Day One Hundred Twenty Three

Today's miles: 13
Total miles: 2500

My hopes for a dry night were dashed almost instantly after going to bed. It rained. All night long. My only comfort was that I had set up my tent while it was still dry, and so I stayed cozy inside it. But I dreaded knowing that there was a wet, cold world waiting for me when I woke up.
No one wanted to get out of bed this morning. We lay with our faces stuffed in our sleeping bags, all sound drowned out by the rain. It was 9:00am before any of us made the resolute step toward getting ready.

It was cold, and wet, and packing up in the rain was an unwanted task. I had already been through this routine several times by now, and I knew the only way I could survive it was if the rain stopped long enough for the sun to come out and dry our gear. But I knew from looking at the weather report that this hope was grim. Still, we made light of it the best we could. We laughed as we shuffled around, noting how many puddles had formed inches away from our tent floors. Alphabet Soup joked that she and Kudu looked like HAZMAT employees in their bright yellow rain slickers. I pretended to be a ninja in my black one.

We trundled forward at last, our umbrellas the only brightly colored things in this gray day. Treekiller didn't have one; he plodded along in his bright red jacket and his loudly-swishing trash bag skirt. I pitied him, for my umbrella was the best decision I have made on trail. It gave me a tiny circle of rainless space which I could hide beneath while walking. It wasn't much, but it was something. I regretted not getting my waterproof boots from home. My feet were quickly soaked and freezing, and I stared enviously at Sunshine's dry boots ahead of me.

We climbed to Grizzly Peak this morning and then through a series of water-logged meadows and ridges and trail. We walked through a river as it carved out the dirt under our feet. We were soon soaked to the bone. Sunshine kept asking me, "is this what it was like? Those two days before Trout Lake when it rained so hard?" and I said, "yes, except colder. And wetter. And it just never, never stopped."

But it seemed as though today wanted to win the award for wettest, most miserable day on trail, and it was quickly climbing the ranks. It was frustrating trying to get a snack out of our packs without getting everything wet, or to filter water, or to find a dry spot to sit and eat a bit of something, or to go to the bathroom. Everything was a balancing act, trying to keep our most prized possessions under our umbrellas. But it didn't help. For the most part, we simply avoiding taking breaks, and eating, and filtering water. It was easier to keep moving than it was to stop.

Eventually, we were starving enough that we had to eat lunch. We crawled down a steep, muddy slope to a lake where we could carefully collect water and huddle under our umbrellas while we ate as quickly as possible. Treekiller, Vince, Kudu, and Alphabet Soup took off down the trail ahead of Katie, Sunshine and I. No one wanted to keep hiking, but it was our only choice. If we stopped, we would be faced with setting up wet tents in the rain, and it wouldn't solve any problems.

Vince, Honey Bunny, Sunshine, Treekiller

Once Katie, Sunshine and I were hiking again, I resolved to come to terms with our situation. After all, this was my third big storm and I knew what hiking in rain was like. I knew I would be wet and cold regardless of how I felt about it, so I might as well enjoy myself. Katie was hiking some distance ahead of me, and Sunshine some distance behind, so I found myself alone with the rain.

And so I began to sing. Loudly. Emphatically. And the more I realized that the rain drowned out my voice, the more confident I became. I sang all my favorite Broadway shows; I picked the ones that had the most heart, the most voice, the most power behind them. I belted them into the sky, letting the words disappear in the downpour. And I discovered that it made me feel better.

I started to forget about the difficult terrain, the soggy weather, the condition of my feet and clothes and gear. I started to forget about my misery and found I was actually enjoying myself. As soon as I finished one song, I began another, running through the entirety of Les Miserables and Wicked and Lion King.
Soon I was practically skipping down the trail, feeling more lighthearted than I had in a while. Sure, it was raining, but it was like singing in the shower. I could let loose to my heart's content and it was delightful.
After a few hours of this, I was in a good mood and happy to keep hiking until late in the day, but I soon discovered that this was not the case for Katie or Sunshine. They had not hiked through rain like this before, and they were having to come to terms with it for the first time. It was not going well.

