Day 23, Sunday, October 11th
North Fork Campground to Mile Marker 49
James Mullen, Vestavia Hills, AL
Erik Wettermark, West Long Branch, VA
I woke up in the morning with a pit in my stomach. I had to say goodbye to my daddy. He was heading back to Rifle for a week of work while we continued up and over the mountains. I of course still had my amazing team of Marcus, Vaughn, Tory and Marcus’ folks, but there was just a feeling of emptiness knowing that I wasn’t going to have my dad, mom or brother with me. Throughout my journey thus far, it has become even more clear to me how much my family means to me. They have always believed in me, they have always encouraged me, they have always fought for me at times when I couldn’t myself. To be at such a vulnerable place in my life, I needed them so much and it was so hard to know that I couldn’t hug them each day or night. Luke, my brother lives in India with my sister-in-law Kim (best friend from college) and their two boys, Grady and Hudson. My mom was on her way to Boston for the week of work. And in a few minutes after I taped my toes, filled my hydration pack and put on my tennies, I knew I was going to have to give my dad a hug goodbye. My eyes started to well with tears. I was fighting hard to hold them back as to not make Marcus feel bad, but I was emotionally spent and control was lost.
It was inevitable though, after about 10 “goodbye” hugs to dad, he turned right out of the campground and we turned left. Sitting in the back of Big Blue, I cried so hard as I saw his red Dodge drive away. I felt like a child again. In the rear view mirror, I could see tears pouring down Tory’s face as she drove me away from my dad. Our emotions were wild, but it was time to continue my mission to Move Mountains. In the literal sense, today I was climbing another mountain. With about 4 miles of a gradual climb to Ripple Creek Lodge, the road took a deep bending left turn and the real climb started. Ripple Creek Pass was a 6-mile continuous climb of gravel road switchbacks. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to run most of it. Typically my uphill trick is to look just in front of my feet, that way it doesn’t seem as steep. However, the colors as I ran over this pass were too vibrant to let my eyes look at the dirt for too long. I know I keep saying it, but the yellows, oranges and reds were more beautiful than words can describe or pictures can capture.
At about the 2-hour mark I reached the peak of Ripple Creek pass. Marcus and Tory had passed me about 1 mile prior and Marcus yelled, “1.5 miles to the summit”. With heavy legs, I was happy that it was closer than he had predicted. I took a moment at the top to sit and rest with Marcus, Tory, Vaughn, Art, LaVonne and Stephan all waiting for the next move. We were near the trailhead for West Lost Lake (one of my favorite high mountain lakes that we hike into). For a moment, I got lost in a daydream, thinking back to a father/daughter weekend we spent at the lake. It seemed like yesterday that I was anxiously following his footsteps as we hiked to go spend some time throwing a line in the lake, roasting hot dogs over the campfire and feeling like the most special girl in the world. Then, like that, I was back in the moment. I stood up, embraced Marcus and hobbled back onto the road for a 3-mile downhill stretch to Vaughn Lake. The plan was to stay there for 2 nights, but plans changed when Vaughn had gone ahead to get a site to find that they were all full. Rather than stopping at the lake, I continued another 2 miles up the road until I hit mile marker 49, for a cumulative 15.75 for the day.
Exhausted and ready to put my feet up for the day, we pulled to the side of the road to discuss what do to. Art and LaVonne had to drop their trailer there so they could drive Stephan back to Denver to catch his evening flight. While they were gone, Tory and Vaughn went one way, while Marcus and I went the other. About ¼ mile down the road, Marcus and I found a perfect spot hidden just off the main road on a small jeep road. A previous camper had made a bench out of logs and a fire pit out of stones. We just found “home” for the next 2 nights.
Tory worked on my legs as Marcus and Vaughn settled camp. Aspen leaves were literally falling on me as I lay there. A sign from the universe, that although this spot wasn’t the original plan, it was where we were supposed to be. After my massage, we headed 30 miles into Oak Creek for two reasons. One, we were on a reconnisance mission to discover which route was best for the days t come. Two, Marcus and Vaughn really wanted chips and salsa and we needed water. In town, we found the cutest little grocery store that was exactly what the doctor ordered. They had so many grass fed, organic, gluten free options…. The four of us were in heaven! We stocked up on some goodies and just before checking out I saw the frozen treats icebox. Uh oh! Without hesitation I smashed an ice cream Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. Then on the way out of town, we had to refuel Big Blue. At the gas station I may have also accidentally inhaled an ice cream Snickers bar. They were both amazing… guess my body was craving some sugar!
Although the day started a little rough around the edges, the run went well, the scenery was beautiful and ice cream fixes everything… well maybe not everything but it sure did help that day.
– I need my family by my side.
– Sometimes ice cream does fix things.