The rain starts up around 4am, defying the weather report’s later prediction; no one starts moving until 6. The regret at leaving the dry confines of our tiny tent worlds is strong this morning. But we have miles to make, so we’re eventually all out and rolling down the trail in the rain.
Hiking with Cookie Scrambler, Boy Pockets, and Tenure makes it alright, though – having people to talk to, people around, makes the increasing wetness bearable. Particularly when we see that a lot of people, probably wisely, are still abed. I get it. I wish I was too, in a way.
We cross waterfalls and creeks on bridges and logs, wonder at the trail crew working on one of the biggest trees I’ve ever seen in the trail, all in the rain. Crazy.
The climb, when it starts, makes things more bearable – I’m generating heat, so I’m not worried about hypothermia, working my way up a slope that actually doesn’t feel that challenging, which is really cool. Cookie Scrambler and I lose Boy Pockets and Tenure, catch A-Game and Undercover, chat for a bit.
And then we come into another burn area, and the wind starts to howl.
We’re leapfrogging with A-Game and Undercover, and I try to negotiate for a dry spot for lunch, since their rain fly is so big. They agree, so now it’s just about finding a spot big enough for their fly.
Cookie Scrambler and I are pushing forward, though her steps are getting slower and slower. We talk about stopping to wait for Tenure and Boy Pockets, but I don’t think that’s a good idea. We make it up and over, talk about stopping generally, but there’s no decent spot to do so. There are campsites listed ahead; hopefully one of them will work.
Finally, we contour then head down, down, and I’m running when I can, trying to find a decent spot. Trouble is, there don’t seem to be any. Cookie, meanwhile, is getting slower. The first campsite is on a ridge in the howling wind, so it’s most definitely a no-go.
We’ve still got another ways to go before the next one listed, and she gets distracted by the water flowing in what looks like an actual streambed, as opposed to the rushing trailside waterfall we opportunistically collected from earlier. She wants to stop to collect, to pee, to rest, but she says all this with a slur, doesn’t quite understand when I tell her the next campsite is less than a mile ahead. Shit. When A-Game and Undercover catch up, they try to explain it to her, but it still doesn’t seem to take. It seems she might be pre-hypothermic, soooo that’s fun.
The other two push on, and I collect water for Cookie Scrambler while she pees. When she comes back, I go to hand her the now-full platypus, but my fingers refuse to hold that much weight. I can’t force my fingers to close tight enough hold a measly 4.4 pounds. Shit-shit. I can feel myself cooling off, losing precious heat the longer I stay still. I stop filling early before we’re full up, tell her we’ll both have to make do with what we’ve got – we’ve gotta move.
So it’s another half-mile down the track, encouraging her, watching her for the stumbles. She seems to do okay, though, and while the campsite we pull into is more exposed than I’d like, there’s room for us in addition to A-Game and Uncercover. I make the call for me; I think it’s good if I stop here, and I tell Cookie, when she asks why we’re stopping, that we made it to camp. She’s excited initially, claiming a spot first, but she stares at the site for a while before I notice, tell her to set up, get in. I feel like a bossy ass, but she/we need to get warm.
I’m mostly set up when Tenure and Boy Pockets come around the corner – they didn’t stop, they want to make it to the bottom of the hill. I’m already cooled off at this point, desperately setting up my tent to get inside, and I don’t want to set a bad example for Cookie Scrambler – if I pull chocks, I think she’ll go, too, and I think she needs to get dry, get warm, stay. I start to shiver and that makes up my mind for me; I have to get warm before I stop shivering. They continue on, and I feel bad for splitting up their group.
My tent is wet, so wet once I set it up, and it’s hard to try to set up my sleeping pad, my sleeping bag, knowing they’re going to get wet, too. I do some mopping up with various articles of clothing once I remove them, wring them out outside my vestibule as I boil some water to warm up with. I’m the most pathetic I’ve ever been as I fight my way into my puffy, sticky with moisture, nearly crying from the cold. I should have never gotten out of bed this morning. At least I would’ve stayed dry.
Once into dry sleep clothes, things suck a little less – my feet are permanently ice cubes, apparently, but the rest of me is warm and content. At least, until my footbox soaks through and my feet are ice cubes for reasons, but whatcha gonna do. I think maybe it’ll dry, then laugh at my optimism.
Two hours later, I see blue sky through my rain fly and it’s barely sprinkling and I want nothing better than to move, but I’m pretty sure I’d get hypothermia just putting my wet clothes back on. And since I’m not hiking in my sleeping clothes – the only dry clothes I have – I guess I’m staying here. I have no idea how I’m going to do the wet clothes thing tomorrow. Wait until the sun’s way up, I guess.
There are 39.8 miles to Stevens Pass, so if I can even do 15 tomorrow, through more rain, it’ll make for arrival the following day. Or night, anyway. I’ll push if there’s a chance I can sleep inside. Maybe dry my things. Maybe that’ll make up for the fact that I’ll probably have to extend my timeline by a day or so.
So I listen to podcasts and write and chat with the others through our flimsy tent walls as the rain and the blue sky alternately come and go. I cook, I eat. I begrudgingly get out of my tent to pee several times. The time – the rest of the day, the light – passes. I’m disappointed I didn’t make more miles – maybe I would have, if I were alone, but I would have been more worried, too. I don’t know what the best answer would have been, but this is the one I’ve chosen, and as I fall asleep, I know I have to be content with that.
Date: September 17 • Start: 2405.4 • End: 2421.9 • Day: 16.5
Notable Accomplishments: Walked in the rain for 7 hours • Did not get hypothermia • Got some (forced) time to think and breathe