2,516 miles hiked
The wind goes all night long, flapping the walls of my tent. The rustling sounds like a million things and my imagination goes crazy as I drift off, alone on the high dark ridge. I’ll be just about asleep and then- rustle rustle rustle! Bears? Deer? Coyotes? No, just the walls of my tent. This goes on throughout the night and the rustling enters my dreams, becomes all sorts of distressing plot twists. The wind grows icy, and sucks the warmth from my tarp. Eventually I wake up from the cold, drift in and out until dawn.
So I’m tired in the morning. And I’m still rationing food, so I’ll be hungry. And it’s too windy to be able to use my stove to heat water for tea. But morale is high! Because tonight I’ll camp within six miles of the highway, and sometime tomorrow I’ll be eating incredible savory greasy things. Can you even imagine it!
The trail stays on or just below the literal continental divide all day. This means lots of sweeping views of shimmery brown ridges all nestled together, their slopes covered in dull beetle-kill forest, and lots and lots of PUD. Short steep up, short steep down. Short steep up, short steep down. Repeat. The sky is the clearest it’s been for a while and as soon as the sun comes up I feel like I’m being cooked from all directions in a high-altitude oven. The trail traverses a forested slope and suddenly there are lots of blowdowns and the trail dissappears several times in the waist-high grass. It takes me a minute to get through that stretch. The trail continues to dissappear throughout the day, and to be generally difficult. I try not to get frustrated, but I’m hungry and worn out from the PUD and the sun. Every time I check my mileage I seem to be going even slower. I want to lay down in a patch of shade and go to sleep. Instead I walk.
I’m listening to an audiobook in which the main character is always hungry, and that helps. I mean, I’ve been hungrier on the trail before. I packed around 3,000 calories a day for this section- pretty good but less than I need, especially towards the end of the trail when I’m fairly depleted. Not total starvation, not like on the PCT in 2013 in Washington when I hiked 50 miles on 1200 calories. This is a sort of low-grade hunger, nagging me all day. It reminds me of when I was anorexic in high school, and would count all my calories to make sure I always had less than I needed. How did I do that? It was worth it at the time, to feel like I had some semblance of control over some small corner of my life. But fuck, what an awful feeling.
I realize in the afternoon that I’ll have to night-hike to make it to my planned campsite six miles from the highway, and this depresses me. But then the hot, oppressive sun sets and the air turns chilly and I get a second wind. I pull out my headlamp and cruise, until I can see the twinkling lights of several small towns way down below me. Town! They will have hot food there! The stars come out in the black velvet of the sky and I startle a few deer, their eyes glowing yellow on the stalks of their long necks. Hello deer, I say. Just you and me in this dark night. I reach my campsite, next to a small murky lake, and find a windless spot just above the lake behind a large boulder. I realize too late that this large boulder is a place where people who camp at the lake come to dig their catholes- there are tidy piles of earth here and there, large rocks placed just so. I tip over one of the rocks and see the mummified remains of some toilet paper. Oh well. I set my tarp up carefully in a bit of long grass behind the boulder, figuring there are no catholes in the grass. Or maybe I’m too tired to care very much. Or maybe I’ve been hiking for so long, shitting in holes and then poking at my poop with a stick to make sure it’s all the way in the hole, blowing my nose on a snotty hanky, bleeding all over my pee rag when I’m on my period (and then hanging the bloody pee rag off of my pack), making tea in a pot still crusted with last night’s dinner, never washing my spoon, sweating and farting and dribbling pee into my clothes until they smell, as my friend Chance puts it, like cat piss onions- that I’m no longer grossed out by anything.
It’s perfectly still and windless and flat behind this boulder, and I couldn’t be happier. I make my hot rice-noodle dinner and put lots of salt in it, kicking myself again for not packing any olive oil. An 8-ounce bottle of olive oil and an 8-ounce bottle of mayo and boom, I would’ve had enough calories in this section. As it is I’ll probably wake up hungry a few hours after falling asleep. No matter- I have one bar for the morning, I’ll get to the highway and have a low blood sugar hitch into Pagosa Springs, and then I will Eat All The Things.
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