Sunday, September 4, 2016

Day 127 : To Steven's Pass

19 miles today
188 miles to go

I wake in early morning darkness. It's quiet, no rain pattering on my tent. I reach up and touch the ceiling, wet and cold. I touch the outside of my sleeping bag, cold and dry. What a great tent! I have the best tent ever. There is enough space inside and the design is such that I stay dry even if there is condensation inside. I reach for my pack towel and wipe the ceiling off. It's cold. I wear my smartwool base layer. I put on my hiking clothes while tucking away my sleeping clothes into their dry bag. After two days of rain everything but my tent is dry. Yay! That is sustainable. I can hike till I need food and don't have to be dependent upon good weather. My breakfast is extra good today. I will be zeroing tomorrow so I eat all my remaining granola, meaning an extra sized bowl. 

I pack in the gray dimness of a fog. The fog has turned my camp in the trees into a cold dark corner of the forest. I am glad to leave and start hiking. The trail is uphill. The map indicates a lot of vertical today. First up, I climb the trail across the slope of the valley I'm in. Up and up until I pop out of the fog. I'm in the green in-between. Above me are gray and white clouds. A solid ceiling of them. Down in the valley from whence I came is a lake of fog, roiling and drifting slowly south. It's damp and cool in the middle where I continue my uphill climb. Through the trees I can see steep rocky slopes. Below the rocks are trees, like a thick carpet, forest green shag carpet. There are cuts and rips in the carpet where snow has avalanched down from the rocky heights and torn deep gashes all the way down to the bottom. Now appearing and disappearing as the fog drifts and bunches creating gaps down to the river below. I can't see the tops of the mountains from where the avalanches must have come because the gray blanket has sealed off the tops. Perhaps they are in sunshine. I can't tell. I climb up and past a couple of mysterious looking lakes. Extra dark and ominous in the gray twilight. Mists and vapors slowly and menacingly advancing across the water towards me. I don't stay but keep moving. There's more climbing. It seems steeper now and there are switchbacks. Climbing until I'm at the ceiling, then in the fog, the high fog. The blueberry bushes lining the trail have crystal gems on their leaves. I brush by them and my pant legs are immediately drenched with dew. It trickles in cold wet streams through my gaiters and socks into my shoes. There's a cold wake-me-up. I'm going to try to avoid doing that again. It makes me walk funny. Like I'm trying to walk an imaginary line in the middle of the trail. It's all the harder because the rocks don't cooperate. I finally give up, focusing instead on flat solid places to step. Even if my feet get soaked. Cold and wet is better than sore and throbbing. So steep, and muddy! Back and forth, the fog is dense and thick. No breeze, no sound except my gasping breath. I have a rhythm going one breath for every two steps, like a little steam engine puffing it's way up the hill. I haven't seen many hikers yesterday or this morning. Those I've seen have been day hikers or section hikers. Up I climb, the switchbacks become shorter and shorter. The last one turns only halfway and I head straight up the hill for a short distance. It flattens out and I'm on top. I only know it's the top because it's downhill in both directions. There is a flat camp spot here. Probably an amazing view. Not today though. It's monotone and so thick it looks like I could reach out and touch it. Downhill on the opposite side of the ridge. This is the lighter side, the east. A lighter shade of gray. Steep switchbacks. Down until it looks like I am climbing out of a lampshade. I can see the slope below but the fog blocks the view outward. Down below the fog line and I'm back in the world of trees and lakes. A blue one beneath me is ringed by rocks that have apparently fallen there throughout the millennia. A few trees dot the far side. Perhaps a great campsite hiding down there. The trail doesn't take me there to find out. I traverse across a cliff. At least it looks like that from here. As I cross I realize that it's not as steep as it appears from afar. Steep enough, just not a cliff. The wind picks up and blows fog down the hill at me. The fog is torn and shredded, evaporating into nothingness. Only the sharp cold wind reaches me. 

Up over a saddle and down then back up again then down then up again. The trail has an incredible amount of elevation. The ridges and mountains it crosses are impossibly steep. I can't imagine doing any cross-country hiking here. On and on I hike, it seems like I'll never make it to Steven’s Pass but it's really me focusing too much on the time. When I think about how long I anticipated I'm right on schedule. Perhaps it's just that the afternoon is dragging on and on. I don't know how much vertical I've done but it's wearing me out. I get water at a small stream where I can see the top of a chairlift atop the next ridge. I'm close now. I can see switchbacks cutting back and forth across the slope. “I'll be on those soon,” I think. I cross the stream and start to climb. I meet Sweet P hiking with her family who came to meet her. Up over the top of the ski resort then down to pickup the car and keys left for me. I see a blue plate, ‘Coppertone is here.’ I stop in and say hi and sign his register. I eat a cinnamon roll. It starts to rain so I say goodbye and I head down for my zero.

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