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I woke up early this morning, and it was cold. I do not know exactly how cold but the condensation on the inside of my tarp was liquid still, at least. The fact that there is condensation at all is proof that I am on a different trail than I was the last time I slept in my tent. It’s so cozy and comfortable, I drift back off to sleep. I dream of aspen trees, their shimmery leaves like pompoms.
When I wake up again, I think about how awesome it is that I am able to (usually) be so comfortable with my little setup. My whole tent, stakes and all, is barely more than a pound and little more than a tarp with a net hanging inside just big enough to fit a Toodles. Toes decided it looks like a spaceship, and I decide it needs a name. My sleeping quilt is leaking down every day, but just a few feathers here and there. I have grown fond of the many tape jobs I have going on, and I’m resolute that it will last another couple thousand miles of walking. I usually go for as lightweight as I can in gear, but I splurged a few ounces for the extra wide inflatable mat. I can roll over on this thing and not fall off! It takes up almost every inch of floor space in my tent so if I’m inside my tent, I’m on the air pad, which is amazing to me.
Numbers are all topsy turvy for me. I think of miles instead of most other units of measurement now. 486 miles of trail. 47 miles to the next town, 31 miles from the last. 23 miles to do tomorrow, 13 miles before our first water source, where we will most likely eat lunch. I convert hours, dollars, meals, water, places to sleep, and glory to miles. In a way, it is the only unit of measurement that really matters to us.
Well, that is not true. There are also the memories. The experiences. Some numbers can be measured in that way. I do not know how fast the hawk flies, but I will never forget the sound it made when it swooped a few feet from my face.
The experiences are my favorite. There are awesome echos here, and I asked them “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” I tell them about Pale Ale, Mange, and Wizard when the echo asks me back. They would like it here.
It took climbing up to 12,192 feet of elevation today before Squeegie decided that she was not, in fact, going to die.
I took in 400 milligrams of caffeine this morning, and was singing Broadway songs in fits and bursts at the top of my lungs while hiking up the same hill. I met a man at the top who told me about a girl he saw who was singing walking on flat ground and it made him feel out of breath. I was vibrating while he told me this and the sky went on for forever behind him, and mountains taller than any I have ever seen tickle the bottom of the sky in every direction I look.
I see rain in the distance in three places, and I sit down and eat a bowl of cold beef ramen noodles from my talenti jar at 12k feet and watch the rain. It sprinkles on me for maybe one whole minute, and that’s the third most rain I have seen since leaving Tennessee on June 25. It excites me.
What does not excite me, however, is my hemorrhoid. There is, of course, no good time to have a hemorrhoid, but it strikes me that this is a particularly inconvenient time. I learn a lot about hemorrhoid’s, what fiber actually is, and other things thanks to Squeegie being a hypercondriac. Poop is a huge part of life. Especially so out here. Sit down with a few thruhikers for a conversation and if poop doesn’t come up in the first couple of minutes send me a charge on Venmo. It’s @LoganRoark and it works the other way too. ;) We decide the best thing I can do is drink a ton of water and lay off the instant mashed potatoes and make sure to not ever push at all. I do kegels while I force down two liters of water straight from my filter. I will pee all night.
It is so good to be able to have a fire. Toes built us a small, responsible fire in an established fire ring and we sat around it and talked about my hemorrhoid as a tramily tonight as the stars snuck in and the embers sizzled and popped. We looked through our food bags for the best combination of processed trail food that could make my situation any easier, and I resolve to never hike without at least a few stool softeners ever again. They are worth the weight.
I got to talk to my Mama for a while today, and I spent the next couple of hours thinking about what it would be like if my entire famdamily packed up and went on an extended backpacking trip together. I decide the John Muir Trail is where we will go. I think that my Nana would be Ultralight. I imagine my Mama shaking her head and telling me and my brother how crazy we are for diving into freezing mountain lakes. By the time I catch myself, I have already decided what gear would be best for each of them, who can share tents and who would carry the extra fuel. I theorize on how many miles the famdamily could do a day. I decide my youngest cousins would get overly competitive with it and would end up leaving us all, cranking out 30 mile days as they race to Mount Whitney.
I personify nature in strange ways and think often about the anatomy of dragons, and allomancy, and realmatic theory, and come up with weird fantasy scenarios in my head all the time. The idea of my family thru hiking together is probably the craziest one of all.
I would not change a single damn thing about today, and I would bet four Slim Jim’s and a honeybun cake that I will feel the same way about tomorrow. It’s 9 pm now, hiker midnight. The conversations all die as soon as the fire hisses out, and red and white lights from headlamps bob through the forest as everyone makes their way to their perfect little tents.
Everyone we are seeing is going the opposite direction of us, as per usual. A quick hour or so around a fire is all the conversation we will have time for, going our separate ways at different times early in the morning; them, WEBO to Durango tomorrow to finish up their hike, while we head NEBO to Denver, still with plenty of mountains to cross while the aspens prepare for fall. But it truly will not be a surprise when I see one or all of them again, on another trail, in another dimension, somewhere different. But I’ll probably still be walking the opposite way. As long as I’m walking, I’ll be okay.