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whoooooooooosh Waking up is a much faster process out here, I think, as my inflatable air mat divulges it’s life force and leaves me lying flat on the cold ground. Were those bumps there all night? I use a buff to wipe the crap out of my eyes, because my hands are way too disgusting to come anywhere near my face. Even at 5:02 AM, lying in my Tarptent and waiting for my eyes and contacts to get with the program, I am lucid enough to not put my gross ass fingers in my eyeballs. Huh, Something to be grateful for today already. And so begins another day.
I check to make sure the foot box of my quilt is still dry, it is, meaning I have won the nightly battle against condensation yet again. It’s warm to the touch from my body heat as I unceremoniously roll and stuff it into the zippered dyneema packing cube it lives in. My brain starts firing on different cylinders, and the routine of rolling up my thermarest mattress is accompanied to a high volume rendition of Waving Through a Window from the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack in my brain.
“On the outside always looking in will I ever be more than I’ve ever been as I’m tap tap tapping on the glass.”
I hear the rustling of many plastic bags tucked inside other plastic bags holding various types of candy and instant drink mixes which means that Toes is already out of his tent. Shit. Looking around by the dual lights of my red headlamp and the full moon defused through the roof of my tent I double check to make sure everything is out of the tent and onto the tarp splayed onto the ground in my vestibule. I catch a wiff of the Desitin completely coating my feet beneath my socks left to soak overnight and contemplate whether I should coat them again. Desitin gets everywhere though. I glanced at my right heel where a recurring blister has taken up residence. A nemesis of mine. I get the Desitin out of the bag which is in another bag in another bag. It only takes a half a second now, even in the dark I know where absolutely everything is in my backpack at all times. I can mostly only see the white paste from the night before, but in my imagination I see necrotic flesh hanging around an abscess on my heel and Through the Wormhole into a world of infection where no one ever gets to thru hike.
“Tap tap tapping on the glass, looking through the window”
Ben Platt soothes my anxieties as I gluttonously slather my heel in desitin, cover it in leukotape, and pull my darn tough back up. I barely notice the white desitin covered fingerprints I leave on everything I touch. I am Desitin now. Finally ready to put on shoes, my eyes are fixated on the orb that is the moon as I unzip my tent to the fresh morning air and the sound of Toes farting. I take off the beanie I sleep in, and put on the rainbow buff singed around one end from a fire in the Shenandoahs in 2019. I am now officially in my hiking clothes. Which are also my pajamas. Which are my only clothes for the last 55 days. I grin at the big all over pop my hips and knees make climbing out of my tent. I hold my breath a bit as I slide on my trail runners. This is an important moment. What will be the pain threshold I start my day with today,? No pain. Excellent. The bridge is building in the back of my brain and I rip open a carnation breakfast essential in the downbeat before the final chorus of on the outside I was looking in will I ever be more than I’ve ever been. I decide that today is a day of three instant coffee packets and introduce the morning night to the sound of my smart water bottle crinkling and snapping as I filter cold lake water through my sawyer into jar of cookie batter I finished in less than 24 hours which I’m currently using to drink my morning breakfast essential coffee mix from. It has seemed to help control the mold issue if I use a separate jar for cold soaking breakfast food then I do for cold soaking my lunches and dinners.
The opening lines of How Far I’ll Go begin to chime and I feel the energy of standing on the edge of the water never really knowing why as I down the breakfast gruel and the clock starts. Every day that I don’t shit myself on trail is a blessing. It’s as if my gut is now thoroughly accustomed to, and not all that impressed with, my new daily routine and insists on taking care of all of its business first thing in the morning. I begin the process of packing up my tent methodically wondering how far I’ll go today. Today, I am able to completely pack up my tent and start to throw clothes in around to finish packing my bag before it is time to stop everything and immediately go dig a hole for my morning ablutions. This is a good sign, things are going smoothly today. Toes and Cookie are chitchatting about the audiobook by Brandon Sanderson that we are all listening to. I’m in nerd heaven. The various noises of lighters clicking and water bottles crackling and food bags crinkling continue until our various things make their way to their house inside of our packs one by one. You would think we’ve done this a few times. Internally, thoughts and anxieties and lyrics and numbers and plans for the day continue to swell as we all ask each other various questions that we could readily answer ourselves but are seeking validation and support from each other.
As I heave my bag on my shoulders I check that my water bottles are in the right places and the straps are tightened. Toes has his headlamp on bright walking in a circle making sure all the campsites are completely empty of thruhiker detritus. I spend my first few steps pulling my shorts, underwear, fanny pack, and belt straps in various directions until everything is in place, I look back to see Toes stepping onto the trail behind me with his cuppa coffee in one hand and a trekking pole in the other. “You ready to get a little closer to Mexico?” I ask. Let’s do it,” he says, and I turn my gaze southbound and take a deep breath and begin to walk. The crunch of my heels into the soft trail is loud in the still Mountain morning air but somehow still manages to drown out the various tentacles in my head vying for attention. The sun finally breaks free across the granite ridgeline on my left shoulder as the crunching pattern of my feet begin to find a rhythmic pace in tandem with my breath. the chill air is invigorating and I pump my arms and legs, filling my body with life energy and gratitude as the sun lights up the sky. Another day of being exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Just another day on the PCT.