I wake up and before I open my eyes I am happy.
I shift and my neoair squeaks below me. I burrow my head into my quilt and I look at my Guthook app to learn just how many miles we have left, where there is water, what the elevation profile is going to be. There are just twelve more miles left to close the loop of this trail.
Holy shit I think. What an enormous privilege. (The time that I’ve had available. The recovery that I have, the stuff that makes it so that I can just fucking eat enough to hike, the privilege of the strength of this body.) I can’t fucking believe it.
Carrot stirs beside me and I pop my head out of my quilt like a groundhog. “GOOD MORNING” I say, because it is good out here from our shelter on the ground. I love Carrot, I love hiking, and though I am not finishing up the whole state of Washington like I’d set out to do, I *am* finishing something and for today that’s good enough.
This morning I am faster than usual. I heat my coffee and I cram some oatmeal into my mouth and we talk about the dogs. Our dogs, objectively speaking, are perfect. They are very soft and they lick the crusties from one another’s eyes when things get goopy and they smell like fritos and, and, and……we love them. Hiking is good but dogs are even better.
Have you even seen DOGS?! Fuck, man. Dogs are incredible.
I shit behind a tree while my friends chatter just round the bend. Carrot folds up the shelter and stuffs it into her pack (we take turns carrying it, which is really excellent at least every other day.) I have just enough food to get me 12 more miles and without the shelter my pack weighs…nothing. I’m free!
Woody climbs into his borrowed car and takes off from the trailhead just as we set out to hike. Deanna, Carrot and I press forward, trying to get as much of this finish in as we can, before it gets too hot. CQ and I get ahead of Deanna, and having exhausted every nice thing we can possibly say about dogs, we decide to listen to When Life Gives you Lululemons. The novel ends, in its triumphant yet anticlimactic way (I’m never going to be stoked on a book that offers some lady’s weight loss as a victorious conclusion) and then we are silent.
The heat climbs and the terrain stays both gentle and uneventful. We piss, we sit and eat, we see nice dogs but they’re not our dogs, so we like them a little less than we could. We plod forth, step after step in the sand and we see more and more day hikers, which means we are close to the end.
We’re running low on water. There are two paths to the trailhead where our car is parked: there is a mile and a half path that is a continuation of what we’ve been on: sand, sand, sand and more sand. Up around a corner there is an alternate: a 3/4 mile dirt road that isn’t any more interesting but it is about 50% closer to the gallons of water stored in the trunk of our car. We decide on that and once the decision is made, an enthusiasm injection comes. The past 11 miles have been a slow meander, but on this dirt trail we pump our legs as fast as they’ll go.
Carrot and I stride right into the parking lot and just like that, we’re done. I cry a little, quietly with my face turned to the side because I don’t want Carrot to see. Carrot has accomplished so much. She’s finished so many trails and this one is probably the least notable by far! This finish is my first, though, and I am proud of myself. I did a thing, all the way through! Just because I wanted to and just because my body said I could! That’s beautiful, and I cry at everything beautiful. No shame in that.
We pop the trunk of my car, which has remained perfectly un-fucked-with in our absence. We grab our gallons of water and some wet wipes, find a tree to put our legs up on, and we wait.
Soon Deanna comes, and we all high five with dirty palms and grumbling stomachs.
“The burrito calls” Deanna says, and we all nod in unison. If thru-hiking has taught me anything, it’s that the first town meal is the best meal you’ll ever have, every single time.
I can’t fucking wait.