Right now, I’m super thankful to Jesus, because there’s no other way to explain how I’ve stayed so joyful all day.
I’ve been on cloud nine since waking up. I’ve been singing and skipping and smiling at everyone who trudged miserably past on their northbound journey.
We had a 10/10 morning: it feels like autumn (or fall, as they call it here) is settling in. Cool mornings, crisp air, warmer afternoons, and a rain shower here or there. Having come from the Sierra, I thought the climate would be similar. We’re around the same elevation in the mountaintops, and even though we’re further north, surely it can’t be that cold and wet yet. I don’t even have a pack liner anymore. No need for it, right? It’s not like I’m rock hopping over creeks and wading through rivers here. There are bridges for that now:
The joke’s on me.
Washington is WET.
What planet was I on, when I thought that wouldn’t be a problem? The first couple days here were just a tease, to lull us into a lazy sense of comfort and ease and BAM! It’s cold. It’s raining. It’s raining again. It’s getting colder still. And the wind. It bites.
The quick changes of elevation here mean that one minute we’re on a humid, mossy rainforest floor, an hour later in between gasps of breath and each switchback we can see glimpses of treetops, and another hour of climbing takes us to the top, sharing the space with clouds and constant precipitation. It’s not even precipitation, really. It’s more of a constant ‘wet’. The clouds closely resemble a thick mist. Even breathing is more laboured, because there is so much moisture in the air.
And yet, I was skipping. I was laughing. I was singing loud enough that Prodigal could pretend he was listening to Destiny’s Child and Nathaniel Rateliff and Gloria Gayner with me (he’s having a day without music, so I’m ‘helping’ him out).
For all our days together – since Day One, even! – we don’t generally hike together. Mostly, we hike our own hike throughout the day, and meet up for food and coffee and stretch breaks, then camp together at the end of the day. That’s most hikers do it, I’ve found. We don’t have to try and match anyone else’s pace, we don’t need to try and hide our farts, we don’t have to search for conversation topics we haven’t yet covered, we can sing to our hearts content: it’s just us and the wild.
Every now and again, though, it’s fun to mix things up and walk with someone else. So, today, Prodigal and I walked together. I also like that it meant I had someone to take a photo of me when I had to climb under this MAMMOTH fallen down tree!
We kept climbing. I kept singing. I suspect his fast pace was to try and outrun my Shakey Graves harmonies, but that pep that was in my step kept me right behind him all day.
The rain kept getting progressively worse throughout the day. Prodigal’s fast pace kept me warm, and we raced up the 4500ft of climbing faster than I generally walk flat ground.
Nothing deterred my glorious mood. Also, it’s hard to be negative when I’m walking through this:
I have no shame in claiming that my good mood helped Brad get through the day, too.
He was struggling a bit, poor fella, with bad feet, no music, and a smoking fast. The cold seemed to soak into his bones worse than it did mine. He was losing oomph, and I wanted us to get to camp before I did too. He needed a pep talk. I remembered a photo I took in Yosemite that fit this moment perfectly (apologies for the language):
If that’s not the best pep talk you’ve ever read, you’re lying to yourself.
This was to be our new motto.
I told him: “You’re a fucking wolf”.
He told me: “You’re a fucking lion”.
And we repeated it. We got louder. We claimed it for ourselves. We shouted it to the mountains. We shouted it to our souls, until they listened and aligned and agreed.
“I’m a fucking wolf!” “I’M A FUCKING LION!”
We kept walking.
We caught up to 2Beers. We told her she’s a fucking wolf. She cried a little, giggled a little, and eventually agreed with us.
The cold got worse.
Our throats got sore.
Our feet were numb.
Our spirits were tired, after the adrenaline rush and excitement of unleashing our inner beasts.
The next big campground was ten kilometres away, down a steep drop and yet another hefty climb. We decided instead to camp at the first shelter we could find. We hoped Nemo wasn’t getting hypothermia up ahead, wherever he was. We’ll find him tomorrow, and apologise for having all the gas canisters. And we hope that he’s found someone else who will share their fuel to give him some hot cocoa, at least.