Monday, May 9, 2022

Day 90: No!!!!!! My biggest crises on the trail!

July 19: I woke up particularly early once again and hit the trail running at 6:00am. The sooner I started, the cooler weather the weather would be and the earlier I could get into Steamboat Springs. And it was just one, long massive road walk into town. I figured traffic would be lighter early in the morning and a road walk with light traffic was much better than a road walk with busy traffic.


It was at this point where I finally deviated from the main red-line CDT which normally headed into the woods on a gravel road at this point. But I knew that somewhere down the road the trail was closed due to a wildfire and I wasn't exactly sure how to walk around it or if I'd end up in a location that would allow me to hitch into Steamboat Springs to resupply. So instead, I just planned to walk Highway 40 the rest of the way into town, more than 20 miles away.

The trail--or rather, my route--headed over Rabbit Ears Pass, which had a double hump for the pass. The first hump was the larger of the two, but before reaching the second hump, I met a bicyclist heading in the opposite direction who stopped to ask me about the pass. He has already gone over one pass and was sweating bullets up this hill, a bit confused thinking he was supposed to be heading downhill again. I assured him that the top wasn't that far away, then it was downhill for a long way.

He was riding his bike across the country, but about fell over when I told him I walked from the Mexican border. Yeah, and how many hundreds of miles did he bike to get here?! I'd been hiking longer, but his accomplishment was nothing to sneeze at either, but I was a little amused that someone riding his bike across the country thought that walking across (and walking across the shorter north-south direction, no less!) was somehow crazier than he was. =)

He seemed a bit lonely on his solo journey, though, and I definitely could understand that feeling. *nodding*

See the bicyclist heading up the mountain? That's the photo I took just before we stopped to chat, and he wasn't happy about this second hump over the pass he had to get over!

Anyhow, we continued on our separate ways. As the morning progressed, the temperatures soared. Even at 9:00am, I was sweating profusely. After the second hump over Rabbit Ears Pass, the route was mostly downhill all the way into Steamboat Springs.

Much of the road was undergoing construction and resurfacing. Lots of loose rocks littered the road, and signs had been installed warning drivers not to follow too closely to vehicles ahead of them or risk a rock being thrown up and breaking their windshields. I only wished I had a windshield to protect me from the rocks. I once remembered being pelted by a rock thrown up by a passing car that hit my lip and was quite painful. The risks were real!

A few miles outside of town I arrived at the active construction zone. I knew it coming up because I had noticed long lines of vehicles passing me, then long gaps for several minutes when not a single vehicle went by. I recognized this pattern: a construction zone that was only allowing vehicles through in one direction at a time. I actually prefer this--get all the vehicles by all in one, large convoy then enjoy relative peace and quiet with no vehicles bothering me. For a few minutes, at least.

As I approached that point, I reached where the cars had backed up waiting for their turn to go into town, and I walked past the vehicles like they were standing still because, you know, they were. =)

This road walk caused a bit of an unexpected crises for me!

When I arrived at the front of the line where the flag man was stopping the traffic, he waved me over to him and told me to wait a moment. Yeah, sure... no problem. And he called someone on his radio to tell them that the walker had arrived. Clearly, I had been expected. Someone must have passed by me driving down the road and noticed I was headed into their construction zone.

A minute later, a woman pulled up in a pick-up truck and told me to hop in.

"What? Why?"

I wasn't expecting this.

"You're not allowed to walk through, but we'll give you a ride across the construction zone."

"Umm... no.... that doesn't work for me."

And I went on to explain that I was hiking from Mexico to Canada, and it was very important to me to keep my steps connected the whole way. "I don't want to tell people that I walked from Mexico to Canada, except for a stupid two-mile section just before Steamboat Springs."

The woman seemed surprised that I actually wanted to walk, and really, if it wasn't for the principle of keeping my steps connected, I'd have been happy to get the ride. It was miserably hot out (about 90 degrees according to a bank sign I'd see later further in town), and it was a miserable road walk. Under most circumstances, it would have been a pleasure to accept the ride.

