Leaving Espejo Beach the next day I found myself restless, I was looking forward to getting to Phantom Ranch in two days. In my heart, Phantom Ranch was a way for me to go home, a way for me to leave this trip and I was set on hiking out. I wanted to go home, I didn’t want to be in the Grand anymore and for those who know me well, the fact I wanted out of Grand Canyon meant I was not in a good place. I can’t remember a time ever on any trip when I truly wanted to leave the Grand, but, I did then. I didn’t like or enjoy the big group dynamic, or the production each day of packing up and setting up camp. I did not fit in, I did not connect with anyone. I was so very different than everyone. I missed simplicity and peace in the backcountry and that was not being found on this trip. As we made our way down the River, I started remembering all of the trips, summits and routes I had done out there.
We passed Tanner, which was the start of my very first packrafting trip not even a year prior. There in Tanner Rapid, I had flipped my boat, which was completely expected seeing as I had never been in a packraft before and that was the first rapid I had ever run. I remembered being terrified and intimidated by the force of the water. Passing Tanner and continuing down the River helped me work through that fear. I knew that I was more capable now and that the water and I were developing a pretty amazing relationship. I knew that the water’s power would always scare me, but, I was starting to let some of that fear go. My trip from Tanner to New Hance last year had sparked a new love for me and there I was on a full Grand Canyon river trip and despite all of the wonderful feelings, I still felt like I wanted to go home. It is hard to be out there with a group of strangers who you feel are so different than you, it is hard to put your idea of what a trip is supposed to be aside and adapt to a group dynamic that you feel is not good, not right. I was homesick and also walking through my grief, which of course did not help with feeling lonely. I felt stuck in a group that I did not connect with and it was a pretty overwhelming feeling.
Once we arrived at Rattlesnake, where we were camping, I hiked up towards Tabernacle, I had to get some breathing room. I had to just be there, in my favorite place, without anyone else, without all of the stuff at camp. I needed the Grand and me to have some time together. The ridge up to Tabernacle is awesome, slightly exposed, views every which way it is hard to chose where to look and what to take in. But, I needed that!! I needed the Canyon to overwhelm me with it’s beauty and peace, it’s magic. So I hiked until I wanted to just sit and watch the Grand. Watch the River turn, watch the birds play in the sky, and be still among it’s grandeur. There was no influence from the outside world, the music blaring from camp was not able to be heard, the quietness and peace was wonderful. Me and the Canyon and that was it, just the way I like it. Nothing else was needed, nothing. Time stood still and for those moments I was able to in a way recharge. I cried when my mind drifted to Martha and all that she was missing, all that we were missing without her here. I smiled when I imagined her sitting next to me and then laughed when I thought about Martha ever doing an adventure like this. Yeah right, Martha, she would have never ever done that, but, for some reason, I felt her there next to me, like a good friend, sitting there with me in total silence, soaking up the moment. Then, I cried again when I realized I had to go back to camp and was again reminded Martha was gone. I wiped the tears from my face and headed back to camp. To be continued….
We stayed at Hot Na Na beach our first evening, it was there that I came to dislike the production of raft trips. It is normal for rafters to carry so much crap, so many things that just seem so opposite of why I enjoy and crave the backcountry. We had tables, chairs, more dishes and cookware than I owned back home, coolers full of meals that required a lot of preparation and time. We had an excessive amount of stuff and unloading it at the end of the day and reloading it every morning and then dealing with it all at camp in so many ways I felt robbed us of just being there in the moment, of just taking it all in. I am a very simple person and I was not used to bringing modern day comforts into the backcountry. I was not used to having more than a backpack in the backcountry. I knew the very first evening that this trip was not my style and it bothered me. I remember feeling like, “can’t we just be here on this beach and enjoy it, enjoy the simplicity of where we are.” Why do we need all this crap? Why do we need constant music? “Isn’t the Grand enough by itself, why do these people feel like they need to add their own noise to it”?
After dinner and setting up camp, I remember lying in my tent realizing that this was going to be an extremely different experience for me, one that would test me in ways I never thought would occur in the backcountry. I would be tested in a social way- Could I deal with all of these strangers, with all of their personalities that were so far from mine. Could I deal with the daily and nightly music and chores that ripped me away from the actual experience of the Grand? Could I find a place in this group and on this trip? Could I make it to the end? I wasn’t sure!! Feeling all of this and then letting the idea of what I thought this trip would be die off made me feel lonely, like I did not fit in and to be perfectly honest, I didn’t fit in.
Day two started early, just as the new light appeared. It was cold out and I was not feeling like paddling my packraft. I rode in one of the bigger raft as we made our way down River from Hot Na Na to Nautiloid Beach. I felt so out of place all day. I was so out of my comfort zone being in a big group, until this trip I used to think 4 people in a group with me in the backcountry was a huge group. I preferred being alone or being with one other person. I started to feel the urge to plan on hiking out at Phantom Ranch. I knew Phantom Ranch was coming up and that it was a way out. A way home. I was so unsettled inside and I felt so lonely. I felt like, this is freaking GRAND CANYON, don’t you guys get it, don’t you see what I see, feel how I feel? It was so foreign to me to be in the Canyon with such a big group and have such a different manner of camping, setting up camp, etc.
