Suburban Hawk by lennycarl08 Via Flickr: A Red-tailed hawk launched off a lighpost in my direction. Through the zoom it looked like he was coming right at me, but in reality he just landed on the next light post down the line behind me.
back home, we were younger… | a nostalgic playlist for rhett & link (listen here) 01 james taylor - carolina in my mind 02 brooks & dunn - ain’t nothing ‘bout you 03 old crow medicine show - wagon wheel 04 soul asylum - run away train 05 brooks & dunn - neon moon 06 jamey johnson - back to carolina 07 nina persson - the bluest eyes in texas 08 ryan adams - oh, my sweet carolina 09 nitty gritty dirt band - fishing in the dark 10 joe dee messina - heads carolina, tails california
I joked, at the tail ends of California and Oregon, that it felt like those states had gained sentience and were actively trying to prevent me from leaving.
By comparison Washington is not only sentient, but malevolent, hell-bent on trying to break me before I can reach Canada.
I’ve dealt with everything from rain to hornets to overwhelming fatigue to sickness to tough mountain climbs.
Yesterday evening I ate it coming around a bend near a horse camp. One second I was walking through cushy red dirt, the next I was picking myself up off the ground, which my palms and forehead had pressed themselves into. I hit the ground again this morning, the victim of a slick log at the edge of a creek. My left pinky was in a good deal of pain, I found, when my brain began running its diagnostic scan to see if anything was badly injured.
It hurt badly enough that I had to splint it (thanks, Boy Scouts!) and take a painkiller. When I was in Idyllwild, some 2450 miles ago, I procured some post-surgical-strength drugs to use in case of emergency. This was at the point when my Achilles was so banged up that I thought I might have to quit the trail, and it was very conceivable that I’d need those drugs.
I never ended up using them. I certainly thought about it on some of my really bad plantar fasciitis days, but regular ibuprofen seemed to do alright, and I didn’t bother.
Today I bothered. It was really early, and it hurt badly enough that I could only grip my trekking pole with two fingers, so I figured, what the hell. (Twenty minutes after my fall I got stung by another goddamn hornet, so I was hurting mentally and physically. I may have been crying by the time I sat down for my morning break.) Pretty soon I noticed that I wasn’t feeling any pain in my finger, which minutes earlier I’d been fairly sure was broken. Pretty soon after that I realized I was practically giddy, lighthearted and loopy on the meds–I wasn’t feeling anything.
This kept up from late morning throughout the afternoon. I went up and over Cutthroat Pass, with a breathtaking view of the mountains laid out in a curve of blue and white and red and green. I could see so much sky that I actually watched a strange weather pattern emerge, with clear blue skies and sunshine to the southwest slowly melding into slate-gray thunderheads to the north and east. It was imposing: the kind of landscape that deserves music, a thunderous Wagnerian howl rolling out into the crackling air.
At some point I ran into two hikers named Wozzy and Short Stack, who I’d met in Stehekin. I lamented my morning’s incidents to them, and Wozzy said something simple and profound that I absolutely needed to hear at that moment in time: “Hey, there’s always the afternoon.”
My afternoon mostly consisted of rain. I also passed a ton of weekend backpackers, as the pass leads to a popular lake just off the PCT. The rain meant that we weren’t stopping for long to talk to one another, and it would’ve been far worse for me were I not still flying high on the one tiny pill I’d taken. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, it registered that this was dangerous, this dulling of all pain in my body. I wasn’t even hungry, which, again, should’ve scared the hell out of me.
I ate anyway, though I couldn’t bear to stop for more than two or three minutes at a stretch. Pushing myself meant that I hit mile 2,600 in the early afternoon; I trekked on a final seven miles and then made camp for the night next to a freezing cold stream. It stopped raining sometime in my last hour, and despite the chill that started to set in over the early evening I was able to dry out some of my things along the logs that ringed my single tent site. I’d gone just shy of 30 miles on the day.
A promise that I spoke aloud as I crawled into the tent, to really drive it home: I’m sticking to ibuprofen from here on out, no matter what.