Miles: 24.10
Camping: Walupt Creek, PCT mile 2176.96

I slept pretty poorly in the icy chill of the night. I woke up at 1:30 thinking it was morning, only to be reminded that we are coming off of a full moon. It was so bright and I was so cold. I was wearing all of my clothes and my bag is rated down to 15 degrees, but somehow a chill seeped into me anyway. It didn’t help that I had to pee, but there was no way I was getting up in that cold. I know I would have been warmer if I had gotten up, but I wasn’t convinced that it would be worth it. When dawn did reveal itself I had no choice any more. I got out of my tent and relieved myself quickly, diving back into the warmth of my sleeping bag as fast as possible. I lay there staring up at Mt. Adams contemplating how I would conjure up the will to function in the cold. The river by my tent was frozen over, and it did not help me get motivated. Finally, the idea of hot coffee and oatmeal inspired movement and I prepared breakfast from within my sleeping bag.

After the initial kick start, I made more progress towards actually hiking and really enjoyed the morning. I made it to a spring and collected water, sitting in the sun. I find it humorous that I now look for a good spot for a break in the sun, when it has always been the shade until now. It felt really nice to warm up on a rock, like a lizard in the desert. I am also embracing the cool fall air, it is rather invigorating and easy to hike in.

I realized after second breakfast that I still hadn’t seen any of my group today. Someone typically catches up to me, but I’ve only seen other independent hikers that were already ahead. I’m okay with that as I feel more independent in Washington. I’m really soaking up these last experiences alone, savoring the moments. With a group I get a little frustrated and I’ve always enjoyed solitude in nature. I soared down the trail, moving fast through the trees, continually grateful for the absence of foot pain. I’ve dreamed of these moments and here I am living them.

After lunch I was moving at a pretty good clip, calculating miles against hours, trying to figure out how far I could go today, unconcerned with the agendas others might have. They may catch me and they may not. I’ll see them in town either way and though I want to savor my friends as much as the trail, this is quite addictive. I feel high on all of it…and perhaps a bit more than expected as I began to grow dizzy. I laid on a log to center myself, felt slightly better and still quite motivated, so I picked back up. Maybe half a mile later I saw 3D talking with some bow hunters and I stopped too, swaying a little, feeling a lot off balance. I just stood while she talked, not sure where the vertigo was coming from, just trying to collect myself. We walked away and she went fast, and soon I was sitting by the side of the trail with my head between my knees. Blood sugar? I ate some fig newtons and waited in hope that a friend would appear. No one was coming except for dark, so I made myself pull it together enough to find camp.

I walked another 5 miles before I found a campsite next to a stream. It was a concentrated effort, but I made it happen. I set up camp and cooked dinner feeling much better after eating. Maybe I’m not eating enough…and yet I feel as if I’m always eating. Laying down for sleep, I was proud that I made it here, that I can take care of myself when I have to. It feels good to be independent. It feels good to be on the trail. I sure will miss it.