Since the first day, we were consumed by the trail. It stripped us of our off-trail identity, our comfort zones and routines. We entered a world where no one cares about what our day job is or what we studied in school. No one cares about what we wear, smell like, or how we talk. We become the trail, and the trail becomes our home and the other hikers are family. Don't get us wrong we don't forget about our families back home or that other world, but to survive we have to sacrifice our our minds, time, and energy to hiking. Seeing family becomes a distant dream, a goal.
When family comes to visit it is such an amazing gift, like an anchor back into who you are and what life was like and is like off-trail. It is this tiny window where you can share a bit of one world with a bit of the other. It is energizing and phenomenal, but when it is time to say goodbye...it feels like an unexpected blow to the heart. Sure, sure that sounds mellow dramatic, but it hurts in a way that we could never have expected nor that we can explain. The first few moments back on trail after walking away from family suck. For Critter they are tear ridden and for Garbelly they are very silent miles. It's not a longing to be off trail and surrounded by the familiar. It's not a regret nor a giving up. The feeling appears dressed as sadness, but could it be something else completely?
It might come down to time. Trail time is different than real life time. Our days are characterized by distance instead of the hands on a watch. Our time slows. However, when real life meets trail life. It feels as if time in general races to catch up. Time flies by leaving you alone again with the trail. Internally you feel like you are grabbing for the moment to stay just a little bit longer. This glimpse at time is shocking, a glimpse at the impermanence of every moment on trail and off trail. Suddenly we realize how quickly it is going by and how soon it will be all over.
Immediately, we are grateful for gravity which helps us cling to the dirt path we follow and the weight of our packs pressing us into that particular moment in earth's own time. It feels like being pinched out of a dream and back into reality. Leaving family is tough, but not seeing them at all may be just as tough. You just have to be ready for the sprinting of time through you're walking paced world.
Saying bye to Joe, Kate, and Milo was not easy. Their visit seemed to go by so quickly relative to how long it felt waiting for the day they arrived in Colorado. It is so amazing to be so supported, and it so amazing to share, even if it is just a tiny glimpse, our world out here. Aside from the stories and photos, to see in person the mountains and the trail, our packs and worn out shoes, how much sun our skin has gotten and how callused our feet have become. To meet a part of our trail family, in a way it makes it not just real for our family, but it makes it that much more real for us. In this surreal world, for a passing moment, we are utterly grounded and can step off of the trail and look on to our adventure from the outside.
We watched as Stella pulled away. We stood quietly and watched. Critter cried, of course, and Garbelly waved until he could not see the silver Airstream with the New York plates anymore. We were in limbo, somewhere between familiarity and our new life on trail. We raced back to trail and away from purgatory. Once on the path leading us North, we felt better, and thus we began to finish our miles into Grand Lake.
Along the way, about four miles out of town, we met a fellow hiker, Lil Buddha, and falling in line with his trail name, the energy he emitted was enlightening. We hiked all the way to town with him learning about all the trails he has hiked, some insight on the International Appalachian Trail, a dream of ours to complete.
Once in town, he headed towards the post office, and we headed towards the hostel at Shadowcliff to pick up our box. We found out it was a little less than mile away so we grabbed some ice cream for the walk. Shadowcliff consisted of beautiful log, multiple story cabins on the side of a cliff next to a flowing creek. We walked into the main building and office where we were greeted by the smiling face of Alanah, the granddaughter of the original founders of the lodge. She checked us in for the night and retrieved our resupply box. Then she showed us each our rooms, a men's dorm and a women's dorm.
We sat our stuff down by empty beds we deemed fit, and then we met each other downstairs in the large common area where we spent the majority of the night. Large windows allowed for a perfect view of Grand Lake, the surrounding Rocky Mountain National Park, and a thunderstorm that blew in over it all. We lounged for most of the afternoon only to take a short pizza break but soon resuming position on the couch. Everyone had already headed to bed when we shut the lights off and marched ourselves up to bed. We said goodnight to each other and slipped into our dorm rooms.