Day 11, 7/18
Miles: 156.2 – 169.3
I eat a blueberry nut KIND bar first thing when I wake up, and I’m pretty ecstatic about it because it’s the first meal in going on 4 days that hasn’t made me feel sick. And it tastes good. Finally! This is a really good sign, I think to myself.
We’re on the trail walking by 7:45, still later than we’d like but what can you do? Today’s gonna be an easy day, anyways. The path almost immediately shoots basically straight up. We’re huffing and puffing our way up the steep slope, one foot in front of the other up and over rocks and tree roots that form very uneven steps all the way up. And then I realize that I don’t need to take breaks! And I feel good! And my legs feel strong today! Thank God, I think this sickness is finally passing. I am so thrilled by this that I cheer myself on and celebrate by walking faster. In just a few short hours we make it to the top of our first climb of the day, and we both feel great. Back downhill to mile 6.2, where we were supposed to camp last night before we got overtaken by the terrible heavy-leg-tired-body illness, and then back up another 3 miles for our second climb of the day. It all passes so quickly and easily. I am thrilled.
“What if we actually have enough time to climb Mt. Massive today?” I ask Simone.
“Hmm… What if? Maybe we could?” She replies.
I do a quick calculation of mileage and time in my head and figure out that we’ll probably get to the junction to Massive around one, which would put us to camp around six, and that would put us at a little over 20 miles for the day. And a TON of elevation gain. Do-able. I get really excited by this possibility, and start walking even faster.
We stop for lunch around noon and take a nice, long break in the sun at the top of a saddle. I finish off the rest of my Cheetos, have some beef jerky, and try to eat a packet of tuna but I’m really full by this point and can only manage to stuff in half of it. Oh well, at least I’m eating! And food actually sounds good! I tell Simone of the food ideas I have been thinking of the last couple miles: all the different ways we could use tortillas- buy a package of romaine and an avocado, put tuna packet, romaine, avo, mayo and mustard all inside tortilla. Or, put our favorite rice dinner with avocado and cheese inside tortilla. Her eyes bulge and we both moan and groan with excitement for those food ideas that will happen in the near future.
The clouds are starting to roll in. Some of them have just a tint of grey. We pass the Mt. Massive trail junction just a little before 1:00 and I stop for a brief second, look at the sky, look at Simone, look back at the sky. She says no and I agree, and that is that. A few minutes later two men walk past us the other direction.
“Are you hiking Mt. Massive?” We ask.
“Yes, trying to”, they say. “We’re gonna keep a close eye on the clouds and turn back if we need to.”
We wish them luck and continue on, actually happy that we’re not doing what they are.
It’s only 2pm when we reach the Mt. Massive trailhead, our destination for the night. We are so incredibly excited to have the whole afternoon to do nothing. Nothing! Who even does that these days? Not hikers, usually. A whole afternoon of relaxing and washing off in the river, laying in the sun and reading. And eating. We are almost out of food… But we are so hungry. I talk over and over again about how happy I am that food sounds good and that I’m hungry, finally.
The river is gorgeous and clear and even deep in some parts- deep enough to get our whole bodies in! I jump in and splish-splash around for a few seconds, and then jump back out because I’m turning numb. It feel incredible. We sit by the river and warm back up, wash our clothes and soak our feet. We both feel so good today.
“This is the life!” I proclaim. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I think about how lucky we hikers are. Our “job” is to walk all day long, usually a 7-4 type of thing. We get to walk and get exercise, take pictures and see incredible views. Eat and eat and eat. Think and ponder, talk and laugh and enjoy good company. We get to breathe in fresh mountain air, and bathe in clear, ice-cold streams. And then settle down at the end of the night to the sound of water rushing close by, animals rustling in the bushes, or the rain pelting down on the tent. I am so lucky, I think again.
We spend the rest of the evening laying around, reading and writing, discussing our food and other hiker topics. We eat the rest of our chips that we were supposed to save for tomorrow. We dump Parmesan cheese down our throats. We finish off our beef jerky and a snickers bar. I’m suddenly STARVING today. Hiker hunger, perhaps?
We’re glad we decided not to climb Mt. Massive because by 3 the clouds are dark, and by 4:30 it is pouring rain. I hope those two guys make it down safely.
Tomorrow we will summit Mt. Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak (and the second highest peak in the lower 48 states, right under Mt. Whitney, which I summited last year), and arrive in Twin Lakes where we have a resupply waiting for us! So much food tomorrow- Reese’s peanut butter cups, chips, cookies, sour gummy ropes, BACON jerky, and other hiker delicacies.
What a day, I think, as I drift in and out of consciousness.
What a life.