I wake up in a completely dark room with white noise whir. It’s somehow 8:30AM, a time I haven’t slept until for basically forever and I can’t believe it. Black out curtains and a white noise machine sure do go a long way for sleep, I tell you what.
Carrot has been awake since 6, reading her book and internetting and now she’s risen to make hotel room coffee, something that gives her inexplicable great joy. I’ve had horrible nightmares all night, the kind that feel very particular to my specific neurosis. The short story is that I dreamt that people didn’t like me, which is a thing that is invariably true (can’t please everyone, can ya?) but something I’m really trying to give less of a shit about as I age. I feel unsettled trying to reconcile my dreams from my reality and Carrot brings me a cup of coffee, smiling.
She says she is experiencing great satisfaction this morning, just because she remembered her life and what we get to do and how we get to feel. This bouyes me. Her life is honestly incredible, and it’s sort of the life I share, too- at least parts of it. Fuck those dreams!
We meet Jukebox and Tick Tock at the diner attached to our motel, and Homework joins us shortly thereafter. He hiked out the day before and seven miles in he found a hiker with a broken knee. Instead of slapping the dude on the back and wishing him well, Homework carried his pack down the mountain, only to get breakfast with us and head right back up. I aspire to be so generous and so kind.
We eat oatmeal and toast and sweet potato fries and nachos and eggs and pancakes and talk about the climb we are about to face. It’s steep, they say, with a gigantic dose of talus and scree, plus rumored mosquitos to boot. I am armed with refreshed legs, a healthy dash of positivity, and five bags of chips. The mountains canst not fuck with me.
We take a picture at the trailhead and we climb. Up and up and up into the most picturesque mountains I’ve seen yet, which is truly saying something, as every mountain thus far has been pretty dang great. With a belly full of oats and fries it feels something close to easy, which I say out loud, knowing that this will totally jinx me.
The five of us stop for lunch at Ridge Lake and I add fistfuls of chips plus a packed out block of baked tofu and tiny bell peppers to my oatmeal and sweet potato fry belly. We toggle back and forth between talking about alcoholism and abuse and the trouble with being a human being in a fucked up world and unique snack combinations and hiker farts inside of enclosed shelters and general gibberish spoken in strange voices which we attribute to our pets. The thing about hiking buddies is sometimes you run out of real, honest, true and deep shit to say and you say dumb stuff instead and sometimes you run out of dumb stuff to say and you just lapse into silence. It really provides one with the opportunity to see all the ways in which their friends communicate about their lives, both serious and not so much.
We climb! We climb a big ass mountain and I slow to a crawl because though the smoke has parted to give way to unbelievable and splendorous views, I have too full sick belly and my guts are rebelling. The line between too much food and not enough food is really something/How am I supposed to know when I am about to cross over said line when I am constantly trying to just get enough?!
I try not to think about my insides. Instead I watch the tiny cornflower blue butterflies weave in and out of the rock. I listen for Pika meeps and I meep back. This will pass! I tell myself. Just focus on the butterflies.
It is a talus party and every cool slab of talus is invited. We scramble over massive rock and slippery scree and my ankle, the one that is weak and that kept me from hiking at all for so long, is wrenching again and again and again. It never rolls, but always the wrench, until a new pain settles into my arch and shoots up my shin. At least it’s not the knees?
We started hiking at noon, which is extremely late by hiker standards. By the time we settle into camp it is real and actual nighttime and we’re either wearing headlamps or feeling our way through nighttime duties in the dark. This half day was much more technically challenging than any of us anticipated and we are beat up and weathered but happy with our various ziplock bags and pots of food.
Jukebox gratefully spoons instant refried beans into a flour tortilla. Tick Tock delights me with her vegan cheez-it’s. Homework has a baggy full of almost not stale peanut M&Ms, which he shares with Carrot. We palm our snacks into our mouths as we all shiver into our puffys and nighttime caps and laugh and laugh at who knows what.
We’re camped up high, which means it will be chilly and Tick Tock’s rain fly is confusing or broken or something because it just won’t attach. We collectively pray to the mountain gods for no rain and a dry Tick Tock come morning, and I skip brushing my teeth because I’m too cold to take off my little liner gloves. Finally, we settle in. We’re comfortable and cozy and best of all, together. We sleep.
(Picture by Carrot!)