Day 26, Wednesday, October 14th
Stage Coach State Park to Steamboat
Kamryn Hahn, Marion, IA
Mia Allen, Aurora, CO
I take it back from yesterday’s blog… THIS was the coldest morning yet. The thermometer read 22° F… the chairs outside had frost on them… the windows of Big Blue were dripping with condensation… Ziggy and Pogo were literally shaking… but the sky was blue as blue can be. It was going to be another good day.
I got myself all put together, then Marcus and Tory drove me 4 miles up the road to mile marker 2 while Vaughn followed in the Tacoma. We exchanged our hugs and “I Love You’s” then I limped my way into the first steps of the day. Waiting for my toes to go numb, I distracted myself by watching the cattle already grazing on this chilly morning, the hawks flying high in the sky looking for their morning meal, and the chipmunks bravely scurrying across the highway (probably hiding from the hawks). Before I knew it, the lake appeared on my right. I was already 3 miles in, my toes were numb enough and sweat was beginning to drip down my back.
Art and LaVonne were still at the camp, getting their gear all packed up. The initial plan was to come back to Stage Coach, but last night when we arrived there was a notification that the bathrooms and water were shut down for the season. Probably not the best place to spend 2 more nights with an already REALLY stinky group of people. We hadn’t bathed (minus a quick dip in Vaughn lake) for going on 6 days and 65 miles. Tory literally had unwanted dreadlocks forming, you could smell Marcus’ armpits from a mile away and I can only imagine what EVERY part of me reeked like. Needless to say, we for sure needed running water.
As I climbed up a bit after the lake, Country Road 14 narrowed down to no shoulder on either side. A little nervous about my well-being, I zig-zagged back and forth on either side of the road, hitting the white line and trying to stay as narrow as I could to the shoulder. I was back to feeling like a human powered racecar, except taking the outside corners instead of the inside for safety sake. For a nice change, people were incredibly kind today. Mostly, they slowed way down and raising a finger or two off the steering wheel in acknowledgement. Some people even gave a few honks and “thumbs ups”.
The view was beautiful as I winded down the switchbacks of the county road. The oak brush and Quakies had reached their late fall/early winter brown color with touches of red. The land was starting to open up to more meadows and rolling hills with mountains encompassing it all. The farmhouses and barns that occupied some of these open meadows were outstanding. For about the 100th time, my mind wandered to dreaming about living on one of these ranches and living a simple, hard-working, fun-loving life. One particular home caught my eye as the road took a sharp 90° turn left. The old rustic wooden barns were stacked tall with hay, the horses ran freely in their pasture, and the farmhouse was tucked back from the road with a big front porch looking out over the peaceful view of the valley. I was dreaming with my eyes wide open as I ran up and down a few rolling hills. Then all of a sudden, my attention was brought back to the present as I heard big rigs rolling by.
Highway 131 was up ahead and a completely different ball game than the 12 miles I had behind me for the day. Vaughn was parked at the stop sign waiting for me to safely make it across the highway. There was a break in traffic right as I reached the stop sign, so I just kept moving and was excited to see a big shoulder. Little did I know that this was going to be 6 miles of surprises. First, vehicles were racing toward me at what seemed like 85-90mph, but I’m sure was 65 or so. Either way, it was quite the change from the slow moving, respectful traffic from Country Road 14. Second, The smell of road killed filled my nostrils several times on 131. Not to get too graphic, but I passed a deer that had to have been there for awhile. It was completely gutted with just the hide slowly wasting away on the skeleton. I smelled it before I saw it and knew it was going to be bad. The stench really is nothing that I can put words to. There was also a skunk that had recently been hit, the smell wasn’t bad but for some reason the sight of blood and guts and a smashed face got me a bit nauseous as I had to leap over the mess. I will spare you all with the other details, but trust me, it was enough to make me gag several times. The third unexpected surprise of this route was the power of the wind. I’m not sure if it was the more open terrain or the colder air, but every time a semi passed me, the backdraft of the wind literally pushed me backwards. I had to jump into it, break my stride and almost swim my arms to get through the air. I had a good chuckle a couple of times thinking, “I couldn’t have lost this much weight and strength, could I?”
All of these, I hate to use the word “negative”, so let’s call them “challenging” surprises were pleasantly overpowered by the best surprise of the day. As I took a wide bending left on the highway, an on-coming car pulled over part way in the shoulder with the most excited driver I have ever seen. She pulled off to the side and asked, “Are you Jenny LaBaw?” in a sort of a rhetorical way. I mean if she knew I was coming, who else would be running on the side of the highway…ha! I said “yes, but this is a really unsafe place to talk.” Her tail end was still slightly in the right hand lane with on-coming traffic zooming by. She said, “I’m Sarah Coleman”. My heart started singing inside. This is the woman who my mom and I have been in communication with for about 2 months. She has worked her buns off to make us feel so welcome at her gym (CrossFit Steamboat) and in her community. I stuck my arm in the door to grab her hand and say thank you. She then handed me an envelope generously filled with 2 passes to the Old Town Hot Springs and said, “enjoy some rest and we’ll see you soon.”
And like that she was gone. I continued on my way with just a few miles left when all of a sudden my numb body was coming back to life. This usually happens around mile 14 or 15 everyday. I couldn’t decide if it was better to run on the slightly sloped asphalt or the flat, but soft dirt on the side. The dirt was harder on my toes but the asphalt was harder on my knees. So, I just alternated back and forth until finally I saw Big Blue parked ahead and Marcus out with his drone. The finish for the day was here. I picked my pace up slightly, turned in the driveway of Bald Eagle Lake (a private waterski lake that Marcus knew of) and sat my butt down. Time for some food.. I was starving.
Marcus reached out to a waterskiing buddy of his, Troy Kuhl, that suggested we go to Freshies. He nailed it… we all demolished some serious sandwiches. I ordered a big fat burger with a GF bun and a ton of sweet potato waffle fries. Troy met us for a few on a brief break from his shift on the fire truck. Marcus explained that we weren’t sure where we were staying for the night since our campground with a shower fell through, but we were thinking the KOA. Troy then generously offered up the apartment that his housing development owns. While we waited for a for sure approval, we took the dogs back to the lake where they swam and ran for over an hour. The apartment was only ½ mile away from the lake, so we popped back over, got the keys from Becky (Troy’s wife) and parted ways. Tory and Vaughn took the passes to Old Town Hot Springs to swim laps (they are actually fish, you should see these two swim) while Marcus and I headed to a local coffee shop and busted out a lot of much overdue work (blogs, editing, emails, etc).
That evening, we returned back to the apartment where the first thing that happened was a shower. I was disgusted when the water starting running over my head and I could taste salt and see the white tub turn into a pool of brown water. Wow, I mean wow! I got to shave my legs, wash and condition my hair, brush my hair and feel like a real person again. With us all feeling like new, Marcus and Vaughn enjoyed a drink or two while Tory rubbed my legs down for the night. Becky and Troy joined us all for a few, what amazing people they are and how considerate of them to donate their apartment to Move Mountains. They will never know how much that meant to us to have a real bed and hot shower. Thank you!
It was time for a good nights sleep knowing that I was 13 miles ahead of schedule and tomorrow was only a 10K.
- Karma is a real thing. If you’re good and do good, good things happen and people are good in return (thank you Sarah, Becky and Troy)
- There really are no words to describe the smell of road kill as you run by.