The next day (Day 3) we were headed to Nankoweap, one of the coolest places in all of Grand Canyon. I knew that area well and I was excited to get back there. A few miles from Nautiloid Camp was a beach called, Martha’s Beach, this pulled at my heart strings and I felt that I had to stop there, even if just for a few minutes. This is when my grief started to creep into the trip. I remembered how my sister, Martha, was always my biggest fan and then I thought about how I really hadn’t processed her death. Logically, I knew she was gone. But, I had yet to allow myself to work through it, to truly feel it. I had written about the pain of losing her a million times, I had talked about it to those I loved, but, I had not walked through it. I had not felt it. So I did not care what the condition of Martha’s Beach was, I had to stop there.
I got in my packraft and headed down the River, trying to stay close to Matt one of the kayakers because he knew where Martha’s Beach was and I did not want to pass it. The first rapid of the day came- 36 mile rapid and I successfully ran it. I continued to try and stay close to Matt because I knew Martha’s Beach was coming up, after a few more miles of easy paddling Matt pointed it out to me, it was a small beach on River left, mostly washed away and not very welcoming. I did not care. I wanted to get out of my boat and stand on that beach. Allison who was in her ducky boat pulled over with me and kindly took my picture. Not because it was a stunning beach or a Grand Canyon must see, but, because it meant something to me. I wanted to stay there for awhile, but, I knew I only had a few minutes. I tried to think of what the right thing was for me to do there, but, I didn’t really know, so I just stood there, looking up at the Canyon walls that seemed to go up forever and I pictured Martha. I pictured her smile, I pictured all of the encouraging and supportive things she had told me and for a split second she was there right next to me on the Beach. I then smiled and got back into my boat.
The next handful of miles were pretty uneventful, until we got near President Harding rapid and I got a rundown about how to run it, I was told to make sure that I avoided the rock and the hole. I went for it, scared and still knowing absolutely nothing about water or how to read it. I had a successful run; I was relieved I stayed in my boat. Actually I was surprised I had stayed in my boat. As the day continued and River miles came and left, I began to get tired. Nanko rapid was to be our final rapid of the day, and it is a long rapid, not crazy big, but, long. Approaching Nanko rapid I began to feel really wiped out, we had paddled 18 miles and I was tired. I was also fighting back my grief. I setup for Nanko rapid, paddled into the first set of waves. I kept my boat up and fought through the water, until a little over half way in it and I gave in to my fatigue and flipped. My boat went one way and I went another. I then got into a bigger boat and stayed in it for the last few minutes of the day, until we arrived at Nankoweap Beach, where we were camping for the night. When we arrived, the sun was still shining and we all took solace in the remaining afternoon sun. Three days in now and we were at RM 54. To be continued…
Tonight, I was walking back to my 4runner that was parked downtown. I let Zoroaster in and then walked to the back of my vehicle to get something out of it. A white truck pulled into the space behind me and proceeded to try and park. I waited for him to park before going into the trunk. He got very close to my bike rack on the back of my 4runner, I told him to please be careful and not hit my bike rack. He smiled at me, then drove right into my bike rack, breaking it, then reversed, then went forward again and hit my bike rack again. I told him he had just hit my bike rack, he heard me, his window was down. He began to call me a bitch, ask me, “what the fuck I wanted,” on and on he continued swearing at me and being scary aggressive. He then got out of his truck with his girlfriend, I told him that I was calling the police. He seemed to be intoxicated. He would not stop swearing at me while I was on the phone with 911, at one point he threw money at me and told me to fix my car. Even his girlfriend was trying to calm him down. He then drove off and told me what bar he was going to. A short time later, the police arrived and they did their report, they went over to get him at the bar he was at and cited him for criminal damage and disorderly conduct. Thankfully, a man sitting a way aways from my vehicle saw it all happen and gave a witness statement to the police. I will have to go to court and get restitution to pay for the damage.
But, the worst part is, that being put in that situation really impacted me emotionally, it brought me right back to the times where my ex husband David Beckley would threaten me, get drunk, call me a fucking cunt and a bitch, become violent, intimidate me, break my things, etc. The times when I would freeze and not know what to do or what to say. The situation tonight triggered all of those bad memories of the abuse from David and it took a huge physiological toll on me. I felt sick, I felt trapped, I had a headache, my heart rate went crazy and I couldn’t think clearly. I wanted to break down and cry, cry about all of the abuse from David, cry about all of the times he made me feel sad, scared, alone, worthless and less than human. Even months after divorcing him; I still very much live with the damage from what he did. I find it hard to protect myself, defend myself or believe in myself. I second guess myself on every decision. I don’t trust men. I am jumpy. I am hurt inside in ways that I am not sure I can or will recover from. The things David did to me were beyond cruel and tonight was a strong reminder that I have not processed the abuse. It was a reminder that the abuse still lives in my body, in my brain and it comes to life again whenever I am triggered. It is terrible, it makes me feel awful, it makes me feel weak. Weak because I can’t control the triggers, I can’t stand up to them- I give in to them. I am blindsided by them and they are so much more powerful than I am. They knock me over and just like that any progress I have made is gone. I remember so clearly the night David raped me. I remember all of the times he broke my things, drank, all of the name calling. I remember the day my little sister passed away and how he refused to come to the funeral with me, how evil he was to me in the days following my sister’s passing. I hold so much sadness and hurt from it all, from all of my time with David. I try to live each day and focus on the good parts of life, on my future and all, but, then I am right back at the bad moments and my life starts spinning in circles that make me so dizzy it seems impossible to get control of things again. Having a normal balance or routine seems impossible. I believe many other people deal with this sort of thing, with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other chronic stressors or issues. We need to talk about it more, we need to encourage others to share their stories, to talk, to work towards processing and healing because we all have hurts and we all need a little more compassion and love. I chose to write. To be open and raw. For me writing is therapeutic and calming. It helps regulate me. Hopefully from my words others will feel understood. I am aware the triggers will come and go. I am aware I have terrible days, bad days and good days. I only hope in time my depression, anxiety and triggers will ease up. That they will cease to control my life and fade away to become just a part of my life, but, not the entirety of it. I do my own personal work towards that. I immerse myself in the wild, in adventure, I stay away from most people, because I find peace just by myself. I know myself and what I need and I work hard to allow myself those things even when it makes “normal” life harder or even when I have to be different, live differently. I still try. It would be easy to call it quits and give up, that is a constant thought in my head, but, then I would just be letting my past win. It is a daily battle, a battle I never wanted, but, have to fight.
