Sheets of ice, cards against humanity, Moscow mules, cat tracks and Hawaiian reggae

 While most of you were filling your bellies with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pie as well as throwing your feet up to watch football and nap, I was disowned by my family by taking a trip to the mountains of Colorado for Thanksgiving.  This, my friends, is an easy excuse to get some AT preparation in.

Colorado is a lot like Disney world for hikers, mountain heaven with a lot of shops that will empty your wallet from selling unnecessary gear. Boy did I almost fall into the trap. I’M HERE TO HIKE!!!!

Well I was there to hike, but I also got to spend some time with some wonderful friends, old and new. My friend Jaime and her mom Molly hosted a few of us for a fantastic turkey dinner. I met Justin, a PCT thru hiker, who shared some amazing and helpful knowledge on what it takes to prepare yourself for the daily grind of a 2200 mile hike. We drank… Played cards against humanity (quite possibly the most inappropriate card game ever created)…. We drank some more… Shared stories of all kinds… We drank more and more… I ended up being rewarded by Justin for all his helpful input by saving him from a wild ending to the evening. For Justin’s sake, I’ll leave those details out of the blog…… Or I’ll wait until I’m offered a book deal to include the juicy info. ;)

I ate amazing Pho, met the highly entertaining Brandy who hosted us for a fun evening at her and her husband’s house, smiled bigger than usual with Shelli and her dog Charlie, fought off Jaime’s insane attack cat George, attempted to eat a pork shoulder with Chuck and Vanessa (we failed miserably),  listened to the Green (not the popular plant of Colorado these days but an amazing Hawaiian reggae band), smoked the popular plant of Colorado, talked about before and after chapters of life with Pat and drank countless Moscow mules… I mean countless. I’ll miss that sweet nectar during my thru hike.

There are plenty of details of my trip that I could add, but when it comes down to it I was here for one major reason- the mountains and trails. I solo hiked for a day on the trails of Flagstaff, Gregory Canyon and Saddle Rock. The amphitheater trail was a challenge and really had me paying mind to my surroundings. You can’t cheat ice covered boulders and trails.  I now make a point to call out instructions to myself when hiking down in order to stay focused. “Rock, root, tree, soft snow, rock, tree, etc. etc!!”  If I let my mind wander and lose focus, this could result in a pretty bad accident. Who the hell wants that?

Day two hiking took my partner (Jaime) and me to Golden Gate Canyon State Park. This is located just outside the town of Golden. We honestly couldn’t have gotten a better day for this hike. We took the Mule Deer Trail and headed off. There’s nothing quite like a hike just over 10000 feet. An out of shape city boy's lungs breeze through these types of climbs: “Ummmmm, Jaime, I know it’s been 10 minutes but should we call an ambulance?” I just keep reminding myself, “This is AT preparation!!!!”

I'm not hiking around Fresh Pond in my hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts. These woods are a place that you are the guest. They are owned by the mountains, the fields, the trees, the gigantic boulders to the small stones, the brooks, lakes, ponds and waterfalls and most importantly the wild life that call this land their home. As Jaime and I were strolling along, we were reminded of that. It was in the simplest form, a track in the snow. Well more like a legion of tracks in the snow, more than enough to tell us we are the guests here. Deer, wild boar, goats, wild ponies, bear, moose, snakes, bugs big and small and an assortment of cats are gonna be my landlord throughout my hike. As long as I pay them their respect and be on my way without threat, then making it out unscathed should be as simple as putting one foot in front of another.

Each time I get the opportunity to get into the woods I find myself a bit down when I have to return to city civilization. I think nonstop about my next adventure and what I’ll learn. There’s a craving there that is new to me which I love. When I think to myself why I want to hike the AT, its these emotions that I reflect on, write down and use to remind myself why this journey will take place. Thank you Colorado for this latest reminder…

Jesse