Continental Divide: Mile 980

The trail skirted a low rise then plummeted down a series of switchbacks to the valley floor while the actual continental divide ran straight along a narrow ridgeline.

I looked at my maps and tried to picture the hidden pieces of the ridge. It wasn’t on the map as an alternate route, I wondered if it was even passable.

My mind hasn’t been quite right since the snow in the San Juans, I can feel my focus drifting from the trail, coasting, biting away unwalked miles in calculations, wandering ahead of me to the next town.

That wasn’t possible in the San Juans. No, the San Juans required all of you and sent you away with a sense of awe. You didn’t have to try to focus; you just did because it was impossible to do anything else if you wanted to live.

I stepped off the trail and began to climb up the divide. A rush of wonder grew with each step. I scrambled over boulders, up snowfields, across slopes of loose rock. I walked past old mining ruins, over peaks, and to the top of Mount Monumental. The name made me smile, speaking to the mountain’s character rather than a long forgotten politician.

At the peak, someone had strapped a tiny tube to a rock. I opened the tube and pulled out a summit register. Half falling apart, but still legible, it listed names and dates scribbled by those who ventured to the top. I wasn’t sure if I could make it down the northern ridge on the other side to connect back with the trail, so I looked through the register for any information and found an entry from almost a year earlier.

“The low route looked boring,” it said.

I looked across the mountain tops to the setting sun and ripe orange sky behind it. Then I glanced down at the valley filled with shadows and the trail. The wind dropped away and I stood in the still air, knowing a mistake could mean a long night on a jagged ridge. The world waited for my choice in silence. I read the words again, closed the tube, and walked along the northern ridge in the fading orange light.

Yes, the low route is boring.

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One response to “Continental Divide: Mile 980

  1. So like you.
    What your mom doesn’t know when you’re on an adventure allows her to sleep at night.

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