Four days removed from my return from the trail, and this final installment recounting my recent trek just so happens to coincide with the first day that my walk once again resembles more of a walk than a controlled fall.
The Box Canyon Blogger innocently muses upon my return that just my initial ascent and final descent – not even counting the many elevation changes in between – roughly approximates a trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back. Not exactly what one looks for in a rookie outing, so this probably would've been useful information a few days earlier...
So yeah, don't let my enthusiasm from the first day fool you. This is shaping up to be one seriously brutal hike – something that begins to sink in as I wake up in my tent at sunrise, the first-day adrenalin rush having long since dissipated and my legs starting to cry out, "hey, just what exactly the hell are you trying to do to us?"
My first few steps after packing up camp make it clear that the day's long walk back to civilization is going to be considerably slower going than yesterday's escape from it. As if to drive this point home further, I spend the next half hour combing a quarter mile radius around my campsite before finally figuring out where the trail resumes. Apparently this Horse Thief Trail doesn't see a lot of action. Good news for horse owners, bad news for rookie backpackers who just want to get moving.
Head down, one foot in front of the other, the miles slowly tick away, when finally I come to a clearing and spy Ouray nestled in her box canyon confines wayyy down below. On the upside, my spaceship, replete with all her cozy creature comforts, sits down there somewhere waiting. Downside – getting there will require several more miles of steep descent, mostly over loose rocks.
At last, a couple of long hours later, I emerge from the forest beside highway 550 and slowly trudge the last quarter mile or so to the bottom of the Box Canyon Blogger's driveway. But my tank is empty, so I sit on a rock at the bottom of the driveway for ten minutes, slowly mustering up the strength for this one last freaking hill. And at that moment, I'm honestly not sure if I'll ever do another backpacking trip again.
Just a few hours later though, after a cold shower, a perfectly greasy mushroom cheeseburger and fries from Maggie's, an ice cold beer at the brewery next door, and a couple of long soaks in the 104 degree bliss of Ouray's hot spring pool, my memories of the past few days soften considerably. It was probably an overly ambitious trail to choose for my first outing, but a correspondingly spectacular walk in the mountains, and anyway, I did make it. As a wise man once said, that which doesn't kill us only hurts like bloody freaking hell.
Four days later, my legs beginning to feel like actual legs once again, I'm already starting to look forward to the next overnighter. One thing is for sure – next time will be flatter.