Day 77: Trooper and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day…(except for the end)

June 6, 2018

813.8-824.7

In an effort to keep these entries as true to their original content as possible, I’ve cleaned up the grammar, punctuation, and overall organization or things but left in much of the profanity that may have been typed while hiking. I just want to be real with you guys, because sometimes you just have a really bad day on trail for no reason. Thanks for not judging/hating me.

All of my clothes were still wet the next morning, including my new Outdoor Research gloves, but at least nothing was frozen. There was ice all over my tent but my shoes weren’t stiff, so that was good. Small mercies. I put all my damp clothes into my sleeping liner with two activated hand warmers to help them dry or at least warm up a little so I could put them on to hike. We’d be going over Mather Pass today which is supposedly the most “fear-inducing” pass, according to Guthooks. We’ll see. I was so fatigued after yesterday’s adventures that stressing about the coming climb was about all I had the energy for. Being rescued by handsome young men certainly was nice, though (let’s face it, being rescued at all was nice).

I had the worst attitude climbing up Mather Pass. People kept telling me that Forrester and Whitney are the biggest challenges on the PCT, but so far every day since then has brought a new level of sketchy shit my way. Sparky and Ghosthiker pulled well ahead of me and I’d followed some other hiker across an expanse of rocky terrain that we hoped was part of the trail, but which turned out to be a terrible mistake. We all had to scramble up snow and rocks before we found what was actually the trail, which was comprised of some of the narrowest and steepest switchbacks I’ve encountered so far.

My fear wasn’t as bad as it was on Forrester but was still rather debilitating. However, because of my bad attitude, I was angry with Sparky and Ghosthiker for leaving me behind on this sketchy climb and used that anger to fuel my progress. It wasn’t as if I expected them to babysit me or anything, so I knew my anger was totally unfair and unfounded and that I was being a child. Even so, I let my anger take the place of any fear I might have been experiencing on this climb, and it worked to get me over the pass. It didn’t do me much good otherwise, though.

When I finally reached the pass, I was still angry. Not really at my trail family but at everything. At almost dying, at still being the slowest one in the group even after 800 miles, at this stupid infection that was making me uncomfortable and ill and at my stupid legs for not being stronger. I didn’t take a break on top of Mather Pass but went straight down the other side without stopping. I knew I couldn’t pretend to not be mad so I figured the best thing to do would be to keep moving. I really wanted to get down before the sun hit the snow anyway. Ghosthiker took some pictures of me as I ascended the pass, but she told me later she could tell I was upset but didn’t question me about it at the time, though there would come a time when she would, and justifiably so. 

The climb down Mather Pass was the sketchiest descent I’ve ever experienced. I spent a good part of it scrabbling down loose scree in search of the trail. Prayers like “God, don’t let me die in a rockslide!” and “Where the hell is the trail? Or A trail? Any trail!” and “Fuck this shit! Fuck everything!” Were often on my mind. There was a legitimate moment when I thought I was going to go tumbling down the mountain in a heap of rocks, but just before I reached the point of no return where I would’ve been unable to control my fall anymore, I just said, “Nope!” and turned and climbed back up to relative safety.

But I had to find a way down. There were about a dozen hikers all forging what seemed to be their own paths down the mountain, and none looked particularly trustworthy. At one point it seemed safe to glissade and save my knees a little work, but alas, looks were entirely deceiving. The smooth snowpack was much steeper than I thought and it was all I could do to maintain control of my slide with my ice ax, and I ended up tearing up my arm against the ice and snow in the process. At one point when I almost lost control entirely my water bottle and attached filter slipped from the side pocket of my pack and went sailing off down the mountain. 

“No… NO!” 

My only water bottle with my Sawyer filter attached slid away from me along the snow-covered hillside, gaining momentum the further it went before it zipped over the side of a snowbank, disappearing over the edge. 

All I could do was watch, too shocked by my bad luck to be mad. I’d brought this on myself. This was Karma. I was being punished for being such a cranky, ungrateful bitch. I could have died yesterday and instead of skipping over this mountain with the joy of being alive I was angry and irritable and acting like a damn child. I deserved to lose my filter and get Giardia.

There was nothing for it. I glissaded as far as I dared and as slowly as I could, then was forced to stand up and hike down precariously with my microspikes on to see if I could find whatever was left of my water bottle and filter. It was so far, but finally I reached it and found that other than a small puncture in the bottle, everything else was intact. Thank God. I didn’t deserve it.

After that, it was a slow, precarious climb across the snow and gradually down, down, down to less-snow covered terrain. I’d had to pee for the longest time and was in the greatest discomfort when finally I found cover amidst some shrubs and away from the myriad of little streams. I was probably still too close to them but was beyond caring at that point. I didn’t just have to pee, I felt like my bladder was on fire and about to explode, but there’d been nowhere to stop because there were hikers everywhere. I’d just finished taking care of business and still had my pants down when another hiker came around the corner out of nowhere. I shouted a warning and he quickly turned around, thankfully. I felt like I just couldn’t catch a break today. 

But wait, there’s more. 

