Today's miles: 0
Total miles: 2500
I remembered something Sunshine said last night before everyone went to bed.
He said, "if it's still raining like this tomorrow, I'm not going to want to hike."
Every day on trail for us was a hiking day. We had never before considered taking a zero day on trail, but if any day called for it, this was perhaps it.
When I woke up, it was still raining. And I had to pee so badly. I was so eager to be out of the rain yesterday that I made the mistake of getting into my tent before going to the bathroom. And instead of getting re-dressed and going back out into the rain, I forced myself to fall asleep. So now, fifteen hours later, I was still trapped in the rain, and I really had to pee.
While I came to terms with my imminent call of nature, I heard the sound of feet outside my tent, and then heard Katie's voice, a brash staccato of words over the rain.
"Sunshine. Bramble. Are you awake?"
"Yes," we said in unison.
"It's still raining." That was obvious, but it was clear she wanted to say more. "I've had enough. I've decided I'm going to wait out the weather a little longer and then I'm going to hike back to the Dinsmore's."
If she was going for shock value, she certainly nailed it. For a second both Sunshine and I were stunned silent. And then: "Wait, what? You're going back? Like, quitting the trail?"
"I'm done," she repeated, sounding angry and defeated, as though she had been crying. "It's been raining for two days. My tent is wet. My gear is wet. Everything is soaked. I'm not having fun."
"But... but..." Mentally, I couldn't wrap my head around what was going on.
Wait, she's quitting? For good?
"But all of our stuff is wet... we've all been hiking through the rain, too..."
"And it's going to keep raining," Katie said. "It's stupid to hike the trail if the weather is going to be this lousy."
"No... it's going to get better," I said carefully.
"The forecast said it gets better every day from here," I insisted. "Today's the worst. And only one more rainy day after that, supposedly."
"I can't do one more day," Katie said fiercely. "I'm hiking back to the Dinsmore's."
That seemed to be the end of it, but my head was spinning. Quit after one day of rain? Yes, it was miserable, but I had never considered quitting. We were only 150 miles from finishing, dammit! And weren't we used to hiking in rain by now? Or maybe it was just me. Katie, after all, hadn't seen a storm this bad yet. I remembered my horrible day hiking through the rain to Trout Lake, and I sympathized. But even in my worst moments then, I didn't want to give up. Maybe we could talk her out of it, somehow.
But Sunshine and I had both been caught by surprise by the outburst, we couldn't find the right words to say. Katie went back to her tent, leaving Sunshine and I lying in stunned silence for a few moments.
"Wow, she must have had some kind of rough night," Sunshine said.
"Yeah, I agreed with a groan. "This is way too much drama for eight in the morning. I can't be hit with huge life decisions this early in the day."
"Brambles... do you want to quit, too?" Sunshine asked morosely.
"No, no!" I said vehemently. "This can't last forever. I'm not done yet."
"Me either," he said, sounding relieved. "But what are we supposed to do today?"
"I don't know," I said. "Hiking in this is going to be miserable."
"Yeah. I don't really want to..."
"We could wait it out, I guess. If it's still raining here, it's probably still snowing at the top of the hill."
"A zero day in the rain sounds awful, too."
"Yeah." I sighed. There were no good options. I thought briefly about Wocka and Giddyup, still ahead of us, and wondered how far they had gotten in the storm. Would they keep hiking through it? Or hunker down in their tent, too?
Mentally, I calculated mileage. We had only gone 24 miles since leaving the Dinsmore's two days ago. And if we took a zero on trail today, it would be three days and 24 miles. That left 80 miles to Stehekin and there was no way we could do that in the remaining two days. Any way we sliced it, this was going to be longer than a five day journey. Nervously, I dug through my food bag, carefully counting meals. I had thought myself so clever to carry only the minimal amount of food - after all, wasn't Sansei always teasing me about my heavy food bag? And now I actually needed two extra days of food, and I had nothing.
Sunshine must have been doing the same thing, because he soon called out, "I think I can make it with the food I have. It'll be tight, but I can do it. I'm going to ration everything out."
I knew I wouldn't make it with the food I had unless I rationed myself harshly today. And even then, I was going to be hungry all week. But what choice did I have?
"Treekiller!" yelled Sunshine from his tent, and Treekiller, some distance away, called back, "yeah?"
"What do you think about waiting out the storm today?"
"I dunno," he said. "I guess we can wait it out a bit and see what happens."
"Kudu? Alphabet Soup?"
"We're still pretty cold," Alphabet Soup called back.
"There's no way I'm hiking in this," Kudu agreed.
And so we decided that staying in our tents, for now, was the wiser option.
For a while we all lay silently in our sleeping bags, staring at the ceilings of our tents and listening to the rain fall, all of us thinking the same thought: what now?
And then, after a long, heavy moment shared by all of us, Treekiller's voice rang out into the storm: "LIVING THE DREAM!"
We all burst into laughter, for it was just what we needed to shatter the somber mood.
My view of Sunshine's tent all day
We lapsed into silence, all of us sorting food and mopping up our tents and making silent check lists of what we would need to get to Stehekin safely. No one wanted to bring up the topic of walking back to the Dinsmore's. No one wanted to think what would happen if the rain didn't stop. It had to stop tomorrow. Or at least be better. It just had to.
"Guys," I called out with feigned desperation, "guys, I have a problem. I really, really, really have to pee."
"Ooooooooh, that sucks," said Treekiller.
"You can do it, Brambles!" Sunshine yelled.
"I don't want to!" I cried. "It's cold out there!"
"I have to pee, too," Sunshine admitted, and then a moment later: "...aaaaand I just did."
"No fair!" I whined. "I wish I had a penis!"
