September 3, 2017: Hiked Miles 2420.0 to 2447.3 (27.3 total)
I finally got a good night of sleep. I still tossed and turned, that’s inevitable when sleeping on the ground on a thin foam mattress using your clothes bag for a pillow. But it was a lot less than normal. I guess being exhausted from a hard day of hiking was the cure.
I awoke at 6:00 wide awake. I like to keep my eyes closed and do a kind of meditation every morning before I get up. I concentrate on taking really deep breaths and think about all the things I’m thankful for and actively try to set my mind up for the day by thinking positive thoughts. I find it helps me to calm down and set up a good mindset for the day instead of just jumping up and letting things happen. Plus it feels amazing. It’s the one time I have in my day to just do nothing. I would probably lay there for an hour and meditate every morning if I could, but I usually pull myself up after about 20 minutes, knowing we need to start our day. And of course by then my tummy is growling for food.
Our morning started off beautiful with a long walk down off the mountain into a deep canyon. The sky was smokey from the fire and the sun was already warm through the haze.
We got to the bottom of the mountain and then started creeping our way through the valley. We passed over a creek on a bridge that looked like it had had a rough winter.
And then began yet another long, hot climb, full of switchback after switchback. My legs seemed to drag and every step took all my effort to lift my foot up. It seemed like my muscles had all disappeared overnight and had instead just left me with heavy body parts to drag around. My feet had a mind of their own, not wanting to lift themselves off the ground high enough to clear the many roots and rocks we had to climb over. You would think by now we would be gracefully trapsing through the mountains, which occasionally we do. But more often I feel like I have clown shoes on and tend to trip on every possible thing I can. Of course I’ve never been a very graceful walker. I’ve always been amazed how I can run up and down hills for miles and miles over rocky terrain and not get hurt and then while walking, run into things in plain sight and roll an ankle or bruise a knee. So I shouldn’t be surprised that my lack of grace has followed me out here.
Throughout the hard day I kept reminding myself how no matter how hard these mountains are to climb, they aren’t as hard as all the time we spent trudging up even higher mountains in the snow in the Sierras. I’m glad I had that experience to put everything into perspective.
Towards the top we got another view of the fire which is now to our southeast.
And a couple good reminders of how beautiful Washington is:
We finally stopped for lunch a little after 2:00 after a hard 17 miles. We dropped our packs and then trudged up the dry creek bed 100 yards to find water. Usually when I take my pack off I feel free as a bird and walking feels easy. Not today. Even walking without it still felt like I weighed a million pounds.
We finally got water, splashed our hot bodies with the cool water to cool off, and made it back to our packs to strip our sweaty shoes and socks off and eat a much needed lunch. But it was a quick lunch, since we still had 10 miles to go.
After lunch we made our way a little further down the mountain and I spotted another bear. I heard a noise and looked up see a black cub that I must have scared bounding away in the bushes. All the sudden he stopped, turned toward me, and our eyes locked for about 10 seconds. But once I said Colton’s name to get his attention, the spell was broken and he took off. We were on the lookout for the mom after that, but never did spot her. I can’t remember what number bear sighting this, is now. Six or seven?
We made it down to a cascading stream to cross and then crossed over a bunch more streams in the next few miles.
At some point during our climb, my weird, sick, lethargic state that has been hanging over me for the past couple days and making climbing ridiculously hard, finally went away and my energy returned and I was able to conquer the hill without feeling like every step was a death march. Thank goodness.
The evening was beautiful and the smoke made the sky look quite mystical.
At last I could look up and see blue sky above us and the end to the tree line and knew we were almost to the top. We crested Piper Pass and let out a little whoop of celebration. You have to celebrate and yell every chance you get out here. Somehow it always makes the climb seem more enjoyable and worthwhile.
Then we hiked our last couple miles down to a gorgeous valley with this perfect little heart-shaped lake.
We made our way down to a cold stream, got water, and found a place to sleep. It was almost dark by this point so by the time we set up, we had to eat with our headlamps on. But the night is not too cold and we only have 14 miles into Steven’s Pass tomorrow where we’re meeting Colton’s relatives and taking a well-deserved day off. Woohoo!