When I finally found the trail again, it was going up. That’s right, up. We had not reached the bottom of the mountain yet and the trail randomly decided to go steeply and suddenly up around a lake. This was the part of the day when we get to hike down! I powered along the trail, down beyond the other end of the lake and into the trees, and eventually came to a very calm, quiet river. I crossed it without stopping and took a break on the other side, letting my socks and shoes dry out a little after being soaked by snow from post-holing. I took deep breaths, ate a snack, and immediately started to feel better, especially once Sparky and Ghosthiker showed up.

Maybe it was because I was hangry and had finally eaten a decent amount of food (half a protein cookie and some trail mix). Sparky and Ghosthiker were glad/relieved to see me and hoped everything was okay since I didn’t take a break on top of Mather Pass and they hadn’t seen me since, until now. I assured them I was fine, and I was. It’s amazing what a little food and a sit-down can do for the soul.

The rest of the day we had a lovely hike and some easy river crossings that didn’t require the removal of shoes, and then a gorgeous view of the mountains from a lookout point. We all took each other’s pictures, which was fun. I felt terrible for having been mad at them and hoped they hadn’t taken too much notice. 

On our way down the mountain we were trying to decide whether it’d be best to push another 15 miles to the base of Muir Pass or camp early and have a relatively easy day tomorrow. It was only 2:00pm. We were all exhausted from all the summiting we’ve done every single day since Lone Pine, but the main concern was food. I had planned to hike through to Reds Meadow and skip VVR, so I knew I had enough food, but Sparky and Ghosthiker had planned to go over at least one pass every day and there was concern about whether they’d have enough food to even get them to VVR if we decided to take a somewhat slower day tomorrow. There was at least one other pass before VVR that would come after a 30ish mile stretch, which meant another day in between summits. For some reason, this mileage wasn’t accounted for when we were planning how long it would take us to get to VVR and Reds Meadow.

I had plenty of food, as usual, both from over-preparing and because I wasn’t eating enough throughout the day. I told Sparky and Ghosthiker I would much rather share my food and have to go to VVR with them than be hauling ass across the Sierra to get somewhere before either of them run out of food. I thought that maybe if we slowed down some more I might enjoy the hike a little more. Who knows? Sparky’s knee was hurting, my feet are killing me at the end of every day and look like mush from being constantly wet due to post-holing and river crossings gone bad, and while Ghosthiker seems to be the only one not experiencing any above-average pain, she is running the lowest on food.

We decided to stop at a campsite and go through our food supplies. I gave each of them some things out of my bear can according to what they would need to add another day or two to this leg of our hike and we were all set to slow it down a notch. I wasn’t thrilled about having to stop at VVR now for a resupply because I’d heard how expensive it is, but it was worth it to me to a) take some of the pressure off the hiking schedule, b) help my friends feel confident about taking a little slower, and c) not be hiking alone in the Sierra. 

We hiked a few more miles and camped next to Palisade Creek. It was early in the day, so we were able to let our wet things dry out completely in the sunshine and share a leisurely dinner together. Ghosthiker and I even took the opportunity to tend to our feet in the cold water and have a half-bath (were you sit in the shallow water and let everything from your abdomen down get good and clean, including shorts and panties. I don’t know what the Leave No Trace regulations are on that, but I had a severe infection and there wouldn’t be showers available for another week, so…yeah. I couldn’t have cared less just then. It wasn’t as if I had soap to use anyway and we were way downstream from the campsite.

My hair was starting to get kind of gross already but there was nothing I could do about that. I had no shampoo and no way to haul water far enough away from the river to wash it anyway. My little travel mirror is also a compact brush and I used it for the first time that evening, thinking maybe if I brushed it out it wouldn’t seem so gross. I think that was the first time I’d run a brush through my hair since starting my hike. Gross. I didn’t want to think about how much more of a pain my dirty hair would have been if I’d left it long. 

That evening, warm and dry in my tent with a full stomach from dinner, I revisited my list of reasons why I’m hiking the PCT:

I’m hiking the PCT because…

I want to believe that I can do anything I set out to do. 

I want to prove to myself that I’m worth it. I’m worth all of it. 

I want to be able to move on with confidence and a feeling of completion. 

I’ll have some wild stories to tell, even better than the boat stories. 

I want to be separated WITH God. 

I need serious time to think. 

I need to know myself. 

I need to push myself. 

I need a better perspective and attitude toward life. 

I need to accomplish something great, for myself and to feel like I measure up to my successful siblings. 

I’m not allowed to have children until I finish this hike. 

If I don’t finish this hike…

I won’t give %100 in other areas of my life (work, relationships)

I’ll feel like a failure. 

I won’t like the person I see in the mirror every day. 

I’ll get fat due to depression, which will be even harder to manage knowing I failed at this. 

People will be wholly unimpressed with me.

I’ll have no bearing or authority in my family; no respect from my siblings. 

I’ll feel even more out of touch with myself than I do now. 

I’ll have no faith or confidence in myself. 

I’ll have no faith or confidence in others.

Published by rogerssj23

I'm a long-distance hiker, an audiobook producer, and an amateur writer. I live in the woods in a renovated 1972 Airstream with my Golden Retriever Zoe. Read more about my hiking adventures at sarahhikes.com.

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