Two Heavy Packs and One Bad Attitude
June 8, 2017
Mile 570 to Golden Oaks Spring
Golden Oaks Spring to Mile 588
Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hike: Day 34
I woke up at the crack of dawn so I could avoid falling too far behind. Crossed a knife's edge in severe wind. Stopped at the top of the hill and it seems everyone had just woken up, because as I sat down to enjoy the brisk, clean air and beautiful view with a snack, nearly thirty hikers walked passed me. Three of those hikers were Alex, Sam, and Colten. Three more of those hikers were Silver Fox, Tyler and Madison, then Justin, Sara, then Sonya and Ben. They had cowboy camped just a mile or two past where I stopped for the evening.
The top of the hill is beautiful, and with blue skies and fresh mountain air, it was nothing short of feeling totally alive and brilliant. The short, bushy pines all around were like a big green hug after the long night of whipping wind.
Carrying on, I caught up a few miles later with everyone in my trail family taking their first break of the morning. We are all saddled by the heavy weight of our pre-Sierra packs and getting easily tired. Tyler emerged from the woods and announced that, in the process of trying to poop in the woods he managed to dig up three other people's poops. This got me thinking, as Tyler's trail name of Bear Can was of the low-hanging-fruit variety. After much pondering, I suggested Jackpot for his knack of finding the buried treasure. We'll see if it sticks!
The next however many miles were a slog. Not for lack of nice things to look at, but from the realization of how miserable it is to hike with a heavy pack. The hike up until now has been a joy, even when it's been tough. With this heavy pack I feel totally incompetent, like I'm out of shape and have no stamina. I can't keep up with anyone, I'm constantly exhausted, and my emotional attitude has turned to absolute horseshit as a result, so I'm lashing out at the people around me. Oh, you're hike is easy? Bet that's nice you worthless p-
Nevermind. This was the first half of my day.
The slog led to a blissfully shaded spring, sights of my hiker family (all who had already had a nice long nap), and then the piercing voice of the monster. She was here, and in full raging glorious decibels while the rest of the hikers grasp at pockets of silent air for the ever-elusive siesta. My blood pressure was up the instant her voice hit me, as did the immediate understanding that this break would now transition from being simply unrestful (as a function of playing never-ending catch-up) to a hand-clasping level of tense and stressful.
The pattern goes like this: I show up to a resting spot where my entire trail family is just getting ready to pack up. I'm salty, whether at myself or my family or the universe for not being able to keep up. I have short hellos, followed by immediate regret, followed by a rectification of my attitude. As I take a seat and plan for a quick snack, my trail family starts packing up one by one. Before I am ready to pack up they are already gone, and I will not see them again until this situation repeats itself or it is the end of the day and we are making camp together. I'll start out the next day earlier than everyone else, take shorter breaks, hike longer hours, and still barely make it to the same place everyone else has made it to. This pack is killing me. And we're on Day One of hiking a full set of miles with it. The question I can't get out of my mind is: why isn't the weight of Alex's new pack slowing him down? What is wrong with me? Why can't my willpower supersede my exhaustion?
The second half of my day I walked with Alex so we could both sleep in the tent. We're sharing a tent now, remember? Up and over a hill and into a burn area meant lots of widowmakers and poodle dog bush without any very nice places to set up camp, or even take a break for that matter. Alex was generous enough to suggest that we camp earlier than our targeted mileage, so I started vigilantly scanning the terrain as we wound through blackened trees and the ominous stench of towering purple-flowered plants. We found a perfect spot between a grove of trees, with a view of the mountains ahead. It felt secluded—even though it was just off the trail it could not be seen from the trail, and that small detail lends wonders to the feeling of privacy. What a relief to set my pack down with an hour of sunlight still in the sky. It's our first time setting up Phil's tent and, as heavy as it is, the weight almost seems worth it for how glorious it makes the camping setup.
I had a lot of ups and downs today, questioning my ability to keep up, getting frustrated by my slow pace to the point of tears, totally exasperated with how to make any meaningful forward progress. At the end of the day I'm sleeping in the mountains, my surroundings are serene and beautiful, and I have my journal to exhaust my whirring mind. This is hard, but I can do it. It's going to be a whole lot of not fun, but I can do it. Looking forward to tomorrow.