In the morning, I wish I could say that I felt any better – but I don’t. A self-defeatist attitude has well and thoroughly settled into my brainpan. I ask myself “what’s the point”, but I know that’s a stupid question – there are 155-odd miles to go. I’ll hit 2500 this morning, and I’m both looking forward to it and dreading it.
My rain fly is frozen into the shape of my tent and it’s hard to get my tent stakes out of the frozen ground and my hands are so cold it hurts like hell to use them. I’d put on my gloves, but they’re sopping wet and kind of useless. Which is kind of how I feel already. I’m hardly out of my tent and I’m kind of done with this day. I just want to sit on the frozen ground and cry. But instead I force some food down my throat, level out a little bit, manage to get everything packed away and get moving.
I start to sort through my Eeyore-like emotions. It’s like pulling teeth to get myself to admit that this isn’t just about a low mileage day. In 155 miles, my whole life’s going to change. I’m sad about it and scared about it and don’t know how I’m going to manage it. It’s much easier to be upset about mileage than to be upset about this nebulous thing that I can’t even fathom.
But how do I resolve this (s/m)adness? I mean, one obvious answer is “to quit”, but that seems colossally dumb at this juncture. At least I’m rational enough to recognize that. First, I’ve hiked nearly 2500 miles and I’ll be damned if I stop now, but more practically, I’d have to get to a road to quit. A road that leads to the outside world is nearly 100 miles away, meaning I’d have 60 miles – three days, at most – left to go. That sounds preposterous, and it’s enough to shock me out of the depths of my sadness. I have to take the knocks, take the setbacks, the being alone, being… kind of miserable. I resolve myself to it, keep striding on along.
The two hikers I saw at Stevens Pass lodge – who were rummaging through the hiker box, who were planning on taking a rest there – catch me despite my efforts to go faster, pass me, and here we fucking go with the feelings of worthlessness again.
The beauty of the outside is a nice counterpoint to the struggle on the inside.
The continued cold is making me whiny, I think, but on the heels of that thought comes another, kind of foreign: I want to go home. I don’t know that I’ve had that specific thought on trail before. I’ve wanted to rest, wanted to be finished, but never wanted to specifically go home. I correct myself: maybe I don’t necessarily want to go home-home, but I need a break. A serious break, not just another half-assed 22-mile nero with an overnight before resupplying and hiking out the next day. I want some time where I don’t have to be cold, don’t have to worry about getting hailed on, don’t have to be alone if I don’t want to. And, I mean, I’ll probably hate that too, after a while. I think I just need a change of pace.
I sit to take a break, do the math – I’m going to be a full day later than what I anticipated, and while that should be fine in terms of post-trail planning, I should accept it and just take it as it comes, the news sends me into another brief death spiral before I’m laughing at myself derisively. If this is what “post”-trail depression is like while I’m still on the trail, I am terribly concerned for what that means for when I’m actually off-trail.
Maybe this is my mid-life crisis – I’m already unsure of who am I, who this person is that seems to be me but with all these miles behind her. I guess some people get divorced, some people have children, I just freak the fuck out about feeling like a fraud while not actually being a fraud. There are worse things, I guess.
Let me explain you a thing, new girl: it’s tough. It’s supposed to be tough. If you can make it through this, everything else will seem a lot… simpler. I think. At least, I hope.
Up and around and over Red Pass, down through a rockfield, with teasing views of Glacier Peak:
The views get better, and I stop for too long to dry my stuff, listen to a presentation from the Commonwealth Club of California, stare at the mountain that gives absolutely no fucks how I’m feeling. There’s a bit of cold comfort in that.
The trail meets and starts to follow a creek, heading down, down, out of the views and into the woods via shaded creekside switchbacks.
The trail eventually crosses the stream, technically on a log that’s about three feet above the six-inch-deep stream. I could just cross, get my feet wet, but wet feet are cold, and I’ve had about enough of that. I let my trekking poles hang from their straps off my wrists like I usually do – I’m pretty terrible at balancing while holding them – and make my way carefully across the log. Three steps in I’m like a goddamn cartoon, pinwheeling and falling on my ass, not really hurting myself, but getting my feet wet. I have a brief moment of incredulity, then I’m bawling, more out of shock and terror at what could’ve happened than out of pain. I want to finish. I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to let my distraction end my hike. The bawling turns to hiccups, the hiccups turn to sullen sniffles. Then the only sound is the stream.
I pick myself up and keep walking.
Not long after, I finally, FINALLY run across some hikers – Smiles and Dilly Dally, drying their things on a bridge. They’re happy to talk and I’m happy to grossly understate my mental exhaustion. No need to involve them in my personal drama.
Then it’s over another creek, and another and another – so much water today! – including Kennedy Creek, with its famous broken bridge. …Well, kind of broken. It still serves its purpose.
Then it’s up up up I go, as the clouds hide Glacier Peak and the weather starts to threaten sketchiness again.
I pass a woman coming down while I’m on my way up, and she looks terribly familiar. Are you Heather Anderson? I blurt. She says yes, and then looks at me as if she knows me. I rapidly disabuse her of that notion – why the hell would a PCT and AT speed record holder know who I am?1 – but I tell her that I think she’s rad, and that I hope she has a good day out. She smiles and moves along; I wait until her stride takes her (what I hope is) out of earshot, before I let out a high pitched squee. Well that was awesome.
There’s some wiggle in the profile, and I come up against a bigger downed tree puzzle than I’ve seen since Oregon. I’m nearly over it when I remember there’s an entry in Guthook that talks about not climbing over this snarl. Dilly Dally and Smiles come up behind me, and I ask them if there’s a switchback above them. Oh hey, yeah there is, guess that’s where the trail goes. So it’s up and back over and around to get back to the trail. At least I’m getting my exercise in for the day.
The pair escort me ahead of them when Dilly Dally asks if that’s my Buff hanging off my pack. No, I found it in the trail earlier today. Turns out, it’s her Buff, and she’s glad to have it back. I’m glad to have been able to give it back to her, and we chat about finding and losing things and ohmygodthatwasreallyHeatherAnderson as we make our way up the last up for the evening.
The down is stunning – I love ridgewalks, and only wish I could see farther! But it’s getting darker and cloudier and the light is not optimal for pictures. Rats. But it’s a beautiful rocky landscape where I can see, all the way down to Mica Lake, where I’ve decided to camp, and where, glory hallelujah, there are people.
The two hikers who passed me early on in the day are here, chatting and eating, and once I go to the lake and come back with water Dilly Dally and Smiles are here, too. Galactic rolls in as we’re setting up, and we’re all far enough from the lake but kind of also on top of each other, in a merry, companionable sort of way. I intend to eat out where I can see everyone, but the wind is rough and crazy, and I retreat into my vestibule, cooking from there and chatting with folks over the growing wind. It’s Idahoan for me this evening, and while I think I’m going to have a problem finishing it, I down the whole packet no problem. Rite of passage completed. I guess I’m a real thruhiker now.
The sounds of people settling in for the evening are music to my ears, a lullabye for a rough day.
Date: September 22 • Start: 2495.7 • End: 2518.3 • Day: 22.5
Notable Accomplishments: Did more miles than I thought I would1 • Saw Heather Anderson! • Camped with people!
 Funny story: She actually does know who I am, and she was in the process of recognizing me. She and Spesh are acquaintances, and she knows of me through him.
 Extended footnote related to yesterday’s footnote: So I recorded the first half of the day’s notes on the morning all of the feels were happening. I recorded the second half of the day’s notes the following day. Lemme just say: what a difference a day makes. We’ll be done with the maudlin musings tomorrow.