Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Day 130 : Cold, Wet, Lonely; How Low Can You Go?

25 miles today
138 miles to go

I awake and I am transported from wherever I was back to reality. I'm warm and dry. I reach up and touch the ceiling, it's wet. I find my pack towel in the pre-dawn darkness and wipe down the ceiling. A light rain is pattering on my tent. “Maybe it'll stop soon,” I think. I pack my pack inside my tent, then I emerge into the drizzle and pack my tent. It's soaked. I roll it the best I can. No way I'm putting that in my pack. I attach it to the top instead. Then I put on my poncho. It's always been quite a feat to get my poncho on but I have to say I'm getting better at it out of necessity. I hike out of camp down and across to another slope back up. I climb the slope, it's a long way. I lose track of time and distance. I'm in a cloud my world is a fifty foot bubble of sloppy wetness. I walk a trail that I believe is the PCT, I follow it. It leads in two directions both disappear into the fog. One direction is the way I came. I go the other way. Mile after mile. I reach what I presume is the top because it flattens a bit. I seem to be walking along the top of a ridge. There's probably amazing views, I live in my dripping wet gray bubble and see nothing but blueberry bushes, grasses and heather. The wind keeps up a steady stream of vapor and rain coming at me from the side. I batten down my poncho as much as I can and walk on. I won't get any wetter. Even if I fell into a lake I couldn't get any wetter than I am now. There is no time. Time has ceased to exist except by breaths. I don't count them but there is a rhythm to them, and steps, fairly regular until a rocky section then very uneven and irregular. Both of my feet hurt. Do my shoes need to break in? I have them as loose as possible and my feet hurt. They hurt worse when my shoes were tighter. Now they're so loose they flop when I walk. The make more of a flasploosh sound rather than just a sploosh. On I go flasplooshing along the ridge. Sometimes up sometimes down. I eat my snacks one at a time. I pass Homewrecker, Batman, Wisecrack, and Smoosh eating snacks on the side of the trail. The rain is steady for a while then it stops. “Maybe it's done,” I think. Then it starts again. The sky looks the same whether it is raining or not. A single shade of gray. It's completely socked in, no views. I pass a marker made of rocks on the ground, 2500. “Two thousand five hundred miles, Yay,” I think. My camera phone stays sealed in its plastic bag. No picture at this milestone. I climb up and then suddenly I'm heading down. Down with a purpose. I'm no longer following the elevation of the ridge, I'm leaving it. Down, down, down more switchbacks, down into the forest. Still more down, the trees get larger. A stream comes down from somewhere above and the trail follows it. The stream grows soon it's a cataract bouncing down the mountain from boulder to boulder. The trail follows, little short switchbacks bouncing down the hill. Slippery and muddy, the trail slides between enormous trees. Suddenly I'm at the bottom. The stream disappears into the forest and the trail turns and head along the bottom land. The trees are large and it's more open. I follow along this valley for a ways. Every once in awhile there's a break in the forest and I emerge into a land of bushes. Bushes with a narrow path between them. I path that I follow, becoming fully drenched as if passing through one of those car washes with the floppy roller things. Then it's back into the deep forest, moss covers everything but the trail. It's pretty and green. The trail begins to climb. I check my mileage, it's way less than I'd hoped. The day drags on and on. I climb up higher and higher. I can feel the change in air temperature. Maybe because I'm soaked I'm more sensitive, I don't know but I'm getting cold. The trail turns sharply and begins descending. I can hear water rushing ahead. The trail turns into an obstacle course. I climb over logs, under logs. Over a big slippery log. Under a log with stream flowing beneath. I pass into neck high soaking wet brush. At every obstacle I stop and pause, analyzing the method and effort to pass through it. “Really,” I say, “Really?” I'm drenched, sopping wet. The trail gives up on switchbacks and begins ascending straight up the hill. It's muddy, there's roots and rocks. The rain doesn't let up. I climb up a ridge now there's more switchbacks, more brush, I am exhausted. More up, it's quite cold. There on a tree is a symbol for a campsite with an arrow. Through the bushes and down into a creek’s drainage. The bushes spray me some more as I pass through. There is a small muddy flat patch next to a bush. No trees for cover. Camping close to water means lots of condensation. Probably one of the worst campsites I've seen much less camped at. I reluctantly set up my tent and put my pack inside. I climb in and sit next to my pack. I close the flaps and sit. Miserable, if I could quit right now and be home I would do it. Maybe this is a reality show and I can push a button or stand up and walk out the back door of the set. I'm done! This is not what I signed up to do. At least it didn't come to mind when I thought about doing whatever I'm doing. “What am I doing here?” I ask myself. I'm cold and tired. The lowest I've been since starting this odyssey so many months ago. There's no button, no door, nothing but the continuous patter of the rain on my tent and the cold lifeless splashing of the nearby stream. I'm completely alone and it's getting dark. It'll be even colder after dark. I'm fifty miles from anywhere in any direction. Nothing to do but shed a few tears and suck it up. First priority, eat something hot. I go get some water from the stream and start a pot of it to boil. I pull off my soaking wet clothes and change into my sleeping clothes. I put on my fleece shirt for the first time all trip. I wrap my calves and feet in my dry sleeping bag. I make a hot dinner. While it steeps I eat tuna and mayonnaise. I eat a graham cracker, opening the package makes me smile. Kelli has a unique way of vacuum sealing graham crackers, stacked like fallen dominos. I think of home, of being warm. I think that this trip is almost done. Finish and be done. I don't have to stay here. I eat my hot dinner. I drink my electrolytes. I feel warm, I'm dry. The tent is pitched well. My wet clothes are in my turned out trash compactor bag where they can't get anything else wet. I'm exhausted. I lay in my sleeping bag in the darkness listening to the rain. Fifty more miles to Steheken. Lots of vertical tomorrow. Then I drift off to warmer friendly places. I sleep, blessed sleep.

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