I haven’t taken so many photos in a single day in my entire time on trail. Probably ever in my entire life.
I keep trying to write about it, but I always tend to flick between photos to tell the story of what any single day entails, and this time it’s giving me anxiety:
I don’t know where to start.
And I don’t want it to end.
Also, having to choose only the ‘best’ pictures so I don’t use up all the storage on this blog doesn’t seem fair to the rest because it is honestly impossible to take a bad picture out here.
Okay though, I know where to start. I’m exaggerating, but not by much.
I should start at the start: where I woke up. This was the view:
And then less than an hour later, I was hugging the biggest tree I’ve ever seen. I’m a little frustrated that the photo doesn’t do it justice, because IT. WAS. SO. BIG.
I can’t even imagine going to the redwoods one day. I’m going to lose my mind when I get there I reckon.
This is, without doubt, the most beautiful place on earth I have ever witnessed.
Okay not that photo in itself, but the day as a whole. The day would actually take us up and over that there ridge in the background. Crazy, huh?!
It was, without doubt, also one of the hardest, longest, most painful freaking sections of climbing that I have covered so far along this glorious Pacific Crest Trail (aka. my new home).
My mind has already gone fuzzy with exactly how long it was, but it took hours of climbing.
At one point, between trying to stretch out our burning calves and cramping quads, Nemo casually asked us ladies, “So, have either of you ever gone to the gym and used a stair master for six hours?”
Even laughing hurt.
Our climb would get us up off the valley floor, into the forest, out of the forest, through grassy fields, to the base of a snowy mountain ridge otherwise known as the Devil’s Knife Edge (aptly so), over that, and to wherever we decided to pitch our tents.
The wind was howling, threatening to blow us over, as we came out from trees and into the open.
I would hate to do this in a storm, like so many of the NOBOs who came through here just a couple days before us.
I would hate to do it in any other weather conditions than the ones we had, really.
I mean, look at this:
And here, we had lunch.
Here, you can see Mt Rainier in the background, rising up out of the clouds behind us.
You can see a little lake right in the middle there, just on top of the centre of the picture:
That lake there was the very same lake I woke up in front of this morning.
This was view up ahead. The Devil’s Knife Edge is that ridge that follows the top of the mountains. It’s what we followed.
Here’s a photo of me smiling because HOW CAN YOU NOT SMILE OUT HERE?!
And here is a pic of 2Beers and I casually filling up our water bottles from the melting snow runoff.
Having trouble seeing the trail behind us?
So was I!
Whilst trying to breathe through a panic attack back on top of Mt Whitney in June, Pickle taught me that if I have three points of contact with the ground/earth/cliff face/whatever I should be fine. I shouldn’t fall anywhere easily. I just have to trust my body, trust my grip, trust the angels holding me in place.
And that’s what I had to do here.
We blasted a new playlist: Disney tunes.
If you ever find yourself hugging a cliff, with slick ice underfoot and a very steep, very jagged fall just inches away that would promise a gnarly death and quite possibly no chance of a body recovery after you come to your messy end, then do yourself a favour and put on a Disney playlist.
Singing along with Moana as she battles raging seas and chases the horizon, or marching with Mulan as she proves to the men that she can do everything they can do, and dancing with Coco as we try and get the right Spanish words to ‘Un Poco Loco’ (which translates to A Little Crazy – the perfect song for the moment), and finally belting out the Lion King’s Nnnyyyaaahh ttsinbetinyaaaa babba geets ibabaaa* as we finally crested the top – I don’t think anything else would have got me through.
I wouldn’t want anything else to get me through.
I’ll certainly think of this moment every time I hear the Lion King for the rest of my life. Sorry, Simba.
Granted, it wasn’t just the tunes that got me up and over the Devil’s Knife Edge.
2Beers and Nemo saw that this section really did freak me out, and without making a big show of it, graciously boxed me in: Nemo in front, 2Beers behind. They talked to me the whole way, showed me where to put my feet, kept my eyes ahead and my heart from fluttering too much.
They were my angels.
And they made it fun! Not anything new, but always something I’m grateful for and never gets old.
Nemo and I had promised each other months ago that we’d make a snowman on trail.
We never did get around to it in the Sierras, so we did it here instead! Our little fella was completed with a Sawyer water filter for a nose, as carrots were a little far and few between out here**.
Suddenly, we were up and over.
See that space? That big phenomenal, gorgeous valley down there?
Well, as we walked towards the setting sun and away, we couldn’t help but keep glancing back. The sky was too glorious. The mountains too majestic. No one wanted this day to end. We had to savour it.
As darkness started seeping into the sky, fog started rolling down.
It rolled down in front of us.
We looked back once again.
That fog there rolling down is from the valley. It filled the entire space, that huge great big valley, until it spilled out over the side.
It’s all beautiful.
And yet, not as beautiful as hearing muffled echoes from up ahead. Echoes, that as we came closer, became vaguely familiar sounds. Voices. And a voice that we recognised.
We were supposed to hike for another mile, to reach water. We should have stayed longer at the snow earlier, and collected more when we had the chance. There had been no more water since, which we didn’t think would be a problem, because we knew we were heading to a small pool up ahead we could filter out from.
Except, now, fate has reunited us with an old, dear, dear friend whom we each have special memories of, and we can’t just keep walking.
He surprised me once at Walker Pass with a bottle of Gatorade: he’d been into town, and had brought back a slab for whoever might want some.
This trail hiker became a trail angel, and not for the first time. One of his ‘things’ he is known for, is always carrying too much water. He argues that it’s better to have more than not enough. Yes, in the desert for sure. Out here, not so much: it’s just extra weight that’s unnecessary, because in reality there is plenty of water if you just walk on another mile or two at any given point.
Except tonight, that water came in handy.
Tonight, we decided to divvy up his extra litre between the three of us, and spend one last night with our friend.
Thank you God / universe / trail:
Today was an 11/10.
* I googled how to spell that. It doesn’t help. I don’t agree that the spelling reflects how it truly sounds. So I wrote it kinda how it sounds. Doesn’t actually matter. You know what I mean.
** We practised Leave No Trace, don’t worry. The filter was only there for the photo, then pulled straight back out and into a pack as we trudged ever onward.
This winter weather is good for a cup of tea, curling up on the couch, and reading a good story or two (or one hundred thirty seven of them).
So, want to catch up on the whole saga and start at the start all over again? Day One is the place to do so.
Do you remember that time I MET DAVID FREAKING TENNANT? aka. the best day of my life / Day Thirty Two.
My twenty-eighth birthday was also pretty epic. Birthday stories back at Day Fifty Three.
Or how about that day, the hardest one I ever wrote about on trail? It was Day Ninety One.
And when I made the call to flip up top and start walking south: One Hundred Ten was my first day walking in Washington.
As always, thank you for joining me.
Happy reading x