My Covid isolation room: A queen size bed, a small table, a bathroom and a kitchenette. A bitter end after 4600 km of freedom on the CDT thru-hike from Mexico to Canada.
On September 14th I reached the Canadian border. On foot I hiked from the Mexican border through the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. An unforgettable adventure that became a beloved lifestyle for a good four months.
Endless expanses, mountains, nature and freedom was my living space. My urge to move was satisfied, I hiked daily from sunrise to sunset. A paradise for me as a nature and sports loving loner.
The last five weeks after the trail, I was dogged by bad luck in the USA. From broken cars to cancelled flights to currently staying in my Covid isolation room. Flexibility, reorganisation, and waiting were at the forefront.
Yes, I tested Covid positive the day before my scheduled international flight to Sweden. My long-awaited trip home fell through and further reorganization was required. In Phoenix, Arizona I booked a small studio.
After grocery shopping at the nearest supermarket, I settled into my covid isolation room.
I spent the first few days mainly sleeping. Fever and aching limbs plagued me. I did not touch my groceries in the refrigerator. I was neither hungry nor had a sense of taste.
In the meantime, my spirits reawakened. I am still weak, tired and without a sense of taste, but otherwise healthy. But being cooped up in my covid isolation room and the lack of exercise stresses me out.
The days are long. Writing, reading and doing chores is the only thing I can do. I am really grateful to Chris, a friend from Tucson, who brought all my belongings and computer up to me.
As a solitude loving person, I was anxious to see if I could handle being alone now. Sick, locked up and far away from my own home. And last but not least this covid isolation room is in the middle of a big city! It is a new situation.
After almost 10 days I now know that I like to be alone even without nature, exercise and health. I am feeling very comfortable with myself. Nevertheless, I am grateful to all my friends from near and far for the many calls and messages. Thank you! This warms!
Being secluded in a covid isolation room abroad is not easy. I am grateful to face it now and not as a bit dreaded before my entry into the US in May.
As countdown to my trip home, I post daily photos with corresponding short stories from the CDT Trail on Instagram. I enjoy “reliving” the intense moments from the trail this way. Down here are some that have appeared so far.
If you want to stay tuned, you can find a new one every day on my Instagram account. Welcome to join!
Covid isolation room – countdown #1
May 7, 2021 – Chief Mountain, the official Continental Divide Trail start point south of Lordsburg. It was just after noon, the beginning of the hottest time in the desert. A bad time to start a desert trail. The sun was burning down on me.
I didn’t care and started to walk. One foot in front of the other…
After a few steps I came across the first trail marker. Unexpectedly tears ran down my cheeks. First a few single ones, then uncontrollable whole streams… I couldn’t get the flowing water under control! This was a waste of vital liquid in the desert!
At the end of March 2021, I decided to tackle the trip despite the pandemic. Nevertheless, I didn’t really believe that I would reach the starting point of the CDT. The obstacles were many and high. Among others, 2 weeks of quarantine in Mexico before entering the USA.
With that, of course, the risk of actually still being infected there and not passing the PCR test required before the flight.
Yes, the waste of body liquids was tears of happiness! I made it and was there! I actually managed to start the CDT 2021! It felt like I had cleared the biggest hurdle! I cried and laughed all the tension from the past few weeks off my chest.
The fact that the same pandemic could throw my travel plans after the trail out of whack didn’t really matter to me at the time. Gratefully I think back to it now with my “Cov-19 positive” and will calmly sit out the coming days in my isolation.
Covid isolation room – countdown #2
May 26, 2021, day 20. When I awoke in the morning, my whole body felt like lead. With each breath I felt a painful gurgling on my lungs. Yes, I think Nita was right, I should not hike out today but undergo her therapy.
During the first days on the CDT I caught a cold. Not badly, but hiking in the dry air made everything worse. The Gila River Canyon, with the hundreds of river crossings and wet, cold feet let the barrel overflow.
