From saddle on ridge to Junction Lake
Dawn breaks; my body creaks as I stretch myself awake. The trail is back with me again, inside all my muscles. A yawn that extends all the way through me toes sends my leg muscles into spasms. Oof. It might be a long day.
Either way, it’s nice to wake up to a new world, and a quiet one. We finish the uphill we started last night, and then we hit the lava. An old lava flow has turned this place into a strange plateau of wicked black rock where stunted trees stand up from its inhospitable surface and the ground rolls and gapes hazardously. The trail follows the western boundary of the flow, and it stands like a wall beside us, keeping us on track.
This is the part of the day I think of as “morning happiness”. Tired, aching, regardless – the simplicity of the trail sits with me and each step is a testament to the act of living. I’m not in a box of drywall and carpeting, I’m not stuck in a chair, I’m walking – just walking – going on walking. Even on my worst days here, there is always this moment. Some days the shelf life is about 5 minutes, but the next day, it is always here again.
Now that we’re past the lava flows, it’s just trees. Danger Spoon laughs at us as he passes us neck-deep in huckleberry bushes, chomping away like little bears. It’s nice to hopscotch with Danger Spoon for a bit – see – he’s the only PCT hiker (besides J) who I knew before I started. We’re both returned Peace Corps volunteers – our services overlapped for a year when we were in Suriname. We were in different classes, in different places, with different people, speaking different languagues – but we both made it through 2 years in the ‘Nam. Ever since facebook alerted us to each other’s plans in January, we’ve been trying to meet up. He got the jump on me by 5 days at the start and I’ve been trying to catch up ever since. Missed each other by hours in the Sierras, and again in Northern California, but we’ve finally met up.
Morning happiness has transitioned to the afternoon trudge. For the climb up Big Huckleberry Mountain I put my headphones in and listen to an audiobook. I don’t like to have headphones in, as a general rule. The way I think of it, what’s the point of spending my entire summer outside if I’m still plugged in? How often, in the civilized world, can you hear nothing but the wind in the trees, or the rush of a creek, or just silence? (In actuality, I just have the same three pop songs stuck permanently in my head. I sing the choruses over and over and over and over.) Some days though, I need a crutch, and the headphones are there. I let the rows of green trees slide past me, lost in the life of someone else.
It’s such a relief to stop for the night at Junction Lake! J and I wander around in the bushes and stumble upon a little campsite totally hidden in the bushes, just off the shore. The remnants of the hiker bubble all end up camped on the other side of the lake, and we hear the echoes of their happy conversation, but we are secret and alone in our little wood. And cold. The sweaty days of hiking up out of the Columbia seem long, long ago. Everything is still green and lush, but summer is over. “Come down to the lake with,” J entreats me.
“No, I don’t think so,” I tell him.
“C’mon, why not?”
“Because the only thing I want in the whole entire world is to be inside my sleeping bag, this instant,” I turn him down again. I scarf down dinner and abandon the evening to him, tired, cranky, cold. I’ve got on all my clothes inside my sleeping bag tonight. Two shirts down jacket long-john bottoms rain pants wool socks hat and buff. Hopefully we’ll make it to Trout Lake tomorrow.