August 19, 2018
I woke up feeling afraid and anxious. I was sure when I opened my tent fly, I’d either find a bear waiting for me in the trees or discover that my food bag had been devoured in the night. The river nearby was so loud I didn’t hear a thing all the night. I couldn’t decide which was worse, listening for errant sounds in the silence or not being able to hear an approaching bear because of the noise. Fortunately, the sound of the river helped me fall asleep quicker than normal.
I found a quart Ziploc bag on the trail today, and it was clean! It looked brand new! This is awesome because I’ve been eating my food according to what’s in a zipped up pouch I can then use for my trash. It’s been a struggle. Then, not far up the trail, I came upon the best huckleberry patch ever! There have been tons along the trail, but these were huge! They might almost have been mistaken for blueberries. So of course I picked a whole bunch and put them in my new Ziploc bag so I could eat them later. I’d just taken a break so it wasn’t time for more snacks yet.
I climbed up a steep pass and then down the other side about a mile or two until I came to Mica Lake, which was so beautiful I couldn’t help but stop, this time for a nice long break on a large rock right by the water. I ate my huckleberries with a packet of organic peanut butter (I have no tortillas or anything) so it was kind of like a PB & J sandwich without the sandwich bit. I smell so bad that I almost jumped into that crystal clear lake, but I was nervous about swimming alone, and also I wasn’t sure how well my clothes would dry in the humidity. Sparky once mentioned that it’s dangerous to just jump into a cold lake after so much physical exertion because a hiker can get terrible, debilitating cramps, and that has sometimes caused people to drown. So yeah, I wasn’t going for a swim with nobody nearby to save me if I started drowning. I contented myself with sitting by the water’s edge and watching the fish down below.
I think I’ve pretty much decided to be done once I reach the northern terminus. I’ve come up with far more reasons to get off trail than to keep going, and I’m feeling pretty confident in this decision. Even though today has been a brutal series of steep climbs and descents, I’ve felt pretty good all day, so I know I’m not leaning toward this decision on a bad day or during a bad experience. I’d like to come back and hike the other half when it’s not so smokey. And also when my heart is in it. Right now, I just really want to go back home. The fact that I was so unsure about resuming this hike should have been my first big clue.
It was a long way down to the next water source. Just miles of endless switchbacks. It was only about 5 miles but it seemed to take forever. By the time I reached the bridge over the river at the bottom, I had to scramble down a steep embankment just to fill my water bottles, there were no camping spots that I could find and the trail drives straight up away from the river along steep switchbacks for another 4 miles, and it was already late in the afternoon. There was nothing for it but to hike on. The climb was brutal. The foliage was so thick I was stepping blindly, the switchbacks were terribly steep, and the smoke was thick enough that I couldn’t even see much beyond the sheer drop back down toward the creek.
Back down by the creek, I’d met and been passed by a father and son who were thru-hiking northbound like I was. I was excited to meet some thru-hikers, but they weren’t interested in chatting much. The same thing happened to me at the Stevens Pass Trailhead. I saw a hiker I was absolutely sure I’d met at Casa de Luna, but he just looked at me like I was crazy and said I must be thinking of someone else. Maybe I look different? Maybe six weeks of normal food and no hiking had filled out my face more or something and I no longer look like a long-distance hiker? It was a little discouraging. I feel very alone.
I stopped to camp at 2528.8, just a little over 18 miles for the day. I’m alone again. The father and son I met earlier said they planned to camp at the top of the hill so I’m glad this tentsite a mile from the top was available. Over 2,300 ft of elevation gain in 4 miles, and more than half of the climb it felt like I was practically bushwhacking! Ugh. I’m determined to be done after reaching the monument. If I could bail in Stehekin I think I just might.
Of course an hour later now I’m thinking, “I won’t bail! That would be stupid!” The whole point is to reach the monument with Sparky and Ghosthiker! Once I got my tent set up, I set some water to boil and hastily found a tree where I could hang my food bag when I was done with it. I ate, used the bathroom, put the rainfly on, hung my food, washed my legs and feet as best I could with water in a gallon Ziploc bag with my bandana, decided to sleep in my baselayer shirt because it’s so fucking humid here that my hiking shirt smells absolutely heinous, changed into my last pair of clean underwear and discovered that my shorts also smell awful, like so much monkey butt, blew up my sleeping pad, lay down, and now that I’m able to rest with the darkness just settling in…of course I won’t bail. Tomorrow should be an easier day if I don’t push it.
I really don’t like camping alone in the wilderness. It’s not at all what I thought it would be. It’s scary. Scarier than I imagined. What the hell am I supposed to do in an emergency? Scream? Crap load of good that would do. I just don’t want to be doing this anymore, certainly not alone. It’s no fun. I’m already convinced that if I do the rest of the trail another year, I’m gonna bring someone with me. Or I’m gonna start alone and stay mostly alone so that I’m used to it by this point in the hike, when all the fun and games are over and it’s just the daily grind to the finish line, which it how it seems to be for all the thru-hikers I’ve met in Washingto so far.