My cough sounded bad and hurt throughout my body. I became really sick. But I hiked on, gasping for breath. Eventually it would go away.
With a burning lung and aching body I reached Nita’s Toaster House in Pietown. Soon she said gruffly, “No, you’re not moving on tomorrow! I’ll bring you Mullein Leifs to inhale and drink!”
Yes, the zero day and Nita’s treatment were a blessing. However, I did not want to follow her instructions to stay longer. So she put some Mullein Leifs in my pocket and I moved on the next morning.
A week later in Grants I was flat again. I could not move on. Hopefully, I stormed a drugstore and bought some medicine. The next day I spent in bed and swallowed all these various things.
The next day the main route of the CDT passed Mt. Taylor. I chose the short alternative over the mountain. I love mountains and felt a little better too. This chemical cocktail seemed to help.
The higher I climbed the foggier it got in my head. The dizzy feeling did not leave me even after the descent. A few “pills later” I realized that these were responsible. Wow, I got high! Of course I stopped this therapy immediately.
Only in Chama, the getaway to Colorado and the San Juan mountains I felt 100% fit again. And in Wyoming, a few 100 miles later as well the cough said goodbye.
Covid isolation room – countdown #3
I felt the bubbling wet flow pleasantly through my body. The sugar sweetened the overwhelming experience additionally. Without thinking, I drank the whole can at once. I judged my situation to be an emergency and allowed myself a second one!
The Chihuahuan desert in New Mexico is barren and dry. Natural watering holes are few and far between. I had to rely on cow ponds and water caches (placed water by 3rd parties).
The water in the caches is top quality, just warm due to sun exposure. Cow ponds are of less quality. If you were lucky, these had windmills pumping up spring water. But the Ponds were vital for the cows as well as me.
Precise water planning was important! I didn’t want to carry too much. But too little became life threatening. South of Grants, I filled my containers at a cow pond to make the distance to the next.
With 4 liters of “fresh” water in my pack, I trudged off. After a few miles, some wet ran down my right leg. Adrenaline shot through my entire body! I could feel the disaster! Because I had not peed I knew!
In fact, my 2 liter water bubble burst in my backpack. That everything was wet did not bother me. But I had only 1 liter left for 15 miles in the desert! Scary… Just don’t waste time. Move on.
I rarely allowed myself small sips of my remaining water.
With each mile, I became more nervous. The situation was serious. I was getting really thirsty. I saw a road on the map a few miles before the pond. A dirt road with little traffic. So probably hopeless to get water by hitchhiking.
My dry throat ached and my cold plagued me. I should soon approach the road. I did not give up the hope of meeting a car and listened early for any noises. Except for the wind I heard nothing.
Then a post with a sign appeared behind the bushes. I was on the road. Still no sign of a car. But then – I could not believe my eyes or my judgment. Hesitantly I tried to touch the mirage next to the post.
Unbelievable but true! There were several full cans of Dr. Peppers on the ground! Cheers! Real Trail Magic is when a hiker seriously needs it! Thank you Trail Angel!
Covid isolation room – countdown #4
I could not stand it any longer. Rubbing the legs did not help anymore. Scratching the places bloody alleviated the itching only for a few seconds. I could hardly hear the music in my ears. I just wanted to scream.
Without point and comma I turned around my own axis like a sausage on the roll grill. Please let this end soon!
For the first time I discovered the stings in Cuba. They looked like mosquito bites, but intensely deep red. None of them itched. But they were countless and all on the same leg. This mosquito did a good job….
With each passing day, the itch became stronger. First under the quilt at night. Later also during the lunch stops. These could not be simple mosquitoes. I faintly remember sand flies from my trip to Australia…
I wondered if this was the same thing? In any case, there was tons of sand in New Mexico.
Soon I was plagued with bites while hiking. I kept scratching with my shoes until I fell flat on the trail. Ouch! Keeping my leg wet brought momentary relief. But water was scarce anyway!
