From 2461 by a cold little spring to mile 2476 at Steven's Pass
It used to be that I would get into camp and feel tired and grateful to take my pack and shoes off. By the time camp was set up and dinner was eaten I used to feel like I could hike on if it wasn't so dark and by the time I woke up in the morning I was ready to eat and go for a hike. Now I get into the camp exhausted, sore, and hobbling. I hurt as I set up camp and while I eat dinner. I wake up in the night with my calves throbbing and heels sore. I'll check my watch around three a.m. and know that the aching won't be gone by the time I wake up at five-thirty. I wake up feeling old and unrested. I take a couple of Advil's before leaving camp. Fifteen miles to town at the start of the hike would have put me into mid-afternoon. Now, we are not entirely sure we'll get there today.
|Class bandannas at the Dinsmore's|
It's another smoky day. We eat breakfast while we walk. I'm short on dinners, but other than that, my foodbag looks hefty enough for a couple more days out in the woods. Portrait also has too much food. All I can think about while hiking is cutting some weight from my pack starting with my foodbag. For the next stretch I'll bring just the right amount of food--less hot chocolate because we are getting into camp too late for me to enjoy a potfull. Less bonus food and fresh fruit. And I start thinking about cutting off extra pack straps, pockets, and gear I can get rid of. I ask Portrait if he can thinking of anything I can ship home we start a list: my leaky water bladder, Nalgene bottle, a hair clip, some post cards, my guide book, maps, clothing stuff sack, rain skirt. About a couple of pounds find their way to the list.
We walk slowly through a huckleberry field on the slope of a ridge. We have an expansive view of smoke and veiled peaks. Although we slept just under two hundred miles from Canada I feel no closer than I was a week ago. We had told the weekenders at the start of this stretch that we only had two weeks left. And now, after five days of walking, we have at least a dozen days ahead of us. Every day takes longer to go less. The trail I've been walking on may have turned into a treadmill. The miles go by, but the amount of days left to hike stays the same. And every day I feel a little more desperate to finish.
The hike has stopped being fun, enjoyable, the time of my life days ago. I can feel the passion for backpacking seeping out with the burn of my calf muscles and the tightness in my heels. I have stopped thinking about the Continental Divide Trail and sleeping bags and making new packs. Instead I think about slogging along and how I never felt so discouraged while hiking. I think about how far away Canada is and how it keeps slipping away from me. And maybe I won't make it there. And then I'm crying.
I'm crying onto Portrait's shoulder. Packs make for the most awkward embrace as he touches my hair and strokes my cheek. He asks if I want to switch packs and I don't, not at all. Hikers carry their own packs--it's a rule that might be written down somewhere. There's pride carrying your own gear like pride of walking the whole way. And I know if I'm going to walk the whole way I need to carry less gear. Still sniffling we move to the shade and sit on a log by a tiny stream.
I eat my heavy candy and trail mix, polishing off a few ziplocks so I have more empty bags than ones with food in them. They sit crumpled in my lap while I dig for more to eat. Portrait eats as well. We take big drinks from our bottles and pour out most of the remaining water. Two pounds gone between us. I take a few snacks from my foodbag and smoosh the bag deeper into my pack. Portrait puts his bag on top of mine and tucks in a few of his belongings around the two bags and closes the pack. I stash my snacks in the shoulder pockets on Portrait's pack. He hoists my pack from the ground, heavier than his pack ever was with twin foodbags, onto his back and buckles it around his hip. I swing his pack up and onto my shoulders--it's lighter than a child's bookbag.
|Jack and Little Dipper working on their resupply|
I take a couple more Advil's and we set off. I ask Portrait a dozen times if he's sure he's okay with that much weight. When the thin shoulder straps of his pack start digging into my shoulders I say nothing--my shoulders ache less than my poor tendons that seem to ignore the Advil I've taken. In Washington I've taken more Advil than in Oregon and all of California where I didn't take any.
We climb up, getting closer to the road. Each mile brings more people out. We step off trail to let a trail runner go by. We meet a day hiker dressed in GoLite gear looking fresh as he descends and I'm acutely aware of how much sweat is on my face even with a light pack and moving slow on the mile long climb. We chat with him for a while about thru-hiking because there's no rush--we're going to miss the store which closes at five, but we will make it to town. By the time we part ways I know longer have sweat on my face and the top of the climb doesn't feel so far away.
|Eating dinner at the Dinsmore's|
We cross under chair lifts--each pass in Washington has been at a ski area so far. There's a dirt road at the top of the ridge surrounded by red and orange huckleberry plants. We walk over the ridge and start down the trail on the other side. We cross the Pacific Crest ski run and walk along the side hill. Buildings, roads, and parking lots spread out below us. They grow larger slowly as we switchback along the mountain's shoulder. We can hear cars--the road sounds busy which is great for us and hitching in.
We are standing at the road at 4:30. Portrait had let my beast of a pack thump on the pavement--finally admitting
just how heavy it was. We put out our thumbs, smile, wave, and try to look as nice as we are. The people driving by don't seem to notice us. No one smiles as we dance with our thumbs out after an hour of trying to hitch. We try to act fun, harmless, interesting, and still no one stops, waves, or smiles at us. We see our GoLite dayhiking friend stride into the parking lot and we move so he might see us better. We keep an eye on him while continuing to hitch--although we know he will be our ride. And after an hour and a half of hitching we are putting our packs into his trunk and climbing in.