David Isaiah Beckley was my husband, he lied about loving me, he never honored his vows, he drank way too much, he became violent and cruel on so many occasions to me and towards others. His attorney threatened to sue me for defamation recently for writing about the abuse I faced while being with him. David blamed me for everything, he stonewalled me. If I made a mistake, he would completely ignore me-go to his mom’s house, not help with money, not see or talk to me- sometimes this went on for weeks or months at a time. He stonewalled each and every attempt I made at talking about things, trying to work things out or communicate. He lied about everything-going to therapy, his relationships with other women, being sorry for hurting me, getting sober and caring about me. It was all lies.
David raped me in November of 2018 at our apartment. He was drunk. When I attempted to speak to him about it he called me a slut, ignored me or told me I was a liar. He claims he doesn’t remember raping me even though he sent me a text message a few months before the assault, threatening to rape me and sent me texts after apologizing for and admitting it. I felt so lonely and sad. I tried to convince myself it didn’t happen or that it was okay. I told myself to be quiet about it, to protect him from legal trouble, to just deal with it. To just act like it never happened. That did not work out so well. It created deep craters of pain, anger and resentment inside of me. It began to break apart who I was.
I began to believe all the names he called me. I began to believe everything really was my fault. If only I wasn’t in a pissy mood, then he wouldn’t have called me a fucking bitch, or a cunt, he wouldn’t have ignored me for days. If I wasn’t a fucking bitch then he would have come to my sisters funeral with me. I must be controlling to ask him to come get his dog and I who are stranded after work instead of run with his buddy, he’s, right, that was controlling. How could I expect that? I was as bitch. How could I think he’d come see me when I am sick and help me instead of going paragliding? That was so controlling of me, thats what I would tell myself after he yelled at me or called me names. I began to feel as though reasonable requests were wrong and I was in the wrong to expect my husband to put me first or to ever be there for me. Like he said the day my sister died, I was on my own and I needed to leave him out of it. He wanted to be left alone and only be my husband when he wanted to be, otherwise, I was alone. The abuse challenged everything I believed about marriage and it left me feeling so bad about myself. Whatever little self esteem I did have, was gone. He would say to me, “If you were normal, I wouldn’t be violent.” I started to feel like the problem was me and me alone.
David has a very unhealthy dynamic with his mom, he lives with her and always returns to her house when he cannot handle things, its like his castle, where he is protected and no one can touch him or talk to him, even his wife. His mom has him locked up so tight there, that once he’s there, you cannot get him out of there. The morning my sister died, his mother called my father’s office and demanded proof my sister was dead. Of course this would upset anyone, seeing as this is abnormal and hurtful behavior. When I expressed to his mother how awful what she did was, of course, David took her side. How dare I talk to his mom like that? Absolutely zero acknowledge of what she did, it was all my fault and I was in the wrong. David constantly deals with his mom’s drinking and erratic behaviors when she is drunk. It’s a terrible scene and it only serves to encourage his drinking and abusive behavior. She rattles off insults to him when she is drunk, she does crazy things to him and others and she protects David’s poor behaviors at any cost. Some days I would be welcomed into the house with David and other days I wouldn’t be and I would have to sit in his truck outside and wait for him. I never knew when I was welcomed or when I was hated. It was insane. David never stood up for me or for our marriage and he allowed his parents to treat me as though I was less than human. I began to feel so lost and worthless because that’s how he treated me.
I am not looking for sympathy or anything else, I’m just releasing it all off of my heart and in doing so I hope I can start to heal and maybe help others find their courage to leave. I’ve spent long enough feeling broken and sad. I wish I could say that I didn’t love him anymore, but, that would be a lie.
Below is a document off of my phone notes app citing the abuse I faced, the names he called me, the things he did to me. I began documenting it in 2018 as a record for myself to try and give me the courage to leave. I didn’t leave then, but, I did recently.
Dumb Cunt Crazy Weird Bitch Horrible person Says Why would anyone want me Tells me I have little girl wants and ideas He says I make him do what he does, it’s my fault Says he can’t do anything without drinking Says that I am Psycho Ugly Fat Slut Insecure Needy Piece of shit Liar Fuck you Psycho Go fuck someone else I hate you Tells me that i make him drink Calls me a pussy when I say that I’m scared of him when he drinks and how he talks to me Pathetic Stupid Tells me to just get over it when I tell him something that bothers me or hurts me
My anxiety is so bad, I can’t sleep or eat and my nights and days are miserable. I’m filled w so much shame being w him. I’m not perfect, but he’s awful when he drinks, 10 beers tonight, says it’s not a big deal it’s just beer.
