I should never have worried about bears. What I should have been worrying about was chihuahuas. Nowhere in all the wilds is there a beast that can become a more super-concentrated bundle of hate than a chihuahua. But demon dogs are a little later in the story and I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
I planned my route using a combination of the mileages in The Pacific Crest Trail guidebook and Guthook’s PCT app. I discussed this a bit in my pre-hike post. As prudent safety planner I planned for five days but packed food for six in case we needed to take an extra day. I also packed a Fremont IPA that somehow didn’t make it into this photo. Don’t worry though, I captured a photo of it in the wild.
I also got the idea to stick little pieces of duct tape to my trekking poles from this guy. He has a really helpful description of the route, although he must be in much better shape than me because he makes it all sound easy. Don’t listen to him. I think there’s something wrong with him, like maybe he was bitten by a radioactive mountain goat.
Packing for a solo trip was difficult because there wasn’t anyone to share weight with (Ned only carried his own food and water and emergency booties). It really added up to be carrying my own tent, stove, water filter, etc. I’m used to sharing weight with Partner and this pack got heavy, like coming up on 30 pounds heavy. I’m still thinking about ways I might cut that down. I actually ended up not bringing the camera and opting for iPhone pictures. I just didn’t have the space for a real camera and I needed to cut down on my weight. So all my photos are iPhone pictures.
It’s still kind of incredible to me that this all fit in the pack:
But it did!
So, all packed and planned, I went to bed early in preparation for a 5:30am wakeup.
There’s not much fanfare to the start of the trail at Stevens. There’s just a path heading up the hill from the main lodge and a single sign that says “Hiking Trail.” Partner kissed me goodbye and took a few photos of me and Ned before we headed up the trail. Despite grand plans of an 8am departure, we started up the trail at 8:45am. Close enough. The trail weaves up the slopes at a pretty mellow grade. Part of me is excited to finally be on the trail. Part of me is wondering what the hell I’ve gotten myself into…
Coming over the top of the ridge was incredible. It was like the whole trip opened up before us, possibility and adventure spreading before us.
The trail cuts down the valley to the left from here and heads into the forrest for a long trek through the shade.
About seven miles in I was feeling great. My pack felt light, and I felt like I was finally starting to leave my worries behind. Ned and I had been hiking for hours, enjoying sunlit forests and clean mountain air. We’d seen a few people on the trail but no dogs. Then we came around a corner and saw two little dogs. One was a piebald Pomeranian-looking thing, who looked like it was considering friendliness with some tail wagging and cautious sniffing, but then it’s friend came tearing up with it’s little demon chihuahua eyes fixed on Ned, screeching it’s shrill war cry. It came screaming at Ned, biting at whatever it could reach (not much, really). Ned starts barking, trying to stand off with these two tiny monsters (because of course little Pomeranian joined in when his buddy started scrapping). Poor Ned is not really a formidable beast. He’s sweet and dopey. I mean look at this guy:
Ned is a tender soul but he will always stand his ground if he thinks Lady is threatened. So he starts barking.
“Defend Lady from tiny evil! Protect! Danger, Lady, DANGER!!”
Ned and I fend off the dual onslaught long enough for the owner to come pick up the little devil. I’m too busy confirming that Ned doesn’t have any tiny punctures to say any choice words to the person who decided that it was a good idea to have that little monster off-leash. I mean, really? But Ned is fine, I’m fine, and we’re ready to get to some lakes!
We came to the right wilderness area I think. So many lakes. The first photo is at Lake Susan Jane and the rest are at Mig Lake. I can confirm this because the iPhone maps all my photos if I click on the location now so I can see my trail of photos across the wilderness.
Ned swam in all the lakes, then we hiked, and we hiked, and we hiked. Then I saw a bumblebee.
Then we hiked some more. It was around the time of the bumblebee that I realized that I hadn’t been eating enough, and I started to get tired. And hangry. Like tired and angry and hungry and hating everything. By the time I climbed the ridge to look down on gorgeous Trap Lake I was finding the end of my rope.
Getting to the top of this ridge is the point where I start wondering what in the hell I’m doing here, and I still have two miles to go. I’ve used the word “exhaustion” so many times in my life and I realize, as I’m coming down the other side of this ridge, that I never really knew what it meant. I’m so tired that I have no defenses and every doubt or anxiety I’ve ever felt about my life rises up, filling my whole head. Suddenly everything is terrible, I feel like a failure, like I’ll never get my shit together. For two miles. I run out of water, finally coming to a stream about a mile away from my planned camp. I sit down in a tired daze and start pumping water. My inlet hose moves in the stream and I reach for it. I don’t want to get mud into my filter, but in my state I keep pumping with one hand even though I’ve let go of the other handle of my water filter. There is a loud crack that slices through my already aching heart, that reverberates all the way through me to the bottoms of my swollen feet. Part of my water filter has broken off. I experience a moment of utter despair. I’ll have to borrow someone’s filter to fill up my water and quit on day one. As I’m staring at the broken piece I realize that it’s just the outlet nozzle that attaches neatly to my water bottle that has snapped. None of the actual mechanism of the filter is damaged. A tiny ray of hope shines into my mind. It will still work, as long as I’m careful not to cross contaminate the outlet with any unfiltered water. I finish filtering water and pack up my poor maimed filter and hike the last mile into camp.
By the time I get into Glacier Lake, my camp for the night, I’m too tired to be hungry. I set up camp like a zombie and have to force myself to eat. The only thing I actually enjoy is the Fremont IPA that I cool in the creek for a while. Drinking that beer was indescribably blissful. Sitting there with my cold beer I experience a moment of real peace. Fish were jumping in the lake and a few birds were gliding over the lake, looking for fish. The pattern of their movements were the most graceful thing I’ve ever seen, floating in slow loops over the lake. A profound quiet settles over me. This might be an absurd, asinine adventure for me to be undertaking, but I feel that, right now, I am exactly where I need to be.
Story continues in “B is for blisters”