Thursday, September 8, 2016

Day 131 : A Walk In The Clouds

26 miles today
112 miles to go

No rain, I hear no rain falling on my tent! It rained most of the night, but now it's finally stopped. I wonder for how long. Will it start up as soon as I get moving? It really doesn't matter, I need to get up so I can get my twenty six miles done. I don't want to be hiking till night. The way to avoid that is to start moving earlier. It's still dim, five-thirtyish. Start now, it'll be light by the time I'm packed. My sleeping bag is still dry, and my sleeping clothes! Yay! That's great after the huge day of rain and wet I had yesterday. “Am I really going to put on these wet clothes?” I ask the darkness. I emerge from my tent to a gray sky and place my pack on the wet ground. I take down my tent and use my pack towel to sop up as much of the moisture from it as I fold and roll it up. I attach my tent to the outside of the top of my pack and don it. Somewhat foggy, cold, damp. It hasn't started raining again so that's a positive thing. I hike back up to the trail through the bushes I hiked past last night. They are sopping wet. They baptize me fully as I pass by. The trail is lined with bushes. All of them join in as I pass. I am shortly as wet as I'd be if it was raining. It's cold and foggy, I’m drenched. The trail climbs and I follow. Up is good, it takes work. Work generates heat. I put my poncho back on. The trees I pass under shower more water. Up, up, up, higher up switchbacks. The trail is muddy and slippery. My feet are at least four ways of sore. They need a break. No break until Steheken. Even then, if I make it by Saturday, it's only a short day break. I think I need about two weeks of not walking. I've been walking for over four months now with minimal breaks. My feet hurt just standing on them. I climb the trail carefully, trying not to twist or step sideways as that really hurts. Up I go, higher and higher. The higher I go the colder it gets. I hike up into the clouds, my world is smaller. I can see no more than about fifty feet in any direction. Up past the trees. It's alpine country up here. Low heather and blueberry bushes. Rocks, rocky trail. Climbing across rocks. The fog partially lifts. I can see down into the valley, then it closes in again. I climb over a ridge, possibly the top, impossible to tell in this thick fog, and into a rocky bowl. Above the timberline this is alpine country. As I descend the trail the fog lifts. I see glaciers feeding water to streams. The streams feed into a glacier blue lake trapped by rocks beneath me. Down across the slope. Water dripping and drooling from everywhere up here. I cross a stream every thirty seconds. Clouds above fog below. I'm in the green in between. Only it's more rocky than green. Down some more, then around a beautiful alpine lake. Down into the green zone, blueberries so plentiful a person could survive just eating them. Down more, trees small at first get bigger and bigger the further down I go. I'm in a forest of large trees. A steep slope with switchbacks, always switchbacks. A wrong step, miss the trail and it's a long way before I'd stop. Probably a tree would break my fall. There are rocky sections that really hurt my feet, but a lot of this forest trail is carpeted smooth with needles from the trees. Sometimes a downed tree must be climbed over, or stepped over if small enough. Always down. I meet Sweet P and Mowgli heading down too. We bypass a washout where the trail is completely gone. A simple cliff with a really quick one way trip to the bottom. Instead we slip and slide down the mud from one switchback to the next. Down through bushes higher than my head. A narrow thread of a trail between them. It's been mostly dry so far today. I'm wearing and not wearing my poncho alternately as the trail and temperature dictate. Down to a glacier fed river and bridge. I cross the bridge and it's not long before I'm climbing again. Back up again up and up and up. One tall ridge thousands of feet back up. Hours of climbing, Switchbacks all the way back up. I climb them and they lead out to a bush filled avalanche zone. Fortunately there's no snow above to worry about. It's more open and I can see across the valley to the trail I climbed down. The fog lifts and swirls. Sometimes I'm in it but it seems to be dwindling. The wind blows ragged tatters of it up the hill. I follow, a lot slower. I finally reach a saddle. Over the top and it's back down again. Down down down. Through a carved out rocky bowl with multiple snow and glacier fed streams to cross. No rain, I finally dry out by late afternoon. I reach the valley bottom late in the day and follow the trail along the Suiattle River. I can hear it somewhere off to the right through the trees. It roars and echos through the valley. A rain shower briefly threatens but then retreats and I see blue sky. I meet up with Sweet P and we talk. What were the highs and lows of our hikes? What do we plan to do after we finish? Mostly though our conversation kept reverting back to food. We described our favorite foods, our best town meals. What we most look forward to eating when we're done. Time passed quickly and suddenly I'm there. I get to camp by the Suiattle River, big loud milky white water. There is a big long hiker bridge across the river. Well made and sturdy. It has a turn in it. My camp is there on the other side. Sweet P continues on to her planned camp a few miles further up the trail.

I wake around midnight. I toss and I turn unable to sleep. I should be exhausted but I'm wide awake. It's pitch dark I can't see my hand in front of my face. It's warmer down here by the river, relatively speaking. I lay thinking about my trip. It's mind boggling to try to encapsulate it into a single coherent thought. Too many stories, too many places, too many people. I wonder, so what? Here I am close to the end. My feet are tired and sore, other than a couple of worn out feet and a shaggy beard. What does this trip change? 

I have a deeper appreciation for the wonders of modern civilization. Running water, indoor plumbing. Yea, so what! 

I have a deeper appreciation for my wife and family. Something I should have appreciated more but didn't. 

I wonder if my feet are going to make it the through the last miles. 

I am tired of walking, tired of cooking on the ground, boiling water, eating from a bag. 
I am tired of seeing trees and mountains and, well not really. Is it possible to tire of that? I am tired of walking through them. There's a lot to be said for sitting in front of a television and watching nature without having to actually live in it. 

Exposure is the word I think of, outside all the time. Exposed to the elements. Whether the heat of the sun or the cold of weather. I'm never just right. It's hard to stay dry. Hard to stay clean. The daily routine is a lot of work. There is no such thing as leisure time for a Thru-hiker. There are always more miles to do, food to eat, pack or unpack. Life is always in motion. There is not time to sit and watch clouds. There's no place to sit that isn't hard, wet, or dirty.

I drift off to sleep after downloading my thoughts.

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