into our tramily, trail family, and mostly everyone had the same goal, finishing up the trail today.

The flowers were bigger the lower in elevation we went. Today was all about putting in big miles and pushing ourself one last time. As I’m headed down, I had no idea that’s Triple-Z was timing me. She was counting off the miles and told me I was hiking three miles per hour. Keep this up and you’ll see George by 5:30pm! That was all the motivation I needed. During the past few days, I was lucky to get 1-1/2 to 2 miles per hour. I was moving at a turtle pace, just one foot in front of the other.We stopped for lunch and water and I saw these dried dead bones. Some animal had lost its life next to this beautiful river and source of life. I could only dream that my last breath would be in Gods creation, surrounded by mountains and fresh springs of water! As we came close to the end of our journey, we nodded farewell to one of our friends who we hiked with. He had planned to spend one more night in the wilderness hoping to savor the time before returning to the city. There is such a fine line between life inside and being outdoors. We can always wander outside, but to truly become one with nature, takes a special bond and commitment. Triple-Z and I met many people on the trail but honestly only a small percentage actually make it to completion. There are many reasons that take us off trail, family, injuries, on this trail giardia, but the few that see it to the end, have a change. Some more dramatic than others but you can not walk off this trail without humility. It humbles you from day one with the heat. Then you hit the monsoons with thunder and lightning scaring the daylights out of you. As you start the incredible climbs, the altitude and the daily ups and downs, sends many home. But once you get into a rhythm you find the glory, you get into step, and if you are fortunate enough, you have someone to share it with! Triple-Z and I started this trail together and we ended it together. We had our moments, our exchanges of ideas but we had each other, and that was a gift. We are two different people, we believe in two different philosophies yet God brought us together to share this experience! It was a grand and insightful time we had, filled with grace and humility and we accomplished what we set our hearts on. Spend time outdoors with our higher being, mine being God and hers being the universe. In the end, we grew to understand each other better and most of all, to be accepting of one another right where we are.

I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

Day 32: What is Grace – Corral Draw to Taylor Lake 17 miles

I’m nearing the final days of my hike and there are always lessons learned. Grace is something that our Heavenly Father gives us daily. I need a lot of it! It seems I can be a handful when it especially comes to not minding my words. My thoughts get out of control and Jesus reigns me in moment by moment. I couldn’t imagine where I would be if I didn’t receive grace from family and friends, and from God almighty. This morning as we left the ridge that we had camped out, I was in tears. This will most likely be the last time that I’ll walk through these majestic mountains! As Triple-Z and I turned the corner, it was all together different. The fir trees took over the landscape and the San Juan’s and all the other 14er’s were behind us. Some people are beach lovers while others like valleys and deserts, I am a mountain girl at heart. It is my commune with the Lord. It is where I hear His voice the loudest. I believe He designed it that way, just to get my undivided attention.

I had a few more ridges to cover, miles to hike and hills to climb. The day was perfect with a nice breeze that kept me cool. There was quite a bit of rolling terrain which always helps me catch my breath. That too is grace!

Taylor Lake is our destination as everyone talks about its beauty. Today was a bit hard as I still am not eating much and having a tough time keeping my food in my belly. But as I was heading up this shaky rocky path, I felt a burden lifted from me. It was as if someone had come behind me and lifted my pack off my back. I turned around to see if Triple-Z was behind me but she was nowhere in sight. I truly believe that Jesus knee at that moment that I needed a little extra help and He intervened! That’s grace!

I had some arduous paths to negotiate today. I’m not a big fan of heights and this was just something I need to overcome. Cliffs on both sides of me and I chose not to look. My eyes are fixed on the trail ahead of me and nothing else. As I finally got off the precipice of death, as I call it, there was this badger looking critter munching away at the manzanita. I thought at first it was a marmot but it had a long tail. Of course no photo was taken but I’ll look it up when I get home and report back in my recap as to what it was. It had a black muzzle, long nails and stood up on two legs like us. The jury’s still out but he didn’t attack us and we continued on.

Taylor Lake is a in a cirque with lovely mountains surrounding it. It is a hangout for CT thru-hikers and bike-packers too. There is sense of excitement as everyone knows we are only a day or two from Durango. The termination of this trail. I have a mixture of emotions as this has been a trail that I have had much growth on. I have been reminded of how grace comes in many forms on the trail from a friend waiting for you countless times because she just a much faster hiker than I. Complete strangers who share water and take your trash because they too understand the waterless stretches, and no need to carry that trash when they’re driving out. It is the times when you don’t have something to calm your belly ache and Triple-Z digs through her pack again to find something that will help. Grace is love and love conquers all.

