“That night sucked. That night absolutely sucked” I thought as my eyes opened again. I had only slept another hour since I last woke up, and the sun was up enough to illuminate everything around me in a cold grey.
I was hesitant to leave my tent. It was bright enough around my camp, but the treeline before my camp still loomed ominously, threatening to swallow my tent. I opted to wait around a little while before getting out, despite my urgent need to pee. I shuffled around and played with my GPS for a while, when I heard sticks break yet again.
In a small clearing outside my tent, I saw a deer stand up and move around. Is that the same deer from last night? Did it stay here all night? I watched it for a while, and noticed a fawn meandering around the larger deer. They grazed for a while and eventually disappeared into the trees.
I felt ridiculous for hiding in my tent and got out. I grabbed my filter and water bladders and made my way to the stream. I figured I might as well filter water before I left so I didn’t have to do it when I got back. I took all the gear out of my pack and picked a few items to take with me. I went through the chore of making a packet of Ramen for breakfast. I threw my trash in my food bag and flung it back over a tree branch. In it, I left something I’d need later that day.
It was 8:00 AM, much later than I planned on leaving. I had to get going.
I shuffled down the hill back to the trail passing a dry pond. The morning was filled with a cool breeze. I was just wearing a cotton Godzilla t-shirt (my synthetic shirt was another item I forgot to bring) and gloves. For a brief moment my skin went numb, but as I continued to move I warmed up.
The trail was relatively loaded with groups of friends/family either heading to or heading from King’s Peak. Sometimes we ignored each other, sometimes we exchanged small conversation, and at one point a group of teenagers stopped to yell “YEEAH GODZILLA” at me. Great. I then overheard them saying “Man I can’t believe we did all that in an hour”. That can’t be right, can it? The hike to Kings Peak wasn’t exactly a short stroll, and that’s ignoring the actual climb itself. Don’t listen to hikers, guys.
I hiked on and off with one couple in particular. We talked about where we were from and how we were enjoying the trail. At that point I was a bit winded, and realized I had gone from maybe a couple hundred feet of elevation from home to 9,000ft within a very short timespan. The difference was noticeable, but wasn’t exactly detrimental. I noted that and they agreed, being from Florida. They pushed on and I caught my breath, we were heading up to the first pass of the day.
At the base of Gunsight Pass I left the couple behind and push my way up. I was feeling much better at this point, all the uphill in the morning was a good warmup for the first ascent of the day. I made my way up the talus with high spirits.
And before I knew it, I was standing on top looking at another basin hiding behind the mountains.
I would have stayed up there longer, but the wind was blowing me around a bit, so I made my way down. Along the way I kept getting distracted by the rocks. The rocks here were so cool! There was so much history being told here, and I was getting seriously held up by it.
Once I got to the bottom, I kind of realized what kind of day I’d be having. I had to walk across a good chunk of this basin, skirting the mountains, and make my way up another pass. I was out of my mind with excitement.
Time went by pretty fast, and before I knew it I was at the next pass. As I made my way up, Kings Peak announced its presence with booming intimidation. I felt like it reached a hand out and casually flattened me to the ground. I just now had a good sense of scale for it. It’s not like I was climbing K2 or anything, but still, I felt a little humbled.
The climb up the second pass was a pain in the ass. Plain and simple, it wore me out. I wasn’t crawling over talus, there was a nice footpath the whole way, but it just didn’t end! My pace slowed down noticeably, and I started to drink more water.
For the first time since my first backpacking trip as a kid, I started to feel a little miserable. For years I was able to just hike casually, not too phased by uphills, downhills, or miles. By the time I hit the middle of Anderson Pass, I was just done. I glared at the trail. It was winding up, up, up, around my head, through my ears, mocking me. But I kept pushing myself forward in hopes that it would end. Eventually I got a break.
I got to this nice flat area with plenty of boulders to sit on. I walked half-way through it and eventually decided to take a break here. I threw my pack off, plopped on the ground, and kind of slid off the rock I originally aimed for. Okay, I guess I’ll sit in the dirt. People pushed on past me, some of them running past, rubbing my exhaustion in my face. Thanks, jerks.
Then something hit me, I was hungry. Like, really hungry. I didn’t eat much on the drive here, a small burger and a wrap with a stick of jerky somewhere in the mix. The only thing I had eaten all day was ramen. I’ve never really felt full on ramen, it mostly makes me nauseous enough to forget that I’m hungry. Once that wears off..
I dig through my pack for a snack.
Well… Fuck it all, I didn’t bring food. I thought about my food bag hanging on a branch, innocently swaying in the breeze with all my snacks. Ugh.