Although it looked threatening and I put up my tent, no rain fell. I got up at 5 AM
It was 21 miles to Cuba NM. I had been doing 21 miles for the past few days to insure on my last day I’d get to Cuba today. My water stop was in 6.6 miles – piece of cake. I was on trail hiking at 6 AM. That’s a little late, but today I sat and ate my Clif Bar and Granola Bar while enjoying my MIO Energy (with caffeine). I thought that should give me a little energy boost and brighten my spirit.
As I typically do I calculate the time it takes to complete some mileage using 25 minutes/mile. My water stop should be in 2 hours and 45 minutes or 8:45 AM. So off I went. I can do this.
The trail goes from mesa to mesa. Between them you typically hike down to a saddle and back up to the next. I thought I was making good progress, but I wasn’t. My thoughts kept drifting to quitting. I was pushing to get to the water yet it wasn’t necessary. I had already decided to end my hike so why was I pushing. Then I kept thinking about all the miles after the water stop that would take me hours and hours. I realized I was done, kaput. It was the end. I just couldn’t push any more. Maybe I could get to a road and hitch into Cuba. I had hit my wall.
At 9:15 AM I finally got to the spring. I filtered one bottle, added Crystal Light Lemonade flavoring, shook it and chugged it down. Bliss. Then two guys wander into the spring. I say hi, but they don’t look like hikers. They have small backpacks and are carrying shovels and other tools. I come to learn they are the trail maintenance crew for this section and they have come to work on the heavily-silted spring’s trough. Hmmm, that means they’ve driven here and their truck is nearby. I ask if I can catch a ride to Cuba and they say sure after they do their work here and some more trail work somewhere else.
Then I realize that this is how my adventure will end. Today will be my last hiking day. Right here I can relax. I am done. It is officially over.
Over the next two hours I try to help them shovel muck, silt, sand, and make the spring’s trough good for hikers for another 10 years. Their names are Charlie and David. Around lunch time we are done so we pack up and leave. At the truck Charlie says he’ll drive me to Cuba while David stays behind to eat his lunch. The truck is small and the cab fits only two people. So off we go and Charlie drive me into Cuba, drops me at a motel, and heads off.
I am sad, but the pressure is off to make those daily big miles. I contact my friends and family to tell them where I am. As I do it hits me. I miss those special people who have helped me in this journey. I need them so much. My voice breaks and a tear forms. It really is over. All the months to prepare. All the gear I bought. All the energy expended to get to the start. And most of all my long distance hiking is over. The end of a part of my life.