I woke up this morning and my whole world was covered in snow: my pack, my bivvy, every inch of the woods that was my home last night. And boy was I cold!
The bivvy is essentially a garbage bag — it even has an open face (a charming feature that lets the elements right in). My bag, as I believe I have mentioned previously, is marketed as 15 degrees for men but a whopping 27 degrees for women (they seem to just make up these numbers). These numbers meant one thing: I spent the night flipping myself like a pancake, putting my cold spots into the spots I had previously warmed.
The sun finally popped up at 6.30am and I popped up with it. Wee! It was cold enough in the bag that I was willing to drag myself out and get right on the trail. I put my short shorts on and trotted my chilly knees right up and out of camp.
Without really warm layers, a hotter sleeping bag, a tent, or even a stove to cook up some steaming food, I was nervous. I had 27 miles to town and a roof and heating, and I was intent on getting as close as I possibly could. I was worried about another cold, snowy night.
I hiked as fast as my legs would take me and listened to Pip’s story unwind. The trail drifted up and down in a confusing path along ridges and over valley passes. I was hot going up and shivering slipping down the snow covered rocky descents. It was beautiful, and I was alone in the woods.
I followed the footsteps of someone who had hiked through in the small hours of the morning and felt their company. Another set of footsteps joined his a little ways along, and the three of us tromped along, silently taking in the brightening day.
Pip’s heart was (spoiler alert) broken and I heard the faint twittering of birds in the brush. Pip grew and changed and the snow slowly slipped away. Joe came to Pip’s side and I passed by a cluster of small cages, where two massive bears were held captive.
And then, suddenly, a fellow hiker asked if I had a phone. And then there was a road and a trail angel. I did the math, and I had 14 miles left. At 1pm, I knew I would be sleeping outside. I headed to the road, thankful every moment that I had a chance to get warm.
I rode into town with three other people and we got a room at the Motel 6 in town. Their first order of business was hitting the liquor store and mine was getting coffee at The Lumberjack Cafe. I ordered an open faced turkey sandwich, and when it arrived I was sure I’d bring some home for dinner. But then it all fit into my stomach, and I was ready for more.
Instead of staying through dinner, I headed out and talked to my parents. I turned right back into a child and spilled tears all over the curb of the personal injury lawyer in town. I felt awful, filled up with the fear of not getting to walk with Ant and dying in the woods of hypothermia and going back to a rager in my own motel room. They sent me sweet words and buckets of love, and told me I couldn’t give up.
It has been three weeks exactly, and I knew it was true. My tears sucked back inside me, and I went back to the motel room, cheery and sauna hot. I took a shower so scalding all my skin turned bright red, and I felt shiny and new. The strangers were sweet and happy, and their mood rubbed off on me.
I went to bed, still worried about what I would do in the morning. Go back to get those last 15 miles in, head on with Rainbow Dash or alone, or bus ahead? So many choices, everything up in the air — no right answer.
They told me this trail would be all about being okay with change, and it sure it making itself clear — change is the name of this game.