I trip on yet another rock and have had enough. I do the unthinkable: I sit down beside the trail and cry. Rooster and Crunchberry pause concerned, “I am just so tired,” I explain, tears washing streaks through my sunscreen. Then I curl up in my tyvek and sleep (I later learn that Winedoc, an ER doctoer who knew I had been struggling, paused to conclude I was lying down intentionally before continuing on his way).
It’s been a tough day. Waking up exhausted, not feeling right. Moving so slowly, making two emergency poop stops, one barely in time. I have absolutely no energy. Just a weary body and soul, both ready to give up, give in, and quit for good. For the first time, a real part of me just wants to be done with all the walking. To spend the next two months lazily reading and napping and eating vegan donuts.
The trail offers no respite; it is a post-apocalypse yellow brick road, cobblestones gone wrong on ups and downs that seem too steep to be the PCT (Return to Oz anyone?). Somehow I am able to catch up to friends at breaks. They offer me electrolyte mix and multivitamins and candy and quiet support.
Post cry-nap, I stop at a bubbling creek in a quiet meadow with Water Bed for company. He kindly listens to my complaints, and urges me not to quit. As we talk, clouds grow darker to the east. Rumbles of distant thunder grow louder as we hike toward the pass, headed for one of the most dangerous places to be in a storm. “Get over the passes by noon,” goes the Sierra advice. But it is impossible to follow when you cross multiple passes each day. The the trail climbs ever steeply, but it stays in the forest and the lightening action seems to be a few ridges distant and so we go on.
Just as we are near the exposed bit at the top of the pass Flash——BOOM! goes the storm, closer than before, closer than is comfortable. I make the case for waiting out the worst of it under some of the shorter trees back down from the ridge. Water Bed pauses uncertain, going backwards for any reason is something we avoid at almost all costs. Flash-BOOM!!!! goes the storm, now less than two seconds between, less than half a mile away. Water Bed agrees to retreat.
The tiny tree offers no shelter from the rain which pours down, soaking my rain jacket, running off the trash bag I use as a rain skirt over bare legs. We weigh the risks of lightening strikes against increasing chill, and when the worst seems to have moved on so do we, hurrying over the pass as thunder reverberates between granite cliffs.
Safely on the other side, we decide to embellished the story of our storm experience for the rest of the crew, until a bear competing for the shelter of our tiny tree gets struck and cooked by lightening and then eaten by us. And we throw in a tornado for good measure. In any case, I have some life scared back into me, and no longer feel like quitting. A sentiment bolstered by the dark cloud backdrop for a sky-on-fire sunset at the lake.