For the Love of a Horse- The Story of Hayduke and I

It was a extremely hot day in July of 2016 down in Supai, a village located in the Grand Canyon, the home to the Havasupai Tribe. The sun was burning my skin, the heat was giving me a headache and as I walked pass a home; I saw him. A beautiful dark brown horse lying down in the dirt in the front yard, his legs stretched out, his body covered in sweat, he appeared lifeless, but, he was not 🙂 As I looked a little further through the wire fence I saw that his hooves were in terrible shape, his hip bones protruding through his sweaty and dirty body, his ribs so visible he looked like a skeleton. His spirit gone, his heart weary and lonely and it was then that I knew, that horse was going to be mine. I was going to get him out of there, come hell or high water, that horse was mine.

On this trip; I wasn’t down there guiding, rather I was down there to gather information and pictures of the abuse that haunted the canyon, the abuse that became the reason I quit my job. I left Supai a day later, with the knowledge that getting him out of that place would take awhile, it might not happen at all and he might not make the hike out, but, I was going to try. After all, I promised him that I would get him out.

I was no stranger to Suapi, or the Tribe, up until the 4th of June, 2016; I was a backpacking guide, taking people down to camp at Havasupai Falls. After finding out more information about the tribal wrangler our company used to haul our camping gear up and down the canyon; I quit my job, no longer was I going to keep my mouth shut about the horrific animal abuse that took place in that canyon, no longer was I going to accept what all the other guides and people did, I was not going to accept the answer of, “that is just the way it is.” NO, it was time to stand up, yell at the top of my lungs and tell everyone I knew about the truth of that deceptively beautiful place. I spoke to the Channel 12 news, created a page on FB to advocate for the animals and told everyone I knew. The attention began to grow and the pressure was felt by the Tribe. While all the attention was being brought to the abuse I worked everyday to get him out, every night, I dreamt of him. I was ready at anytime to go, hike down and get my horse, bring him out, take him to Flagstaff and rehab him, love him, and begin my journey with him. On July 26th,2016; I was at Best Buy and I got the text, “come get your horse”, it was around 6pm. I packed my backpack with everything I would need for an 8 mile hike down to the village and a hike back out not knowing how long it was going to take. My heart was screaming in happiness, I was getting my horse, I was on my way to rescue him and man, that was an awesome feeling. Wade drove my car, I couldn’t drive, I felt high, I was too excited to focus on driving the 3.5 hrs. We arrived at the Hilltop around 11:30pm and headed down the trail to Supai in the dark. We reached the village around 3am and were excited to get him around 630 am, but things did not happen the way I had hoped. When I arrived at the owner’s house, my horse was gone, I was terrified that something had happened to him. I knocked on the door and was told that my horse and his owner had left the village hours ago.
I started running. I had not had anything to eat, nor had I slept and none of that mattered. All that mattered was that I needed to get to my horse. I had made a promise to save him and so I ran my heart out, crying, praying he would actually be at the Hilltop. I ran 8 miles up, arriving around 940am at the Hilltop, he was there, my heart relieved to see him. I met up with the owner, he had run him up the canyon, riding him for a mile and a half. I had to keep my cool though I wanted to smack him and yell at him for what he had done to my horse and so many others, but I knew I just needed to get my horse and paid him $250 like we had agreed on. I will never forget the second he took his lead rope off and walked off.

There I was, in the hot sun, alone for the first time with my horse. MY HORSE!!!!! I was told by his owner he did not like people, but judging from the way he nuzzled right into me as I attached my lead rope to his old halter, I knew that wasn’t true. I had a HORSE!! I was excited, nervous, scared, worried, tired, hungry, but, I was content and I could see relief in his eyes. Well, I had a HORSE now, so of course he needed a name. I named him Hayduke, in honor of Edward Abbey’s writing and passion for the Southwest. So, now I had a HORSE and he had a name. We sat together at the Hilltop in the heat for almost 7 hours, his feet looked like paddles, his body like a skeleton, but I knew he was a fighter, I knew that he knew that I saved him and was going to get him out of there. We spent a few hours together hunkering down under the outhouse looking down into the canyon where he had been living, a place he was never going to see again.

