Saturday, July 9, 2016

Day 70 : Wind, Wind, and More Wind

19 miles today
1435 miles to go

Last night:
The dark breaks up the party pretty quickly. People meander back to their place of rest through the maze of tents and cowboy campers lying haphazardly throughout the church yard. There appears to be lots of space around my tent. Thwang! Someone hits one of my guy lines with his foot. Thwang! Again! Same guy line different person. At least they are not falling on me! Thwang! Really? Again? Thwank, “I hope he doesn't need that one!” The tent settles a little lower over my face. I think I might need that one. It's pitch black. I don't feel like getting up. I don't want to make a scene stumbling about and around sleeping cowboy campers looking for my stake. I hate losing stuff. I choose not to worry about it right now. Tomorrow when I'm packing, I think. I give myself permission to worry about it then, perhaps I can find it. 

Good morning, except I'm missing a tent stake. I hate losing stuff. Especially a tent stake. It's still dark. Well mostly, I peer out of my tent through the gloom. The guy line is lying flat against the dust. I can't see the end, but clearly it's not taut and pulling on a stake. I slip out of my sleeping bag as I always do and pack it up. I change out of my sleeping clothes and roll up my sleeping pad. Breakfast in the semi-dark is good. Granola, instant breakfast, dehydrated fruit. “Don't worry yet, you're not packing,” I think. Why worry about things over which I have no control? Other hikers are packing up around me. I hear rustling in all directions. Like a migration, most of the herd begins to meander off towards who knows where, I assume the trail, or maybe the breakfast diner. I can smell bacon, someone's frying bacon, probably the diner. Wow! That smells good. I sort my snacks and lunch stuff and clean up breakfast. Packing my food bags, I emerge from my tent and there is lots of trammeled dust in all directions. I'm extra late today. No hurry, I'm meeting friends for breakfast. My stake is gone. I stretch out the guy line to where it should be and scrabble in the dust, digging around. This is almost always fruitless. The stake came unstuck, why would it be in the ground. It's fruitless, it's not. Nothing. Just a hole of loose dirt. I walk around my tent and the few remaining other ones, nothing. I walk out in the trammeled dust. What's this? By zooks, it's my stake, dusty and forlorn, having spent the night underneath someone's ground cloth. It looked brown , the same color as the dirt. I picked it up and dusted it off. Nope, it's orange, it's mine, we are both happy to see each other. I pack my tent and carefully place the lost sheep back in the fold with the other seven. Yay! I hate losing stuff.

Eric and Kara are early, at least earlier than they said they'd be. But I'm early too. I am standing in front of the Post Office like a homeless person, my home is in the pack behind me, complete with a full complement of stakes! It's a good morning. The sun is shining, it's warm. I've been stretching my calves using the rail in front as a bar to push against. Eric and Kara pull up and suggest the diner. Well cafe, really, the Red Moose. I agree, since it's the only place in town that's open and I'm sure they are cooking bacon. I ride the half block to the diner in the back seat with Jax, who seems glad to see me, but reluctant to lose the extra space he had. We park and Eric, Connie, and myself walk to the diner. Jax waits for us in the car, the diner doesn't allow Cocker Spaniels. We have a great visit sitting in the restaurant which is busy with mostly thru-hikers. I tell a few stories of my adventures. I get caught up on their goings-on. Time moves too fast and before I want, it's time to move on. They graciously drive me to the trailhead after paying for my breakfast. Friends are so awesome! Thanks for coming out to the middle of nowhere to see me. Sorry Sierra City citizens, your town is in the middle of nowhere and you know it.

