Tent site – tent site
24.3 miles. 5282ft up 6481ft down
I was up and out early again this morning. More hours equals more miles and earlier equals less heat. Well, that’s what I thought anyway. I got about 10 minutes of shade until the sun came up over the mountains. And it was already hot at 6:30am. There were very windy switchbacks and a few snow fields to cross to get to the top of the climb. One way with the sun on your back, the next with the sun in your face.
I’m moving with the speed, style and grace of a snail today. My pack feels heavy and uncomfortable. It’s difficult to move forwards. I crept up the climb and covered only 1.7 miles in an hour. I stopped for water a few times because I’m breathing (heavily) through my mouth and that makes you more dehydrated. I try to breathe through my nose but it never lasts long. But I was glad it only took me an hour to get to the top! When I got there I dumped my pack and ran (yes ran!) up the little nobble to see if I could get a good 360 view. This walking thing is so easy when you have nothing on your back. (Note to future hikers – it’s probably not worth running up the nobble).
I have a terrible feeling in my stomach today which is manifesting itself as stinky wind, there is always a danger that a little more than wind will be released. I am surprised it’s waited this long, I’m sure the stinky wind was a problem long before this last year.
The descent on the other side provided a little relief from the sun and I found myself in the Marmots playground. They were all over, scurrying about. I played a little game with myself to see how far I could creep up on them before they ran away. I got pretty close to one. They are funny creatures. Not really built for running but they move fast nonetheless. They also whistle to each other a lot.
I came across Gringo and Skippy, two nobos who told me they were numbers 4 & 5 to get all the way through this summer. They screamed thru-hiker. Tiny bodies, tiny packs and tiny shorts. One had his shoe held together with duck tape. They said they were ‘slowing down’ through Washington but I think they are still doing 30 mile days. They were a nice couple of boys.
Most of the morning was a nice gentle descent, although I still couldn’t manage more than 2 mph. I was strolling today.
The descent wasn’t nice and quick and easy this time because the trail is basically a ditch and it’s really difficult to walk in. There are rocks and wet slippy bits in the way, hence the slow pace.
I take a break for water and realise I haven’t been tightening my compression straps on my bag as the contents was getting less. I tightened it all up and the bag felt so much better. I finally felt like I could get moving. I was walking along looking at the breathtaking views all around me. Loving that the trail was in high open plains with no bush around. I had dry feet and 9 miles under my belt. I put my iPod on and Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell were telling me there ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough and ain’t no river wide enough. I was in good spirits. I felt on top of the world. I was in a world of daydream where I was concocting little videos.
Then I met a group of about 7 people and ‘the man at the back’ was from the Midlands. They asked me a bunch of the usual questions and as they moved on past they all wished me luck and safe travels and the ‘man at the back’ said ‘I hope you find what you’re looking for’.
And it hit me like a slap in the face. What am I looking for? Am I supposed to be looking for something? Why do I have to be looking for something? Is everyone looking for something? Is that the only possible reason anyone could be doing this, to find something? Should I be trying to ‘find myself’?
I cried. Not because I care what other people think about me, they can think what they like. But I cried because maybe I don’t know why I’m doing this. Does there have to be a reason? What am I trying to achieve by doing this? Do I have to be trying to achieve something?
I thought about it. I’m not looking for anything.
I am trying to lose something. I’m trying to lose the deep rooted sadness that’s taken up residence in my core. It’s easy to pretend on the outside that you’re happy, and I’m not by any means unhappy in the grand scheme of things, but there is this sadness that I’m trying to shake. I’m mostly trying to live in the moment. Why can’t people be more embracing of the present. There is no point dwelling on the past and there is no point worrying about the future, although I do both of those things.
I was well and truly in my present moment with Marvin and Tammi, and when I put my headphones back in it had changed to Morrissey. That alone is enough to make anyone cry. As I was snivelling my way down the trail the next song was Mr Brightside by the Killers. (This is our song – mine and my friends). I had an overwhelming urge to just dance, so I did. (Well I pressed pause, carried on down the trail, double checked and triple checked there was no one around to see me, in that spontaneous / planned kind of way), I danced like a loony and in that moment my friends were there with me dancing like loonies too. And I danced until I could hardly breathe. Lost in the present.
The trail continued to go up and down and I continued on at 2mph. There was little shade and the sun was constantly on the trail. The humidity was zapping my energy.
