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“Really?  Thank God!”  You land at the trail head after a seriously steep serpentine and even though you knew you were nearing the end of the trail, it seems sudden nonetheless.  Finishing up a 16 miler requires adjustment.  You stretch on the rail leading to the bridge.  Others are standing on it taking pictures, so you drift down to the river itself.  The shallow torrent is as cold as it is clear, and you proceed to souse your head.  You feel the mountain water cleanse layers of sweat soaked sunscreen from your face and scalp.  This river bath is the ultimate cool down.

Refreshed, you join A Lo Hawk sitting on the river bank.  A Lo Hawk notes you completed the 16 mile trail in under three and a half hours.  You’re not quite completing full sentences yet and mumble a response.  You are ready now to eat your sandwich.  You take a couple of bites, but it’s stale so you decide to save your appetite for a more formal lunch.  The two of you reach consensus that you’ll stop at the first place you pass on the ride back that appears open.  You sit long enough for your heart rate to calm down, and you think about returning to this trail head in two weeks to begin the second segment of the CT.  You remove your socks and shoes, showing A Lo Hawk your splintered toe nail.  He’s impressed by this but then you admit it was already cracked before slamming it into that rock a few minutes earlier.  You’re both really hungry so you get in the car and leave without ceremony.  You chat during the drive about other occurrences  that drift back to memory.  Most notably, you’re both amazed you just completed 16 miles without running into a single hiker.  What are the odds of that?  Enchanted forest indeed.  The parking lot was fairly full at the ending trail head, so where is everyone?

Sprucewood Inn on Hwy 67 at the intersection of Pine Creek Road is the first place and there is no question about it being open.  A dozen vehicles are parked outside.  You enter with the expectation of it being the best restaurant ever because the sign said beer and you are thirsty.  There’s outdoor seating, a beer garden of sorts, and you decide that’s where you’ll sit given the bright sunshine and unseasonably warm weather.  The bartender says you’ll need to order from the bar as she is too busy to wait on patrons sitting outside.  That’s fine.  You order a bottled beer – there is no tap – water, and the green chili.  A Lo Hawk orders the same beer and a burrito.

You sit outside with your beer and water and appreciate what a fantastic trail run you just completed, what an incredible day it is, and how fortunate you are to have shared this experience with a good friend.  You recall the trail chat you had on tattoos.  A Lo Hawk commemorated his PCT and AT hikes with specific designs around his ankles.  For the first time ever, you could see yourself doing something similar if you were to complete the entire CT from Denver to Durango.  It’s not likely you’ll complete the entire trail, but it doesn’t hurt to think about it.

The bartender brings out your food and you dig in.  You’re reminded of the scene in Once Upon a Time in Mexico where Johnny Depp eats the best puerco pibil he’s ever had, and he’s compelled to go into the kitchen to shoot the chef dead.  Good movie.  This is absolutely the best green chili you ever ate.  Hands down the best, and you’ve eaten some good shit.  The neighborhood’s annual chili cook-off has produced some outrageous green chili.  Your friend Dave, raised in New Mexico, makes some tasty green chili with lamb and pork seasoned in bacon.  But this is the best in the world.  And it’s located 10 miles west of Sedalia.  The Sprucewood Inn is worth a return visit.  And so is the Colorado Trail.