Total Miles: 1241.5
Four years ago, I wrote this post sick to my stomach over a tearful goodbye as Ace went home to our house in Seattle and back to work while I continued on my hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. Rereading it now, I can still feel my insides turning over seeing how broken hearted she was to say goodbye for what we both knew would be a long time. I tried to put on a good face and be a consoling voice for both of us, but the truth is that it’s not a moment I care to repeat.
Since that hike, we’d always said we would do the next long trail together—my first with a partner—and now here we are, one promise fulfilled. And today was a special reminder of that day from 2016 because it just so happens to be Ace’s birthday. We’ve celebrated a lot of trail birthdays together over the past decade, and while it’s hard to do the traditional kind of celebration, it’s easy to focus on doing the small things—caring things that really should be at the heart of a birthday anyway.
Like singing happy birthday to her before sunrise. Taking down her tarp for her in the morning (that’s true love, by the way). And carrying a bag of her favorite Swedish Fish so that they can later double as a poor man’s birthday cake. None of it all that special, but all of it born from a desire to put her first—something I should endeavor to do on more days than just this one.
Ace and I think through life in very similar ways, but we express our experience of it in polar opposite ways. She’s the emotion to my reason, the extrovert to my introvert, the yin to my yang. And it’s those differences that keep pushing me, forcing me to learn and challenging me to grow—for what better work is there than to understand another human being?
While she may dwell only on her faults and emotions that can feel too raw to wrangle, I’m reminded that emotions are a paradox. Like wildfire, they can consume you whole, but without them, what is left but an empty, lifeless vessel no different from any other? Ace is a puzzle I hope never to solve, because it’s the amazement of her and of our differences that brings us closer together.
I tried my best to conjure up some warmer, sunnier weather for the occasion, and eventually the sun that had played hide-and-seek between the clouds slowly began to show itself. After only a handful of miles, we departed the CDT in favor of the Spotted Bear Pass alternate that in addition to being slightly more direct would also cling closer to the physical Divide than the actual CDT.
The downside was that we’d first need to descend a few thousand feet into a river valley before ultimately ascending back up to the Divide. The upshot was that this down/up sequence was lined with almost nothing but ripe, plump blueberries and thimbleberries for nearly 15 miles. Judging from the frequent bear scat on the trail, we weren’t the only ones enjoying them.
After finally climbing our way back up, our return to the Divide that we’d left this morning did not disappoint. Beneath a sky filled with clouds adrift on a deep blue sea, a dance of light and shadow played out across the rocky peaks and the sweeping valleys they stood sentinel over.
But, of course, the day would not be complete without another round of singing happy birthday and planting a single candle in a Swedish Fish to properly celebrate the occasion. Even a cold, blustery wind couldn’t rain on this parade. Who needs cake, when you can have a birthday surrounded in a land like this?