Mile 866.5 to mile 886.5
I’m almost, but not quite, too cold, and I sleep in a tense little ball- tight to keep in the heat. When I wake there’s frost on my bag and I ache all over- my back, my hips. I feel almost hungover from sleeping all balled up. Or maybe it’s the altitude. The postholing. Something.
We don’t start hiking until the sun hits us. It’s too goddam cold. Groggily we pack up, eat a little breakfast. Put on our frozen shoes. The water in my platypus is frozen and I crush it up into chunks. Well, I think. I have slushy to drink today. I feel pretty excited about it. We hike over the soggy trail, the trail cut into granite, the trail running with water- The Pacific Crest Creek. We descend back down into the dusty pine forest and then it’s hot again and we’re climbing, climbing in the heat. Today I feel like I have molasses in my veins, instead of blood. Today I drag myself upward, panting like a person with just one lung. I eat snacks, stare off into space. Today I am stuck in low gear.
We reach the trail junction to Vermillion Valley Resort at 11 a.m. Twinkle and Guthrie are going there, to pick up resupply boxes. It will be an extra 12 miles of hiking for them. The rest of us will go just 20 miles, to a lake on the other side of selden pass, to give them an easier time catching up. I say goodbye to Twinkle and Guthrie and then sit in the dirt to eat snacks. Woody and Coughee fidget for a minute and then march on. There’s reception, miraculously, at this spot, and I plug into my solar charger and get online, become lost in the world of instagram and online errands. Wiki Wiki appears and plops down in the shade to make phone calls to her boyfriend. It’s incredibly relaxing here, half in and half out of the sun, a little breeze blowing, my snacks all around me. Before I know it it’s 2:30, and 3.5 hours have past. Oh shit, I think. I only have 12 miles left but it’s up and over a snowy pass and today I am so, so slow. I pack up my things, say goodbye to Wiki, and begin my slow molasses roll down the trail.
Cold stream crossings, climbing, forest, sun. One foot in front of the other. I’m just below the pass, eating barbeque potato chips and feeling monumentaly unmotivated, when Wiki catches me. She’s blasting pop music from the speaker of her iphone and singing as she charges up the trail.
“Oh my god, pop music,” I say.
“Did you know I teach Zumba?” Says Wiki.
“That is perfect,” I say. “That is exactly what I need for this climb. A zumba instructor.”
It’s amazing how hiking with another person, riding their tailwind, can boost your morale. We’re stomping up through the slush, we’re postholing, we’re route finding where the trail is covered in snow. We’re at the top, we’re changing (me into my tights, Wiki into her rain pants) so that we can glissade. We don’t give a fuck.
The snow is too soft to glissade. We stumble down the slope, half skiing in our shoes, laughing. Picking our way over boulder fields, down jumbles of dirt and rock, sinking in the snow. We reach the twinkling lake where we’d agreed to camp and at first we don’t see them but then they’re there- Woody and Coughee, sitting in their sleeping bags on a sun-warmed slab of granite next to the water. Hooray!
I’ve just stretched and bedded down in my sleeping bag when we hear hollers way up on the mountain. We hoot back and soon Guthrie and Twinkle appear, returned from VVR! They hiked so fast, they say. They drank Mt. Dews and crushed up the mountain. A 32 mile day for them!
We’re all laughing and happy, feeling good next to this twinkling alpine lake in the last of the light. What is this magical place, where we all live? Who are these people, all of us so different from each other, thrown together in this magical land, bonding? What is this world? This time? This universe?
The best part about the trail is that after a while, you forget that any other world exists.
The worst part about the trail is that after a while, you forget that any other world exists.
Photos on instagram.