Hayduke was transported to Flagstaff and taken to a wonderful place, that first night in Flagstaff was filled with a ton of commotion and unknowns. I watched as the farrier trimmed his feet, as the first set of abscesses appeared in his feet. It was bad, his feet were in bad shape. I remember feeling like a zombie, so tired both emotionally and physically and worried beyond words about this amazing creature that I had rescued and instantly fallen in love with. The next day, Hayduke’s first day in Flagstaff he ate and ate and ate and ate, and he seemed calm and happy. He seemed as though he felt safe.

The Vet came out on his second day and gave him an exam, did blood work, etc. Again his feet were a concern and we began a daily process of soaking, medicating, wrapping his feet to help open and drain his abscesses. Hayduke moved from that first place to a ranch in Flagstaff where I spent hours everyday trying to heal his feet and allow him to eat as much as he wanted. He also received an excessive amount of love, he probably was so sick of the kisses and hugs, but he got him, everyday. His story began to touch others, so many were rooting for him. I became aware of how generous, kind and loving the horse community is as well as random people. I was nurturing this wonderful creature back to health. He ate and ate and somedays that is all he did 🙂 he became my best friend so quickly and my love for him grew daily. I woke up everyday excited to drive out and spend my days with him, it was as though the rest of the world stopped and it was just Hayduke and I. He was gaining weight, getting some of his spunk back, but his feet, his feet were not improving.

On August 15th 2016, the vet came out to the ranch, Hayduke had been lying down and I could tell his pain was immense. The vet opened a deep abscess that bleed like crazy, he preformed a series of X-rays and I could see it in the Vet’s eyes that Hayduke was in trouble.
Hayduke was taken into the hospital that night and put on IV meds, had medical wraps on his feet and received medical care around the clock. I spent my days lying in his stall with him, most of the day, he would lie down next to me, put his head in my lap against my chest and just sit there. It was like magic, but, I knew in my heart that he was sick and that no amount of love was going to fix this. After four days in the hospital it became apparent on X-ray and by watching him that his pain was not going to be manageable, he was suffering and the abuse and neglect he had faced could not be reversed. It was time to say goodbye, time to allow him to rest and be at peace. I remember that day like it was yesterday. It was a cold rainy day, I knew I had to say goodbye. The Vet told me that I did not have to stay, but, there was no way I was going to leave him alone. It was about 430 in the afternoon, I led Hayduke outside his stall and behind the office. The Vet explained how the process worked, I hated it, I was so angry and heartbroken, but I could not let him suffer any longer. The vet make a braid for me from Hayduke’s tail and handed it to me. He gave Hayduke the first injection, in a few minutes it caused him to collapse to the ground, I remember screaming out, crying my brains out. I felt so sad, so hurt, so fucking mad, so fucking mad. Hayduke now laid on the ground, his beautiful body right in front of me. I went to his head, started loving on him, the second injection went in and he faded like he was going under for surgery. I told Hayduke that I loved him, that I was sorry. And then, the last one, the vet whispered a few seconds later, he has no heart beat. I wanted to throw up, I wanted to run down to Supai and yell at his former owner. I wanted my Hayduke back. I wanted his silky nose to nuzzle my face, I wanted a story with him. But in a matter of minutes that was all gone. I felt like I had failed him. I felt so broken so lonely. I had three weeks with Hayduke and in that short period of time, I feel like I had a lifetime. A lifetime filled with love, hope, smiles, life lessons and compassion, for what else is there in life?
Hayduke is now in my heart forever, that is where is was always meant to be. He taught me so much, much more than I ever expected to learn. He loved me and I loved him and though I wish he was still here, I know that my job in all of this was to get him out of suffering and to send him to heaven knowing love. I could have never prepared myself for what Hayduke brought to my life. Out of all of my adventures, this one truly changed me. I am humbled to have been a part of Hayduke’s life. I am honored to have been there as his friend at the end. I am grateful to so many people- Scott and Terry Small, Kathy Oliver, Christine Griffin, Don and Marci Walters, Ruthann Penn, Dr Shane Dennis, Colleen and Dan Larrabee, ATGNIphotoworks, all my horsey friends on Facebook- too may to list, but thank you to everyone who donated, gave their advice, support, friended me to help, assisted Hayduke and I in anyway. Thank you for holding some of Hayduke in all of your hearts.

