Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Day 30: The Double Dirty 30 Run Begins!

September 23: Today was finally it. The day the bulk of the storm would strike Silverton. It's the day I've been waiting out for... four days now! I didn't have any big plans for today. I didn't know of any other tourist traps in the area to occupy my time. No more museums or gold mines or trains to ride.

But there was an event going on in town--the second annual Double Dirty 30 run--a grueling 55-km or 100-km run through the mountains and surrounding area. On a good day, it was a grueling race. To do it in a blizzard--absolutely insane. Of course, it was scheduled with no consideration of the weather--nobody could predict the weather that far in advance--but it was, quite literally, the absolute worst day one could have chosen in the month.

Do we dare go outside today... YES! We dare! (I'll also mention that I took this photo my first full day in Silverton when there was absolutely ZERO chance of avalanches. I don't think they started using it for the season and it's not accurate.)

The hostel was packed with people--overflowing with all sorts of people. Hikers, bikers and hunters came out of the woods like ants fleeing a burning log--all because the weather was so bad. Not to mention the runners and volunteers who were in town for the Double Dirty 30.

I didn't realize just how crowded the hostel had gotten until I walked into the big bunkroom to check the hiker box and saw it stuffed with nearly a dozen people. There was nobody in it when I first arrived! Jan wouldn't even rent it out since it was separated from the rest of the hostel and was the least comfortable room--but she was forced to open it when all of the other rooms filled. She told me later that the information center in town was calling her trying to find rooms for others who had arrived and she told them no--she had no more space. She even rented out the room she was using for herself! I'm not sure where she was sleeping at night. The place was packed to the gills.

One of the runners for the race told me that the race officially started at 7:00 sharp in the middle of town on Greene Street. I saw them setting up tents and barricades there the day before so I knew exactly where she was talking about and figured I'd get up early enough to watch the festivities. And wish Nicole luck--she'd be out there too.

I asked Kevin and Max, bicyclists who shared my room, if they'd like to join me--it was early, but what else did we have to do? They figured why not--then we could go out for breakfast. Sounded like a plan to me! So we woke up early--6:30 or so--got dressed and wandered into town. I was ready first and wanted to find Nicole and wish her luck before the race actually started so I headed out ahead of them.

Snow is starting to pile up in those mountains!

The weather outside was dark and menacing, but it hadn't yet started to snow. It hadn't even started to rain--not yet, at least. But low-lying snow from the day before powdered the mountains.

Walking into town, I caught up to and was about to pass a woman when she turned to me and said, "Hey, aren't you Green Tortuga?"

I looked at her closer but she didn't look familiar. "Yeah.... who are you?"

"We met while hiking the Appalachian Trail a couple of years ago! I'm Mouse!"

Oh! Mouse! I remembered Mouse. She was hiking with Franklin, and the last time I saw them they were trying to hitch a ride in the town of Franklin. But it was weird, because she didn't look like the Mouse I remembered.

So I asked her if that was her--when I last saw her hitching into Franklin--and she said no, it was later further up the trail we had met. The memory wasn't coming to me.

"I was hiking with Wrecker," she told me.

I couldn't remember a Wrecker and said as much.


"OH! Yes! I remember Homewrecker! One of my favorite stories ever for how someone got their trailname--and totally misleading!"

And now I suddenly remembered her. I even remember telling her at the time that she wasn't the first Mouse I had met on the trail that year. The other Mouse popped into my head first because I had talked to the first one a lot more, and it took a little prodding, but now I remembered her.

She was surprised to see me, though, because I had been a few days ahead of her on the trail ever since she started. She saw my entries in the registers and knew I was ahead on the trail, but I had absolutely no idea that she was on the trail at all. It's always a little fun when you bump into someone you already know (kind of know, at least) in the middle of nowhere.

So I walked with Mouse the rest of the way into town. She was going for coffee and invited me along, but I passed saying that I going to try finding someone in the race, but that we should catch up later.

I found the crowd of people around the start of the race, but I didn't see Nicole and I lingered just watching the happenings. Kevin and Max arrived soon after. A couple of minutes before the race was due to begin, a whole bunch of runners poured out of the nearby hotel and there was Nicole.

"Nicole!" I shouted. We chatted for a minute, and I took photos because she had nobody else around to do it. I think she was a bit surprised that she had a fan base in Silverton--even if she did ditch us at the hostel for a fancy hotel on a paved street. ;o) Nicole seemed a bit nervous about the weather but excited.

Nicole, about to start her 55-km run through a blizzard.
She told us that all of the runners were required to wear tracking devices so if something went wrong, they'd know where to search and she showed us her tracking device. "Let's hope that's not needed," I replied.

The mayor of the town give a brief speech, and then one of the people coordinating the race gave some last minute directions about making sure their trackers were turned on. It was absolutely essential that everyone's trackers be on and working.

Then the race officially began. I don't remember any starter's pistol going off, but maybe there was. Next thing I knew, all of the contestants were jogging down the street and I tried getting a few photos of Nicole in the bunch so I could email them to her later.

