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Day 39: 9/1/17 Rocky Mountain National Park and all kinds of happiness in Grand Lake, CO

Miles: 25 Steps: 54,434 Vertical gain: Strava knows Liquid consumed: 170 oz Wildlife: Two pairs of mom and baby Moose, deer, horses Faith in Humanity: Lots today!! Kirk and Christina Harstead are so awesome! Not only did I make friends with a cool couple, they hooked up so much trail magic and awesomeness. Seriously, so cool. Story below. Also, a couple I saw on trail within like 30 seconds of meeting me told me their full hiking itinerary and invited me to camp with them if I had trouble securing a permit for the park. Thanks! Wow, what a day. I know I have tendencies to be positive about days even when they are extremely challenging, etc. but today was awesome. So awesome. Seriously for real awesome. First up: hiking. Who would have thought? Ended up hiking with Jack quite a bit for the first 10 miles or so. Atop breathtaking Bowen Pass we called and reserved hostel rooms for the evening, worried they might fill up due to this being Labor Day weekend. We parted ways as I was trying to make the permit office in Rocky Mountain National Park and he was on a more relaxed pace for the day. Great hiking with you Jack! Down down down the trail went, through the Never Summer wilderness and entering my 3rd National Park!!!! 44 to go. Feels great. It's fun to Walk The Parks!!! Right off the bat I saw a mom Moose and the day hiker ahead of me really seemed to agitate her by taking photos fairly close. As I passed she was moving around and seemed quite upset, I made it through though, saw the cute baby Moose and moved on with my day... Big, open, scenic meadows set the scene for my walk to the permit office. And when I got there around 3:45pm? Slim pickings! The ranger Spencer really helped me out though and proposed a bushwhack cross country route over the Divide. Haha, that's completely unexpected at a national park backcountry office! But thank you! I'm sure I'll be quite an adventure! Permit booked for Sat and Sunday nights in Rocky Mountain National Park!!! Ok next up: errands. To the outfitter in town to rent a bear canister, grocery store for some soda and chocolate milk and supplies for the next few days, then finally: the hostel. The Shadowbrook Hostel in Grand Lake, CO is for sure one of the nicest I've ever stayed at! Huge cabin style building on a cliff overlooking the lake, mountains and a stream. And there were several pretty girls working there... Very cool! I was on a mission: check in and take a shower and go get food! 25 miles, permit office, laundry, grocery store, hostel, I was pretty tired at this point. I head over to the BBQ restaurant in town. It looked a bit expensive but I really needed to eat. First they sat me down at a table by myself and I noticed there was a bar. I figured the bar would be more social, so there I went! I sat down and immediately met Kirk, Tim, a really cool guy who's name I don't recall, and Christina, Kirks wife. I really like Kirk's method for introducing himself. He authoritatively announces: "Hello my name is Kirk what's your name" and throws out his hand for a handshake. I saw him do this in the hours that followed and we even talked about it briefly. Kirk and Christina are really amazing social butterflies, and I was so happy to be along for the ride. They shared some appetizers and we talked about my trip, their lives in Denver and for work, and got along really well! At the end, Kirk and Christina picked up my tab for dinner and beers! And invited me to go check out some other spots in town. Sure, why not? So off we went. I really don't drink often but I drank tonight! Haha, I wasn't a sloppy drunk or anything, but Christina and Kirk were really fun to hang out with so why not??? Christina, Kirk's beautiful wife, was really cool. She talked about how "Good people meet good people" and how there's a big difference between a nice person and a good person. Nice people can be fake but polite, good people may not always be the nicest, but they're good people. I think she's right! Oh I learned a new term taught to me by my new friends: Ankle Express as a term for walking. Walk The Parks, a long distance ankle express! I like it! Kirk said he has a bunch of drones and such too and wants to meet up in 2 weeks to try to make a video. Sounds awesome, I'm in! So really Christina and Kirk were super awesome. They paid for everything and were great and easy to talk to and I really feel like I made two new friends. Thanks for being so awesome! Haha, you guys were both so funny and fun to be around. Thanks for a great night! I headed back to the hostel really late, but rather than go to bed I stayed up until 1:30am chatting with a cool guy from Kentucky who was working at the hostel. He survived 2 crazy car accidents and described those as well as life in Kentucky. Sounds neat, I'm excited to spend a bit more time there. Also, today I was generally ultra excited! For the park, the town visit, the hostel, my new friends, everything! A busy but amazing day! Walk The Parks is so fun!

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