He tells our intimate business and issues to everyone. I’m not safe confiding in him
He humiliates me in front of other friends when they are over at our place
He mocks me and laughs at me
Tells me he wants to take care of me and that it’s okay that I’m not working right now, then throws it in my face and uses it against me. He shames me all the time
I tell him to be quiet late at night so our neighbors don’t hear us and he tells me to shut the fuck up or says fuck you
Said he’s so angry he wants to hurt me He says I am deeply disturbed and I’ll probably kill him in his sleep. When I ask him if he thinks he’s disturbed, he says no!
He patronizes me He laughs at me He doesn’t show me he cares, blows me off when I want to talk, says leave me the fuck alone. He says he cares but doesn’t really show me.
Records me Slams bedroom door at night waking up and screaming it’s so fn hot.
Sexually assaulted me, have video recording
He makes me feel uneasy and anxious, I cant bring up any issues with him! He will ignore me, blame me, or attack me.
He said that Everyone in my family knew I was a pos. He called me a Fat ass Threatens to leave all the time When I tell him he is acting crazy, he says you haven’t seen crazy yet. Grabs my jacket and gets in my face
Fat fuck Grabbed my hair and hit my head against the cabinet at my parents house Left and got drunk and came back to my parents house Called me a worthless pos Never wants to talk and tells me to just get over it Condescends me all the time Points his finger in my face Tells me to look at him, fn look at me Said this isn’t bad yet, I’m not cutting your throat or something Says I shouldn’t listen to his mom when she tells me that he isn’t like his dad
12/7/18 Called me a Cunt, psycho Says He’s w me because he feels sorry for me Says we should break up that he doesn’t want me Contradicts everything he says, I don’t know what to believe Hurt Zoroaster Thursday night out on a walk and then attacked me verbally about it when I calmed Zoroaster down after he ran into my arms because he was scared Blame shifting Ignoring me Silent treatment Name calling Making me seem unstable to his family so I look like the bad one Not apologizing for things Says sex w me is not good Dismissing my feelings and thoughts Always is “tired” when I want to talk
Said I have no self respect because I stay with him
I am not allowed to ask him questions or he’ll attack me
Left me at the movie theater, blamed me for having to spend money to get home from the theater and the movie tickets.
I’m the shittest girlfriend I’m selfish Tonight we took a drive out near Faye Canyon and he was drinking, he was driving crazy, carelessly. He says it doesn’t matter because we are on a dirt road. He slid almost hitting a tree. It scared me so much, I got out of his truck and walked all the way home, while he drove alongside of me most of the way saying mean things and taunting me.
Then he said I was a pussy because I got scared when he almost hit a tree
He Grabbed my sides under my chest and pushed me against the wall in between the bedroom and bathroom doors, left red marks on my skin, in pics!
Thursday this week
He was so nice at Bashas though he was very drunk. Started to verbally abuse me when we got home- lazy fat fuck, selfish. Took my phone from me, pushed me twice. Left. I called police. Then he said he almost ran into my 4runner and that he didn’t feel bad for putting his hands on me. Ignored me all Friday
12/15/18 Continues to ignore me, but said via text that I have never done anything for him and that I am selfish. Said he can’t be around me because it’s not safe, he’s the one who drinks and is abusive. Ignores the fact that Zoroaster needs food. And ignores me even though he knows it hurts me. Amazing still no apology for pushing me or what he did! It’s nuts!! Came home super drunk after driving across town and had a breakdown crying for hours. Told me he was gay!
12/22 Said he wanted to Light me on fire Moron Fat ass Lazy I am a witch Kicked me, but then said, he didn’t and if he had I’d be in the hospital Worthless Said I was Entitled Ignored me Got very drunk (13 beers) Said I’ve no work ethic Told me my family wouldn’t care if I died Asked me how far I wanted to walk tonight, then said, I won’t kick you out of the truck here 🙂 like it was funny Told me I was so messed up, so fucked up he said this while he was driving completely intoxicated and emotionally abusing me and I was sitting in his truck trying not to say the wrong thing, being quiet! He says he isn’t fd up and has no issues.
He said I was lazy and bitches about me not working, when he convinced me not to because he said he wanted to take care of me, now he shamed me for his choice
Mocked my suicide attempt and said it Fd up my brain.
Very loud and drunk late at night and I am worried about the neighbors complaining, he says fuck the neighbors and continues to play his loud music on his phone.
Said he’d like to light me on fire
Bitch Got in my face and yelled at me demanded I apologize for something I didn’t do Drinking nonstop On his phone nonstop when we are trying to play a game together- stood up got in my face and dumped the scrabble board over Grabbed my leg while demanding an apology Stupid
Tried to set boundaries with him and tell him how mean he was being, how much he was hurting me- he laughed at me, told me to get the fuck out of our apartment, get the fuck out of his face even though I was sitting on the bed, he said that my fat ass should leave him. That I suck! He’s beyond terrible! It’s hell living w him!
