I have 21% battery but I just cannot wait to put this post together. Let’s hope my juice outlast my writing.
I am in the Mt Rainier National Park area. Today was hiking day. I had chosen a route that I knew I would not complete or make it to the landmark. I had wrapped my head around that already. That means today was more about hiking with time in mind than miles. I am always mindful of the onset of dark, when I should eat, and what time I left. I had already had a hiking day Sunday, so I knew 10 miles was in the ballpark. I was hoping for more, as yesterday was driving day and very little walking around, let alone actual hiking. My day of rest. I should be ready today for at least ten, and around 12 would make me really happy.
I set out fairly late, for my taste anyway. I slept pretty well but had a hard time getting back to sleep after the middle of the night potty break. It was not dawn but my busy brain kicked in and spun ‘round and ‘round. I was stressing my next camping site, how it will go at the Jeep rally, the two weeks I will be isolated up the Snake River and when my next shower will happen. The usual fodder. It seemed to take nearly an hour before I got back to sleep. Of course, that means I slept in about an hour past my usual time. I did not leave camp until 11:00 by the time I had breakfast and packed and all of that. OK, fine, that just means I have to be more mindful of the time. Roger that.
I had planned to eat about four hours after breakfast, assess the situation, and then be sure and return well before dark. I was dressed, packed and ready to roll. That lasted about 30 minutes. No sooner did I hit the trail than my body started yammering. This was before I even hit the trailhead I wanted to take! I was not even off the popular campground trail yet. Wow, this was going to be a long day. I was determined not to give up so quick. This happens, sometimes, I get tired quickly but then I can recover and make it all the way. Hell, this even happens in the fitness center when I do like 15 minutes of some cardio and am ready to crap out. I know this about myself so I know I should and will keep going. I also know to listen to my body and I promised myself I would do that, too.
I did run into two sow elk with their youngsters. I was mindful of their presence, not wanting to upset a new mother, and continued down the trail as noisy as I could be. I always carry my keys with me and they dangle outside of my pants on a carabiner. This is intentional so that I am making some sort of noise on the trail. Just shy of a bear bell, but not quite that touristy. Onward I went. I had read about this trail and it said that there was a 2700 elevational change. My last hike said it was 2400 feet and, though I doubt I did the entire thing, I handled that all right. I was game. Then it started. That elevational change started and it never stopped. I mean, it was endless! I was sweating bullets, out of breath, using my trekking poles way more than I should be. My body was just not having any of this.
I was 90 minutes in and ready to turn back. Nope, said I to nobody in particular, I was not quitting. I wanted to do at least five miles, to at least match the hike from the other day. But, man, this was hard and I was feeling it. I let myself stop a lot, catch my breath, slow my pulse. I also took the time to look around. I was clearly in elk country, as there was poop all over. There was Daddy and Mommy and even little Junior poop, all on the same trail as me. I made it a point to drag my poles in the brush now and again to make sure I did not sneak up on anyone. Some of this trail had pretty steep ledges and I was not about to meet Daddy elk on a switchback.
The scenery was amazing and there was plenty of old growth trees, some that could rival the giant redwoods. I also noticed a lot of the trees that were down had clearly been ravaged for bugs. There was recent evidence of scraping, pawing and overall destruction of the remnants that had fallen. Ahh, bears. The campground I am at makes it pretty clear we are in bear country, with signs and warnings and bear lockers at your camp and bear proof garbage and recycling containers. The deeper I got into the woods, the more recent and the more evidence I saw. This did make me nervous and I tried not to be too quiet. Though meeting a bear on the trail would be a first, I really think I can live without this one.
I have to admit, I was nervous. There was the sounds of a creek at times, and the sounds of the wind at others. I was hoping those would not drown me out. I made it to five miles and then back tracked a little to a great lunch spot. There was a nice flat stump I had already decided to use for my stop. I have a habit of taking photos of my lunch stops, not sure why, but the practice continues. I also know that what went up must come down, and I knew the trip back would be easier than the trip up. However, by this time my feet were hurting, my back started to ache, I was a sweaty mess and had to use bug spray for the mosquitos. I was legitimately tired. This was a very hard ten miles indeed.
I made it back to camp and proceeded to drown myself in water, washing my face and dunking my hair and even taking a little sponge bath. I took my boots off, washed my feet and put on sandals. No blisters, but some red and sore spots for sure. I think I felt every one of those miles, and then some. I did notice on the way back that nearly the entire hike was up a hill of some sort. There is that and I did that and I am proud.
I was setting back in at camp, getting a snack, and on my way to the bathroom. I noticed these two women and some kids messing around in the road near the potty. Well, she made a beeline right for me. She started waving and I sort of looked around like, who, me? Did she know me? I do not think I know her. She did not know me, in fact, she proceeded to tell me that she needed help and they were lost. She had been banging on the door of the camp host, who is nonexistent from my time here, and got no answer. Shocking. I’ve seen this guy only get in and out of his car and he is in his 30’s or so. Worst host ever, if you ask me.
I did not think I looked approachable, but I do not think she cared as she was nearly in panic mode. I asked where they were from and where they were trying to go. She overshot their target by about a mile. She said she had no map. I told her I could help and she was very relieved. I had her follow me to camp where I gave her my map and some snacks for the kids. I explained where she went wrong and how to get back to their car. She was impressed with my camp, which made me laugh to myself. Fortunately, the kids were a little older and not toddlers and lady #2 had filled up their water bottle.
I assured her they had plenty of time and lots of daylight left. I thought she was going to cry as she gave me a big hug. It was very sweet, actually. She thought they were on a loop, but they were not. Unfortunately, it would be about 1.5 or so miles back the exact way they came. I am sure the kids would get tired and I suggested pizza in town for them, and beers for the Moms. I continued to reassure her it would be fine, and pointed the way on the map.
So, the end to my very tiring and sore day was the gift of helping someone else. I did not see any bears, I did make the ten miles, and then .5 more, and I was helpful to someone who did not plan their day at all. I mean, no thought went into their little stroll. I learned to push myself a little, and also to listen to my body. I hope they learned to plan better and always take the map. I was glad to help and glad she asked me and not some asshole. I also still have 15% battery. The Universe took care of us all today.
Amen to that!