He said to me, ” My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

Day 31: Glorious God – Treed Site to Corral Draw 16 miles

My tent site selection was lacking last night but God was not. I so needed some rest to get ready for today’s events, and our sweet Jesus calmed me down. What a blessing, more down than up today! That hasn’t happened in a long long time. The morning was stunning. We have been traveling on a ridge line for a wee bit now, so if you don’t like the views to the west, check out the east side! Honestly, it’s hard to choose which side is more glorious? We had a wonderful sunrise, then crested over Engineer Pass and dropped into this meadow. If I was a dog, this would be the best Dog Park ever! There were all sorts of critters to chase and things to smell! Triple-Z brought out her mountain finder app and we located Cross Mountain. It looks as though it has a steeple on top. So appropriate for this paradise that we are traversing. The morning was simply easy walking. The trail was manicured, no crazy roots to grab hold of your shoe laces, no menacing boulders or rocks, just absolute perfection. I would love to meet the volunteers who work year after year clearing, maintaining and caring for these trails. They are the true hero’s out here! We are leaving the San Juan’s and entering more forested territory. There are still huge majestic mountains but they are different. As we were walking just below the ridge line, I kept looking to my left and about tripped again. This is a regular occurrence of my flawed hiking step. I finally stopped and went up the ridge line to see this red rock beauty! It’s so interesting because you’ll be walking on grey ashen soil and all of a sudden, it turns to red clay. I can’t get over the diversity of this place!We are getting down to the wire. We hit mile marker 445 so only 40 miles to go. We have a twenty mile water carry as a gentle reminder that water is so precious, even here! We filled up three plus liters and climbed our last hill for the day. I was in charge of picking a site and boy oh boy, it is as flat as a pancake, and has a super nice view. Glorious God! Life is good.

And I will be to her a wall of fire all around declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst.

Zechariah 2:5

Day 30: Tough Day – Plateau above Molas Lake to Treed Site 16 miles

Some days you just wake up and all you want to do is stay in your tent. Today was that day. Both Triple-Z and I are tired! Yes, the dynamic duo is just about spent. We are getting so close to the end but we still have work to do. So o’dark thirty we were on the trail like clockwork. It is much different on the south end of the San Juan’s. The mountains are red with clay trails and corn flowers growing like weeds. I never get tired of the scenery, I just get tired. I’ve been having a hard time eating so I’m not getting the fuel I need to get me up the trail. Usually it’s the complete opposite and you have hiker hunger. All you want to do is eat, eat, eat but for some reason my belly is not happy and I can barely get food down. That’s a problem! We are back in the trees again with lush green landscape, deers grazing and squirrels squeaking! Triple-Z has finally zoned in on what the chirping sound that we constantly hear from pikas and marmots. It sounds just like the alarm in your smoke detector when you need to change the batteries. Sometimes it’s really loud while others are just a gentle chirp. We are still holding out on finding the rare white weasel but haven’t seen one yet.We climbed up a pass and found a perfect red rock to sit upon. I pulled out my yellow closed-cell foam insulated pad and relaxed. During our lunch we watched a very accomplished mountain biker come up the trail and negotiate the tightest turn around a rock like it was nothing at all. Darn mountain bikers are so much faster than us!After lunch we finished the climb and headed down into a valley that looked like Zion National Park. Okay, I’ve never been there before but I’ve seen pictures and it has all the similarities. Red rock formations, red mountains and red clay trails. I came around a bend and this deer was standing just off the trail. She looked right at me and had no care that I was there. Sometimes they’re so skid dish while others just hangout. We filled up with water at Cascade Creek and yep, hiked up another 1000′ to our not-so-flat piece of earth. We are up on a ridge line and sometimes you get graced with a flat piece of real estate, but not tonight. I’m doing my best to barricade myself from sliding sideways and downhill but it’s a poor attempt. The consolation prize, I’m so tired that it probably won’t matter. Looking at our guidebook, tomorrow will be more downhill than uphill. Hallelujah! God has more in store for you than you can even imagine.

Ephesians 3:20

Day 29: Log Jamming – Elk Creek to Plateau above Molas Lake 13 miles

Yesterday was a taste of what was to come. Oh my, there was some crazy saturation last spring for the entire hillside to wash down, not once but four times! Think of a jungle gym or a super intense Crossfit Class, then do it four times. It was nerve racking for me but Triple-Z was loving it. There is something seriously wrong with her!Once I was through the first maze, I started to get the hang of it, but seriously in California they’d close the trail down. Here in a Colorado, they put up colored tape marking where the trail should be and cut you loose. The rumor is they might clear it out next year! People in Colorado are just made differently. Once we finished our gym workout, we came around the corner and there was a flat campsite with sticks laying all over it. Triple-Z said it was a staging area for beavers. Hmm, I just thought they didn’t want anyone camping there but sure enough, three small beavers came running down the trail directly towards us! It was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. And adorable, of my gosh! Once they saw us, they headed back towards the water and off they went. We made it down to the railroad tracks today. A couple of years ago, Bear Bait and I rode the very train that travels these tracks. The route is from Durango to Silverton on an old steam engine-coal driven working train. I remember the train conductor mentioned picking up hikers on the CT. There was a quasi train stop for hikers as we walked down the tracks. I was tempted to wait for that train but we had a good box to pick up in Molas so up the mountain we went.