I came across two people lying down, I thought they were sleeping and nearly just hiked on by, but I had a chat with Pilot and Weak Ankles and he goes ‘wait I know you’. I follow you on Instagram. Nice guy.
I stopped and had an incredibly un-relaxing lunch break by Lake Sally Ann. I gobbled some tuna and Cheetos while swatting away the mozzies and flies.
As I was collecting water I met Charlie Horse, he hiked north last year but apparently Washington was totally unhikeable so he’s back to finish up. There are lots of them doing the same thing according to him. I didn’t let on to Mr Horse that I had hiked Washington last year, all of it.
It is so so hot. I take a quick break in the shade and take off my shoes. My socks are wet and my feet are white on the balls and heels. I need my hard hiker feet back. These ones are too soft and weak. I let them dry out a bit and I change my socks. A nice couple come by and have a chat. I would like to sit for longer but I can’t stand the bugs.
I carry on and come across some really bad blowdowns. It looked like mass destruction. There is a trail in there somewhere.
Now 17 miles in I took an unplanned break by a stream. Have I mentioned how hot it is? I washed my hands and face which just felt heavenly. I drank the lovely icy cold water and a dude comes along and says ‘you’re difficult to catch!’ He is Broken Toe, nobo class of 2013 and now going south. He has been hearing a lot about me up the trail ‘there’s this British girl ahead of you who is also wearing neon’. He’s met all my mates up the trail (and he didn’t mention Jackie, but Dan is still hiking. Whoop!). It was really nice to chat to him, it felt like the meaningful friend making of the northbound days, not just passing ships. We discussed the awkwardness of having to pretend you haven’t hiked the trail before to someone who is giving out loads of advice.
Broken Toe has one of the smallest packs I’ve ever seen. He has no spare clothes. No rain gear. He sleeps under a tarp. And he is carrying a mountain house dinner, a packet of tuna and a single serve nut butter to last him 2 days – not by choice, by poor judgement! He wants to complete the trail in 90 days. We hiked out together, he seemed to think I could keep up, I couldn’t, but I tried and conversation was difficult what with the whole trying to breathe thing. We spoke about New Zealand and I asked if he had met Alex the Kiwi up the trail. He said no but his real name is Alex, he didn’t believe me when I told him that was my name too!
He said he was hiking again because since 2013 he has woken up thinking about the trail every day. It’s like coming home. He feels free, he feels alive.
I know what he means.
We met Zipper and Blue Diver heading north. Broken Toe carried on and I was glad to stop to chat for a rest. I’m pretty sure that will be the last time I see him!
I saw some trail crew – Claire and Chilli Dog (class of 2011). Chilli Dog shouts ‘hey Puff Puff!’. I like it when that happens. They were asking me about the amount of blowdowns up the trail and I was asking them what it’s like to be trail crew and how I would like to do it one day. All the while we were all doing a little bug dance because there were gazillions of them. I added to my bite count significantly during that short exchange.
I suddenly became very hungry. I was out of cheeto power. So I stopped for a while, ate the last of my Cheetos and took off my shoes. My feet are so sore. I rested until I could stand the bugs no more. Some of the little f**kers managed to draw blood so I have some blood smears down my top to go with all the dirt. This is my sleeve after wiping my face with it for a couple of days. (Spot my little ‘friend’?)
I’m not sure what this photo is about, but I’m obviously happy now…
I made it to Pear lake and collected 2 litres of water, for the next 8 miles is dry (according to a northbounder) thankfully it was 1.4 miles downhill to where I wanted to camp. I got worried that Broken Toe might have decided to camp there and it says space for one tent. When I got there it was empty. Which means I’m camping on my own again. The mosquitos were all over me as soon as I stopped so I again threw up my tent and took cover inside. I led down and my legs and feet started throbbing. All consuming pain. I tried lying with my legs in the air. It helped slightly.
I eat my dinner. A mountain house chilli con carne and 3 bits of my rationed chocolate. I have very little food left for tomorrow, but only 17 miles to Stevens pass and the promise of real food.
What a day. A roller coaster of ups and downs.
As I lie here typing this, something comes crashing through the forest by my tent. Oh my god. It’s dark so I grab my torch and look outside. I don’t see anything. I really hope it was a deer. I’m not sure how well I will sleep tonight.
It must have been a deer.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.