The line at the Blaine border crossing wasn’t as bad as I had expected for a Friday evening.
“Any egg products?” the border agent asks.
Good thing my scrambled egg and polenta concoction turned out to be inedible. I don’t have to lie!
We stop by Costco in Bellingham for nuts, Kind bars, jerky, dried fruit. Our lovely friends in Seattle have turned their dining room into a staging area for us: drop cloths on the floor, boxes from Amazon, campsaver, REI piled up on one of them. It feels like Christmas! I get a red puffy hoodie and a new pair of Altras, Marc gets a Marmot rain shell. There are socks, sun sleeves, freeze-dried scrambled eggs.
Wait a minute. Where’s the Thermarest sleeping bag and my thermal top? I find out they’re going to be delivered on Monday, the day after we leave. Mild panic. Never mind. We can find a bag tomorrow.
We hit Trader Joe’s early. No PB2 (powdered peanut butter) in sight. I’m deeply disappointed. I should have ordered it online. We opt for almond butter – it’s heavier but we need the extra protein in our morning oatmeal. We buy freeze dried green beans, dried mango, candied ginger and coffee.
A little after 10:00 we hit Pro Mountain Sports. They have a Western Mountaineering quilt weighing less than a pound, rated to 20 degrees! Jackpot! But they’re holding it for another customer who’s “thinking about it.” Ha! I tell our tragic sob story, pull out my Visa card, and we get the bag.
When we get back we count out the breakfasts, dinners and snacks into four boxes. Extra socks, toothpaste, Advil, dental floss, sunscreen, batteries, the new Altras. I am so glad I have made a spreadsheet for this that tells me what to put in each box. I’ve even made address labels. We hit the local UPS store, and our boxes start their own treks to Twin Lakes, Monarch Crest, Lake City and Silverton.
Back at our friends’ place we pack up all the food for our first stage and all our stuff, just to see if it will fit. It fits! Marc’s pack weighs in around 35 pounds. I don’t let them put me on the scale, but I imagine mine’s about 30, including a liter of water.
Our flight to Denver arrrives late. Then we stand around in the baggage claim area for about an hour and a half, waiting for the bags which have apparently disappeared into baggage purgatory. I text Trail Angel Bob, who is going to meet us at REI downtown, and tell him we’ll have to push back our rendez-vous to 6 pm. Finally the bags come and we splurge on a cab so we can get to REI before it closes.
We have a shopping list for REI — fuel canisters, compression sacks, waterproof matches. But we’re like a couple of kids in Toys R Us. I decide to look at shoes. Back in Vancouver I had taken a trial run with a loaded pack wearing my Altra Lone Peaks, and after about four miles my feet hurt a little. I’m seriously worried the Altras aren’t up to the task and my feet are going to kill me on this hike.
When I explain that we’re hiking the Colorado Trail, the guy in the shoe department says the Altras are completely inappropriate and I need a hiking boot. I don’t want a hiking boot. I see a potential candidate over in the men’s trail running section — biggish toe box, no seams over the bunion area, good stiff outsole. I try on a couple of boots to make him happy and then ask for it, the La Sportiva Wildcat. He disappears and doesn’t return. I find him again and ask again. This time he brings it out. It fits like a glove, which I know will be too tight after miles on the trail. Do they have a size bigger? Yes! Just then Marc appears, carrying stuff we don’t need. I should have known not to let him loose in here on his own. Should I get the shoes? I ask him. He tells me to get the shoes. I know you’re supposed to break in shoes before you head out on a 500 mile hike, but what the hell.
Finally we’re done, and Bob picks us up. He’s going to take us out to our hotel in Littleton and then fetch us again in the morning to take us to the trailhead. How amazing is that? We insist that he join us for a beer.
Turns out that Bob is more than a trail angel, he’s a bona fide mountain man. He’s done the AT, the JMT, the PCT, hit almost all the high points in all 50 states, including Denali; he’s climbed Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro and various other iconic peaks around the world. He tells us all this like it’s just ordinary stuff, “oh yeah, this winter we’re doing Aconcagua again,” like I’d say “oh yeah, this winter I’ll probably change my tires.” We’re in awe.
After dinner he drops us at the hotel and we stuff our food and gear into our packs and put the duffel bags, last minute things deemed unnecessary and my Altras into our Ikea bag for Bob to ship off to my mom’s in Santa Fe, since the UPS stores aren’t open on Sunday. We set the alarm for 6:00. Bob will come at 6:30 and we plan to start hiking at 7:00.
There is a special place in heaven for trail angels like Bob.