“We got caught in a horrible thunderstorm on the ridge between Breckenridge and Copper Mountain. We got caught in a cloud, heavy fog. Lightning was flashing all around us. I was ahead of him and was flying down the mountain in a panic and somehow I got off the trail. Then I realized I couldn’t see him anymore because of the fog. I finally had to go back up to find him and the trail again and he is standing there in the middle of the storm, the highest thing around, making a VIDEO!”
“It was a pretty good video, although she won’t admit it.”
Split and Two Step are accomplished hikers, having walked the Pacific Crest and Appalachian trails as well as The Colorado Trail. You may be interested in reading their Colorado Trail journal.
Like most of us, what Split most wanted to say in the interview wasn’t clear to him until I was far down the trail with my interview recorder. Here is what he would have said, had I given him a little more time to come up with an answer. This is an excerpt from their August 2nd post in their trail journal:
We met a northbound hiker named Dave (Rawah Ranger) near the end of this three-hour drizzle, and he asked if he could interview us for the book he was planning to write. Two Step agreed, and he proceeded to say he was interested in what this hike meant to us spirituality and psychologically. Wet and cold, we didn’t quickly respond in an erudite fashion, so he asked us what our worst experience of the trail had been. Two Step immediately began to relate our harrowing experience with lightning, hail, and losing the trail as we crested the pass between Breckenridge and Copper Mountain (see the July 7th journal entry).
We chatted for a few more minutes before we parted, but as I walked away, I realized that after about 6000 miles of long distance backpacking, it should be obvious why we do this – at least to us. It’s a combination of things; the adventure of facing an uncertain landscape and challenges of weather and terrain, the fun of meeting kindred spirits and sharing experiences with fellow hikers, the feeling of accomplishment when overcoming challenges that sometimes seem almost insurmountable.
As we walk, Two Step and I constantly say “Remember when…”, and then talk about something that happened on one of our AT or PCT hikes. At home I often have no idea what we did a week ago, but hundreds of trail experiences that happened years ago are forever burned into our memories. Even our worst experiences bring a smile to our face because we survived them, and hopefully learned something from them. We live a little closer to the edge on these trips, and we rely on each other all the time, and this seems to keep our attention focused and our wits sharp. Call it adventure, call it excitement, call it crazy – it really is living every day to its fullest that makes this worthwhile.