Choked me and told me to leave our apartment- neck is red- there are pics of my neck, after he choked me I was shaking and crying because I was so scared, he said to stop acting like a child, stop shaking. I am an adult and this is life. My throat and neck hurt
12/24 Didn’t apologize for choking me, he said he didn’t when I told him what he did. Spent the day without me, said he didn’t want to be around me because I suck. Said he had to go get me a stupid gift My neck still feels very sore I hate you Don’t want to be w you Rather be In jail than w you I wouldn’t be violent if you were normal Said he isn’t paying rent anymore
7/2019 Blew me off when my sister died Fucking cunt Bitch Ignores me Breaks each and every promise since we got married Terrible husband Attacks me verbally and psychically all the time Blames me for everything I’m fn psycho for wanting him to come to Martha’s funeral w me Never once asked me how I was when my sister died Didn’t even come over and be w me when I found out, blew me off and said I was on my own Drinking again Says he’ll fix my car but doesn’t Financial abuse, promises to help me w money then attacks me and says I should ask my dad for money. wastes money and lies about it so we don’t have money for a place or important things. Uses my credit card but doesn’t help pay for it Told me to quit my job and not go to fire, said he’d take care of me but then mocks me and is mean to me about not working. Says I’m worthless and lazy and too good to work Makes fun of my depression Told me to quit Mick’s and focus on getting side work then he won’t go do bids Won’t give me access to his bank info or money
Refused to come to the ER on 6/30/19 said I was lying and then came after few hours and was so so mean to me Gas lights me Ignores me, I can’t ever rely on him or trust him He’s not ever there for me Was terrible to me when Martha died, completely blew me off and refused to come to the funeral w me His crazy mom called my dads office and demanded a pic of Martha’s dead body Called me a Fn slut Called me a fn Cunt, worthless, ugly and fat Punched me bruised my arm Punched my car by gas tank dented it Drinking so much and saying awful things to me Mocked and laughed at me when I try to talk about when he sexually assaulted me. Tell me to get out of his fn truck and if I pass out he doesn’t care he’ll run me over Blows me off for Xmas Blows me off for new year’s Lies to me about drinking Blows Zoroaster and I off when we need help so he can run w a friend, Zoroaster and I walk the highway home. Blows off our anniversary Blows off Valentine’s Day Calls me terrible names, mocks me, makes me feel so alone and of no value Refuses to talk to me Says he hopes I get Coronavirus and throws a gallon of water at me bruising my lower back.
Pushed me and hurt my neck while I was walking away from his truck. Called me names Blew off another pregnancy Drinking and ignoring me Lying to me about work Lying to me about go to counseling I setup Beckleys Tree service and David blew it off. David broke every promise and marriage vow. Always said he wanted to work things out, but, never DID anything to make that happen, all talk. Blamed everything on me
I Filed divorce 6-16-20 Called me psycho Said he didn’t love me Said he hated me Told me to get the fuck out of his life
Hitching back to the route from Tres Piedras was difficult, the traffic was almost non exsistent, at least in the direction I needed to go. After an hour and a half I got a ride in the back of a pickup truck, with no bed gate. I had to hold my bike so tight and keep us both from falling out of the back of the truck as the driver drove way too fast for the turns on that road. I was pretty scared to be honest. When I got back to the route, I put my panniers back on my bike and started the 5 mile climb up the paved highway 64 to Hopewell Lake. I was still feeling tired, my body was still exhausted and I was only planning to ride to Canon Plaza, 24 miles away. My riding was sluggish, I was still fading mentally and psychically. FR 91 was in alright condition, the terrain was pretty nice, there were a few climbs up to Burned Mountain and then again to the top a saddle that stood above ranches and wetlands. I loved riding through the tall trees that day. It was so quiet out there, no one else was out there, but me and my bike. Most days on the Divide were like that, but there was generally some vehicle traffic at some point and that day the road belonged to just me and my bike. After only 10 miles of riding I was beginning to feel the fatique worsen. My pernicious anemia and Crohns were giving me trouble as they often do and coupled with the fact that I was riding the Divide and pushing myself day after day for weeks now, my body was admittedly protesting. I rode into Canon Plaza and went to the store Joe and his wife have setup for bikers, I bought a few snacks and talked to Joe for a while. Joe kindly offered to let me stay at his house he was fixing up across from the store. I happily accepted his offer and ended my day on the bike early. As I was writing outside on the patio of the house a dog named Duke came to greet me. He was a skiddish shepard mix, but, sweet as could be. He hungout with me for a while as I wrote and then went on his way.
I struggled to sleep that night. I did not sleep at all in fact. I laid awake all night. You would think I could fall asleep so easy and fast because I was exhausted, but, I have always had trouble with sleep. Even when my body is beyond tired in every single way, there are nights when I cannot turn my mind off and I cannot sleep. It is like torture. Absolute torture. I have grown used to it over the years, but, it makes my days harder, especially when I am out on a big adventure like riding the Divide. The lack of sleep messes with my focus, emotions, appetite, endurance- everything- it throws yet another challenge into the mix for me. I have tried a lot of different things over the years to help with this struggle, but, I have yet to find anything that has worked long term. So, I have no other choice than to accept it as a part of who I am and learn to live with it, just as I do with having Crohns, Pernicous Anemia, anxiety and depression and POTS. All I can do is embrace those struggles and decide to not let them stop me from what I want to do.
