Day 74, 26.5 miles
Sweet and I leapfrog, passing each other, and occasionally hike together. Mid morning she caught up to me at a stream. She looked sick. She has a cold now too. She curled up into a ball on the side of the trail to take a nap. She assured me to go ahead and she would catch up to me tomorrow.
Up and over mountains, up and over more mountains. Staying between 8,000 and 9,000 feet elevation all day. Blue sky, not a cloud in sight. There is more wind on top of the passes, but it gets hot where it’s sheltered. So hot. What I’d give for a chilled drink other than water.
In the afternoon I met Quite Nice and Pumpkin on the trail. It was great to see them again. Pumpkin said, “There is beer on the trail in 5 miles.” I blurted out, “You’re lying!” We’re in the mountains how could beer get here? They assured me someone left trail magic for us hikers near Ebbets Pass.
As I hiked on I met more hikers and they confirmed there was beer near the road at the pass. I quickened my pace. Talk about dangling a carrot in front of a donkey.
As I hiked on I didn’t pass any more northbound hikers. I started to panic. I imagined lots of northbound hikers had stopped at the trail magic. I was an hour away. There will be none left.
I thought about putting my beer in the snow to chill. I have potato chips. I imagined how good the beer and chips were going to be. But what if there was none left? I felt crazed. Let there be beer, let there be beer, let there be beer, my mind said over and over. I thought sadly, if there is no beer then I’ll break open my emergency Snickers bar to make me feel better.
I finally get to Ebbets pass around 5 pm and there it is. The Rubbermaid. I open it. It’s filled with snow and beer! Soooo good. I ate my Snickers bar anyway. No other hikers were there, as I had imagined. I left a note on the trail to let Sweet know I was camping a mile and a half ahead.
It was dark and I was camped at a beautiful tent site on a sheltered plateau with views of the surrounding mountains. I heard footsteps coming down the trail. I recognized that gait immediately. “Sweet, you made it!” She didn’t even bother putting up her tent. Mat down, into sleeping bag, lights out.