Day 72: A Wet Blanket

Well you were a dancer and I was a rag,
The song in my head was all that I had,
Hope was a letter I never could send,
Love was a country I couldn’t have found.

My emotions float with the change of the clouds. One minute I am dancing with the sunbeams, the next I am dark as the storm roaming over my head.

But I am not the childish tantrum I threw when the bugs were too much. I am not the morose teenager that reminisces ancient heartbreak when the sun settles in the hills. I am the silence below it all, the calm before and after, and yes even during, the storm.

Today, as so many days out here are (especially when alone), was filled with highs and lows. It started with a late rise, fearful of the mosquitoes and tired from their incredible ability to keep me up through the night. My eyes were swollen, remembering the tears shed and hours spent awake.

The trail took me along a bug riddled creek until it started happily climbing toward the sky, and away from the bugs. I was cheerful, strong feeling going up. I have found I am good at hiking upward and dancing over rocks — and not much else in this strange world. 

 And then, quite unexpectedly, the trail decided to drop to the valley floor, some 2,500 feet below. This was disturbing because there was a 12,000 foot pass in my future, but also a hidden blessing: I tramped through some of the most beautiful greenery in the world.

Everything, with the rain of yesterday and dampness of today, was vibrant, thriving. The flowers lifted their faces to watch me pass, telling me they were there, asking me to admire their openness, their beauty. When I approached they didn’t shrink away, they pushed out their chests and stood up a little straighter, so confident, so natural in their allure.

The place smelled like a jungle, everything living right one on top of another. The tree roots sprawled against and over each other, helping their brothers stand up. The ferns all bunched up, staying warm and safe in numbers. And the brooks and streams wandered, joining together and spreading apart, all ensuring every living thing could survive. The deep, earthy scent caused me to sniff and sniff, drawing it all in. 

 As quickly as it started, it left me. I headed up and up, away from the beauty and toward the pass, Silver Pass.

Again my strength surged, I listened to Oliver Sacks’ deeply interesting novel, and watched the rain clouds gather. I was frightened, worried about lightening and what I would do.

The pass progressed easily enough, and soon I found myself on a barren, rock filled high point. There were hikers, and I was overjoyed when they asked me to join them. One had thru hiked in the 70s, the other had thru hiked in 2010, and was Yogi’s (the PCT guidebook’s author) boyfriend. A celebrity!

Then I met a JMTer and we celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision. Then a couple I met earlier on the trail huffed up.

“Lightening can travel 52 miles,” I said, looking at the swirling clouds.

“10, Pine Nut,” the man replied.

“Are you sure?”

“I am a professional meteorologist.”

I laughed at my certainty, and then grilled him on what to do about lightening. 

 It began to rain, and I shuffled off quickly. I wasn’t about to get struck!

Down and down I dropped, jumping over big rocks, swiveling around streams of water coming down the trail. Thunder shook the rocky summits all around me, the sound reverberating in my sternum.

I was scared stiff.

I picked up the pace, practically running down the trail. The rain was a torrent now, soaking my legs, my shoes, my skirt.

I laughed, at the rain, at my fear.

But my laughter stopped after an hour and a half of bone chilling rain. I was soaked and frosty, although mercifully in the safety of trees.

I found a spot, and I set up my little tyvek face tent. Cozy.

But then it was raining again, and I had to figure out how to get in my bivvy without getting everything dirty and soaked. I was covered in muck, dirt streaming up my legs and in my shoes and everything wet.

I eventually, after prancing around “I don’t know”ing, just got in.

The rain has stopped, and now I am ready to drift off into dreamland, where everything is dry.