I toss and turn all night for no reason. My body doesn’t hurt, it’s quiet and warm, we have a flat campsite on a perfect ridge. I vacillate between being just a little asleep and being just a little awake but never really achieve either. I toss on my neoair, as gently as possible, trying not to wake Carrot, whomst blissfully slumbers next to me.
The sun starts to rise and my mood lifts with it. Isn’t it wild how my knees didn’t hurt at all, like not for one step yesterday?! Isn’t it incredible that my friends are here with me, that against all odds my love and I found one another and get to share a tent this very moment?
With the right people and working knees, anything feels possible.
Carrot wakes up with me and we assess our food. Both of us have not much but enough to get us to town and it pleases me to see that I can eat enough while hiking. A lot of folks have stomach upset or just generally feel adverse to eating 4,000 calories a day but I know I need it— my body legit screams for fuel when it gets low— and I’m proud of myself. Me, a person whomst has struggled so much with food, feeds herself a ton of hiking calories easily. Lookit me go.
Carrot sings “the final kiiiiind bar” (to the tune of the final countdown) and we smile. We’re so close to town. We love to hike and then paradoxically, five or six days go by and we can’t fucking WAIT to be in a town.
“What if we can be hiking by….seven AM?!” Carrot queries as if it is impossible but maybe if we just try hard enough we can make it happen. The honest truth is most people start hiking by 7AM but we are very good at stretching our morning chores out, so it takes a bit of effort.
“Oh yeah.” I say, confidently lifting up my pack, which has now become extremely light. We can do this.
We eat and caffeinate and brush our teeth and shit and pack up all of our things and are hiking by 7:02, which feels not too bad considering. Carrot quickly breaks ahead and I pass the time singing along to Fleetwood Mac just a little bit loud. The morning is cool, we’re starting to get out of the smoke and I pick up my pace, roll my ankle, sit, and pick up the pace again. It feels so good to be in my body on this day, especially since yesterday felt so inexplicably bad. Jukebox, Carrot and I all meet at a gently trickling stream, just 3.5 miles in and morale feels great all around. What luck.
I check my guthook app to sort out our lunch spot and next water sources and I read that a couple of trail angels were giving out cold soda and VEGGIE BURGERS of all things just a few days ago four miles up the road. I imagine a veggie burger. I imagine it all ketchup and mustardy, with grilled onions and thick romaine leaves and avocado, all wrapped up together and dripping. There is no way these veggie burgers could possibly live up to my fantasy of them and I know I’m playing a dangerous game but I just can’t help it. VEGGIE BURGERS!
I hike in a veggie burger flow state. Will there be a burger? Will they be vegan? Will the angels be nice? Will there be enough? Can I have TWO?!
Carrot messages me to say that she just passed the spot where the veggie burgers once were and there was nothing there but a man aggressively shouting questions at hikers. I am briefly disappointed, but then accepting. Silly Muffy I think. A veggie burger cannot be your life raft.
I hike on to our lunch spot and my hunger hath become extreme. I shovel gluten free pretzels and chocolate and a bobos bar and peanut butter and dried cherries and granola into my mouth. These foods are entirely insufficient dry little things, but what can you do? Tomorrow we go to town and the real eating shall commence.
Carrot and and I make a plan to hike to a lake seven miles away and swim. I hike mostly alone after lunch briefly checking in with Carrot every few miles, not on purpose but because conditions are wildly steep and we’re not quite in trail shape yet, so every few miles I find her sitting down mid trail and I gratefully take it as an invitation to join her and pound water and granola bars and electrolyte powder. It’s hot, like really fucking hot, and the climbing is relentless.
There seems to be a cruel trick that happens in the last mile or two before a destination point. One minute I feel close, and the next minute the point feels a million miles away and like every step I take is actually a step backward- like the uphill or the downhill is literally never going to fucking end. It’s maddening; some days my first 18 miles feel incredible and the last two make me feel like I am dying. I don’t understand how this can happen day after day.
We climb. We climb until we think we’ll drop in the heat and are rewarded with a beautiful, clear, freezing lake. I strip off my clothes, lowkey flashing ass to some day hikers and change into the one pair of underwear I have, a pair that honestly has only been used as a proxy bikini. I wade over slippery logs and craggy rocks out into the water and I go from sweating to shivering in an instant. I curl up into a ball under water, scrubbing at my dirty legs and arms. It’s too cold to move much but at least this will get me sort of clean.
When we’ve cleaned and frozen just enough, Carrot and I sit in the one sunbeam we can find through the trees and shiver a little. In 2014 I’d seen a picture of Carrot hiking the PCT and longed to be there too in a way that made no sense because we’d hardly talked in years and I was living a very structured and regimented life in California. Come hike with me! She’s said. I want to! I’d replied, thinking there was just no way I ever possibly could. Four years later, here we are. What a world.
In the last four miles to camp, something happens to my body. Suddenly I feel…good? We’re hiking over talus and scree and the sun is setting, bathing everything around me in an orange glow. Carrot is up ahead, hiking a little faster and leaving me gentle clusters of salmon berries and thimble berries on leaf platters every half mile or so. My legs feel incredible, and I am about to round the bend of my longest hiking day yet and feel like I could keep going. I arrive to camp smiling instead of sweating and nauseated. I set up our shelter and filter my water and sit down to write with energy instead of pure exhaustion.
More of this I think as I drift to sleep.