ROOKIE

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Sunset along Colorado's Continental Divide.

Early last month, I stood on Abol Bridge and looked north toward the cloud-capped summit of Mount Katahdin. After weeks of solitude, I now shared this moment with a man who I’d first met 1,800 miles earlier when we passed one another in late January, our footsteps heading in opposite directions. A week before I’d complete the final footsteps of the AppalachianTrail, serendipity would bring us together once again. And then, while on Abol Bridge, and while looking into this man’s eyes, I could no longer deny the attraction blooming to life inside of me.

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Rookie didn't bring his swim trunks for the Hippy Dip.

I hadn’t mentioned it, but it was really hard to leave Rookie behind and to pull myself from his arms before my flight to New Mexico. Would I ever see this man again? Would the trail bring us back together yet again? I let my mind refocus, concentrating on the CDT, but every day I’d think of this man. And as it would turn out, he couldn’t keep me off his mind.

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Excited to see each other again, Rookie drove to Colorado to see me. He picked me up from Cumbres Pass and for the next three days, we enjoyed getting to know one another. We toured the town of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, stopping at many of the outfitters, coffee shops and brewpubs. We soaked in mineral springs and sat by the river, talking into the night. I was spellbound at how calm he made me feel, and how honest I answered his questions. I didn’t want to falsify any belief I have, because if this man is someone I want to spend my time with, then he needs to know than I am unwavering on some matters, while I’d love to be encouraged to compromise on others. By the end of those three days, we were smitten, and both of us would be giddy at how in-sync with one another we are.

Besides being charmed by this man, I scheduled another chiropractic visit, this time my back feeling tense and my breathing shallow, a combination of the demanding nature of the hike, and of course the mental stress of trying to wrap my mind around hiking three long-distance trails in one calendar year. I have to say, I’m starting to think I’d rather wrap my arms around this man than to hike any further.

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Married to the Trail is falling in love. Yup, this really happens!

But of course, I headed back to the trail. We hiked a few miles together, and after fording a creek on a slippery and precarious looking log, my eyes glazed over when I continued up the snow-covered hill without him. Although I was hiking into the heart of Colorado, where spectacular views greet hikers in every direction, I didn’t feel awestruck by the scenery. I couldn’t quite understand the feeling, but I suppose I just didn’t feel that driven, and I certainly didn’t feel like the Calendar Triple Crown was as important now that I had found companionship.

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How am I not completely awestruck here?

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, or so they say, but in my case, I have to wonder if my priorities have changed. I have to wonder if hiking three trails in one calendar year is what my heart wants. Out here on the trail, often times alone, I’m not enjoying it as much as I think I could. I think I’d enjoy backpacking more with someone by my side. Its also become very noticeable, and stressful, that my reaction to the cold and wet and loneliness has grown weary, and I truely believe that by hiking the Appalachian Trail in winter, I’m now traumatized.

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The Calendar Triple...Am I still driven?

That said, I will continue to hike, inching my way further along the Continental Divide. But I yearn to see the mountains of Colorado free of snow. I yearn to gaze upon the vibrant color of wildflowers. I yearn to set up camp early and to watch birds soar. I yearn to hike at a pace like Rookie’s, which seeing that he hiked the Appalachian Trail in seven months, that’s quite a contrast compared to my own. And although that pace would never gain the so-called title of first female Calendar Triple Crown Hiker, a slower pace would certainly alleviate the year-long stress I’ve signed up for. Time will tell the story…