It has been a month of weird sleep for both Carrot and I. I’ve been excited or anxious to get hiking, or restless about the state of the world and a few details about my own life, or in pain. Carrot’s been traveling via red eyes from state to state, awakened by grizzlies huffing and puffing around her campsight, it’s been relentlessly sunny or hot in her tent. Neither of us has slept much for weeks, really and then in our first night of sleeping in the two person single walled tent, we sleep nine hours. Maybe nine and a half hours! Sleeping enough fucking rules.
I wake up to the sun not quite up and Carrot’s face very close to my own.
“Do you want to sleep more?” She whispers.
“Nope.” I respond.
I live for the moment when Carrot wants to be awake with me every single day that we’re together. This one is just like all the others, but even better because holy shit the transcendent gift of deep rest in the nature. What a joy.
Of course, the first thing I think of is my knees. Will they hold up ok? Are they going to hurt? When will they feel better? Why did they start hurting in the first place?! LOL. Brains, amiright?! They just don’t know when to quit.
Turns out, today is mostly 20 miles of climbing, which sounds hard (I mean, sure 20 miles of climbing is hard) but it’s the downhill that destroys me and so when I hear this I am overjoyed. My knees can do 20 miles of climbing.
And they do! My knees slowly take me up and up and up through pikas hidden in piles of scree, gentle, sandy uppy downy bits, and sweeping views of Mt. Ranier. As long as I am climbing, as I am most of the day, I feel incredible. As soon as any steep downhill starts, my morale is shot. Pain is such a demoralizing thing, a jab that can instantly turn my sunny mood cloudy. I wish it didn’t have the power to unravel me like that.
At lunch Homework poses a question: would we rather hike forever and ever, each day on a new mystery trail and have to figure out where we are on a daily basis or would we rather stay in the same five mile radius for the rest of our lives. We debate the pros and cons of each and I decide I’d hike. I can’t even get from my house to my job in five miles, and forever is a long time. I’d get bored.
We hit a downhill slope and my knees shoot pain causing my morale to sag. Carrot rolls the ankle she just sprained a few weeks back and we sit. We’re grumpy and we hurt and then we’re laughing because remember how we’re just walking up and down and up and down for no reason whatsoever, making choices based on instinct and a drive that cannot be explained. We’re kind of injured, but still we walk. Ha!
Seven miles from camp there is a clear blue inlet and we decide to swim. We’re all dirty and though the water won’t clean us (the second we get on land the dirt will stick to our wet bodies as if we’re covered in glue) it feels good to wipe the grime away from between our toes and streaked down our legs. It’s just cold enough to pretend I’m icing my knees and when i get out they’re nice and numb which feels great for hikin’.
Jukebox and Homework surge ahead and Carrot and I mince our last few miles to camp. We talk about how perception is a funny thing, how we can never really know how people see us and how maybe it’s not even any of our business. I tell her I have no idea how I appear to others (it’s true) and the mystery actually frustrates me. Am I nice? Mean? Introverted? Extroverted? Considerate? Brash? Anxious? Depressed? Happy?
We agree that I am funny and beyond that she says I am kind, excited, positive, contemplative and studious. I do not say so in the moment because it takes me some time to think, but for the record I think Carrot is brave, unique, particular, loving, measured, and driven. I am proud to have intimacy with a person I see as so purely worthy of love. (I mean we all are, but Carrot especially)
Eventually we find ourselves on a ridge with incredible cellphone reception. We pass time playing YouTube videos interspersed with Papa Roach and Enya songs. We make pots of oily, soupy slop and we all sit overlooking miles and miles of mountain, wildflower and tree. I pitch our tent with enthusiasm— I love to share and I love to help— and we hunker in. It’s 43 degrees and all the pikas have silenced at last.