Another glorious day with a ton of climbing. But the views take away all of the pain. Well maybe not all, but a good portion of it. We ran into quite a few day hikers who were taking advantage of this magnificent place. Once at Molas Lake, we picked up our last resupply box filled with food to get us to Durango. With COVID and all, the store doesn’t allow anyone in but they staple their food and snacks on a wall and you can chose what you’d like. Triple-Z bought a huge burrito and I bought an ice cream. It was the best drumstick I’ve ever tasted! We both took showers, and washed our clothes in the shower with us. Not the most hygienic but desperate times call for desperate measures. We wore our tank tops till our shirts dried up and off we went, relatively clean for hiker trash. We had a few more miles to go and made our way out of the campground and back on the trail. We climbed again, of course, and made our way to our predetermined water source. After climbing up the rock, our water source was leftover pools of standing water. We scooped the best we could and found a luscious plateau that overlooks our accomplishments for the day. There is a satisfaction when you realize where you came from just this morning. Today was a day of God’s protection. Anyway you slice it, it could’ve been disastrous. A slip on a log, a twisted this or that. One thing is for certain, there was a lot of prayer going on. I truly know that our Lord has guided my every step. I am far from Wonder Woman or for that matter, some elite athlete. So in my mind, I truly believe that God is my master planner, that I love Him immensely and he has many angels working overtime on my behalf! It is God’s graces that allow both Triple-Z and I to cover the miles we do and stay relatively unharmed. I may have a few bumps and bruises but if I was to be honest, I usually always do. God is the one who is in-charge of my life and my path, and I am so grateful for that!

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called accordingly to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Day 28: Blood, Sweat and Tears – Cuba Gulch to Elk Creek 16 miles

Yes, I had all emotions today! We hit the trail running. Even though the miles are reasonable, we are in the San Juan’s now. If you’re not familiar with them, think of the most rugged mountains you’ve ever laid eyes on. Then know that you will climb up and over every pass! The most unique part of hiking here is the fact you are constantly above tree line. Fortunately the weather looks ominous from the clouds but the only true factor we have dealt with is wind. At times it feels like the jet stream has dropped down to 12,000′. The rock cairns are getting more and more elaborate. Honestly they are nice to see as you are approaching a summit, but rarely to the designate the top. In fact I think they are intended for winter travel when the trail is covered in snow. That to me sounds like way too much work! After lunch we came over another rise and all I could think was Patagonia! These twin peaks dominated the landscape. The only thing that was missing is the glacier below them. As we descended the mountain in the afternoon, we had already seen two huge flocks of sheep, a random saddled horse tied to a lead without a cowboy anywhere, and motorized vehicles over Stoney Pass. The climb down was much like Mt Whitney where there are countless switchbacks. I was truly grateful that I wasn’t climbing up! The trail was narrow and went through some old mining areas with rock quarry’s. Just for some added fun after hiking 15 miles, we had to negotiate a blow down of spruce trees that extended 100 meters, about the size of a football field. That’s where the blood came in. There’s no way to climb over fallen trees wearing a skirt, without getting gouged. The sweat was earned from all the climbs we had today while the tears were “tears of joy”. 400 miles hiked to this point! We did one extra mile to camp being the original site we intended using is home of a very aggressive porcupine! He’s been known to eat random gear and steal stuff. For over three years, he’s been menacing hikers and campers alike. Who would’ve thought you’d be run out by a porky critter. Only 84 to go and we will be in Durango!

But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.

Psalm 3:3

Day 27: Action Packed Day – Camp Trail to Cuba Gulch Trail 19 miles

There was a lot going on today. We got up early and started our uphill climb. We had a bonus today. Let alone we’d be back up on the Continental Divide but we also were headed to the highest point on the CT. More of that later. Another beautiful sunrise courtesy of “you know who!’ This picture doesn’t give it justice. Sometimes I feel like I capture it fairly well but this morning, it was brilliant orange and reds! We were greeted by tons of picas this morning, as they were storing their winter food. Ends up that Triple-Z was talking with a pica expert in town and was told that they are the smallest of the rabbit family. No wonder they multiply like rabbits. They were busy gathering grasses, flowers and anything green. They bring it back to their burrow and pack it in based on what they will eat first and what they will binge on during the cold winter months. God just keeps amazing me when I hear how even the smallest of creatures have the wherewithal to take care of themselves! I still think they look like hamsters but now I know they are rabbit-like. Cute little critters. We had such an eventful morning with grouse and marmots and more weasels. I guess the weasels aren’t as rare as I thought being that I’ve seen four now. What is rare is the white weasel! Seldom do people see them. Triple-Z and I climbed up and over the Continental Divide and then climbed a bit more to the tallest point on the Colorado Trail 13,271′ . It was a bit windy following the ridge line as we made our way up. We had our own private photo shoot being there was no one else around.

