Miles: 24
Camping: PCT mile 2469.63
Miles to go: 199.36

I had been expecting to wake up and see that the others had gone already, but as usual I was the first to get up. Everyone else was still abed, though I could see that Dayglo and Steeltoe were at the very least awake. I set about my chores and the guys soon set out upon their 30 mile day. I was wondering if I’d see them up the trail, or if they’d make it all the way. They are pretty determined but you never know out here. Even if you have an idea of what you’d like to do in a day the trail always has it’s own ideas. I wandered off from camp alone, the guys already gone on their ambitious endeavor to get to the next town by nightfall, the girls just rousing from their sleeping bags. I walked by a few other tents with people snug inside, staying warm against the cold Washington morning. There was a river crossing coming up that came with a warning on the maps, something that weighed heavily on my mind as I climbed over a pass and down the other side, looking about at the beautiful foliage changes spreading across the hillsides. The huckleberry and blueberry bushes were shades of red, orange and yellow all at once – so perfectly fall, so delicately beautiful.

I could hear the river in the distance as I descended switchbacks, and it sounded ominous. I tried not to think about it and soon came to a curious part of the trail. Someone had drawn an arrow pointing in a direction that I did not expect the trail to turn. It looked as if the trail went forward, but I wasn’t sure, and upon studying my maps I felt no more assured on which way to go. I went forward but had a sense that it wasn’t correct, so I went in the direction of the arrow. I had no confidence that this would be the proper route and I took out my GPS as I moved on. There were no trail signs and no blazes, and I wasn’t sure how long before my GPS would tell me if I was off course. It can be off, so when I’m questioning things I never trust it. I use it more to confirm my whereabouts than to locate myself. After about 1/4 mile it seemed to be correct, and I kept moving in that direction until reaching the fast moving water I was soon to cross.

There were a few ways that people seemed to be using to get across and I didn’t feel great about any of them. Most were on thin logs that looked slippery and I would have to trust my balance. The funny thing is that I have amazing balance, I always have. I think about it too much when I’m crossing a river, or maybe the loud water roaring under my feet makes it so I can’t think at all. What I know is that if any of those logs were on the ground, I’d make it across without skipping a beat. As the case lay in front of me, I made it halfway across one log and turned back because I didn’t trust myself. I saw a more stable looking crossing downstream so I opted to go out of my way in order to feel safer about getting across. No matter how long I’m out here, no matter how many rivers I cross, I still find myself standing on river banks questioning everything. I always make it across though and have never fallen in, not once; I’m still terrified.

After my little side trip downstream, I made it across with my heart thumping in my chest. A fall would have sent me careening down a cliff-side in the fast moving water; a thought that is mostly ridiculous, but possible at the very least. Safe on the other side, I collected some water and sat to eat my second breakfast. I was alone again but figured I’d see the girls and Blisster at the same lake I had planned to get to tonight. Deep down, I hoped that Steeltoe and Dayglo wouldn’t make it to town, and we’d have another fun night at camp with the whole gang, but I had seen their determination in effect and knew I wouldn’t see them until I made it to town tomorrow.

The trail soon found itself approaching a series of lakes where I had planned to stop for lunch. The water was a beautiful green and having these places to myself sure feels magical. I served up my last trail lunch for this leg of the trip, and without seeing any of my group proceeded up the trail. The terrain led back up the side of a pass and down the other side, crossing large boulder fields in its path. There were a number of lakes below and I enjoyed watching them unfold as I made my way down the side of the mountain – one even shaped like a heart. I walked until it was growing dark and I was just reaching the lake I had hoped to camp when I realized that it was crowded. There were a lot of people there already, but I couldn’t tell if I knew them in the increasingly dark evening. I walked over to fill up my water and scope it out and it turned out to be a group of section hikers heading south. They were very nice and a lot chatty, so after filling up my water I reevaluated my game plan. The maps indicated that there wasn’t any more established camping ahead but I was determined to make it happen. It was growing dark and I was tired, only wanting to be with my people at this point of the day. I was exhausted and not interested in answering a bunch of questions about myself or feigning interest in others. I feel like a big jerk sometimes but I’m unapologetic about it. Thru-hiking takes a lot out of you, and sometimes at the end of the day there is no energy left for humoring strangers.

I walked and walked into the growing darkness, the ground all around me full of debris and at a constant slant. Breaking out my headlamp I thought that maybe I would end up having to walk the distance to town as well, but I did not want to. I wanted to sleep in my tent out here alone. I like it. I went on for a couple more miles, feeling exhausted and hungry. Finally, there was a patch of meadow to the left where I could pitch my tent. I don’t like camping in grass as it adds to condensation, but at this point I just wanted to get camp set up. Hunger and exhaustion were stronger forces than not wanting to let my gear get a little wet. I set up my tent and made myself a hot dinner, knowing I’d be in town tomorrow where I could dry everything out. No one else came hiking by and I went to bed alone for the first time in a while. It was nice, and I drifted off to sleep before I knew it.

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