Day 32 – I can’t stop swimming

Another great night of sleep.  I woke up in my tent and everything just felt incredibly comfortable.  Soft quilt, soft inflatable pillow.. I had a hard time working up the will to deflate my mattress to get going.  I laid in my tent for a while and listened to the stream nearby work its watery magic.

Eventually I got everything packed up and crammed crumbled pop tarts in my mouth and got going.  I left my little oasis behind and soon the scenery transitioned back to desert.  I love desert!  My mood lifted the weight from my pack off my shoulder, my legs worked at a consistent pace, and the miles started to melt under my feet.  Hello dry thorny plants and dust!

Before I knew it I was passing people who walked by me as I was just getting out of my tent in the morning.  I wasn’t taking any breaks or didn’t need to stop to breathe, I felt incredible.  Before I knew it I had hit 8 miles.  I’d almost hiked all my miles for the day and it wasn’t even noon yet.  Woops!  It’s amazing how great you feel out here when you get decent sleep.

Eventually I came to the first junction with Deep Creek.  There was some hikertrash there hanging out and smoking, I passed them and sat by the water.  The day was getting hotter and the water was nice and cool.  Before I knew it my clothes were off and I was in the water.  I gasped as the water got higher and higher, it’s almost too cold!  I stayed in for a few minutes then got out feeling awesome.  I put my clothes back on and sat by the water for a while.

I should jump in again.

I got out for the last time, got everything back on, and moved uphill to take a break under a tree.  I didn’t swim in my clothes, but without a towel they still got wet.  My pants barely fit me anymore, with them being heavy and wet they’d be constantly falling off while I hiked so I needed to let them dry anyways.  I started throwing together my lunch when a hiker passed by.

“If you don’t jump in you’re missing out dude” I said.

“Yeah man, that’s the plan.  Showers are few and far between out here” he replied.

He worked his way down to the water and I shoved my food in my face.  Well that’s new.  It amazes me but a lot of hikers pass up moments like this, it’s cool to see some chill hikers out here every once in a while.  I watched hiker after hiker pass the river up to make their miles as I sat under my little tree with my tuna wrap.

I finished my lunch and made my way back up to the trail.  As I worked my way up the ledge the heat started to pick up.  I looked back down at the creek.. I could just go back down and jump in and get out of the sun right now.  I could.. I should.. Eh, better press on.  I’ll see the creek again soon.  I made my way up over a hill and started working downhill, and my knee started to hurt again.  Well that’s great!  Being on a narrow ledge on the side of a cliff, there wasn’t anywhere for me to stop and stretch, so I limped along in the hot sun guzzling my water.

This little dance lasted a couple hours until I finally reached the main Deep Creek access people take to get to the hot springs.  I made my way downhill and took a look:  giant tents.  Absolutely massive tents everywhere with a few tarp tents and other obvious thru-hiker tents thrown in the mix.  There’s nowhere to camp.  Well, nowhere to camp unless I want to set up directly under the sun.  I don’t want to do that at all.  And the access to deep creek was just clogged with people.  I don’t really know why looking back, but the size of some of these tents really got on my nerves.  Well I mean, I know why, it would have freed up space for hikers if they had just been sensibly sized, but what can you do?  I dropped my pack and took a break under the sun to give my knee a break.

I eventually got up and put my pack on.  I reached down to grab my trekking poles and my knee just stopped doing anything.  I lost all control of it and I fell on my face.  That’s new.  I grabbed my trekking poles and stood back up.  I need to find somewhere to camp.  I made my way back up to the PCT and walked a ways looking for any spot reasonable for a tent.  I noticed a steep and natural staircase winding down the hill and to the creek with a spot possibly big enough to sleep on, tent or not.  I made my way down and judged that no, there’s no way I can sleep here.  But on the other hand, there’s still access to the creek, and I can actually jump in.  So I did, and I stayed there for a good hour floating around and giving my knee a break.  All the sweat and grime built up since my last swim in the creek washed off and I felt so awesome.

It’s getting late though, and I need to find somewhere to sleep.  I got out, got my clothes back on, and got back up to the trail.  Maybe half a mile later I looked over the edge of the cliff I was hiking on and saw a giant flat sandy area running along with the creek.  I could totally camp there!  But how do I get down?  I kept hiking and found my access, it was too steep to walk on safely, so I opted for sliding down on my ass.  When I got to the bottom I dropped my poles and my pack and took a look around.  More importantly I needed to know what kind of access to the river I had.

I walked down a dirt path going through tall reeds and came to an area with giant rocks overlooking the water.  It was absolutely deep enough for swimming, in fact I could jump off the rocks and into the water if I wanted to.  This is awesome.  I went back to camp to set up my tent while I was still dry, then ran back to the river.  Clothes off!  I stood at the ledge of the rock for a moment.  I have a thing with water, it creeps me out sometimes.  To my right there was a very small waterfall trickling water into the swimming hole, to my left was a giant rock stuck in a deep pool surrounded by tall reeds.  I started feeling apprehensive.  My thing with water is I don’t like big things being partially submerged or fully submerged in it and that rock was doing the trick.  Eventually some ducks landed in the water and started swimming around.. well if they can do it..

I jumped in.  The cold water sucked all the air from my lungs, and as my head came up out of the water I yelled “Holy shit that’s cold!”.  But I stayed in the water regardless, it feels too good.  I stayed in for a good hour watching all the fish swim by my legs, but the sun was starting to set and I still need to eat.  I hesitantly got out and made my way to my tent.

I did the nightly routine of making food, eating food, and getting into my tent to type all this out in little notes.  As I did I started hearing something slap against my tent.  It was quiet at first and slow, then it got louder and started picking up.  Rain.  It’s raining!  It was exciting at first, then I realized there’s no way I’m going to be able to sleep as long as this keeps up.  It rained for maybe an hour, then stopped as fast as it started.  Okay, time to sleep.  But I couldn’t get under my quilt, it’s so hot!  It’s 8:00PM and it’s still hot.  I could barely stand to lay on my sleeping pad.  I’m taking this as a bad sign, tomorrow’s going to be hot.  And probably the days following it.  It didn’t occur to me, but I started in the spring and summer is starting to pick up, it’s going to continue to get hotter.  I shrugged and laid down trying to force myself to sleep.

What is thru-hiking?  Thru-hiking is mostly pain.  For me I’d say it’s 80-90% pain on a normal day.  So why even do it?  Because the rewards out here are on a level far greater than a paycheck or a bonus or getting lucky and having nothing but green lights driving home from work.  Every reward hits you at a level deeper than anything I’ve ever experienced, and if I spend all day feeling awful either because of the heat or my knee to make my way to just one view or one cold water source, then I’ll keep doing it.  I think I’d even eat mashed potatoes every night just to stay out here, and that’s saying a lot.

 

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