"Well," she told me, "I can't let you through."

So I started negotiating with her. Was there some other route around the construction zone? A parallel road that I could follow? I needed to keep my steps connected!

And there was, apparently, a route that I could go around, but it meant backing and adding several miles to the walk.

The woman called someone else on a radio, explaining that the "walker" didn't want the ride and the reason for it. While they were chatting, I was trying to think of some other alternative. Maybe if I was forced to get a ride--was that even legal? But even if I did take the ride, I thought, maybe I could walk back in the evening after they finished their day's work and "stealth hike" my way. My hotel was literally just a few more miles up the road. I could hang out there the rest of the day, then late in the evening, walk back to this point, turn around, and walk back to the hotel again. It would mean several more miles of walking for me, but it was certainly doable. I really didn't want to do that, though. When I reached the hotel, I wanted to be done for the day!

Eventually, however, they relented and allowed me to walk through, but she told me that I was expected to stay off the road surface the entire time, walking along the bank on the side of the road.

"No problem! Gladly!" I exclaimed. Yes! My steps would stay connected! And I wouldn't have to do any backtracking either!

I continued the hike, carefully avoiding walking on the road surface. Heaven forbid if they caught me walking on it and decided that they would rescind their permission. It was a bit of an annoyance, however, since the ground on the side was sloped making it difficult to walk on most of the time. I was tempted to get back on the road surface between convoys of vehicles being led through in alternating directions, but decided not to push my luck.

Cars were only allowed through in one direction at a time as they resurfaced the road. I had to walk off the road on this sloped bank.

There were flag people controlling traffic at each intersection the main road passed, and they all seemed to want me to stop and chat, asking questions about my hike. "You started at the Mexican border?!" Yeah....

I was pretty certain that every construction worker on this project knew about my presence. Which I suppose was a good thing. They had their eyes open for me. Less chance of something bad happening when they know I'm around.

Near the end of my walk, I saw a construction vehicle driving up the road with a person hanging out the window with a bottle of water in an outstretched hand. I knew I was meant to take it, so I did. The vehicle never stopped, though, just slowing down enough for me to grab the bottle.

I still had plenty of water in my pack, but this water was ice cold! OMG! Sooo sooo good..... My pack water was room temperature, which currently meant about 90 degrees. I gobbled up the whole bottle in seconds. So freaking good! What a pleasant surprise, too!

At the end of the one-direction traffic, I waved to the last flag guy and kept walking into Steamboat Springs. I sensed it was his job to let everyone else know that the "walker" had exited their construction zone and the area was clear once again of pedestrians. 

Another mile or two later, I arrived at the hotel where I had booked a night. It was only 1:30pm, which was rather remarkable considering that I had hiked over 20 miles already for the day. It also meant that I arrived before check-in time and there weren't any rooms currently available.

So I bought a cold Coke from a vending machine, then waited outside on a chair in the shade near the pool. About a half hour later, the desk clerk told me that a room was ready and she could check me in, which she did.

I took a shower and did some laundry, which was conveniently available on the premises, then walked a bit further into town to grab dinner at the local Taco Bell before returning to the room for the rest of the night. My day was done, my steps were still connected, and life was good. =)

Well, it would have been nice to have my laptop to get some work done, but alas, it was still stuck in a post office back in Leadville. Leadville! *shaking head* I figured they'd eventually just "return to sender", but no, it seemed it was a hostage now. Someday, I really needed to get it back. In the meantime, the only way I could get online was on my phone.

My home for the night!

This, undoubtedly, was the source of all the loose gravel on the road.

At first I thought these were tubs of water....

But when I got closer and read the labels, I realized it was road paint! Because after you resurface a road, it makes sense that all the lines on it need to be repainted too.

The grade down to Steamboat Springs was steep enough that it did include one runaway truck ramp.

I took a rest break in front of the national forest sign since it cast a bit of a shade, one of the few places where I could rest in shade well off from the road surface.

It's a zipline course! That would have been fun....

Smoke lingered over the skies in Steamboat Springs

Howdy to you too, little bear!

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