As the daylight crept through the windows I knew I was going to have to pack up and start riding. I was headed for Abiquiu, 38 miles away. I left early as I was already awake, I wanted to see Joe again but I was not going to go over and wake him up. The morning air was cold, my eyes burned from staying up all night, my head was all over the place. I was supposed to have been in Abiquiu days ago, I just wasn’t riding as fast as planned because my body was just too tired. The riding out of town wasn’t too bad. The route took me across Rio Vallectios and then it turned onto FR 44 which was rougher riding than the nice gravel and pavement I had just been on. The road climbed up to a remote high point and then continued downhill for a bit. Then it went back up hill, eventually leading me onto Highway 554. I rode into El Rito and stopped at the little store there to get a soda and take a break. I was 18 miles from Abiquiu at that point and it was all pavement from there JAfter I was finished with my soda, I got back onto my bike and headed South on 554. The views were so beautiful riding into Abiquiu, the distant mesas and desert landscape did not disappoint. I was so happy to finally be in Abiquiu, a few days before when I was really struggling I did not think I would ever get there. I went straight to the Inn and got a room and ate a huge lunch.
I took a day off at Danielle and Trenton’s house outside of Del Norte in South Park. It was a perfect day off, pizza by the creek with their doggies, easy errands, good company and good conversation. The following day, they drove me back into Del Norte where I had gotten off the route. And, the bike mechanic from Salida had texted me that my maps had finally arrived and his mother in law drove out to Del Norte that morning to bring me my new maps. Absolute wonderfully kind people. I was still incredibly tired and decided to just ride 12 miles to a local cabin that hosted bikers. I was anticipating the long hard climb to the summit of Indian Pass, 11,910 feet and decided an easy quick day of riding would set me up for the next day to tackle the big climb. The cabin was very neat, kind of like an artsy Jeremiah Johnson cabin, very unique and cozy and set in the low mountains of the Rio Grande National Forest. I did not sleep well, but, I got enough sleep 🙂
In the morning, I left the cabin prepared to handle the next 12 miles of climbing to reach the Pass. In true Elizabeth style, I walked my bike a lot of the way up. I even called my mom during the climb at one point and had a good conversation with her. Once I neared the top of the Pass the views were beautiful but the sky was hazy and the views were impacted by that. I rode from the Pass down into Summerville and then began to climb yet again. The views were great and the riding wasn’t too bad. I then climbed up to Elwood Pass and the views just kept getting better. I passed by a few lakes and kept riding with the intention of getting into Platoro for the night. I passed Stunner Campground and kept riding focusing on the final climb and final Pass for the day, Stunner Pass. That climb was so pretty. So many colors, so many rocks, lovely Colorado. At the top of the Pass I bundled up a bit, it was starting to get cold. I was ready for some nice downhill riding as the day had been filled with over 5,000 feet of climbing already and I did not want to face any other climbs that day. I rode into Platoro about an hour before dark, the store owners showed me the Great Diivde Cabin and set me up inside for the night. He later brought me some watermelon, cheese and a sausage, I sat on the deck of the cabin and ate my dinner. It was so peaceful there. I had lived in Colorado for 15 years and never even knew about that place or the surrounding areas. It is definitely a special part of Colorado and I plan on visiting it to adventure more one day. I slept very well that night, though my body was sore, so sore. I tried to stretch before bed and again in the morning, but I was beyond that being enough to help. My body was beginning to break down. I was beginning to feel my body breaking down. I was not recovering like I should. My health issues were getting the best of me.
In the morning I again received a generous home cooked meal from the owners of the store. It was delicious and filled me up enough to begin my day. The first part of the day took me along the Conejos River, it was like a scene from a cowboy movie, so much wild land out there. So much to explore. It was mostly flat terrain and easy riding. When I got into Horca, I stopped for a few Amish pies at the store in town and then turned up on Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway to climb to the top of La Mangas Pass. I stopped at a few viewpoints along the way to take in the views and take some pictures. The climb was pretty easy for the most part and only lasted 7 miles. I headed down from the pass absorbing the joy of the downhill riding. I left the highway and turned onto FR 117 which was a nice road with easy riding. Three miles later I left the Rio Grande National Forest and entered into the Carson National Forest/NEW MEXICO!!!! The final state of the Great Divide, getting that far was a huge moment for me. I couldn’t believe that I had actually done it. I was aware I still had hundreds of miles to ride to the Mexican Border, but, that moment, that moment when I knew I was finally in New Mexico brought me to tears. I felt so proud of myself. I was so excited. I rode about another mile or so and camped near a few other people who were out with their RV. One of the guys at camp had Kentucky Fried Chicken and offered me a few pieces along with some water. I was loving New Mexico 🙂 I set up my tent in a cluster of trees near their RV and prepared for the cold night ahead. I was still struggling with my body, it was fighting itself and it was breaking down. I was not feeling rested at all after days off or sleep, I was tired, I was slow, I was hungry. I couldn’t give my body the recovery time it demanded. I kept pushing myself in all ways possible and my body was now rejecting all of the pushing. I was in trouble physically and I felt it. My entire body felt it, but, I was in NEW MEXICO and nothing was going to keep me from getting to the Mexican Border. To be continued…..
