7th September 2019
VVR – Virginia lake
14.4 miles (12.9 trail + 1.5 side trail)
Total miles: 164.3

It was my birthday today. 37 years old.

We hadn’t had any cell service for the last 7 days and I didn’t think we would get any today either. I knew there was some AT&T service on Bear Ridge, but by coming into VVR south of that and rejoining the trail north of it I assumed I had missed my chance. 

We didn’t have to rush this morning because we were getting the ferry across the lake to rejoin the trail. $13 for a one way ride and we had done more than enough bonus miles already. Breakfast was at 7am and I got a breakfast sandwich. Egg, bacon and cheese in an English muffin. I’m still not that keen on the American breakfast, but that could be one thing I really miss about the AT north of New York, the egg and hash brown sandwich with red sauce. They know how to do it right there! 

I went to settle up my bill ($58) and to talk to the love of my life Dave about the weather forecast. I heard him saying there was AT&T service across the other side of the lake where we would be dropped off. Great! That meant I could get a message to my parents, let them know I’m still alive and then hopefully get a few birthday wishes! He also told me that the weather could to drop by about 10 degrees due to a low pressure moving in. 

There were enough of us waiting for the ferry that he left early, only to have to turn back just after we set off because a girl had left her phone plugged in. I was chatting to a nice Aussie guy who seemed surprised that I had managed to cycle through Australia! 


The lake journey was a lot longer than I remembered it being in 2015, but there is more water on in it this year, last time we had to walk quite a long way down across the rocks and sand. Sure enough I got some cell service. There wasn’t enough time to read all the messages and reply to everyone so I sent a random few and posted to Instagram and Facebook just so everyone knew I was still alive! 

I had told Catwater already that I wanted to message my parents as they hadn’t heard from me for 7 days and they would probably start to panic. I didn’t tell her it was my birthday, I didn’t want her to feel the pressure of having to do something for it. And when we were discussing my age back in Independence I remember telling her that I was going to be 37 a week today. Maybe she didn’t hear me. 

I was stood on the shore trying to send a text and she said to me that she was going to find a tree because she needed to pee and it looked like I needed some more time. I was literally 5 minutes and then I went to look for her. I shouted her name three times and didn’t get any reply. I waited at the official ferry point as I thought she might come down from the trees. I asked everyone who was left milling about. No one has seen her. So all I could do now was walk up the 1.5 side trail which takes you back to the main JMT and hope that she might be there somewhere waiting. I kept stopping, wondering whether to go back incase she was waiting somewhere, but in the end I decided to carry on and if she wasn’t there I would wait for her at the junction. 

When I got there she was sat there waiting. I was a bit pissed off to be honest. There was two things she could have done. 1. Told me she was going to hike up and wait by the trail junction, or 2. just have waited for me at the lake. As it was I was left guessing. She said there must have been a miscommunication.

She hiked on in front of me and I stuck in my earphones. I was feeling emotional. I needed a distraction. Catwater doesn’t hike slow, normally I can only just keep up with her, but I had emotion rattling around inside me which always makes me hike really fast so I was itching to get ahead. When she stopped for water I carried on. I didn’t say anything because I was a bit annoyed, but I thought a bit of time apart would be good for both of us, I would wait for her at the pass and everything would be ok. 

I hiked as fast as I could. My heart was pounding and I was making my lungs burn for air. My legs were pumping and the steep switchbacks were giving me a beating. Override emotional pain with a physical one. That was the game plan. Replace emotional stress with physical stress. I remembered this pass and I just wanted to attack it. I wanted to get it all out and start the day again as though this morning never happened


I got to the top and I got a cheery wave and a greeting from Jeff and Christine. I told them it was my birthday. Jeff said his was tomorrow. The each gave me a big hug and I felt better. I made them promise not to say anything about it being my birthday. I sat and chatted with them for about 20 minutes before Catwater arrived. She looked like she was just about to walk straight on by. Jeff called her over. She didn’t want to stop as there was another 0.2 to the top, but this was the pass. She asked if I was still mad with her and I said no. She apologised and offered me a Mars Bar but it didn’t want it, weirdly I didn’t feel like eating chocolate, I should have just accepted it. She came and sat down and I thought that was the end of our little disagreement. 

I wasn’t.


She got up and hiked on ahead and went to the overlook, I waited for her at the crest of the trail and that’s where it all went a bit tits up. She accused me of not accepting her apology and a whole bunch of things got said which culminated in her walking off down the trail.

There was talk of going our separate ways and when she just walked away I felt a bit like I had been sucker punched. Growler part two. Well, if we were about to part ways I wasn’t going to let her just walk away without talking about it so I went after her.

She told me “I’m not going to waste my life on someone being annoyed with me”. I tried to reason with her, haven’t you ever just need a moment? Needed a couple of hours to walk it off? Haven’t you ever just needed to take a minute, have a word with yourself, calm yourself down and return to the situation with a better outlook. She agreed.

She told me that she hated me hiking behind her, it was different that 2016 when we hiked together. We would spend all day solo and just meet up for breaks. But in 2016 we hiked about 1700 miles together. This time I had come to hike with her and we were only out here for a couple of weeks. I felt so sad that she must have hated that day when we hiked together up to Muir Pass, and yet it was one of my favourite days on trail. 

Up until Muir pass I was always quite far behind, after Muir something kicked in and I found my trail legs. Now I can keep up with her if I’m behind and when I’m in front I seem to go faster. She doesn’t like it. 