Late in the evening I pitched the tent and hoped to be tired enough to sleep. I soaked the long underpants in water and lay down on the sleeping mat. Indeed, I fell asleep briefly. But the pleasure was short.
I awoke kicking, glowing all over my body and the sleeping mat bloody.
Sleep was no longer to think of. I stuffed my music into my ears and increased the volume to max. Rolling, scratching and sweating I moaned to myself… should I better move on? No, this would be too much for my knee. I will have to endure this. But the night did not allow me to sleep again.
Fortunately it was the last one before the next resupply stop.
In 99% of my town-stops fresh good Kafffe was always the first treat. In Chama, however, I got myself some anti-itch cream before I could even think about coffee. The grease brought immediate relief. What a comfort!
In America, besides everything else, even the effect of the remedies is greater!
Covid isolation room – countdown #5
Shortly after the San Juan Mountains in southern Colorado we reached the first big milestone. 1000 miles (1610 km) hiked. Thunderstorms were in the air but our spirits were high.
One third of the Continental Divide Trail was already behind us!
The clouds in the sky were getting darker and the rumbling thunderstorm was approaching. Real fast, I marched through the open terrain to reach a safe forest. Unwillingly I was exposed to the danger of striking lightning.
Little did I know at this point that this was about to get much more intense in the Colorado mountains!
Forest did appear ahead of me… only a few hundred feet to the protection. A strange noise became louder and louder. I looked around questioningly as it started to patter. The rain turned into hail!
I ran the last meters to a protecting tree, put down my backpack and looked for protective clothing. The hailstones became bigger. Some reached the size of eggs.
Bending over the backpack and sticking out my most valuable rear end, one such egg caught me. Ouch! The thin shorts did not weaken the bulge.
Hastily I pulled my clothes over and sat down under the protective tree.
A bruised, somewhat sore spot on my butt reminded me for a few more days that I had already hiked 1000 miles on my way to Canada! And once again… everything’s bigger in America!
Covid isolation room – countdown #6
I lay in my tent and listened to the patter of the rain. The good Lord poured whole buckets over me. I saw the lightning even through my tent wall. The simultaneous thunder was deafening! The storm was still directly over my head!
Early in the morning, I pulled out of my camp to get many miles in before the thunderstorm would move in on me. The sky was steel blue and the sun was blazing. Hard to imagine that a storm was about to roll in. But I knew better.
The first clouds were gathering in the sky. Already? I HAD to make it over the next ridge before it all came crashing down on me. But actually, I already knew I wasn’t going to make it.
Exposing yourself in thunderstorms can be life threatening. In mountainous landscapes, it’s a big challenge. Safety thoughts alternated with a comment I read, “A CDT thru-hiker doesn’t have time to stop for thunderstorms.” True!
I reached the tree line. The song “should I go or should I stay” settled in my mind.
I trudged on. The sky was dark and the first rumble was audible. The hunt against time began. In the distance I saw the first lightning and cut some switchbacks. The ridge welcomed me with the first big raindrops.
But the thunderstorm was still some distance away. I moved on. The dark sky became black, the lightning more intense and the thunder loud and direct. My race against time was futile.
The electrically charged air made my hairs stand up. A flash of lightning and horrible thunder at the same time, I was already in the center of the storm.
I ran down the slope. The lashing rain on my face didn’t bother me. The stony slope trembled (as well as my legs!) under the next thunder. Frightened, I almost wet my pants.
A little to the east of me I saw a group of trees. I hurried there and saw a forest. My heart was pounding, only a few more 100 meters!
I pitched my tent and crawled to safety, soaking wet. Two hours later the spook was over and a wonderful after thunderstorm atmosphere accompanied my renewed ascent.
Colorado is known for its many thunderstorms. Born and raised in Switzerland, I thought I knew a bit about this phenomenon. But oh, also thunderstorms are bigger in America!