Friday, August 26, 2016

Day 118 : Exhaustion And A Bear

28 miles today
384 miles to go

I wake in the dark. The others are shuffling around, stuffing things into sacks, heating water for breakfast. I really don't feel like getting up. I am so comfortable lying here. I dilly-dally a bit before finally deflating my mattress. I am just not motivated like the others to do thirty two miles. It weighs on me, tiring me out before I even start. I eat breakfast by red headlamp again. Two days in a row, when I don't really need to get moving this early. Such is the pull of being part of the group. 

I am taking my tent down when Clinic, the last one in camp besides me, says, “see you down the trail.” I am alone. I finish packing and head off behind the others. I try to get moving but it feels like weights are attached to my ankles. Every step is an act of will. I'm used to feeling like this at the end of the day, but at the beginning? I decide that I am not doing thirty two miles. That I'm doing whatever I do and that's good enough. I stop thinking about the miles and just enjoy the walk. This is some of the most beautiful hiking country I have walked in. Mt Adams, directly to the south dominates the view. I catch up to the others and we stand in a field talking politics. It's an absurd moment, what does politics have to do with this hike? It's funny it's so ridiculous. It's interesting how passionate people are about things so far removed from their actual lives. Poppy says, “it's Skip’s turn to go first.” So I go, at my pace, enjoying the views. The shade of the trees is welcome and cool. The sun feels warm. I hope it doesn't get hot. I head lower and lower as the trail leads away from Mt Adams and toward Goat Rocks. Everything is so far away when I walk there. I stop for water and the others buzz past, except Clinic who stops to hydrate some food. We hike together for a while and I enjoy listening to his life experiences and perspectives on the trail and how it has affected him personally. Clinic is one of the most compassionate and generous thru-hikers I have met. He says he didn't start that way, the trail changed him. He continues on as I slow down to a pace more comfortable to my legs and feet.

Alone on the trail I traipse through the dusty tread. The day has warmed more than I had hoped. I had a picture of the Northwest being cool and wet. So far it has failed to meet that picture as everyday seems to find me getting hot and sweaty. Well I guess sweaty is we but not the wet I imagined. I'm tramping in thick dust that wraps over the top of my shoes and fill in the spaces between my toes. My socks are black from the dust. I have been trying to rinse them when I come to water sources that have enough water to allow to bag-rinse them at least three times. That doesn't make them clean, it simply gets the loose dust off. Then I hang them on my pack to dry.

The trail begins to climb at some point and I catch up to the others sitting in the shade in various states of repose. They are each lunching in they're own way. I make my traditional peanut butter tortilla. I eat the rest of my Fritos, I finish my cheese. “Is that it?” I wonder. That’s it. Lunches have become too small and short. I am tiring of tortillas. I am tiring of peanut butter. I'm am tiring, period! I finish before the others and try stretching. “Ow, ow, ow,” I say. Bey chuckles. I think about taking a yoga class when this hike is over. It would feel so good to get my feet and legs stretched out. Although it sure hurts trying to get to that point. I give up and put on my pack. “See ya down the trail,” I say as I start back up the hill. 

I hike past a lake when a large crashing noise to my right catches my attention. A bear is romping through the berry bushes trying to get away from me. I stop and stand perfectly still. It's not long before he forgets me and comes back out and begins slurping huckleberries off the branches by wrapping his tongue around the branch and pulling. Seems very efficient if you can do it and don't mind an occasional leaf in your berries. I stand stock still and watch as Clinic comes around the corner. I put my finger to my lips and he slows down and stands next to me. The bear is only about seventy feet from us and completely ignores us. I rustle the food wrappers in my pocket and watch his ears turn and face is. He stops munching and stares in our direction. Neither of us moves. I don't think he can see us. Bey and Poppy show up and he heads off into the trees, briefly. Then he comes out and head slowly and nonchalantly away. 

I have lost all enthusiasm for hiking. I am stopping at twenty four miles I decide. I look at the map. There aren't any camps indicated at twenty four miles. Twenty one miles is too short, but that's the last camp. I continue on, I'll make my own camp, I think. The afternoon drags on as I pull myself through the heat. I want to stop, I want to lay down and never get up. At twenty four miles I find the forest is filled with trees too short and bushes and undergrowth so thick it's impossible to camp without setting up on the trail. It's already late in the day and because of my slow speed I am miles behind. I am left with the unpleasant realization that I am going to have to keep hiking. The trail goes up steeply from here on a southwestern facing slope. I am exposed to the hot late afternoon sun as I plod up the slope. It's way past when I wanted to stop. Way past what's comfortable or pleasant. I will stop at the first camp I see. I see no camps for miles. On and on I go. The clock ticks, the later it gets. I finally reach a rocky flat area above the water source at twenty eight miles. I'm done, stick a fork in me. I don't need water, I've been carrying enough to camp for the last nine miles. I set up my tent. I make my dinner and fall into my tent. I lie there and relax. All my pains leave my body and are absorbed into the ground below. I am floating on my mattress above the rocks, above the sand and dirt. Wrapped in a cloud of goose down and nylon I sleep.

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