I wake in the dark to the sound of a freight train, so loud I am certain I have fallen asleep on the tracks and am about to be hit. I peer into the darkness for clues as to where I am, half expecting to see the headlights of my impending demise, until I remember that I am tucked all safe and cozy in a bed at the Braatens. The train is at a safe distance across the river.
When my actual alarm rings early, I wake in bed so comfortable in the cotton t-shirt, cool breeze wafting in the windows, and try to justify sleeping in. I can still do the miles if I leave at 8 instead of 6, I reason. There’s lots of water on the way up, it doesn’t matter if it’s hot. But of course it does. Heat can make me woozy, and the morning is so cool. There’s a burn area with little shade (the result of a thru-hiker campfire gone wrong some years ago – be careful kids!). And the elevation profile is impressive to say the least. I drag myself from bed, and am rewarded with watermelon and plums waiting on the table, enough for all three of us.
The ever-wonderful Brenda drives us straight to the trail head, I ask apologetically to be dropped off back at the store so as not to miss the bit of ‘trail’ that follows the road across the bridge. I might not be going all the way to Canada, but I have not broken my continuous line yet.
About a mile up the trail my gut rumbles a warning. Thanks body, I think. You woke up in a house with a flush toilet, walked past a perfectly good pit toilet at the trail head, and decide its time to go when there’s nothing but exposed steep slopes covered in poison oak for the foreseeable future.
I calmly tackle the day of climbing. All five thousand feet of it. There are no surprises when you know it’s nothing but hill all day; all you can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other. By lunchtime, I have walked myself up and out of the poison greenery zone, rinsed my legs with soap and am doing my best to shrug off what is hopefully not inevitable. I ‘ice’ my still-swollen knee, pouring bottles of cold creek water over the puffiness until it is pink. I try not to worry. But I do not usually have the same pain dominate for more than a day or two. Not good, I think, before remembering that I am trying not to worry.
The trail has many gifts today, and not all of them involve gaining elevation. Ripe blackberries that stain my fingers a juicy purple-red. Tobacco, and a little package to weed. Wow, I think, a handful of trail rumors suddenly ringing true; stories of tupperwares and baggies with magical contents. I leave this tiny offering for others, amused enough by its existence alone.
I see few people, even when stopping for long lunch and phone service interruptions. By mid afternoon, I’ve run out of up, and sit on top of the ridge calling family, and getting a very belated blog post up. Finally, sitting trailside talking to my mom, the current gang catches me just after the 1300 mile marker (Hooray!).I meet them shortly at the spring. There’s much talk of going on to the next campsite a mile or two up the trail. But it’s a mile or two and there’s water here and we are here and the sun is low. And we talk each other into staying. Merry banter continues through dinner, until the light is gone, and I am left typing. Cowboy camped again, insistent, for the moment, on not letting the last bear frighten me into my tent forever. Though I have threatened to crawl in with others if I get scared. Or cold.