I wake up on my soft moss bed and I’ve slept incredibly. I smile through my oatmeal. I smile through my tooth brushing. I smile through the cat hole I dig. I smile through the shit that I take.
My face hurts from smiling. I haven’t laughed as much as I laughed last night in a really long time. It is good to remember what it’s like to exist.
Sug and Liza have slept terribly, but they’re in good spirits nonetheless. Nestled between the small firs and the hemlocks, we make a plan. We’re going to finish today, none of us have enough food to drag it out like we thought we might. We think the terrain might be easy for some reason, though we have no information to corroborate the claim. We gather three liters of water each, as we’re pretty sure conditions will be fairly dry. We’re out and hiking by 7:51 AM, late for me normally, but definitely early for this crew. It feels good to let myself take it slow.
Right away we climb. We climb through lush forest for many miles and I marvel at the capacity of my LUNGS. last year I hiked so many miles with such deep anemia and I still liked it, but god damn is hiking incredible when you can fucking BREATHE.
The forest opens up and we are presented with a loss of the trail and great lava fields of boulders small, medium, large and gigantic. Single file, we hop from rock to rock and lose one another, each taking a different path to the cairns that link us up. The rock is slow going and arduous, and interspersed with narrow ridge walks, where the trail briefly reappears. We are crawling. It is tedious and very, very exposed.
I drink water, but I’m rationing because we’re never quite clear when our next water source will be. I reapply sunscreen and it does nothing, I am toasted and sizzling. I listen to This American Life, the episode is about the Covid ward in a hospital in Michigan. I try not to cry because I need my hydration. I cry a little bit anyway. I think about my life and Covid makes all circumstances feel worse.
Sug is somewhere ahead and Liza is somewhere behind. While thinking about my heart and my yearning, I’ve stopped finding cairns and the rocks I am traversing are huge and very very high up. I keep thinking I’ll find the trail just around the bend and climbing higher in search of it. Eventually I find a sheer sheet of cliff rock, and the boulder I’m standing on lurches just a little bit. I am definitely not on the trail.
I backtrack, hoping to see Liza and when I do she’s very far in the distance. I call her name, and remarkably, she hears me. She points her pole in the actual direction of the trail, which is the opposite way that I’m going. I pantomime ask her to wait and she says she will. As quickly as I can, I scramble away from the sheer death wall and soon I am safe with my buddy.
A little real life danger keeps things spicy and instead of wilting in the sun, I am now deeply enthused and excited.
We walk the last mile to June lake, where we find Sug. We’re all roasted red, overheated, underfed, and very thirsty. We lay there making jokes, I gather a liter from the lake and pour it down my shirt. We decide to go to Burgerville as soon as we get to the truck, Sug says she looked it up and they’re open ‘til ten.
Together, we walk one last forest mile to Big Nasty, and when we get to Burgerville I order a veggie burger, a large waffle fries, a salad, and a vegan milkshake. I eat all of this in record speed, and still I am hungry, but happy nonetheless.
📍The Loowit Trail is on Yakama land. I am a grateful guest.