In loving memory of George W Hayduke, the horse from Supai

Leaving Abiquiu or not leaving Abiquiu on the Great Divide!

I had been so exhausted and defeated in the days leading up to Abiqui. I enjoyed a day off at the Abiqui Inn- a neat little respite from the long days on the Divide. A few weeks prior while I was in Colorado; I had been informed about a man who lived outside of Abiquiu who was holding bikers up at gunpoint and robbing them, it had been on my mind ever since learning about it. It had created an immense amount of anxiety and fear in me and I was leaning towards taking an alternate route to avoid that area. I spoke with locals and other bikers who for the most part knew nothing about that guy. After, a nice day off, my plan was to head out. I went to the restaurant to eat breakfast and was seated next to this guy who was also eating alone. He looked like a movie star, he had this sleek, kind and handsome look to him. At some point, we struck up a conversation, we talked about my trip and a little bit about who we each were and where we were from. I have no idea how the topic of losing my sister Martha came up, but somehow it did. He was so easy to talk to and I guess I was in dire need of releasing some of my grief. Grief is a constant ebb and flow of emotion. I hadn’t really been addressing my grief on my ride thus far. More so, I had been hiding it, pretending it wasn’t real and trying to ignore it. I mean, I was on my bike, I couldn’t ride at all or make any miles if all I did was cry and let my grief out. I had to stifle it and put it away. But, grief isn’t just tears, sometimes it shows up in the form of just needing one more day off on a big bike ride, or being extra anxious or lonely or feeling “off.” That morning it knocked me over and consumed me. He began to talk about his own losses and grief and what his process had been. The more we talked, the more both of us started to tear up. There we were two grown strangers crying at breakfast. It was one of the most therapeutic experiences of my life. I then told him I had planned to leave that morning and about my concerns about what I had heard about that guy harassing bikers. He could tell I was struggling with myself to continue riding. He said to me, “you don’t have to ask permission for another day off.” You can take it. He offered to take me into Espanola so I could get to a real store. I told him I’d let him know in a few hours. After, I finished my breakfast and exchanged contact information with him I left the restaurant and noticed that there was horses in the back of the property.

I immediately walked over there and had another big release of grief. Horses are extremely therapeutic and it was exactly what I needed at the moment. The way they smell, the way they feel, the way they can reflect and comfort you without even knowing you, without any questions asked is such a special gift. I stayed there for a while and then decided to walk back to my room. I was so tired and now, I was emotionally exhausted. Grief wears you out. It drains you. It’s so hard. I ended up texting my new friend and he picked me up and drove me into town to Walmart and Dairy Queen. It was awesome and relaxing. I was so glad I had not ridden off that morning. I wasn’t ready to leave and that was okay. I had a kind escort for the day and a cool Kermit Car to ride in.

