118 miles hiked
The night is perfectly still with a bright silver dollar moon, almost full, whose glory I witness when I wake in the dark to string up my mosquito net. I lie awake for a while, watching the moonshadows move on the tarp and experiencing deep wonderment at the magic that is, like, planet earth, man.
Chill granite slabs with just the right amount of grip for our shoes and tufts of grass here and there take us up like an escalator to Thunder Ridge Pass, where we find a cliff that ends in some very steep and unstable talus. We need to make it down this talus. This is what we expected, though, this is what we came here for. I want to feel like an insect tiptoeing on the back of a dragon, trying not to wake it. Light as a feather, light as a feather, I think, as I make my way from large precarious boulder balanced just-so to large precarious boulder balanced just-so. Beneath each boulder is a black void, a dim nothingness waiting to swallow my ankle. Time disappears, as do my thoughts. Occasionally the deep rumble of a boulder as it shifts, but does not quite fall. These boulders have felt the weight of winter snowpack, I am nothing to these boulders. Right? Light as a feather, light as a feather.
At the bottom we reach a string of lakes set in a bowl built from talus and we stay up near the rim of this bowl, contouring around it until we reach a beautiful high forest of foxtail pines. Kodak woke up this morning feeling as though he’s coming down with something, maybe from being around a thousand people in Lodgepole and then our sleepless night in the storm and the taxing next day in the wind. We discuss our options as we drop out of the foxtail pines to Cunningham creek, which is an absolute paradise of clear water wending through a long, grassy meadow in the warm gentle sunshine. We stop to take a break and Kodak immediately begins to fall asleep in the grass. He proposes that we stay here for the rest of the day, basically take an on-trail zero. If we do that, he thinks, the thing he’s fighting might not make itself all the way present and tomorrow he’ll feel 100%. Rest. He just needs to rest.
I have never taken an on-trail zero before, although I have always thought about how nice it would be. Normally, zeros are actually pretty stressful- laundry, emails, resupply, stuffing oneself, the overstimulation of town, etc. Here, though, there is none of that. The rest of our day would consist of lounging on the grass in the warm sunshine, napping and eating snacks. That’s pretty much it.
The amount of food I have is starting to worry me a little- I already felt that I barely had enough to cut it for this section, what if we take a day off? But I decide not to worry about it. Which is pretty easy to do, because this particular moment in this particular meadow is one of the most beautiful natural landscapes I have ever had the privilege to experience. I mean, yolo, right?