In the woods [mile 570; mpd 9.26]
Let’s see, where to start, where to start. I woke up late. I slept like a log, a log with weird dreams. I dreamt I was taking a black belt test in a grove of trees with a flagstone ground. I threw the other guy and he landed on a rock, which gave him a hernia.
That never happened! But I didn’t sleep well at Partnership or the Bates Motel, so I think my body was making up for it. Tomorrow I’m setting an alarm.
Anyway, I woke up in a panic. I was sure Blackhawk and Pathfinder had already left. They hadn’t, but Pathfinder was already taking her tent down. Despite the cold, I hustled. And I got packed up and caught them—so I got to shadow them for another day. Which was excellent, because today we had the longest sustained climb we’ve had in weeks—2000 feet over 4 miles. And I really really really wanted to see how Pathfinder managed that.
The morning was a step back into winter—warm enough when the sun came out, but in the shade it was fleece and gloves time. More rhododendrons and pretty, muddy creeks, on a long downhill. Eventually we came to a gravel road and took a break on a log. Pretty soon Blood Orange, Little Sass and her friend, and Two Ducks (from England) arrived. The big climb started right on the other side of that road. Gulp.
Blackhawk went first, then Pathfinder, and I played caboose. It was weedy and muddy and generally steep. I kept up, though! I thought I might spit out a lung, but for at least the first 3 miles I stayed pretty close to Pathfinder. But my Achilles tendons started to ache by the end.
I’ve learned a lot from watching both of those guys. It’s incredibly helpful to see other ways of doing things.
Near the top was a shelter, completely enclosed with an actual door. That would have been a nice place to stay except for the fierce cold wind! But the hilltop had stunning views: mountains all around. The trail went down after that, a steep descent that was superhard on my knees. It was right around then that I realized I wasn’t going to be able to leep following Pathfinder. One of the major causes of injury on the trail is trying to keep up with faster hikers. So I slowed down to my more natural pace and let the distance between us grow.
But I caught up with them! That happened only because the weather was so hot and cold that they kept having to take off and add layers of clothes.
The last few miles were a ridgewalk, up and down and foot-chewingly rocky. Sort of like walking on a dragon’s spine. I lost the guys entirely at one point and figured that was that, but when I climbed a rocky hump, there they were, debating whether to camp right there. So they did! And so did I.
We’re in the woods. That wind is biting and frigid, and I’m glad I’m in my warm tent! Tonight it’ll be in the twenties. Wish me luck! And toastiness!
I might lose my buddies tomorrow. I think they’re planning a 19-mile day, and the only way I could manage that is by hitching a ride on a flying pig.