My new friend and his awesome ride 🙂

After we returned to the inn, he offered to take me on his motorcycle up Polvadera Mesa where that guy I was worried about had been known to be. He said it might help to see some of the route and if I did indeed decide to take the alternate then at least I wouldn’t miss some of the beautiful views of the actual route. The ride was amazing, it’s so special out there, so beautiful- the desert, the mountains, the rock, the sky- man, it’s all so indescribably beautiful. It was nearing the end of the day and I knew that in the morning I was leaving. I had to chose the actual route or the alternate. I got back to my room right at dinner time and said goodbye to my friend. It had been a very healing day for me. Though, I still felt sad, uneasy, and anxious. I knew that I had to start allowing my grief to surface more. That I shouldn’t be scared of it or try to ignore it. That it was okay to be a mess, to be vulnerable and lonely and sad even when I was on a big adventure, being a badass or trying to be a badass. It was okay to be just me and to be just where I was with my grief. The next morning, I packed up and rode to the general store. It was either turn left and head up to Polvodera Mesa on the actual route or go straight and take the alternate. I started riding and for some reason turned left onto the actual route. I surprised myself with that decision. But, I was not going to let some guy scare me off the route…

Anxious fingers and cold rock!

Today, I went climbing, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve felt as though I can even put my harness on. For the past few years, climbing has been attached to so many negative emotions for me that even when I tried, it was as though my body didn’t understand how to move on the rock. Mostly, it was that my anxiety was out of control and my confidence had been beaten down. I have many memories from the past of being on rock- just me- my body- the air- the sky- and the rock I was attached to. In those perfect moments I felt free, alive, grounded and a deep feeling of bliss. The movement of ones body on rock is like a dance- a puzzle- a wonderful platform for challenge and growth. I have missed that feeling. I have allowed my anxiety and depression to stifle the very things I’ve needed to stay healthy and grounded- it’s a daily battle and struggle of an internal mess you know will always be there. No matter what. For me, anxiety and depression have created a barrier between me and the world and most importantly the very things I need. Being anxious all the time feels terrible and it’s exhausting, because your body and mind aren’t working together, they are fighting. Depression for me is like being locked in a dark closet alone and you can hear the happy world going on right outside the door, but, no matter how hard you try, it seems as though you just can’t open that door and walk out. You feel trapped, anxious, alone, like no one understands and even if they could, you couldn’t explain it. It’s extremely isolating and it tears all the good parts of you, it decreases your self esteem and thus, keeping you even more alone and isolated. I don’t usually talk much about these struggles or the struggles with my medical conditions because I don’t want to bring people down or whine or seem weak. But, I think we need to talk about these kind of things because otherwise they become too daunting and overwhelming, and they slowly destroy you. I have days when I’m not too depressed or anxious, but, those kind of days are very rare. The norm for me is to be anxious and depressed. Being on rock today, something clicked inside of me. I totally sucked today. I was scared to be so high up, I felt anxious, I felt like an idiot because I was in such poor climbing shape, but, I also felt happy and excited for more days on rock, more days of learning to control my anxiety so that I can build back what I miss about climbing. So that I can get back to the zen part of climbing and embrace the challenge and grounding impact is has on me. I will always struggle with many things, but, I am going to make a better effort to stop ignoring and keeping myself from the things I need. Hopefully, I can continue to remember who I am and what I need and what I love. I hope everyone is able to do that for themselves, because we all need to.

Raped by David Beckley

David and I had planned on making pasta for dinner that night, it was a cold November night out and I was excited to spend time with him, to cuddle up and laugh and have a good evening. We were both in the kitchen, David was drinking, he started saying mean things to me and calling me names. When he drinks, I never know when that will happen, but, it is always sure to happen at some point. I attempted to calm him down, to talk to him, but that made no difference. I was a bitch, I was a miserable person, I sucked, I was a horrible person, on and on and on it went as he paced from the kitchen to the couch drinking and insulting me. I finally went into the bedroom and then to take a bath, just to try and get away from him. After my bath, I went back into the bedroom and laid on the bed. A short time later David came into the bedroom and crawled on top of me. I could smell the alcohol on his breath and he was still saying terrible things to me, he pinned my hands down on the bed and took my pants off. I told him that I did not want to have sex, but, he forced himself inside of me. He was rough with me, he just kept saying terrible things to me, calling me names- cunt, bitch, slut, etc. I told him to stop, I tried to get him off of me, but I couldn’t. He just kept having sex with me. I was crying and struggling to get him off of me. He didn’t care. He didn’t stop. He was so intoxicated that he seemed to not even be there. Like he was in a different world.

