Total Miles: 2212.5
When I woke from the night filled with the patter of raindrops on my tent, it was still dark. I lit my tiny alcohol stove to warm some water for coffee while I examined with amusement a new ache in each of the toes of my right foot. I wondered to myself whether this was what arthritis felt like, and set to the morning ritual of packing my backpack for what would clearly be a quite different day from all but one that had preceded it on this trail.
The overnight rains had stopped, but not before making all the green vegetation of the forest heavy with moisture. Thoroughly in the belly of a cloud, the lack of any view trained my focus only on what I could see immediately around me on the trail. Climbing slowly towards the Indian Heaven Wilderness, what came into focus were the ripest huckleberries we’d seen on trail, bushes completely full with them. In the moment before plucking them off the bush, I could see that large water droplets clung to each, creating an optical illusion that made them appear misshapen and less round than they actually were.
It wasn’t long before the rains came. The weather all morning was prime for a return of the rains that had come last night, and finally it returned: steady mist crescendoing into consistent rain only to soften back into mist. The modulation continued back and forth all day, and combined with temperatures in the upper 40s, it was a hypothermia lover’s dream. The huckleberries made the Indian Heaven Wilderness seem aptly named, but when the rain fell more persistently and a wind blew over the ridge, Indian Hell seemed more fitting. When I looked down to see that even amid a steady rain a bee was stinging me in the leg–making it at least the 6th sting of the trail–it seemed even more fitting.
In my mind, the irony of the weather was that Emily and I had been on this very same stretch of trail a little more than a year ago on a backpacking trip with our friends Jason and Julie, underneath a similarly grey sky. What the weather threatened to do that time, it was delivering on now. Making the day’s struggle more frustrating was knowing the views we were missing out on. Back on the that trip last spring, the low hanging clouds had eventually lifted to reveal the immensity of Mt. Adams right before us. I can only hope we’ll be so lucky tomorrow.
Little things propel my mind forward on days like this where everything is cold and everything is wet, save for my down jacket and sleeping bag that are wrapped safely inside a trash compactor bag in my pack to stay dry. I think of it as managing my mind: distracting it, encouraging it, focusing it on thoughts apart from the cold that works its way up from my toes and stiffens everything up to the middle of my calf, and away from the gnawing sensation of dampness that insidiously spreads through my chest even though I’m dry underneath my rain jacket. The promise of a warm dry sleeping bag floats in my consciousness, and my legs keep moving as a result. As an added bonus to boost my mental state, I nearly stumble on the tiny 2200-mile mark that has been erected using small stones directly on the trail. It’s a long way to have come to be stalled by a little rain and cold.