I thought about staying in Sargents and waiting out the wind for a day or so, but, ultimately, I decided to keep riding. Although, I do enjoy days off and usually take more than most riders because of my health issues, I also feel restless when I am not moving. The morning air was cold, the wind had died down a bit and the 12 miles of payment along highway 50 was enjoyable. I turned off highway 50 onto a nice wide gravel road after 12 or so miles and rode through remote BLM lands. The climbing was steep in some places and not so bad in others. I was still learning how to efficiently climb on my bike and how to sustain myself during a climb. Climbs were still hard for me and when I felt like getting off my bike and walking it, I did. It was only me, the road and my bike. I had no one to impress or record to break and why not, why shouldn’t get off my bike and take it all in. It is hard to take it all in while riding a bike- you are focused solely on the road ahead, you cannot feel the earth beneath you, you can’t see all angles around you, it is a different feeling and a different pace.
For me, I will take a mixture of both, in doing so, I created some of the most wonderful and perfect days along the Divide. After a handful of miles of climbing, I descended into a basin that was surrounded by distant mountains and lonely sky. The road began to descend more steeply as it was twisting and turning. I loved the ride down, it was quite bumpy in places, but, the feeling of racing down an empty road is pretty awesome, it feeds your inner child in ways that you cannot explain.
I took a turn on highway 114 then onto county rd NN14 towards Cochetopa Pass. I entered Gunnison National Forest and began the climb towards the Pass, this climb seemed to never end for some reason, I would think I was at the top, then there was more climbing to do. When I did get to the top of the Pass, I was feeling tired and the temperature was dropping. I knew that no matter where I camped it was going to be a very cold night. I rode two miles downhill and made camp at Luders Creek, it was freezing, the shadows of the day coming to an end were lingering in the trees. It wasn’t even dark yet and the temperature was too cold for being outside of my tent. I was in my tent early and I was glad that I had bought a sleeping bag liner for extra warmth. However, I did not stay warm at all that night, I was up all night. I did not sleep at all.
Since I had not slept, I was ready to move and get going, thinking it would warm me up a bit and I knew as the day went on that it would warm up. Packing my bike up was hard, my body was so cold, it felt stiff and my fingers burned. I finally got my bike packed up and headed out of camp. I rode down into a red rock canyon filled with piñon and juniper- it reminded me of home, of the desert beauty in Arizona. 9 miles from camp I once again turned onto highway 114 and rode the pavement until I turned onto FR 41G toward Canero Pass and La Garita. After I had been riding that road for awhile I entered into Rio Grande National Forest and started climbing through tall aspens. I summited Canero Pass after 25 miles and decided I was going to ride all the way into Del Norte that day, another 38 miles away. I rode down the pass and into an area of hoodoos and boulders, the road became quite bumpy, but, I was in a good mood and enjoying the day. It did warm up after a few hours, but, not very much. The riding was pretty moderate and easy going until I reached about 18 miles from Del Norte, at that point the road turned into terrible washboards, so bad, I thought it would rip my bike apart. I was running low on water and walking my bike across the really bad washboards when I flagged down a driver and asked them if they had any extra water. The driver got out of his truck and filled my bottle, we began talking and a few minutes later his friends pulled up behind him and walked over to us. They introduced themselves, John, Danielle, and Trenton- Danielle and Trenton invited me to stay at their home when I got to Del Norte. I was so surprised by their kindness and generosity and made a plan to call them when I got into town. They were out for a bike ride so we exchanged contact information and parted ways.
I left CO rd 38A- washboard land- and turned towards La Garita Natural Arch, the road was very rocky and sandy, but the landscape was unbelievable. I then turned onto FR 665 a very primitive narrow road that was insanely fun to ride, rollers, narrow road, it was like being on a race track in the sand. The riding was awesome and I wanted it to last forever. That was truly one of my favorite sections on the Divide. It was so so so much fun 🙂 so much fun. The distant desert buttes, jagged rock formations and mountains made that section perfectly wonderful. I accidentally missed the turn off the road into a drainage and got lost for a good while. Eventually, I found the correct turn and continued up towards a gap. The view was beautiful, from there I rode down into a wash with very sharp pointy rocks and lots of sand. I was beginning to wear out, I knew I hadn’t eaten or drank enough that day and I was now paying the price with extreme fatigue, a bad headache and soreness everywhere. I reached a decent gravel road that had a million turns in it. Right, left, right, left, this road went on forever and all you could see in the distance was more of that damn road. I crossed the Rio Grande River and then got to highway 112, turned right and arrived in Del Norte. I headed straight to Subway. I ate a foot long sandwich and then texted Danielle and Trenton. John picked me up and we drove over to their house for dinner, my second dinner 🙂 Their house was amazing, I had my own wing of their house. I couldn’t believe these strangers were so kind to me. Trenton cooked us all a delicious steak dinner and we stayed up and chatted about the state of the world, my trip, their lives, and instantly we became friends. To be continued…
Leaving Salida, the terrain was easy leading into Poncha Sprigs, though the wind made it much harder, each pedal stroke I was fighting the wind. I was beginning to lose it mentally yet again with the wind. I do not think there is anyone on this earth that hates wind as much as I do. I stopped at a gas station in Poncha Springs for a soda and began to remember the hellish days of wind when I thru hiked the PCT. I remembered other thru hikers and I laughing about how insane the wind was and referring to it as the, “devil,” just so we could try and bring some humor into how bad it was out there in the desert of CA. I missed those days and those friends of mine. I longed for days back on the trail. On the Divide, I felt lonely, I felt sad and scattered inside. I wasn’t a biker. I was out of my element and I was alone. After about 20 minutes I knew I had to keep making miles.