When we stopped for a small water break, both of them looked tired and glum. We had not been making good time; it was growing late in the afternoon and we had only walked ten miles. The elevation and the storm was dragging us down; it didn't bode well for our overall plan to get to Stehekin on time. But I didn't want them to lose hope, so as we continued hiking I did my best to cheer them up.
"Let's name things that are worse than this, shall we?" I announced.
"Torture," said Sunshine, picking up the game immediately.
"Syphilis!" I said.
"Cataracts," Katie suggested.
"Black holes."
"Birthday clowns!"
"Nicolas Cage."
"Actually, I think we are doing that," I laughed.

We had been dropping down in elevation for quite some time, and when we hit the bottom of the mountain, we found a small campsite beside Pass Creek. To our surprise, we saw Treekiller, Vince, Alphabet Soup and Kudu's tents set up beneath the trees.
"Guys?" Sunshine asked. "What are you doing? It's only 4:00."
"We're done hiking," came Treekiller's grumpy voice from inside.
"We were getting too cold and couldn't warm up," Alphabet Soup explained. "We figured the smart thing to do would be to set up camp and get in our sleeping bags."
They sounded drained of all energy, resolute to stopping after only thirteen miles.
Katie, Sunshine and I stood awkwardly on trail, looking at each other with questioning eyes.
Should we stop, too?
"There's a campsite in four more miles," I suggested, "that would put us at least seventeen miles for the day." I showed them the upcoming elevation, which was a big climb out of the canyon we were in.
"I think I have four more miles in me," Sunshine agreed.
"Me too," Katie said.
As we started to move on, we ran into a southbounder named Nurse Betty who was just getting into camp. She looked drenched and wild-eyed. We said hello in passing, and then, as an afterthought, I called after her,
"Hey! Were you just up by Sally Ann Lake at the top of the hill?"
"Oh - er, yes," she said, pausing to look back at us.
"How did it look? Were there high spots that looked like you could pitch a tent and stay out of a puddle?"
Nurse Betty frowned. "Maybe. Not the spots that I saw, though. Everything was pretty wet. But maybe in the trees, if you looked around."
"Oh." That wasn't promising. "And it's windy up there, I guess?"
I think she suddenly realized that we were about to hike to the lake, because she backtracked quickly to us and said, "that lake is above 5,000 feet, you know. I've been hiking through hail and snow for the last three hours."
It's a blizzard up there! Freezing. Miserable!"
"So... you don't recommend it?"
Nurse Betty shot me a serious look and said, "if someone told me right now to go back up there, I would tell them to go to hell."
And with that, she left.

Stunned, the three of us stared at each other wordlessly.
"That... sounds bad," Sunshine said.
"Snow?" Katie said, "I'm freezing already. I don't want to hike in that."
"Me either," I sighed heavily.
"So I guess we're camping here for the night."
"Guess who's joining you in camp tonight, Treekiller!" Sunshine announced.
"Welcome to the party," he replied, without enthusiasm.

Setting up our tents was a struggle. We did our best to get them up as quickly as possible, but even so, mine was completely saturated by the time I jumped inside of it. Sunshine and I had set up our tents in a small gap under a cluster of trees, and our rainflys were so close together that they had to overlap. We propped up our umbrellas to keep the rain out as best we could and spent time sopping up all the puddles in our tents with bandanas. He did a better job of it than I, but I was too tired and cold to care.

I changed into my long underwear, blew up my sleeping pad to keep me afloat on my tent of puddles, and crawled into my sleeping bag. I wondered what would happen if the rain didn't let up for five days. Would we really be able to make it that long? And would we make it to Stehekin on time?

We all listened to the rain as the hours ticked by, until it grew cold and dark and one by one, we fell asleep. As I drifted off, I realized with annoyance that I had forgotten to go pee before getting into my tent....