Exactly 103 miles later, I now find myself in the small town of Lima, MT roughly 15 miles from I-15 where the trail dips off of the Divide and into the valley. The crew and I arrived here yesterday afternoon on the 11th after a arduous, grueling 34 mile day that consisted of 8k of elevation gain, and 8k of descent. The mileage and the elevation change weren't the problem throughout the day, it was the ever looming presence of thunderstorms sitting atop the ridge the entire day. As we hit around 15 miles before noon, we traced down our last water source for the day, a hidden spring in the gulley of the Divide, hidden amongst cow trails and bushels of brush. Sometimes running water in the form of creeks, streams, and springs exist out here on the CDT, and sometimes they don't. That's the way of the land I. Montana. Nothing is guaranteed. Sometimes the weather holds out, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you plan properly for food, and sometimes you eat all of your chips at lunch on the first day out of town. Who knows what could happen?
As we labored to scoop up the spring water and find any bit of place to get a flow rate, I couldn't help but to notice the faint sound of thunder a few miles away in the distance. We quickly made haste back to the Divide, threw our packs on, and the race commenced. From here on out for the rest of the day, all I could think about was out running the storm. Pushing through the burn in the calves, pushing through the labored breathing up each and every 200ft spike, and most importantly pushing through every fiber in my being telling me to slow down, breathe, and reset. Time is of the essence when you're attempting to outrun Mother Nature ontop of an 8,000ft ridge, and I'll say, I'm not sure if I ever stood a chance.
Funny Bone and I turned the corner on the last ridge before the last peak, only a mile away from the start of the descent, when we saw a bolt of lightning strike the peak that we were headed towards. The rain hadn't started at this point, but the entire sky around us had transformed into a cell that was pulling power from all directions. As soon as we saw the bolt, we made the decision to run down the side of the ridge an entire mile, dropping 800ft of vert in less than 10 minutes. The once clear, beautiful Montana sky had yet again turned into a ravaging lightning storm that enveloped the entire Divide. We were simply out of our element. We stood no chance.
We bailed down the mountain, took shelter for an hour or so, and headed back to the Divide where we began our descent to Lima which has led me to where I am now. In a motel with Stomp, Mayor, and Red Bass after an accidental zero day due to consuming roughly 4,000 calories at dinner.
Besides summiting Mt. Washington in 97mph winds back in August of last year on the AT, Id have to say that the ridge experience I just encountered was the most intense outdoor experience to date. The moments that make you question your sanity, push past the arbitrary thresholds that our minds have created, and succeed in a way we never thought possible, are the moments that define us. The moments that truly make us feel; whatever emotion that may be. For me, those moments are what I truly crave.
With every passing day out here I continue to evaluate myself, my peers, and our lifestyle choice. It's almost nonsensical in a way. Everyone thru hiking has made the conscious decision to go without. Whether that be without their friends and family, or without cable TV or endless wifi. My generation is leaning towards quite the contrary; always needing more and never being content. Two years ago when I began planning for the AT I made a few life decisions that have altered the course of my life. I made the decision to rid myself of most material possessions and bind myself to a personal obligation to live for experience, not for items. The constant reminder of living without is always present out here, and really anywhere if you too make that decision for whatever reasons. Liberating is an understatement when discussing freedom through personal choice.
As much as I enjoy the comfort that having a stable lifestyle brings; running water, electricity, ability to cook and eat more than just cold ramen and instant mashed potatoes, a pillow, access to endless information at my finger tips, I find myself disconnecting myself from most of the regularly accessible amenities more and more each passing day. Although I believe these things do bring comfort, happiness and a sense of rudimentary sustainability to most anyone's life, I don't find them necessary.
Just being a few examples of what thru hikers, touring cyclists, and travelers in general go without, I find a great appreciation for people doing more with less. As humans, we adapt, persevere, and find a way, and the more we adapt to a certain lifestyle or situation, the more of a dream the preceding moments seem to be remembered as.
For myself, doing more with less allows me to seek out those inspiring, life changing moments. Those minutes that seem to feel like hours that are nothing short of exhilarating. Finding a passion that generates such a fire within might be a miracle for some, but I think if you look hard enough, you might find what you've been searching for. Being surrounded by like minded, driven, and sometimes just down right stubborn people who refuse to give up what they love for a bit of struggle is entirely too fueling to the mind. Out here on the CDT, everyone is hiking along for different reasons. Some to complete a lifetime bucket list item, some to complete their triple crown, and some to experience a new country. What everyone has in common is that they are seeking and pursuing something they are passionate about in one way or another. Whether it be fitness and health, wilderness therapy, or just the pure adventure, I can't seem to get enough of the same thing that brings 300 others to the same trail. It never lets up. This trail, this life, and whatever endeavor you or I decide to pursue will never let up.
Regardless if we stop, the world does not. Time will continue on with or without us, and it is our decision to continue with it, or to stagger behind. The CDT is unforgiving, ruthless, mind bending, and just downright unbelievable. Out here, everything is amplified and time is almost non existent, but nonetheless, the sun sets, and the moon rises every night.
Along with life, this trail does not allow lack of focus. They require you to make decisions around every corner; good or bad. These decisions will ultimately lead you to a destination that you had no idea existed regardless of what you were expecting. Everyone is constantly making these decisions, and those decisions that truly make you aware of your surroundings are the ones that could change the entire outcome of your life.
Put yourself in a place to make these life changing decisions. Put yourself into an uncomfortable position to force yourself into a state of fight or flight. Find a way to push your boundaries and limits.
From now on, not only think outside the box, but live outside the box. The box never has, and never will exist anyways, so what the hell, right?