Mile 2267.5 to mile 2295
I have a dream that I’m camping under a giant tarp and it’s raining, and the rain is coming in sideways, and I’m running back and forth looking for a dry place to sleep but every time I lay down rats come out of the ground and bite me. And I don’t have any clothes, just a towel.
Thru-hiking anxiety dreams- I’ve been having them a lot lately. I feel like these last few weeks I’ve been a nonstop ball of anxiety- anxiety and a sort of loneliness. I’ve been missing the intimacy of the trail last year, the bond I had with Spark and Insitgate. The way we looked out for each other, left notes for each other, planned our days together. How hard we could make each other laugh. I never made close friends on the trail this year, I’ve just been in a big group the whole time. And lately it’s been making me feel lonely, sort of gutted. Lately I’ve wanted someone to talk to on breaks, someone to wait for, someone who will wait for me. A friend. I feel adrift and alone. And anxious. I can’t shake this bad feeling- that I’ve done something wrong, that I’ve failed somehow. I feel disappointed and sad.
So that’s my morning. Sitting in my tent, rubbing the bad dream from my eyes. Here I am, on the PCT. Again. Only a few weeks left, for better or worse.
We all set out from camp within ten minutes of each other but there’s a long climb and I’m always the slowest on the climbs, so I fall behind. I keep getting to break spots right after everyone has left, and after awhile I just accept that I’ll be walking alone today over Goat Rocks, one of the most beautiful parts of the trail. Last year it was overcast when I was here and I hiked it with Instigate and Raho and we were laughing, happy. Weren’t we? I think we were.
The most epic climbing we’ve done in a while, up out of the forest into alpine meadows bright with wildflowers, so beautiful I want to cry. I see a big black bear- it runs away from me on the trail and then sits in the woods, watching me pass. I look at it and it looks at me. The day is hot, and muggy, and every so often there is a clap of thunder on the horizon. But the sky is clear, save for a haze of smoke from the wildfires, and Mt. Adams sits on the horizon like a god. I climb and climb and climb, feeling more exposed in the sun than I have in a long time. I pass dozens of day hikers, all happy and smiling in this bright, flower-filled paradise. At 1 pm I still haven’t caught the others so I stop to eat lunch, in a lush meadow that looks out at Mt. Adams. It’s peaceful here, and I think about how few times on this trip I’ve just sat like this, in a beautiful place, and enjoyed it. I’m always rushing, rushing, rushing, just trying to keep up. We’re all rushing, trying to keep up- with what?
This trail will be over so soon.
After lunch I’m ready to not be by myself anymore so I book it, hiking as fast as I can. I’m near the top when a man on a horse appears on the snow- he’s handsome and rail thin, with white hair and a gigham shirt, and he’s wearing a giant cowboy hat.
“Are you a thru-hiker?” He says.
“Yeah,” I say.
“I have a snickers for you,” says the man. He reaches into his saddlebag and tosses me a candy bar.
“Thank you!” I say.
I don’t see anyone at the top, I don’t see anyone on the long snow traverse. My heart sinks. I thought they’d all be taking a lunch break somewhere, enjoying the view? I tried as hard as I could to keep up today, but everyone apparently felt like booking it and I fucking failed failed failed. Just one friend, I think. I just wish I had one fucking friend who wanted to hike the way I do.
The trail is almost over.
I think about this as I traverse the knife edge, a narrow trail that goes along the spine of the mountain. Rainer rises up in the distance, looking hazy and magical. Part of me feels sad and tired and defeated, and that part of me is ready for the trail to be over. But another part of me thinks that Washington can be salvaged… somehow. I just don’t know how.
I can see the trail ahead for miles as I traverse the knife edge, and there’s no-one on it. What the fuck? Where are they? I’m dehydrated and I book it down the mountain, finally get to a stream tumbling out of a snowfield.
There’s a hiker there- he says he thru-hiked last year and came back again this year to cherry pick a few sections. I never met him, but he hiked around a bunch of people that I did. We walk down the mountain together- company at last!
We happen upon a group of day hikers taking a break. I ask them if they’ve seen any of my group.
“Haven’t seen them,” they say.
“How long have you been here?”
Then it hits me- somehow they’re behind me. Jesus christ, this shit gives me anxiety. My new hiker friend convinces me to stop and have a late lunch with him and I anxiously eat potato chips while he boils coffee and heats water for chicken curry. Even knowing that they’re behind me, it’s hard to sit still. What if they’re not? I wish I could turn off my brain.
We’re packing up to hike on when Woody comes clacking down the hill.
“What?” He says. “Where were you?”
It turns out that I didn’t take the PCT over the very top of the mountain, I accidentaly took the stock alternate.
Hence the man on the horse.
The three of us hike 3 more miles to an off-trail spring, where people had planned to camp for the night. It’s another long climb, and just before we get there it starts hailing- big pieces of hail. We book it down to the spring and set up our shelters in the rain. The rain peters out, and Guthrie appears- of course he has no idea where anyone else is.
Oh well. We’ll all be at White Pass in the morning.
Photos on instagram.