After it happened, I went back into the bathroom and took another bath. I couldn’t believe what he had done to me, I did not know what to do. Was it rape? We were dating. I did not know. I thought about calling the cops, but, I didn’t and I told myself it was okay. I sat in the bath for a long time. I was hoping he would fall asleep because I did not want to talk to him. I was hurting so much. I was crushed. Should I report him? Is it a crime? What just happened? He was drunk, does it matter? I did not want to get him into criminal trouble. I just sat in the bathtub and cried. I waited along while before going back into the bedroom, when I did he was passed out and snoring. I crawled into bed and laid awake all night, in the morning he got up and got ready for work, he did not say anything about what happened to me. He left for work as though nothing had happened. As though everything was okay.

I tried a few times to bring it up in the coming weeks and months to talk about it with him, but, he called me a liar and a slut and shut down the conversation quickly. I should have left him, but, I didn’t. I have been carrying this around, trying to convince myself that it was okay and that what I know happened must be wrong. That it wasn’t a big deal. It has been a long time since that night. David and I have gotten married and I have tried to put that evening behind me and go forward, because I loved him. But the truth is, I can’t forget it and though I have questioned whether it was rape or not, IT WAS. He raped me! Even if I am in a relationship with someone it does not give them the right to violate me and to blatantly ignore the facts about what they did. It is time to get this off of my chest and to try and let it go. David has the ability to be charming, but he is very dangerous and he has a major drinking problem. He assaulted his buddy last December and left him with permanent injuries, he claims he does not have a clear memory of that either. David believes it’s okay to treat people in despicable ways and that somehow it’s justified. I tried to justify it to myself, I couldn’t. I found that in trying to do so somehow it always lead me back to blaming myself and that’s completely misplaced, the entire blame is his and his alone.

Being silent about this has only served to destroy me more. I lost my inner security that night; I lost my confidence and strength and it has created such a terrible place for me inside of myself, a place of fear, anxiety, sadness and anger- it has robbed me of time, of happiness, of self worth, of safety. I still struggle with basic daily tasks. I feel broken. I feel alone. I feel so incredibly broken and that may never go away. What he did to me will never be undone and the only recourse I have is to tell my story, attempt to seek to process what happened and make sure he cannot hurt me again. David continues to lie about what he did and take no accountability, the worst part is, he truly doesn’t care about what he did or how it’s impacted my life.

I made it into Abiquiu- The Great Divide continues!!!

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.

First day in New Mexico- Not my best day on the Divide!

I was slow to pack up the morning after I entered into New Mexico. It was freezing out. My body was now in trouble. I was really struggling just to get ready that day. Everything seemed so hard. The day started with lots of rocky climbs. I struggled with each mile. FR 87 was rough and I was in no position to be riding that day. A few hours into the day, I called my parents crying- I was exhausted beyond exhaustion. My body was rejecting the physical aspect of the riding. My mom got online to look at maps trying to find a way for me to get off so I could quit. Honestly, I was at that point. My body was giving up on me, it didn’t care about my goals. I could hear my parents concern and worry. They know all too well that I often push myself past my limit and that my health issues cause me a great deal of stress and pain and my body is impacted by all of that. I just kept telling them that I wasn’t going to quit. That of course did not make my mom happy, but, I couldn’t quit. I had to keep going. I tried to reassure them as much as I could, but I think I was really just trying to reassure myself. I hung up and got back on my bike. There was a nice ROCKY descent after my phone call and it gave me some relief from the climbing. That was short lived though. I then began to push my bike up a half mile of some ridiculous terrain filled with sharp rocks and lose gravel. You absolutely couldn’t ride that section. Ugh! Right before the top of the climb I fell to the ground. I was crying like a baby. I was done. Mentally and physically I was done. Little did I know 100 yards away was an amazing view on top of Brazos Ridge looking down into Cruces Basin Wilderness. When I finally got to the top, the view was rewardingly peaceful and pretty epic.