I explained that I thought it would be nice to spend more time hiking together. It has given us the opportunity to have more conversations. We’ve spoken about music and films and politics and history and travel and relationships and people and all sorts. We have probably had more conversations than we had in the whole of 2016! I was enjoying it, I thought she was too. But she said having me behind her made her feel old and slow. In 2016 she said I made her feel old and slow because she was always behind me. I was trying my best to not make her feel old and slow and somehow that’s exactly what I’ve done. 

What am I supposed to do? I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

She said she told me she didn’t like being in the lead, but Catwater is one of the most forthright and brutally honest people I know, and she wasn’t forthright and honest about this, she turned her nose up a few times about being in the lead but I didn’t think it was anything that serious. I thought it was more of a ‘you have to clean the kitchen but you don’t really want to’ kind of feeling, rather than ‘you’ve been told you have to shoot someone but you really don’t want to’ kind of feeling. 

She said she feels like she is slowing me down, but I haven’t come out here to hike hundreds of miles a day on my own as quick as I can. I’ve been there, done that. I’ve come out here to spend time with a person I love in a place I love and I didn’t see how getting somewhere half an hour before the other one is going to enhance my hike. Either I hike fractionally slower than I am capable of and we stay together or I sit for a while on the side of the trail getting cold and eaten by mosquitoes. 

I cried. I hate confrontation. I hate arguing. And when I get angry about something I cry. This whole situation seemed so ridiculous. I told her it was my birthday and explained the situation and about why I didn’t tell her. She said I should have told her and I said I did, twice when this argument first started on the pass, but she didn’t respond so I honestly started to think that she just didn’t give a shit!

Even though it’s only another day, and I haven’t been away for that long, it still makes you feel the distance from your loved ones. And this person, whom I think of as family is about to walk away from me.

Here I am
Crying (I said there would be no tears on this trail!)
Far away from home
Arguing in the middle of nowhere.

The whole situation was ridiculous. It should have never got to the point it did. We both made something big out of something small.

Somehow we managed to talk it out and we reasoned with each other and hugged and said I love you and carried on down the trail, somehow hanging on to our hiking partnership. 

Now what was I supposed to do? Hike behind her and make her feel old and slow or go ahead and make her feel old and slow??

The dynamic had changed and I don’t know if things will ever be the same again. The thing is, on the uphill I can just keep up with her, on the downhill I am faster, but even when she is behind me on the up after about 3 minutes of hiking I turn around and she has disappeared. I don’t understand where she goes!


We tried to figure out where to camp, she says she has been making all the decisions, but Catwater is not only the alpha female she is the alpha male too. She out alphas everyone. She does what she wants to do so I feel like my opinion wouldn’t really matter that much. I am more than happy to take the lead when required, but in this instance, I was happy to let her decide the campsites. She’s done this trail 7 times, she knows it. She knows where she wants to camp and I had no complaints. I was just happy to be out here with a friend in an awesome place. 

So I cried for pretty much 2 hours straight. I just couldn’t stop it falling from my face. Annoyed that my freshly washed bandana was now covered in snot and my nicely healed nose was now red and sore again. I hiked with my sunglasses on even though it wasn’t sunny to try and pretend to the people passing me that I hadn’t been crying. 

It was awkward to know what to do. Where to be in relation to Catwater. She said she was happy to lead but I made sure I hung back a bit. When she stopped to pee I carried on and would speed up on the downhill and wait for her. She found me filtering water before the last big uphill of the day. I hadn’t been very careful coming down and I’d rolled my ankle 3 times. Thankfully nothing came of it. 


I caught up with Christine and Jeff, I hadn’t told them anything about the days events, but people aren’t stupid and they can pick up on tension between people. She told me not to cry and of course that niceness made me cry again. By now my eyes were sore and my nose hurt where I kept wiping it. We had a big climb with so many switchbacks ahead. I kept behind Christine and Jeff, I could have gone faster but they were keeping a nice pace. The climb went on forever and it was worse than I remember it being in 2015, and that’s really saying something because that was when we were caught in a storm. 

I waited for Catwater at the top of the climb. Aside from breakfast all I had eaten today was an oat bar and a handful of skittles, but I wasn’t really that hungry. I’m glad I didn’t pick up more food in VVR, I’m already carrying too much. 


It was starting to get really cold. Dave was right about the drop in temperature. We crossed the lake and found somewhere to pitch our tents. I like being close by, Catwater likes being far apart. Another thing we disagree on! It was awkward. Where should I go. In the end she said she didn’t mind us being close together. I didn’t know if she really meant that or she was just saying it because she felt bad that it was my birthday and it had been a pretty shitty day. 

I got everything done and in my tent as quick as I could to try to warm up. My Backpackers Pantry meal I bought from VVR was disgusting. I should have known. I’ve never had a good Backpackers Pantry meal. I must stop trying them. I ate as much as I could of it but I just couldn’t finish it. I didn’t even want to eat a chocolate biscuit…I must be coming down with something!

I have treated myself to a hot water bottle tonight. Birthday treat. 


Tomorrow I’m sure I’m going to look like I’ve done 5 rounds with Mike Tyson. Swollen and puffy. I’m apprehensive about the dynamic tomorrow. Even if we hike together I don’t think we will have the same lighthearted conversation, which means we will have to hike apart otherwise it will be awkward. 

Sometimes I think it would be easier to not have any friends at all, that way there is no one to fall out with, no one to offend, no sadness, no upset. 

The annoying thing is that the thing that caused all this seemed to be the cell service at the lake, if it was wasn’t my birthday I wouldn’t have even switched the damn thing on! 

Tomorrow is a new day.

Adventure with purpose.

785 million people globally don't have access to clean water. That's 1 in 10 people. In 2020 this is not ok.

I fundraise for Just a Drop in the hope that if I walk thousands of miles for clean water then the people who need to won’t have to. Find out more


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