June 23, 2018
That morning, Sparky, Ghosthiker, and I hiked out around 7:00am. Couch Potato was still asleep, so I left him a little note in the dirt. I didn’t want him to feel like we’d just up and left him behind, but we certainly didn’t want to wake him. HYOH, right?
It was a nice hike with some relatively easy ups and downs through deep woods. Couch Potato caught up to us later in the morning while we were taking a long break with an excellent view of a ravine below. He seemed to be moving lethargically, and when I asked if he was feeling alright he said he hadn’t slept well. We were all moving a little slower that day, as Ghosthiker was still struggling with a cold and Sparky’s knee is hurting him quite a bit. My UTI symptoms had cleared up, but I still felt generally weak.
We cleared Benson Pass by lunchtime and were blessed with no snow on either side of the pass, which was a nice change. Sparky and Ghosthiker stopped at the top to have lunch, but the bugs were so bad I couldn’t sit or even stand still, so I hiked on. The descent was short but very steep, so I went carefully and took my time, trying to be gentle on my knees. When the trail leveled out again I found Couch Potato taking a break. He’d pulled ahead of us at some point and I hadn’t seen him in a while. I sat down on a nearby rock to take a short break, too, and that’s when he told me he’d definitely decided to end his hike at the next opportunity to get off. He said his heart just wasn’t in it anymore. He’d rather be at home and investing in his rock climbing skills. I said I was sorry to hear it, but that I understood completely and respected his decision, especially how hard it must have been. If the last two days was any indication of how he’d been feeling for the last several weeks, he obviously wasn’t enjoying this at all and so it made sense for him to go do something he would enjoy instead.
Then something strange happened. I started feeling kind of sick inside. it occurred to me that I’d spent the majority of my hike not enjoying it. How far could I push myself?
“Hey, just remember.” He said with a wicked little smile.
“We built this city!”
It was a running joke we’d hatched somewhere back around Donahue Pass. I don’t even remember now how it got started, and I don’t even listen to Starship, but it was funny anyway. Couch Potato had been so melancholy since yesterday that it was nice to see him smile again. But even though I respected his decision, I was still a little shaken by it. I was determined that nothing short of an injury or something life-threatening was going to pull me away from this hike, and he made quitting seem to easy. I was confused.
We hiked on. After a while, he pulled ahead of me and I was hiking alone again. I hiked alone most of the rest of the day, actually. It wasn’t deliberate, I just held a steady pace and kept moving. I knew eventually Sparky and Ghosthiker would catch up with me, or I’d catch up with Couch Potato, and either way, I wouldn’t be alone forever. I wondered, though, as I hiked, what it would be like to hike completely alone. I’d started as a solo hiker. What if I’d stayed that way? I paused on the trail to consider this, but standing still on trail felt foreign and off-putting, so I pushed on. The sound of my feet hitting the dirt and the little noises my pack makes against my back were comforting in what suddenly felt like an oppressively large and indifferent wilderness. I suddenly found myself hoping to see Couch Potato taking a break around the bend, or hear the familiar whistle from Sparky somewhere behind me. I hiked a little faster.
And then there he was. Like I’d conjured him! Just like the beer I’d wished into being back in the desert section! Weird.
“How’s it going, Tenspeed? Sparky and Ghosthiker far behind you?” He asked.
“Somewhere, yeah. I don’t actually know how far.”
“Sounds like it’s time for a long break, then!”
We sat there on the side of a small hill until Sparky and Ghosthiker arrived, then we hiked on. We stuck together for the rest of the day and camped just before Seavey Pass. We had hoped to go over it today but the mosquitos were just relentless all day long. We were down in a valley and found some nice, flat tent spots with a big fire ring and logs for sitting on, so we threw our packs down and Sparky immediately set to work building a fire to drive the bloodsuckers away.
We were all able to sit around the fire and enjoy a nice dinner together. Well, mostly. Couch Potato cold-soaked his food and then retreated to his tent to watch a movie he’d downloaded on his phone. To each his own, I guess.
To be honest, I’m sad Couch Potato is getting off trail. We only hiked together for a couple of days, now about a week, but I’ve grown used to his company. There were times before when I felt like Sparky, Ghosthiker, and I tended to cut ourselves off from the overall hiker community in the way we stuck so closely together in our little group and usually stayed in hotels in town rather than hostels. After this experience with Couch Potato, I couldn’t decide which I preferred. It was disappointing when Alias was no longer around, too. I would probably be devastated if Sparky or Ghost Hiker decided to leave our group.
Laying in my tent that night, for various reasons, I began to cry.