Monday, September 12, 2016

Day 135 : Glacier Pass

17 miles today
40 miles to go

I wake in the pre-dawn darkness, as I always seem to do. I think about today, think about my plans, and roll over and go back to sleep. I wake a little later, I've been hearing rustling in the campsites around me. Thru-hikers getting in an early start? Could be, old habits die hard. I plan to hike to Glacier Pass today, significantly less miles than I have been hiking. I plan on being there mid afternoon. I figure two more nights, maybe three. It depends on the weather. If it gets bad I'll hike further and get done sooner. I might decide to get done sooner anyway.

It's cold this morning. Much colder than it's been for a long time. I pass by a couple of Thru-hikers on my way to the PCT. It seems that they, like everyone else I've talked to, plan to go to Harts Pass, another ten miles further than I want to hike today. The trail is icy crunchy. The mountains surrounding the camp make it into a bowl of cold air. I climb up towards Cutthroat Pass. Switchbacks of course. These have great views, especially today, it's clear and cold. No clouds in the clear blue sky. No breeze or wind of any kind. I feel an ecstatic feeling of lightness and joy. A beautiful day does that to me. Especially in the mountains. The trail reaches the sunshine. I feel a warmth on my back like I'm standing in front of a wood stove. Wow, stunning. I feel like Rapunzel felt it Tangled, “This is the best day ever!” I keep stopping and taking more pictures.

I feel great this morning no foot pain at all. I attribute some of that to the fact that it's so cold my feet are numb. Up and up I go, one switchback after the other. No need to stop, no need to catch my breath, truly remarkable. At the pass I meet Blackberry and Puppy. They were at the trail magic yesterday but I didn't meet them then. We talk about the beautiful blue sky and the views from here. 

I cross over and down from Cutthroat Pass and I am in another amphitheater. A valley surrounded by rocky crags, some with snow. The trail winds down and around the ridges. Down switchbacks, sharp ones , steeps ones. I am surrounded by stunning vistas in every direction. I have learned to stop and look. I have learned that protecting my feet comes first. It's like second nature to me now. I don't even have to think about it. If I want to look at anything but the trail I automatically stop. I stop a lot.

The trail crosses Granite Pass and I'm heading back up. I imagine that if I were not a Thru-hiker that had already hiked over two thousand miles preparing for this that these trails would be brutally tough. To me it's just trail. Be it up or down, it no longer matters. It hurts the same, but hurt doesn't tire me. I just live with it. Besides, today the views completely overwhelm the pain making it seem insignificant and immaterial.

I arrive at camp in mid afternoon. Glacier Pass. No one else is here, no one passed me all day. Did I get on the wrong trail? No this is the PCT. I wander through all the camps looking for the ideal spot. I settle on a flat spot under a tree on the edge of one of the larger campsites. As I'm setting up Speedy Gonzales stops. “Do you mind if I dry out my stuff here?” She asks. “Not at all,” I say. She lays out her wet sleeping bag and tarp in the warm sunshine. We chat about all kinds of stuff. She's a lot of fun to converse with. Everything from our favorite gear to our favorite blog authors. She shares her big stack of sliced salami with me as we chat. Eventually her stuff gets dry and she heads down the trail. It's gets quiet and a little lonely sitting here by myself. I may need to rethink this ending early in the day concept. I could be walking now, getting closer to finishing. I decide to cook an early dinner. I find a great log with a flat springy top on which to sit on the far side of camp. It'll also give me a good view of anyone on the trail passing to Harts Pass. I cook, I eat, I wait, no one comes. Time passes slowly, the warm sun disappears first behind the trees, then behind the mountain. No one. “That's odd,” I ponder. There should be scads of hikers passing by. It's getting late. There's no way they are going to make another ten miles without night hiking. 

I decide to turn in early. This is the earliest I've gotten to bed in a long time. It feels good to be laying down in my warm bag. There's still a lot of daylight left even though the sun is behind the tall mountains to the west. I doze and nap until dusk. It's getting dark when I hear voice in the first campsite about a hundred yards before this one. I can't tell who it is but they seem loud in the cool evening air. Perhaps it's the quiet afternoon that makes them seem so loud in contrast. 

It's almost dark. I hear voices on the trail in addition to the voices from the other camp. I see feet pass by. Then other feet from another direction. A whole host to Thru-hikers descend on my large empty campsite from multiple directions. Like Patton's army performing a grand sweeping pincer movement, the arrive from all directions. It's Shaggy, Red Ridinghood, Youngblood, Short Shorts, Cheese, Jules, Tumbleweed, and a few more I couldn't identify. It's like they didn't see my tent, or the were ignoring it. Either way. I felt like relatives had just arrived in my home. I lay there quietly listening to their banter. I got a warm sense of family. These were my kin. Unlike me they always hike till dark. They are used to this. I was fascinated with how relaxed and at ease they were setting up tents, cooking, and eating in the dark. In no time they had a nice fire going and they all sat down for story time. I thoroughly enjoyed laying in the dark listening to them take turns reading. Each doing their best to provide different voices to the characters. They stopped at the end of a cliff-hanger chapter and I found myself wishing they'd continue. I felt sort of like a mouse hiding in the walls of a house. The fire died down they all drifted off to their tents while a few of them doused the fire completely. I feel fortunate to have been here and that they chose to stop here too. I have a fondness for each of them. I drift off to sleep feeling like I'm surrounded by family members.

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