I, along with everything else in the forest, wake up with the sunrise. I sleep horrible all night, yet when the sun rises, I don’t want to get out from under my quilt. I don’t want to get the day started. I guess that’s not really much different from my daily life at home.
Actually, at home, my best sleep is after 6 am. it’s wonderful on days I can sleep until 9 am. This is probably left over from my truly manic days, where I would stay up for days and days, and then crash for an equal amount of time. I also worked graveyard shifts, so my sleep system was messed up for years. Sleep hygiene is an important part of mood management; I’m doing okay with it, but if I’m not careful, I will drift into not going to bed until later and later at night, until before I know it, I’m up at night and sleeping during the day.
Anyway, I finally get my pack assembled, walk 2/10 of a mile down to the nearby spring for water, and feel ready to begin the day. It’s so shady here. Nice and cool walking along the soft forest floor. Eventually the trail climbs and winds up and over mountain after mountain. I can picture how fast the PCT’ers will be when they get here. They’ll be flying. I pass fields of dead trees, they look like bone yards. There are also fallen trees strewn all over the path, making it slow going at times. Section O doesn’t care how it affects me. It’s in a state of chaos, and it is indifferent to where the trail and I want to go.
I take a break after 5 miles and eat a handful of Frito’s and a packet of Sports Beans. Walk more. Trekking poles really help. I don’t know why I didn’t use them in the desert. I just wanted to keep my instant coffee-infused water in my hand at all times. I’m thinking about the merits of trekking poles when I trip and fall, landing on my knee. My ankle goes, “wonk wonk” and my knee yelps. The poles lay clattered on the ground. Stupid trekking poles, I think. Well, I guess they did slow my fall. Fine, you’re alright, trekking poles, I amend. Leave it to me to trip and fall on the only flat section I’ve seen so far.
The trail winds and climbs, mostly in a gentle fashion, the trees fade, and a beautiful view of snow-clad Mt. Shasta opens up. It’s windy up here, muting the sun’s rays and making the mountain top hiking especially pleasant. I stop a moment to choke down a Honey Stinger Vanilla Wafer. I can see, way over there, what I think is Grizzly Peak, an especially exposed section, from what I can tell. Scary. I hope it’s not windy when I get there.
Back into forest, and then to the mean pointy branches and bramble and trail crowding bushes. I see a pile of round poops in the middle of the trail. They mainly consist of berries. I stop dead in my tracks. Is that……BEAR poop? And is it……FRESH?? Um. Okay. This is so dumb, but I didn’t even consider that there would be bears in this section. I know, don’t look at me like that. I just thought, hey, everyone says they sleep with their food around here, and they wouldn’t do that if there are bears. I’m sleeping with MY food. And not in an Opsak, either. Why doesn’t everyone use a bear canister here, I wonder. Maybe I will when I head back this way. It weighs more, but seems the safe and responsible thing to do.
Should I leave my food outside my tent tonight? Which is worse? Chancing it in my tent, or chancing that a bear will get a hold of it outside and carry it away, like a tasty picnic basket? I look up, and there is a giant bear up the path, running away from me. “Whoa,” I say out loud. I get goose pimples. Aaron gives me shit for wanting to see a bear in the “wild”, and now I have. It’s scary and awesome. From what I saw, he has a beautiful, glossy coat. And he is so quiet! I wouldn’t have seen him if I hadn’t looked up.
I hesitate. Not sure if I should move forward. Sure, the bear ran away, but it ran away on the trail! I decide to noisily move forward. It’s not really too hard for me to do, since I am huffing and puffing and tromping and trudging anyway. I get to the turn off to Clark Spring, and even though I’m only 20 minutes from when I saw the bear, I have no choice. I need water, I have to stop.
I spend an hour there, drinking, refilling, eating a small packet of cheesy goldfish crackers. I’m taken with how alone I am. It’s weird. It’s not unpleasant, but I wouldn’t say it’s enjoyable, either. It just….is. Although I’m glad no one is around to smell how much I already reek.
I head out, and the scenery gets less interesting, the trail congested with dead trees and branches, weeds and bushes that look like they are supposed to produce berries. After a few miles, I start to feel weak, and it makes me mad. Why does it have to be so hard for me all the time? I keep comparing myself to everyone else, and berating myself for any sign of inferiority. I count my flaws as I slowly make my way through the forest. I’m all alone, I finally say to myself. There is no one here! Who are you comparing yourself to? It’s just you! There is no competition. Hike the way you hike! Stop every 20 feet. Take an hour to walk a mile. Go fast, go slow. It doesn’t matter. Stop feeling sorry, stop punishing.
I am still physically weak, but my brain feels lighter. I just let all the judgment go. As I get closer to camp, I see more bear poop. It looks a little older, maybe a day old. There is also bear prints everywhere. Why are bear prints so cute?
I make it to camp and set up. The first half of the day was better than the second. I climb into my tent. I can’t get myself to eat. My stomach is making strange sounds. I fall into a fitful sleep.