"Come on, Brambs, you can do it!" Treekiller encouraged, and Sunshine cheered along with him, and then Kudu and Alphabet Soup joined in: "you can do it! You can do it!" and all around me from various tents my friend's disembodied voices encouraged me to get out of my tent and pee in the woods, dammit.
"Fine, fine!" I groaned, struggled out of my sleeping bag, pulled on my raincoat and unzipped my tent. "I made it!"
"HOORAY!" cheers came from all around the campground.
"You're so brave!" Sunshine sniffed.
"This may be the most support I've ever had for going to the bathroom," I admitted.
I peed as quickly as I could and immediately jumped back into my tent and back in my sleeping bag.
"How does it look out there?" Sunshine asked.
"Cold. Wet." I said.
"Well, you've inspired me to get ready, too," he replied. "GETTING NAKED!"
We laughed and did our usual cat-call, which was even more hilarious because we couldn't see Sunshine strip, anyway.
We lay in silence again for a while, until Sunshine called out tentatively,
"Are we still living the dream, Treekiller?"
"STILL LIVING THE DREAM!" Treekiller agreed.
By 11:00 I had resigned myself to being in my tent all day, but Treekiller had other plans. I could hear him start to pack up, and so could the others.
"What are you doing??" we asked.
"I'm going to keep hiking," he said. "I'm getting antsy sitting here."
We tried to talk him out of it. We warned him of snow, of cold, of a long day in the freezing rain with wet gear, but he wouldn't listen. He was determined to hike. Part of me envied him; I wanted to go, too, but I was reluctant to leave the group in such weather. Vince, who had camped a little bit away from the rest of us, decided to join Treekiller and hike out with him.
Despite our pleading, the two of them said goodbye shortly thereafter and we heard their footsteps disappear in the distance. I was stricken with depression. I didn't like the idea of our little group splitting up. Alphabet Soup, Kudu, Katie, Sunshine and I all stayed in camp, but we were morose. I lay in my tent feeling upset and disconnected. I wanted to keep hiking. I didn't want to keep hiking. I wanted to stay with my friends. I didn't want us to split up. Everything was going wrong.
Then, suddenly, we heard voices. And to our surprise, our old friends Sneaks, Coincidence and Horny Toad bumbled into camp, talking loudly and happily and breaking apart our bad moods. We tried to convince them to stay, but they had only just started hiking and were in good spirits. They stayed for a few minutes to chat and then continued on. I hoped they would catch up to Treekiller and Vince so they wouldn't be hiking alone.
Shortly thereafter, Katie came up near mine and Sunshine's tents again and said, "you guys aren't hiking today, right?"
"I guess not," we agreed. "Are you still thinking of turning around?"
"Yeah. But I'm going to wait it out a little longer." She didn't sound nearly as depressed as this morning, which I hoped was a good sign. "I'm going to play cards in Kudu and Alphabet Soup's tent, do you want to come?"
"No," said Sunshine, and I turned down the offer, too. It was too much work to get out of my tent and into the rain.
A few hours went by, and I passed the time by listening to my podcasts and chatting with Sunshine. It was desperately boring to stay cooped up in my tent, but it was too cold to do anything but shiver inside my sleeping bag. My stomach growled hungrily, but I didn't allow myself anything more than a pop tart and a handful of trail mix.
After what seemed like forever, we began to hear more voices. And then, suddenly, I recognized who it was.
"Sansei! Rotisserie!" I yelled from my tent.
"Bramble? Is that you??"
Not only had Rotisserie and Sansei caught us, but they were hiking with Games, Reason, Pony, and St. Alfonzo! They had had a rough walk since the Dinsmore's, too, and it didn't take much convincing to tell them that there was snow ahead and that they should camp with us. Not only did they set up camp, but Sansei performed a kind of miracle: he started a bonfire.
Somehow, he was able to collect dry wood from the insides of rotting tree hollows and he kept it dry enough to start a fire at the center of our campsite, despite that it was still pouring rain. The small act was enough to draw everyone out of our tents, huddled under umbrellas and warming ourselves and our wet clothes around the fire.
We were soon joined by Toots, Tears, an older hiker named Razor and a young Japanese hiker named Kazu. Suddenly, the small group I had been fretting about had become a huge, warm party of my favorite people. My depression slowly glided away, and as everyone set up camp around me, I no longer felt alone. The only small nudging fear was that of Treekiller, Vince, Wocka and Giddyup somewhere out in that storm.
As we stood around the fire, our wet clothes steaming in the heat, Toots told us she and Tears had met several hikers who had turned back and were headed to the Dinsmore's. They had reached the peak we had yet to climb, had gotten caught in a blizzard, and had turned around. Some of them were quitting the trail and others were waiting out the storm in town. No one said anything, but we were all quietly thinking the same thing: we don't want to quit yet. Not yet. It will get better...
Left to right: Sansei, Reason, Kazu, Sunshine, Honey Bunny, Toots, Tears (photo by Rotisserie)
The day passed in a series of slow, damp hours. I returned to my warm sleeping bag but lay fitfully in it, my feet aching to be hiking. I was out of water but had no desire to go back into the rain to filter more. I was rationing food and pretending I wasn't starving, but I hadn't eaten anything all afternoon. I had to go to the bathroom but didn't feel like digging a cathole in the rain. I listened to more podcasts to take my mind off the day, and wished the weather would let up.
"We've been in our tents for almost twenty-four hours, now," Sunshine laughed to me.
"Aweeeeesome," I said sarcastically in reply, "and for some reason I thought my first zero day on trail would involve a beautiful lake, a blue sky, and some great views! I didn't think I would be cold and wet, sitting in my tent all day while it poured."
"Me too," he agreed. "I just keep telling myself that someday, this will all be a memory..."
True, I thought, but will it be a good memory, or a bad one?