I hiked beside tall snowy mountains with hills of rock rubble. I hiked through obsidian rock with sharp glass-like shards everywhere. I hiked through and up very steep hills of lava. I crossed and drank from mountain streams flowing with glacier melt. I was again hailed and rained on in the late afternoon. This place is other-worldly, and it reminded me of my time in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Today was a real challenge and it was so much fun.
But I’m really worried that being up so high on Koosah mountain that I’ll get rained on and get drenched. The sky has now darkened and I can hear thunder in the distance. The storm approaches. I’m in my tent, all my stuff is on my ground cloth inside, I’ve tied the back of the tent to a nearby tree with paracord, and the rain beak is down. The rain is just starting. Oh wait it’s not rain instead IT’S HAIL! Other than getting the heck out of here I’ve done all I can do. Time to sit it out and make dinner.
Update: After 2 hours it is all over. I’m fine. Overall it is now cooler and moister now.
I’m not a very emotional guy, but this hike has effected me in deep ways. I have cried more in the past months than I have in years.
As I approached Tuolumne Meadows I stopped to talk to some day hikers about thru-hiking. As I explained how I had hiked all these miles and my son and partner were waiting for me around the corner I got all choked up and I told them I couldn’t talk any more and had to move on. Then when I finally found Justin and Stephanie I cried again. Not big crocodile tears but deep heartfelt ones of joy at seeing them after such a high-pressure, stressful, and difficult journey. I felt I could finally relax. I had pushed myself to my limits to get to them on that date.
Then seeing Kathy, my sweetheart and life’s partner, after Justin and I pushed and completed our hike to Echo Lake I cried again. I have missed her so. A few minutes later I tried to explain my compass charm to an onlooker and couldn’t get the words out. I tried to say that Kathy gave it to me so I would find my way back to her after this journey.
At the PCT midpoint I cried at getting that far and how hard it had been to do that. At the California – Oregon border I cried again because 1700 miles were behind me and I had completed a significant milestone.
Maybe it’s because I have done things that I never thought I could do. Each challenge I have accepted, solved and moved forward. I have not given up. From hiking in freezing 50-60 MPH winds to carrying a 40-45 pound pack to climbing high passes to negotiating my way across miles-long snow fields to crossing rushing frigid rivers this journey is the hardest thing I have ever done. Through all this it has made my emotions much closer to the surface.
Update: At the end I shed a tear or two also.
I have lost a lot of weight. In Ashland I saw myself in the mirror and my ribs and hip bones were showing. As a result I eat and eat and eat. Hopefully I can at least maintain the current weight and not lose more.
I typically have cereal and powdered milk for breakfast. Then 2 – 2 1/2 hours later I have a Clif bar and dried fruit as my first morning snack as I hike along. After another 2 – 2 1/2 hours I have one or two granola bars and some nuts as my second morning snack. Since I start at dawn after another 2 hours at noon I have lunch which is sausage, chips and if I’m lucky a fresh apple. I stop for lunch. Mid afternoon is my last snack and is candy such as a Snickers, Payday, etc. Around that time I’ve completed my miles and I need to set up my campsite. Dinner is typically a warm meal. I start with some hot chocolate then the main course. In the picture I’m making Tortellini with Spaghetti sauce in my Jetboil canister stove. If cookies are available that’ll be my dessert.
You would think I would be gaining weight, but each mile requires me to expend about 100 calories and since I’m hiking 18+ miles each day I need an additional 1800 beyond my base of 1200 calories, in other words, I need about 3000 calories a day. That’s also a lot to carry!
The day started out normally with me hiking until about 3 PM. My campsite is on Brahma Lake and the mosquitos were almost non- existent. The lake’s water was warm and I was able to wade in to wash my clothes and ME! Clean hair and clean body, Wow, that felt so good. Right now I’m sitting in my tent in my new dry undies with my wet clothes hung on the line and eating my dinner. The temperature is pleasant, the night is calm, and all is good. What a difference a day makes!