I got back in the saddle and headed uphill on highway 285 towards Poncha Pass. It was not long before I got off my bike and started walking it, the wind was making riding impossible and it was more efficient for me to walk my bike. After 5 or so miles of walking my bike uphill on the side of the highway I made a turn onto County Road 200 which would be the beginning of my climb towards the summit of Marshall Pass. Little did I know that the Wind Gods were plotting against me 🙂 It was a pretty steady climb for 16 miles. The road was not in bad shape, the riding was easy in some places and then the wind would pick up and I was off my bike, pushing it. I refused to fight the wind anymore. If I couldn’t pedal efficiently, I would walk my bike. I have no shame in walking my bike, some riders apparently do and some have even given me slack about walking my bike. For me, I enjoy walking, it gives me a chance to connect to the earth, to slow down, to see things I would not see while riding. Though nothing is enjoyable in the wind. I met a few people along my climb up towards Marshall Pass. I was lovingly jumped on by a beautiful chocolate lab at one point and then a few miles later offered a ham sandwich and water by a couple from Mexico. I stopped and chatted with them for awhile, they too commented on the wind and were trying to get out of it. We shared adventure stories and laughs, it was a very nice distraction from the wind.
I continued to walk my bike up as the road got more rocky and the wind began to pick up. If I didn’t know any better I would think that the wind was doing it on purpose 🙂 About a mile from the summit, the wind began to get extremely bad, dangerous in fact. It was ripping trees out and trees were falling on the road. When I got to the summit of Marshall Pass 10,842 feet, I wanted to hangout a bit and enjoy the views, but, the wind was so bad and I thought riding down would be helpful in getting rid of the wind. It was absolutely beautiful on the way down- the aspens, the colors, the smells, it was all so overwhelming beautiful. But the wind just kept getting worse, trees kept falling around me; I kept pedaling to try and reach Sargents for the night. I did not feel safe setting up camp with trees falling over. I needed to be out of the wind for the night. Mentally, I needed to be out of the wind. I arrived into Sargents, threw my bike down and went right into the store/restaurant. I simply could not be outside anymore for the day. I was lucky they had an open cabin and I was thrilled to be inside. A good dinner, a shower and a few phone calls to the people I love made my night.
I got a late start riding out of Hartsel, due to having to hitchhike back to the route after spending the night at my friend Beth’s house in Alma. I rode out of Hartsel and quickly turned onto county rd 53. The road was bumpy to say the least. I began to get extremely frustrated with the roughness of the road because it made riding not enjoyable. The road traveled through a few different basins and I could see the mountains rising in the distance. The road became more narrow and rougher as I rode and as the day went on. And, then, then, the wind began. Oh you know how I LOVE a great headwind while pedaling 😉 NOT! The climbs felt harder than they probably were. I was fighting myself to make miles. I was yelling at the wind, like a mad women, begging for it to stop or at least calm down a bit. It didn’t work 🙂 The final climb of the day entering into San Isabel National Forest really pissed me off. I was so beaten down by the wind. I was exhausted mentally and physically and really really really wanted to quit. I was set on quitting in Salida. I wondered what was wrong with me to desire wild adventures such as this and why I always measured my worth as a human being as to whether or not I could endure the hell these adventures presented me with. I wondered why I couldn’t be “normal”and just chose to pick the fun enjoyable sections and ride those instead of forcing myself to push through really crappy and not enjoyable sections. But inside I knew the answer and though it might seem silly to some, it’s who I am at my very core and I have to honor that, even during the times when I am doing nothing but complaining and wanting to quit. Right before the top of last climb, a man in his cabin invited me in for oranges and water. He gave me a tour of his old historic cabin and told me stories about the history of the cabin and the land. He talked about meeting other bikers and how he enjoyed helping bikers out and refueling them with water and snacks. He told me I could camp in his lawn, but, I wanted to get into Salida before dark. I graciously refused his offer and got back on my bike.
It was a long long windy windy downhill ride to highway 291, the road into Salida. When the got to the highway I was in tears, the wind had really wiped me. I didn’t enjoy the day hardly at all. That day, I just got through it, that’s all I could do. When I got into town I first went to Absolute Bikes to have my bike checked and pick up my new maps I had sent there. My maps weren’t there and I set up an appointment for the next day to have my bike looked at. I then tried to find a place to stay, all the motels were booked. Thankfully, I found a spot at the Hostel and settled in. I was so happy to find two thru hikers also staying there- finally- I was among my people, hiker trash- 🙂 the three of us enjoyed a good meal at a Mexican restaurant and exchanged stories of our time thru hiking. For the night, I forgot I was biking. I felt so content being around other thru hikers. It felt right. Then I began to feel as though I was on the wrong adventure. I am a thru hiker not a biker and there I was with my bike wishing I had my backpack instead.
I woke up the next morning feeling still tired as though I hadn’t slept. After breakfast, I dropped my bike off to get tuned- it needed new front and back rotors, back brake pads, a new chain, a new derailer cable, and a good wash. I then walked around downtown doing errands and still struggling with wanting to quit and go home. My maps still hadn’t come in by late afternoon. The guy at the bike shop made a few calls and found a friend who had the Divide maps and he kindly brought them to the hostel for me to use. My bike was all ready to continue, I wasn’t. In the morning, I had a huge breakfast cooked by my new thru hiker friend, which included a mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwich 🙂 I knew that when I left the hostel I was going to have to fight the wind again because it was already picking up. 😫 I said my goodbyes and exchanged contact info and headed out of town!! To be continued…..