Mile 1617 to mile 1648
Every month, in the week before I get my period, I have a day filled with intense, sloth-like fatigue. It’s as if someone replaced my blood with lead and then replaced the air with warm jello- I try desperately to crush miles but I’ve been transported to an alternate reality where all I can do is stumble forward at one mile an hour and take constant breaks, wishing desperately I could just go to sleep.
Today is that day.
Cowbells, cowbells keep me up at night! The beautiful meadow adjacent to where we’ve camped is full of cows, and the cows all have bells. Every movement the cows make makes the bells jangle, and all night long the cows move. I thought cows slept at night? The jangling reaches an epic crescendo at 4:30 a.m., like the most annoying alarm imaginable. I fumble around in the dark, looking for my earplugs, but I cannot find them. I am awake.
We’ve got five thousand feet of elevation gain today, over a series of steep climbs, plus a lot of ridge-walking in the hot, muggy sunshine. It’s eleventy-billion degrees again, aka around 100, and by 8 a.m. I’m drenched in my own sweat. And the lethargy! My god, the lethargy. I climb the mountain in slow motion and soon I lose everyone- Guthrie, Twinkle, Chance, Mack, Woody, Jr. Sr. I am way in the back, all by myself in my own sweaty, personal hell. Morale is low. To make myself feel better I look at the elevation profile constantly, set little goals- only three more climbs, I tell myself. Only two more climbs. You only have to go thirty miles- just thirty miles and then you can camp.
Thirty miles I can do. Even if I don’t see anyone all day and get to camp at eight, I know I can do it. This bouys my spirits a little and I settle into my slow pace. Sitting down feels euphoric, but I don’t let myself do it. I’m walking too slow for breaks today. More than anything in the world I want to curl up in a patch of shade and go to sleep for a couple of hours, but then I would fall behind my friends, and that would make me sad.
So walking, I just have to walk.
Thru-hiking rule: do whatever you want, just don’t stop walking.
The streams on the hillsides and in the meadows are swarming with butterflies. The birds are singing incessently. The tops of the mountains are white marble. Marble mountain wilderness! There are also lots of biting flies- regular sized black ones, huge black ones, creepy yellow ones. The regular sized black ones are the worst- their bites hurt like a motherfucker, and leave a welt. I’m also tripping a lot today- I trip four or five times, and catch myself in all sorts of fantastical ways. After so much time on my feet, I seem to be incapable of falling. But I still trip a lot, when I’m tired.
In the middle of the day I’m pushing my way through the trail where it’s overgrown with tangled green plants and flowers and the humidity is rising up off the flowers, smothering me. It feels as though I’m in a steam room full of flowers. So many different smells- gummy bears, chocolate, pomegranates.
I meet some southbound hikers.
“Are you Carrot?” They say. “Twinkle said to tell you that he’s going 38 miles, all the way to the campground at the bottom.”
“Really?” I say. “Is he pranking me?”
“He seemed pretty serious,” say the hikers.
A little later I come upon some day hikers camped next to a lake, and they confirm the news.
“A whole group of them,” they say. “All said they were doing forty miles.”
My heart sinks. That would be everyone, then. No way I could do 38 miles today, not in a million years. I can barely hike. It’ll be a miracle when I make it to 30. So I’m camping by myself tonight? All my friends hours ahead, getting to the Saied valley cafe in time for breakfast tomorrow, eating pancakes without me and then hiking on. I want to cry.
I turn a corner and there’s Guthrie, eating snacks next to a stream.
“No way I’m doing 38 miles,” he says.
Thank god for Guthrie.
We hike over the last two climbs together, leapfrogging each other in the afternoon heat. We crest a ridge and at last begins the long, pounding descent- we’ll go about four thousand feet down before camping for the night. The air grows even warmer and more humid as I plod downhill, and dense, staticky clouds roll in. Thunder claps. My body aches from the heat and my brain feels too hot. I’m fantasizing about swimming holes and, for some reason, beans and rice. I have a touch of butt chafe. I reach our campsite at 7:15, an old dirt road next to a creek. I strip and jump in the icy water, wash the black dust off my legs and feet. Once homeostasis has been restored I fix a little dinner, watch the light start to fade.
Tomorrow: we attempt to swim the Klamath river in order to avoid a 4 mile roadwalk!
Photos on instagram.