And then they were gone. Now what did we do for the rest of the day?

And they're off! See Nicole waving to me as she jogs off?

Kevin, Max and I headed out to breakfast at the Kendall Mountain Cafe, except when we first arrived it was closed even though the hours on the sign clearly said that they opened at 7:00 and it was several minutes after 7:00.

We wandered back towards the center of town looking for other options and figuring out what to do next when I saw Mouse in a coffee shop drinking her beverage and decided to drop in and chat some more. I introduced Mouse to my bunkmates and we chatted a bit, but we were still hungry for breakfast and after a short while decided that we'd try the Kendall Mountain Cafe again. Maybe they had opened by now.

So we left Mouse to her coffee (she was certainly welcome to join us, but she wasn't interested in breakfast--at least not with us, or not at this time, or whatever her reason!) and walked back to the Kendall Mountain Cafe and this time the doors were open.

We took our table, ordered breakfast and it was delicious.

Our waitress was a young woman who spoke with a foreign accent, and out of curiosity I asked where she was from. "Macedonia!" she told us. I have to admit, I had to think really hard about where the heck Macedonia was located. I was a little disappointed about her answer. I knew basically nothing about that country or the area except that it used to a part of Yugoslavia. I literally knew nothing about the country. I had no idea what it's capitol was, what language they spoke, or pretty much anything. Was Macedonian even a language? I didn't think so, so what did they speak? Serbian? Croatian? Something else entirely? I wasn't even sure that I'd even met anyone from Macedonia before, so I was kind of curious about it.

I asked her how one says "good morning" in.... her language. I was clever that way. Not knowing what language it was that was spoken there, I just asked "How to you say good morning in your language?" I could add it to my long list how to say good morning in various languages.

She said something that was long and complicated and that I'd have no hope of remembering--and I didn't have anything to try writing it down at the moment. I tried repeating what she said but she just laughed. Not in a mean-spirited way, but just because I was so bad at it. We all knew I was bad at it.

So then I asked about how to say thank you in her language, which she said was fala. Or at least it sounded like "fala." I didn't ask her how she spelled it (I didn't even know if they used a Latin alphabet in her language!)--I just wanted to say something in her language. People like it when you try to use their language--even if it's nothing more than "thank you."

Later, at the end of our meal and when we were leaving, we all told her "Fala!"

By now, the weather had turned considerably worse with a cold, steady rain hitting the streets. Higher up the mountains, it looked like snow was falling, and I felt bad for Nicole. She couldn't possibly be enjoying this.

With nothing better to do, we headed back to the hostel.

A few hours later, Bushwacker returned. He was gone last night because of the reservation he made at another hotel days before that he couldn't get out of, but now he was back for one more night at the hostel.

For lunch, we decided to head out again and I don't remember who suggested it--but I think it might have been Kevin who wanted to go back the Kendall Mountain Cafe for lunch. He had heard good things about their lunch and wanted to try it, but we had only gotten breakfast there.

I made everyone take a slight detour to the post office so I could mail my laptop on to Durango. I'd have liked to keep the laptop for an extra day, but I hoped to leave town tomorrow and tomorrow was a Sunday. The post office wouldn't be open tomorrow and, being Saturday, would close early today. So just before lunch, I headed to the post office and mailed my laptop ahead.

Then we continued on to the Kendall Mountain Cafe. This time, Bushwacker joined us, so it was the four of us--and we grabbed the same table we had before and sat in the same places as we did for breakfast--except for Bushwacker who had missed breakfast with us. I joked that we should come back here later for dinner and make a trifecta of the day, but it was only a joke since the restaurant closed early in the afternoon and wasn't open at all for dinner.

I didn't have a problem with returning there--it's not like I was going to order the same thing again--so for the second time that day, we ate at the Kendall Mountain Cafe. Our Macedonian waitress from the morning was gone, however, and I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't be able to use the one word of "Macedonian" that I had learned. I put "Macedonian" in quotes since I wasn't actually sure what language the word was from at the time. (It turns out that Macedonian actually is a language, and is probably the language where the word had come from!)

Lunch at the Kendall Mountain Cafe. From left to right--Max, Bushwacker and Kevin.
The weather the rest of the day was miserable. Sometimes it was a slow, steady drizzle and other times it was a torrential downpour. Wind gusts blew my umbrella inside out several times--it was very windy all day, and at times there was a heavy hail, but the expected snow never materialized. Not in Silverton, at least. Higher up the mountains, I had no doubt, it was coming down mostly as snow. Through thin spots in the rain I could see some of the snow in the mountains and it looked like it was piling up--perhaps it was a foot deep--but it was hard to tell from a distance.

The route of the race, I knew, went into those mountains, and I wondered again how Nicole was doing. It had to be miserable. I was also so glad I wasn't stuck in that storm!