I took a long break up there and then continued on FR 87. I was still struggling a lot. I was fighting each mile. I was fighting myself and I was fading. I always always carry extra food- usually one or two days extra- but I just couldn’t stop eating. I couldn’t get satiated. I was going through all of my extra food and I knew I was going to run out. I wasn’t riding as fast as I had planned and my tummy just couldn’t stop feeling hungry. It’s a terrible feeling to be eating through your extra days of food and knowing you will soon run out. On top of that my Crohn’s was flaring up and I was weak.

Riding down from Brazos Ridge was pretty fun and soon enough the road became smoother. I kept riding on FR 87, it went up and then down some and then back up, but the road was in good shape and the riding was pretty easy. Eventually, I started heading down through the aspen trees towards the Rio San Antonio. I could feel the sun get more intense as I approached the bottom of the descent and I wanted to find a place to camp, but, I knew I had to keep riding and so I did. I crossed the Rio San Antonio and turned off of FR 87 and onto FR 133. A couple miles later I met a guy driving back from a bike ride. I asked him what the closest town was, he told me about Tres Piedras and offered to take me there for some real food and a night of good rest.

Logistically, though getting back to the route from that point would have been too hard, so I decided to continue another 11 miles or so and try and hitch into Tres Piedras from highway 64. I really needed food and I needed some real rest, but I couldn’t put myself in a situation where returning to the route would be difficult. I kept riding, as I rode I felt so lonely, so tired, so defeated. When I got to Cisneros Park I could see the mountains of Colorado and that only made me feel more lonely. I missed my friends. I missed connecting to people and laughing and missed having days where I wasn’t on my bike. I followed FR 133 passed a dry Beehive Spring and began descending into Little Tusas Creek. The cows seemed to be amused by me, they were very vocal as I rode by. A short time later I got to highway 64, walked to the other side of the road and stuck my thumb out. I was going into Tres Piedras for the night. I had ridden only 44 miles that day, but for my body it felt like 100. The traffic was slow on highway 64 and the day was quickly ending. I didn’t want to be on the side of a highway when it got dark. A few cars went by and then the same guy I had met earlier that day pulled over. Unfortunately, my bike tires were too big to fit on his rack, but him and his friends flagged down a truck and I finally told got a ride into town. They dropped me off at the only restaurant in town. I ran in and found out they were closed, I was bummed. I secured a room for the night there at the motel and I bought a handful of goodies they had at the bar. The lady who runs the place stopped me before I left and asked me what I wanted to eat. She knew about bikers on the divide and she stayed late to cook me some food. She also told me to come back in the morning for breakfast. After a nice full dinner, I went to my room to unwind and eat all the goodies I had bought. I sat on the bed and ate for almost an hour and a half straight. It was like I was garbage disposal, I just kept shoving food in my mouth. I was able to really relax and get some good warm sleep and that made a giant difference. I slept in, I didn’t rush back on my bike in the morning. I stayed for breakfast and bought more snacks to take with me. I left around 11 and started to hitch back to where I had gotten off the route the night before. It was amazing how one night with lots and I mean lots of food completely turned me around. It was just what I needed.

Del Norte, CO into New Mexico on the Great Divide!

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…..

Sargents, CO to Del Norte, CO on the Great Divide!

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…

Salida, CO to Sargents, CO on the Great Divide!

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.

Breakfast in Salida!

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.

Hartsel, CO into Salida, CO on the Great Divide!

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…..