Saturday, July 2, 2016

Day 63 : Surprised By Friendship

27 miles today
1568 miles to go

‘Never quit on a bad day,’ is tried and true Thru-hiker advice. Yesterday was a bad day for me. After taking some time, well lots of time, to think, (I have all day to think). I believe the reason I felt the way I did was comparing myself to others. I stopped, totally wiped out, around four. Others kept going. In fact others that were behind me caught up and are now in front of me. I have a very competitive nature, not that it's a good thing, it's not, but it's also embedded into who I am. It hurts to realize that I don't have the endurance or speed of others and that made me feel like quitting. Pretty stupid I know, but that's the root of it. Once I let go of not being the fastest, or the one who hikes longest, then I can focus on what's more important, hiking my own hike, at my own pace, stopping when I want to stop. And trying very hard to not compare myself to others. Today's hike, same distance, completely enjoyable and relaxed. 

I am sitting in the predawn darkness eating my substitute breakfast. Not quite the same razzle-dazzle as granola and instant breakfast, but lots of calories, which is really the most important thing for me right now. A tortilla with peanut butter spread on it. I sit and sort my remaining food while I eat. Everything that I won't need until camp tonight goes in my bottom food bag, bottom being the bottom of my pack, the last thing I pull out when unpacking. Everything else is lunch related or snacks. Snacks go in the cargo pockets of my filthy, ripped, falling-apart pants. Lunch goes in my top food bag, top being the last thing I put into my pack before closing it. I am hoping that the Echo Lake store will have enough food for me to resupply there with two more days of food. Food is sorted, the tortilla is gone. I stick my feet into my dirty socks from yesterday. They smell, the socks, not my feet. It's my nose that smells. The sock-clad feet go into my semi-damp shoes, they smell too, and I exit my bug free zone into the real world of blood sucking mosquitoes. I ripped my shirt a few days back and the rip seems to grow a little more everyday. Surprisingly the mosquitoes don't seem to bite my shoulder where the gaping hole in my shirt is. I'm not sure why, but they seem much more content buzzing around my face and hands that have insect repellent on them. I really haven't had more than a few bites the entire trip. Some people are mosquito magnets. I watch as the mosquitoes aggressively try to suck them dry. Perhaps the permethrin I sprayed on my clothes is having the desired effect. I still have to enter and hike in their world so I never truly relax until I'm in my tent. So now I'm out of my tent and no longer relaxing. I'm packing. One thing at a time. Same order everyday. Same places for everything, but… Since I no longer have to pack my bear canister and my microspikes things have been changed up a little and I'm still getting used to the new order so I'm a little slower till the new routine sinks in.

Packed and ready, I turn on the Spot 3 locator beacon and set the auto tracking to ‘on’. Now everyone knows where I am within about fifteen minutes of ‘now’ whenever now is as long as it's turned on. The map on the /pct2016 page show my position. Also, by the way, the green tagged waypoints are my campsites. All things completed, I make a cursory look around my campsite for anything I forgot, there never is because everything always goes in my tent. The first time I hang something from a tree or leave it on a log is the first time that I will lose something. So I always look, nothing today. Let move!

I hike four hours at a time. Every four hours or so I need more water so I combine it with other necessary things, Like looking at a map, answering the call of nature, adjusting my pack, eating lunch, etc. Today follows the standard schedule. I watch the sun come up as I hike up and over a saddle into a new watershed. Saddle, Pass, they are basically the same thing, going over one is pretty much always exciting, unless you been there before it's all brand new. The old is gone, left behind on the other side. Over the pass and a new panorama awaits, my eyes are viewing everything and nothing at the same time. Just catching a feel of the next leg of the journey. Typically the view from a pass only lasts for a short time. It's only a little while before I'm back in the trees. The view from the pass is more inspirational than it is practical. Once the trail is back in the trees the reality of the trail takes over. The work of avoiding tripping or stumbling is pretty much the work of hiking for me. Especially so as I am trying to favor my right knee. To look around while walking is to plan to stumble. There are just too many things in the path. At least today there is. The trail seems to be constructed of loose cobbles, rocks between the size of a golf ball and a baseball. All roundish and ready to roll every which way when you step on them. The goal is to try to only step on the big rocks or the bare dirt. If you step on a cobble you need to expect the unexpected. Across the slope and down, across some snow and down some more. I pass beneath a jagged multi-hued cliff before going over another saddle into mosquitoville, where you don't stop, you don't, you just don't! Keep moving, they only see you if you stop. Then more climbing, four hours comes and goes. I don't stop. I know my water is low. Every time I come to a happy cataract I think, “I don't want to stop now.” Then I get to to point where I know I have about a cup of water left. I'm anxious for the next stream. None seem to be appearing. I finally come to a small trickle between rocks, snow melt! Yay, dehydration staved off to another time. I get water, I eat snacks, I look at my map, I get lots of things done during my stop. About eight miles to Carson Pass. Maybe trail magic? Maybe friends? Who knows. Carson Pass is the place I'm excited to reach today. There's another five miles or so after Carson Pass to where I want to camp but Carson Pass is calling me. The trail climbs and turns and climbs some more. I cross a big open valley beneath the ‘Elephant’s Back’ and climb the switchbacks through every kind of wildflower all blooming at the same time. The colors and the scents of Sierra springtime. Even though technically it's summer, it's still springtime at elevation. Above the switchbacks, more snow, then more switchbacks, then more snow. Then suddenly I hear a voice say, “Is that No Skip?” Except the voice used my name from a different life. A name I hadn't heard for months. It was Roger and Lisa, some of my old friends that I haven't seen for years! They tracked me on the map from my blog and calculated that I'd be where I in fact was. It was so moving that I would have started crying with joy except I was too excited and was busy talking. Somebody was thinking about me and took the time to come find me. We had such a great time walking to Carson Pass together. We got caught up on each other's lives. I told a few stories of my own adventures. It was if time had stopped, the trail could wait. There was no longer a need to hurry. That's how friendship is. When you experience it out of the ordinary, it stops time. 

We make it to Carson Pass together and I was able to walk them through the Thru-hiker mentality. Basically it's all about food, calories. Where can I find some. The Docents at the Carson Pass ranger station were awesome. They shared an ice cold Coke, watermelon, blueberries, and Doritos with me. Then Snackman, another Thru-hiker, informed me that there was a trail angel doing trail magic at the turnout down the road. We all walk down there where Snackman and I were able to finish off the sandwich fixins’ he'd brought. Roger and Lisa were able to meet some of the amazing people that go out of their way and on their own dime share generously with us shabby, smelly Thru-hikers. We all visited for a while until some dark clouds seem to be threatening to spoil the fun. Thank you Roger and Lisa for coming to see me, your thoughtfulness and generosity to me is one of the highlights of my trip that I will always treasure.

I hike on. The last five miles of the day were easy. They flew by before I knew it I was at camp. I'm not the only one camped here. There are other thru-hikers too. There are also day hikers here who haven't had the time to fully assimilate into nature so they bring their jarring suburban ways into this environment and change it. It looks like earplugs maybe just what I need to get some sleep before hiker midnight.

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