I rose, packed up my things, and headed back to the picnic bench. I would try my hand at my new stove.
Success! How lovely it was to have hot coffee in the morning!
I followed the road across the dam.
I decided to stop in at the Ross Lake Resort.
I used their wifi to follow-up with Lowa. I had sent them a picture of the holes in my boots, while in Winthrop. To my delight, I had received an email response asking where my replacement boots should be sent. I called them up and asked them to ship them “general delivery” to the town of Concrete.
I continued along the trail. I paused, saddened by a dead toad that lay in the middle of the path. As I considered whether I should move its little body to the side of the trail, it hopped off. I was thoroughly impressed by its ability to play dead.
I joined the Beaver Creek trail. The trees were so powerful. I found myself stopping many times just to stare, to press my flattened palm against their wizened trunks.
The mountains soothe my soul.
The trail was surprisingly populated. Twice I was referred to as “you guys”, when there was clearly just one of me.
I came to Luna Camp, after night fall. All of the tent sites were occupied. I moved on.
I arrived at Beaver Pass Shelter.
I was relieved to find it empty. Well, save for the mice… but I hung my pack on a nail, and they left me well enough alone.
Spurts of gentle rain came and went through the night as I slept.
I am concerned with the potential difficulties of navigating in the rain. Fire damage throughout the Pasayten may pose challenging conditions: dead and downed trees, indiscernible trail.
There does not seem to be much elevation change moving forward. If I move quickly, maybe I can make it the 23 miles to the Old Tungsteon Mine cabins.
I make sure everything is in plastic bags. I fill up on water to full capacity and pre-soak a meal. I don’t want to stop until I set up camp, and I want to have enough water to camp at any moment. The frequency of listed campsites in the coming miles is comforting.
It may be a subconscious tactic towards survival, but it seems that post initiation one is always less afraid.
The birds sing and there is a light buoyancy to the air. I laugh at the appearance of my shadow.
I find relief in the clear orange blazing of The Chopaka Trail.
It is not long before the sky dims and the rain sets in. I had removed my base layers in the heat of the morning sun. Caught in shorts and a sleeveless top, I put on my rain skirt and rain jacket and continue.
As I hike, I offer self motivation: you have done this before; the weather is not scary; there is only one option: keep going– find a way–there is always a way.
I have set up camp in a dry pond bed, only 13 miles from where I began. Night has fallen. I am soaking wet. The cold rattles my bones. The rain did not cease until the sun no longer shone. I considered hiking in to the night but I was worried about staying warm. My fingers and toes burn as I hurried to pitch my tent, as I told myself it was okay to stop if I tried harder tomorrow.
I eat a dinner of cold mashed potatoes. I curl my body inward, within my damp down bag. My legs convulse involintarily. I am concerned. I check the weather with my satellite device. Tomorrow: 37 degrees and more rain. I am still 102.7 miles from a possible hitch in to town.
Should I have pushed further? Would I have been able to stay warm?
I marvel at the extreme change in weather. Usually there is some warning. I feel foolish and shocked. I was not physically or mentally prepared. My dry sacks have failed me. A wet down bag without an emergency bivy is extremely dangerous.
I suppose the transition from a hot valley road walk to 6,985 ft elevation within the rugged Pasayten Wilderness, is not so fluid.
I hope this weather is but a warning of what is to come, not what is here.
I curl into a ball. I watch my breathe in the light of my headlamp. For the first time on trail, I feel alone. I long for the heat of another. I think of what it would be like to cuddle a cow. I think of what it would be like to freeze, alone in the wilderness. I think about the danger of not being prepared for the cold. I wonder if I should turn back. Then I think of the cabin in 13 miles. I could make a fire. I could dry out my sleeping bag.
I think of the East Bank trailhead, just over 100 miles away.