Back at the hostel, I bumped into one of the guests who was there for the race and I asked her how it went--did she finish already?! It was late in the afternoon and I didn't really know how long it would take to complete 55 kilometers (especially given the awful weather conditions)--she had told me earlier that she was in the 55 km race so I already knew that. She had finished, though, and didn't quit early, so at this point I knew at least some of the runners were finishing. I asked if she happened to know anything about Nicole (there were maybe 30 people at most in the 55 km race so it's not a large group), but she didn't know who Nicole was. Despite the fact that they both stayed at the same hostel, they were never there at the same time.

But she did tell me I could go to the finish line--the same place where the starting line was that morning--and they could tell me if Nicole had finished or not or where she was because of the trackers they were wearing and I thought that was an excellent idea. It's not like I had anything better to do for the day!

So I went out into the weather again and asked about Nicole. They pulled up a document on their laptop with everyone's time but Nicole wasn't on it. That, they told me, meant that she was still out there and hadn't finished yet.

They pulled up a website with a map that linked to the runner's trackers and it showed Nicole running down the highway in the wrong direction. The event organizer made a call to someone at a checkpoint to find out what was going on, but then another runner from the race was about to arrive and they dropped all thoughts of Nicole--for the moment, at least. The guy about to arrive was particularly special--he was the first person of the 100-kilometer group to finish the race.

So we all cheered his arrival. He looked tired but pleased with himself and I couldn't help but think, "You crazy bastard. A hundred friggin' kilometers? Just over 62 miles. I don't know his official time, but it was about 7:00 when the race started and it was now about 7:00 at night, so about 12 hours and 62 miles through god-awful weather. How is that even possible? It's enough to give me nightmares!

They got distracted with the first 100-km person to arrive who I didn't know so I wandered off again.

The winner of the 100-km race tromps towards the finish line between the barricades. Insane!

I checked the weather forecast ahead as well. My plan was to hit the trail again--finally!--tomorrow, and I needed at least four days of tolerable weather to get to Durango. Ideally, I'd have preferred to cover the distance in five leisurely days, but I could do it in four. As long as the snow wasn't too deep which would slow me down. But it was time to make a final decision about whether I could finish the Colorado Trail... or not.

The forecast for the next three days were sunny, clear and beautiful! Hurry! But there were two issues with the forecast.

First, the temperature was about to plummet off a cliff. It was cold today and was getting below freezing often at a night, but it had been barely below freezing. The next couple of nights, temperatures were expected to plunge into the 20s--and that was in Silverton--not in the mountaintops where I'd be hiking. Located a couple of thousand feet higher, temperatures would probably be in the teens--maybe even in the single digits. It was going to be ****ing cold at night--and well below the rating on my sleeping bag.

And the second problem was that on days 4 and 5, it was expected to snow again and it looked like it would be another big storm dumping several inches of snow on Silverton. Of course, it was supposed to dump several inches of snow on Silverton in this storm which never happened, but still....

But I felt good that both of these problems were tolerable. It would be cold at night, but I now carried Nicole's sleeping pad which was huge! And I carried her sleeping bag liner which would be good for a few extra degrees as well as a thermal blanket I bought in town which was good for at least a few more degrees. With those three pieces of gear added to my arsenal, I felt confident that I could tolerate the cold overnight temperatures.

It actually cleared up a bit near the end of the day, but there's definitely a lot of fresh snow in the mountains around town!

And the snow storm expected to hit the area on the last day was expected to merely be a rain storm in Durango, and as long as I could get down and out of those 10,000+ foot passes before the snow started flying, I wouldn't have to deal with postholing and other forms of torture. I might be wet and miserable when I reach the end of the trail, but at least I'd be back in civilization where I could be indoors, warm and dry once I got a hotel room. The last day on the trail would be miserable, but I could make it.

My biggest problem would be if I couldn't finish in four days and needed a fifth. Maybe the snow that fell yesterday and today would be so deep and the postholing would slow me down that I couldn't finish in four days. If that were the case, I might need five days to finish the trail--but the fifth day was also expected to be awful. But there was that spot on my map marked "cabin" that I figured might work as a shelter if I needed a fifth day. I never could find definitive information about the cabin or its condition online, but there had to be something there that would help--even if it were just camping under a porch to get out of the weather. I didn't want to depend on the cabin given how little I knew about it, but it was a possible option that I shouldn't discount.

So I felt good. It wasn't an ideal weather forecast, but it was one I could work with.

Then I walked over to the general store to resupply. I resupplied a lot of my food needs when I was in Durango yesterday, but I was rushing to finish and get back in time to catch the shuttle van to Silverton and forgot a few items.

So I headed to the general store and finished up my resupplying.

Without a laptop to work on or watch Netflix or anything, I mostly just chatted with the other people at the hostel until it time to sleep. My fourth zero day in Silverton was officially over!

That's an option for dinner.... but I never wound up eating here. Hope I don't go extinct! =)


Debbie St.Amand said...

"Ви благодарам" Thank you in Macedonian, courtesy of Google Translate.

Ryan said...

Fun fact--if you try to say that ten times fast, you'll choke on your own tongue. =)