We snap a few pictures at the trailhead and I'm off, up! Up, up, up, the trail goes up. It's an easy grade but it's all up. In the trees, in the shade, but up for sure. Parts of the trail appear to be on an old roadbed made of rocks. A wagon road? Back and forth. Always climbing, higher and higher. One thousand feet, two thousand feet. Up and more up. Has it been hours? Days, weeks? I lose track of time. It seems like I've been going up forever, this is all I've ever done, climb this hill. On and on it goes, back and forth. The only obvious change is it's getting cooler. The higher I go the cooler the air feels. Up and more up. The trees slowly thin out. I am able to see things between them. A sliver of a thin ribbon of road snakes down the valley below. Then it's hidden again be the trees. The mountains around are further away and lower too. I'm looking down on them. Higher and higher. The breeze picks up. Breeze? Did I say breeze? It's windy! I break out of the forest as the trail levels out over a ridge. Wham the wind hits me in the face. It's cold, “go back,” it says. “Go back down, you missed out on the one pound gut buster burger.” It's true, I did, how does the wind know that? “Go back,” the wind says. No way I'm going all the way back down those switchbacks. The trail turns from soft loamy forest trail to rocky loose cobbles of sharp slate. “Go back,” says the trail. “You missed out on the milkshakes.” It's true, I didn't have a milkshake while I was in Sierra City. The store serves incredible milkshakes. How did the trail know? I climb out onto an exposed trail without trees, I can see to the horizon, this is like the set of The Sound of Music, only rockier. A huge massive spike of rock looms above. The trail follows the shoulders of this monolith around to the west and north. A rocky trace across a steep slope between the blue firmament above and the green feathery forest of trees far below. A glistening thread of the North Yuba River sparkles in the openings between the trees. I can see a few roofs of the town. Nestled warm and cozy down in the valley. Up here the wind is full on. Blowing in my face. “Go back,” it says. I ignore it and press on. The wind makes it feel like I am barely moving, like nothing is moving, like it's impossible to resist it and push on. I push on anyway. The bushes alongside the trail crowd in. They conspire to hide the trail from me. “Go back,” they whisper. “Go back, it's too cold, you could stay there, you're ahead of schedule.” How do the bushes know I'm ahead of schedule? I ignore them and squeeze between them watching the trail carefully between the branches for hidden boulders. “Go back, go back!” It takes all my strength mentally and physically to push on through and up. Yes, up, the trail has begun climbing again. Up into the wind. Up, it's cold, the wind slips up my sleeves and around my neck, chilling me even though I'm in the sun. “Go back!” It's relentless, I'm persistent. I move on even though it seems like I'll be walking out in this wind forever, I'll be climbing this mountain forever. More switchbacks. High and exposed to the ever present wind. The bushes alternately crowd in and open up. Deciding, I suppose, that I'm deaf and can't hear them. Clouds appear, high thin wispy ones at first. Eventually the mountain ends, the trail turns north. The wind remains. Blowing until the trees mutter and moan. Complaining, “this isn't the season for this.” The trail follows a ridge. I stay in and out of the forest, but always close to the wind. Or should I say it stays close to me? It haunts me, it gathers strength and blows on the trees until twigs and needles fall off and around me. On and on the day progresses. Clouds, thicker now, hide the sun. I can see blue sky in all directions. But clouds are overhead, marching past in the wind. Lower, clouds thicker clouds. The day feels dismal. The wind blows and gusts. On and on. I remember days in my childhood in San Francisco. Days of wind just like this. The trees in my backyard would wave and flutter under the relentlessness of the wind. This is the same. Many a beautiful warm sunny day of my childhood was transformed into a wet gray dreary afternoon. In San Francisco winds like this mean cold wet gray fog is close behind. Perhaps it's these memories that cause me the despise this wind. The sounds plays chords in my mind that set the tone into a minor key. The day feels somber and drear. All I want is to get in out of this wind. There is no in, except my tent. I walk on. This part of California is normally hot, but not today. Some of the clouds look gray, not gray enough to rain, but dark and foreboding. I want to be inside. There is nothing but to walk on, and on, and on. I walk until fiveish. Well past my anxiety zone, which is growing less anxious every time I push past it. I gather water at a promising stream and continue on to a dry camp in some trees that at least block the direct blasts of wind. The sound continues above in the branches. I setup my tent. A place of refuge, a place of warmth, inside and out of the outside that I spent my day in. I cook dinner staring at my tent, longing to climb inside and surround myself with cozy warm goose down. To rest, to sleep, ah blissful sleep. Away from the wind and all it's discouraging whisperings. Dinner ends, calories consumed, food bags are lighter. Chores complete, I climb thankfully, gratefully, out of the wild and into the cozy warmth of my home. I'm asleep before the sun hits the horizon.

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