This….is…thru-hiking

September 3, 2017, 9:47pm

PCT SOBO Mile 1141.5; 26 miles

Elevation; +1717 ft/-5506 ft

Today I hiked from Deadfall Lakes to Disappearing Creek. Today was a tough day. Today, I feel like a thru-hiker. I am writing in my tent with my keyboard because my pen ran out of ink. This isn’t so bad, actually. Maybe I need to blog this way, save paper, save weight. Today was hot, 85 in the shade. I took my lunch break early, at 12:15, and sat in the shade for an hour after retrieving water from a nearby spring where I had to go down a narrow 800 ft trail to collect. It was amazing water though, and I gulped down as much as I could at the source, but I should have gotten my clothes wet, too. All through this section there are wonderful pure, icy cold springs, and you can just fill your bottle and drink it straight up.

We had a lot of smoke today, too. Heat, smoke, lack of water for miles. Oh, and the rocks. Rocks everywhere. Then there was the afternoon descent, over 4,000 ft of it in one swoop. It’s funny to think how I climbed this last year, I don’t really recall that much. I think it’s because I tucked it into that category of “miserable” and left it there. Last year when I did this climb it was even hotter. Today was not miserable, but there were moments of it. I came to realize that those moments, making it through them, and keeping an upbeat attitude, still seeing the beauty, still appreciating being out here, are what make me a thru-hiker. I am here because I want to be. That, makes me a thru-hiker. 

Overheated, rationing water, breathing in smoke, dealing with pain and more pain, wondering why there is so much smoke here and why it seems to be getting worse….and then as if just on que, if I were Katness in The Hunger Games, just when I feel I can barely tolerate the next 4 miles down to camp, they throw those gnats in my face. I detest those gnats. There were so many of them, buzzing in my ears, flying right into my eyes, up my nose, and they would not go away. That is the test of tests. I would rather take mosquitoes any old day over those gnats, just sayin’. I fanned my face with my paper maps, but needed both hands to use my trekking poles to make it down the rocky slopes, the dilemma. This is thru-hiking.

My mind slips and slides all over the place, but keeps landing back on the idea of skipping ahead to the Sierras, and coming back here when the smoke is gone. I don’t like this smoke at all, I think, I am over it. I go over all the logistics in my head and imagine having the conversatin with Tripsy, the logistics with my Dad, explaining to others who are not thru-hiking what I am doing and why, and I think about the reality of coming back up here to finish this section in October. Just thinking about all this makes mey head hurt, and would I come back? Would I really? 

I don’t want to compromise the trail, the thru-hike. I AM doing a thru-hike, right? Yes, I am. So then, why not just stay on track and deal with whatever comes your way? Why try to control the thing that cannot be controlled? Isn’t that what thru-hiking is all about? I thought about the Sobo direction, about what new thru-hikers have endured so far. We are only 1/3 of the way, we have collectively only hiked 900 miles, that’s Tuolomne Meadows equivalent on a Nobo hike. We still have so very far to go. 

Washington was tough, it cut our teeth, it whet our appetite, it weeded out the weak or scared some away, but it left some of us chomping at the bit for more beauty, more adventure, more grit. Then came Oregon, which built our confidence with high miles on flat terrain. It suddenly was “easy” to thru-hike. We were dirty, seasoned, went swimming and drank beers. Oregon made us feel great, and it went by fast with the fire closures we had to navigate around. Then comes NorCal. What a punch in the face. It is hot, so damn hot. There is no water, and we have to climb so much, again. The promise of no more smoke was broken. It’s still so smoky. There are rocks, so many rocks. It is exposed, and the trail is SO not flat anymore, SO not Oregon. We are humble now, or becomig so. We begin to question why we are out here and whether we are still having a good time. It is days like these that the words “a lil’ crazy” are the appropriate description for what we thru-hikers are. We do this, self-inflicted torture with moments of ecstacy, and we get up the next day and we do it all over again. This is thru-hiking. And I love it.

It’s getting dark by the time I reach camp, I need water, my hiking mate, Tripsy, is nowhere to be found. I go further, I backtrack. Finally, it’s getting dark in these woods and I drop my pack in a tentsite, and go to look for water. After 10 minutes of walking back where I’d just come from I reach the dry drainage and follow it upstream over boulders, loose scree, roots and branches, only to find a lovely waterfall sliding down a smooth piece of granite into a pool that is just large enough for…. me. I waste no time and strip down to nothing, and immerse my entire body into the chilly water. Oh-my-god, nothing ever felt so good. I lean back on the rock and position myself so I can soak for a few minutes. It it’s getting darker and I don’t have a headlamp with me. So, I get out, dry off with my sour smelling shirt and collect water into my platypus. I walk back to the trail in the dark, squinting my eyes and eventually find the campsite where I left my pack. Home for the night. It’s dark, it’s a little bit creepy here, but the bugs are gone, thank god! The wind is howling through the trees above, and I sit in the dark eating my dinner of instant beans and chips trying to collect my thoughts and entertaining what may have happened to Tripsy? She’s okay, I tell myself, and so am I.  I can’t seem to get enough water to quench my thirst.  It us still so damn hot.

2 thoughts on “This….is…thru-hiking

  1. I’ve been thinking so much of you and how difficult it must be with all of the heat and fire closures. Knowing you, though, I’m sure you’re making the best of it.

    And those dang eye flies! I hate those guys :). I remember letting my poles dangle from my wrists momentarily (over and over again) to slap my hands together in front of my face watching a few of them fall to the ground.

    Wishing you much strength and that the thru hike joy comes on in full force. I hope that you reconnected with Tripsy.

  2. “Why try to control the thing that cannot be controlled? Isn’t that what thru-hiking is all about?”

    It’s insights like this that have made you a successful thru-hiker. Wishing you cooler temps, cold streams, and clear skies.

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