Day 69: A Long Walk

I have made camp in the midst of a tall, sparse wood. I made dinner (rice with pasta in a “chicken flavor” with too much water) and moaned over the deliciousness of it (actually out loud! Food tastes incredible out here.). While eating, I scrolled through my flagged emails (pre saved to the phone, there is no service in these parts) to try and find some of Carrot Quinn’s blogs about the Continental Divide Trail. I had, unfortunately, read them all, but I found, way at the bottom, an email to myself from two years ago.

I use to write letters to future me at least once a year. It is a way to set goals and check back in on them. It is a way for me to remember what is important.

This particular letter was written just before I headed to the Camino in Spain (the trip that was the catalyst for me being on this trip). I wrote:“Please remember that life isn’t about the money, the laundry, the dishes, or the job. Life is about the experience.”

And reading that now, sitting with my little pot of rice/pasta/not-chicken, I got a tear in my eye. Past me was right — and that is exactly why I am out here.

Today I climbed up and then down and down. I headed over Mather’s Pass first thing in the morning. I was hopscotching an older gentleman that I first started seeing yesterday. I put on my biggest, friendliest smile and tried to joke around or make pleasantries with him. He was not having any of it! 

 So I put on music and jammed out.

“Light em up, up, up (x3)

I paused my song to walk around a young woman heading down. She chatted with me (see … I’m not an unfriendly troll!) and when it came up I was hiking this stretch alone, she told me her boyfriend (I am shocked he isn’t an ex) bailed on their John Muir Trail hike, and she loved doing it alone.

I felt my spirits rise and headed up the hill. She turned around and yelled back, “Girls rule!”

After the pass I talked to everyone, and everyone was lovely and full of information. There is internet ahead, a good hiker store at my next stop, and beautiful lakes with six inch trout in them. 

 I soaked my feet in a stream exploding out of the side of the granite face of the mountain. Water is everywhere here. It is burbling under my feet in the mud, it is springing up in the green all around, it is filling valleys with glacier blue lakes.

I followed the path down to those wondrously aqua lakes, down and down as the wildflowers became more bold and the trees were within reach. My loneliness of yesterday was long forgotten — there were a million people to chat with on the trail today!

I walked right along the bluest, clearest lake, with a granite face striking right up on the other side of the path. I was just making up my mind to swim when I saw a whole horde of my young, dirty, sunbathed fellow PCTers. There were so many of them, all new faces, that I fairly ran away from the great hurrahs they were cheering as new arrivals jumped into the lake, and completely ended up missing my chance to swim in that perfect water. I’ll remind myself to be careful what I wish for! 

 Instead of making friends with this new set of hikers, I got to chat with almost all of the National Parks trail builders as they tackled the part of the trail called the Golden Staircase (not a walk in the park for them!). Most of them had been on the team, or one like it, for upwards of five years! And three of the nine were from New York.

I got tired late in the day, after following the sweetest river (and taking a dip in its surprisingly not freezing waters — which is also, grossly, the first time water has touched my body in a full week) toward John Muir Pass (so excited for it tomorrow morning).

As the path took a turn away from the sometimes playful, sometimes powerful water I met a lovely hiker and had the most substantial conversation I’ve had in two days. It felt wonderful to work the jawbone a little.

And then I pushed on, up and up.

I spotted the mule and horse train from between the trees, and I was thrilled. I had been following their tracks for the latter part of the day, wondering if I would get to see some four legged friends. 

 “You looking for a job?” The second rider asked, two tear drop tattoos etched below his eyes.

I nodded vigorously, calling, “I can ride!” After them.

My past self would be proud today — I haven’t worried about a cent, a dish, a smelly article of clothing, or even a job today. And this certainly is an experience.