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Writing on the Colorado Trail

Last week I found myself faced with an avalanche of deadlines.  I wrapped up all the pieces, contracts, permissions, copyright listing, contents, bios, and intros for the next Nebula Awards Showcase, which I’m editing.  Brian Herbert and I wrapped up the back-and-forth expansion of our chapter outline for The Sisterhood of Dune; we’ve found that the more detail we put into our outlines, the smoother the writing process goes; altogether this outline is over 100 pages long (the novel itself will probably be 600 pages or so).

I also finished writing my chapters in the second Star Challengers book, while Rebecca, June Scobee Rodgers, and our proofer did a final check on the typesetting for the first Star Challengers novel, which debuted at GenCon this past weekend.  In the middle of this, the package of Hellhole galleys arrived from the UK publisher (with a 1-week turnaround), so I had to drop everything to read those.  And I needed to finish all of my revisions to the third and final Terra Incognita novel, The Key to Creation, for delivery to the publisher.

After all that, I needed a break—time to hike another section of the Colorado Trail.

I’ve been doing this legendary trail, piece by piece, with my brother- and sister-in-law, Tim and Diane.  Our next section was a four-hour drive away, near the city of Salida; I checked into a motel room near Amicas, my favorite pizza parlor and brewery restaurant in Salida, drove down after lunch, and checked in so I could do a little editing before dinner, then reading chapters in The Battle of Corrin, before an early night for an early start on the trail.

Tim and Diane got up at 4 AM and drove one of the cars down to the eastern end of the trail section, while I left Salida and drove to the western trailhead; we hiked in opposite directions.  This is one of the more isolated parts of the Colorado Trail, rolling through the Cochetopa Hills, tree-lined valleys and ridges.  When I parked my car at the remote trailhead, I was surprised to see a volunteer from the Colorado Trail Foundation, a “trail angel” who provides food, drinks, and supplies to through-hikers on the way down the trail.  He had been camped at the trailhead for 22 days already and had counted several hundred hikers.  (On the trail that day I encountered five backpackers who were very pleased to hear about the treat waiting for them at the trailhead.)

This segment is 18 miles, a long day, and I set out, glad to have time to relax, drink in the scenery, and mull over the new Dune book I was about to start writing.  The Sisterhood of Dune is set in a different time period from our other books, 80 years after the end of the Butlerian Jihad, so I still had some development to work out.  When I was ready, I dictated my first chapter in the book.  Four miles down the trail and on top of a ridge, about as far from civilization as I could get, my cell phone rang, and it was Brian Herbert, wanting to brainstorm details in the book.  Good timing, and we were able to work out several key details before I lost the signal.

I met up with Tim and Diane at about the halfway point.  We were all exhausted by then, and I had already applied three blister bandages, but we still had nine miles to go.  We paused, ate a quick lunch (mine was a by-now-smashed peanut butter & jelly); I grimaced my way through a warm Red Bull, and we set off again in opposite directions.

The clouds gathered and thunder rumbled, but the sky only threatened rain; the downpour held off for the remainder of the afternoon while I trudged the rest of the way down the endless trail.  At 5:30 PM I finally broke out of the trees and saw the beautiful sight of our SUV parked in the meadow at the end of the four-wheel-drive road.  I had stashed a change of shirt, socks, and shoes in the back, so I was able to freshen up before setting out for the four-hour drive home (starting with 15 miles down a 4WD road).  A long, exhausting, refreshing, and satisfying hike—and I did dictate five chapters in The Sisterhood of Dune.

Tim and Diane reached their end of the trail about an hour later and headed home.  We have now completed 351 miles (of 482) on the Colorado Trail.  I hope to hike another section or two before the end of the season.

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