The End

Start: On a Ridge
Camp: On a Rock
Distance: 10ish miles
My Achilles tendon ached pretty severely by yesterday evening. With my stiff gaiters fully tightened around my soft boots there is pressure on it. This morning I got up and it was still sore, and everything was pretty damp from camping on the snow. When I finally shoved off around 10:30 I made good, peaceful morning miles without thinking, and when the dread and anxiety that had pervaded my thoughts yesterday began to creep back in I simply said, “No.” I’m not interested in stressing about a timeline and rushing through the whole trail. I haven’t worried about it until now so this is a stark realization – that I won’t have enough time to finish the whole trail – but it’s just a realization. My through hike ends here. I’m going to wander on, at whatever pace is comfortable, and start enjoying myself.
I stopped for lunch at a beautiful dry campsite in an open bowl. I began to stretch and I realized that this was the nicest weather I’d seen. I stripped off my clothes and put them away. If I’m going to be out here alone and dripping in sweat, I may as well get a tan. I wasn’t in a hurry to eat for once. I stopped for a long time and sat on a stump. I ate just a bowl of cereal. I dried everything. When I hiked on I did it slowly, carefully, and without gaiters. From Grizzly Peak I sent word to Big Al to stop sending resupply boxes. I tried to call out, perhaps just for solace or maybe it would have been to share excitement at my newfound freedom, but I didn’t get to find out if I’d feel those emotions or something totally different; calls never complete, and maybe that’s for the better; it might be hard to understand me right now, I’m under the influence of a heavy dose of solitude washed down with a stiff drink of nature.
While standing with my phone held up atop Grizzly, I got a text from Richard that was, perhaps, the final piece to this bleak, white puzzle: They, the only people ahead of me, are bypassing, heading south of Rainier to snowless trail. He made light of it though, in his dry Austrian way: “More snow will make me insane.” Like insanity is some permanent, irreversible condition that we’ve all been flirting with and just a tiny bit too much will push you over the edge but he personally has been pushed right to the limit. Tidings, Richard: we’re all insane already, as demonstrated but the fact that we even tried this. Yes, for sanity’s sake its time to skip ahead.
Matthew and Michael did it last week. Doug must have too, and four of the five from Harts Pass. And Bob. Oh Bob. Funny to look back and realize that you saw which way the wind was blowing before any of us. You’re probably most of the way across Oregon by now, good job.

image

Glacier peak at sunset

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