We have been seeing a few mountain bike riders and a handful of hikers but it’s pretty slim pickings! Once off the top of the world we enter the San Juan Mountains. This is all I’ve heard since I started was, wait till you see the San Juan’s. Well today was the day and I was not disappointed! Within and hour or so I started to see them. They are truly spectacular and go on for quite some ways. Triple-Z found us a great lunch spot within the mountain range. As we were sitting eating our lunch, I finally caught a glimpse of my elusive moose. In the willows I could see it munching away. But the more I watched the big palmed moose eat, I noticed he had an entire clan with him. I counted up to six moose’s at half a mile away. I have been told that I’d be a great hunter because I can see movement from quite a distance. But I can’t read a book without glasses! The brown specks are the moose’s. Triple-Z and I had quite the trek today. We only have a week to get to Durango so we needed some extra miles. But now we are exactly 100 miles from the end of the trail so we can get back to the “Kelly Pace” which is 15 miles a day with our final day into Durango 10 miles. It’ll be a great way to take in all the sights of our last week in this magical place. What I have been truly taken back by is how protected Triple-Z and I have been. We have had our fair share of mishaps, wrong turns, my face plant, little slips and slides on the loose gravel but nothing that has taken us off trail. I know in my heart that this is where I was suppose to be and our precious Lord has come along with many of His angels to protect us. Triple-Z and I are both 60 this year so we are not spring chickens, but we still have enough strength, grit and determination to hike for hours on end. Thank you Jesus for guiding us and keeping us safe during our journey. We are getting close to the end of this trail but I do believe there are more trails and opportunities to hike for God!

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be a well-watered garden like a spring whose waters never fail.

Isaiah 58:11

Day 26: Back on the Trail – Spring Creek Pass to Camp Trail 11 miles

After one zero day in Lake City, we stuck out our thumbs and looked for a ride. An hour later, Tom Brady stopped in his PT Cruiser. No, not The Tom Brady but a nice old guy who felt sorry for us being he passed us an hour ago and came back to help us out. Him and his wife are locals living the dream in Lake City year-round. He drove us to the trailhead and pointed out every snowmobile road along the way. He talked and talked and talked about all the goings-on in town. He enjoys the tourist coming to town but loves the solitude when they all leave. Once on the trail, it was a continuation of the other side, but with new mountains! Now we could see Colorado’s version of the Matterhorn. We did some more plateau hiking and noticed a truck and trailer on our trail. I wondered if it was a Shepard, like Tom had mentioned. Sure enough, it was Ewe Ranch placing their trailer in the high country for the summer. This will be the first and last time I’ll ever pass up a vehicle as I’m walking. He was going really really slow. I caught up with him and talked awhile. He has five locations that he places his sheep but where we were at, he had a flock of 600-700 sheep. They will grave there till fall and then he’ll pick em up and take back to Montrose where they will become lamb chops! Those poor little sheep have no idea but I do appreciate a good “leg of lamb”. They were pretty noisy as we passed. Triple-Z was scout today. She had to find the hidden spring which would be our only source of water for the day. After reading Guthook, she narrowed it down to .2 miles into the forest near a cairn pile. Hallelujah that woman is quite resourceful and we were filling up with water! A little more road walking then up we went. The wind was howling today. If only I had a sail or wings, I could’ve been to the ridge line in no time. But all I have are my Trail legs, my Solomon’s, and a heavy pack. So I kept walking. We are getting down to the nitty gritty now with a little over a hundred miles to go. We stopped short of going over the tallest point on the CT today and decided to do that early in the morning when we are fresh and we’ll-rested. So we found some low lying manzanitas bushes to block the wind and settled in at 11,714′. We are well above tree line and thankfully there’s no storms on the horizon so we are quite comfortable. Red Cloud Mountain was the most brilliant mountain in our view today. It is something with all the ore and Cooper in the minerals. It truly is a beauty and I’m sure we will have many angles of Red Cloud as we hike tomorrow. You just can’t escape these as they are so tall and you see them for days!

The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths, for his names sake.

Psalms 23:1-3