Monday, September 9, 2019; day 51
I wake and turn within my sleeping bag. I am cold. It is hard to rise.
I sit on my wet socks to warm them. I am tempted to wear my relatively dry pair, but I know better. They would turn wet and cold the moment I put on my boots.
I plan to eat lightly today, and stop at the cabin in 10 miles.
A bird sings one simple, elongated note. It gives me comfort.
As I strap on my boots, I tell myself that being cold is not that bad. I tell myself that it makes being warm that much sweeter.
I was surprised at how emotional each glimpse of sun and blue sky made me. My gratefulness was like a sudden earthquake, shifting mountains deep within me.
To make these journeys successfully, I have to be both highly demanding and extremely nurturing towards myself. If I properly rationed, it was okay to take refuge for the night.
Mid-afternoon, I reached the cabins.
I explored them both. They were not maintained, but were still very suitable. The smaller cabin was preferable. I settled there.
There were two pieces of wood inside a metal bucket near the door.
I gathered scraps of paper and cardboard from inside the shelter, and old map and guidebook pages from my pack. I searched around for bits of sticks and wood for tinder. I placed my collection beneath the two pieces of firewood, within the wood-burning stove.
I lit the paper. I waited. I tried blowing life into the flame. I tried to create enough heat to catch the wood. I failed.
With a heightened sense of urgency, I moved about to collect more tinder. I pulled out the cardboard center from a roll of tin-foil. I ripped out the “recources” section of my guidebook, along with the back cover. I collected dry twigs from underneath the cabin. I told myself that there was absolutely no way that I should be unable to make a fire.
I poked and prodded and blew and rearranged.
Finally, the flames grew strong enough to consume the wood.
I changed out of my wet clothes and hung them fireside. I put my boots beneath the stove, and my sleeping bag on the floor beside it. I filled one of the pots on the cabin shelf with water and placed it on the stove top to boil. I wondered what I would have done if those two pieces of firewood had not been there. I have never chopped wood. I told myself I must learn how.
I stepped outside to relieve myself. A sound came from the distance. My first thought was cattle. Then I recognized two human formations approaching the cabin.
“Hi. How are you?” I asked.
“Happy to see these cabins” one replied.
I smiled. I felt awkward and antisocial. I had certainly not expected people.
I moved back inside. I shut and locked the door.
I positioned my things a bit more tidily in the corner, and peered through the peep hole.
One of them was taking a saw to a downed tree. It seemed they intended to build a fire in the other cabin.
Them going about their own business put me at ease. This allowed me to realize that warmth must be shared with all that are cold. I unlatched the door and stepped outside once more.
I initiated conversation and invited them in.
Doug and Devin were an uncle and nephew pair out for a few nights of backcountry bonding.
They were extremely kind, and were just as surprised to find me alone in the wilderness as I was to see them. They were the first hikers I had met on trail since Montana.
We all picked our wooden platforms for sleeping, and got comfortable.
I told them the story of my wet sleeping bag, and how I considered turning around; of how I still have 100 miles before I reached a point of resupply.
Devin gifted me his dry sack, Doug gave me a ration of food.
I was so grateful; not only for their amazing gifts–but for the warm conversation and genuine kindness, for kindred human company.
The cabin heated quickly. The fire crackled through the night. I fell to sleep safe and warm within a dry bag, a smile upon my face.