Wednesday, September 30, 2015

There Will Be Tears (Section J of the PCT-Part 1)

I pooped in a toilet this morning, and it was the best thing ever. I wish I could appreciate such things without having to be deprived of them for 7 days; but unfortunately, like most humans, I tend to take things for granted until they are gone. One of the wonderful benefits of backpacking is your excited about the little things least for a few days.

I know what Leigh is excited about today. Shaved legs. I bet she waited until she could show off to her daughter that she actually let herself become such a hairy beast. And what a beast she did the best possible way. I feel privileged to have witnessed such a show of strength and will. I would have thought I'd find it funny that after all we had been through, the first thing Leigh bragged about to our friend Melissa was that she didn't shave her legs--but instead I thought it was such a sweet and wonderful moment. It doesn't matter if we can relate to what others find challenging; we all know how great it feels to accomplish something you weren't sure if you were completely up to.

For anyone who doesn't know the back story, I'll try to quickly catch you up. Leigh came with me last year for 1 night of my 6 day trip. It was her first time backpacking; I think the first time she slept in a tent even. I gave her a ton of crap about bringing mascara, and I sort of expected she'd never want to go again; but instead she was enthralled. She said she wanted go with me when I did my 7 day hike. I liked the idea of not being alone; but as you can imagine I had some big concerns. I already knew I wanted to do Section J of the PCT (Snoqualmie Pass to Steven's Pass, or in our case the other way around because I wanted to go southbound) and I knew it was a no turning back, pure agony, there will be tears type of hike. I've had five years of acclimating myself into accepting the misery that I knew was coming, but to jump from 1 night to 6 was going to be extremely difficult. (and something I don't think I could have ever done, honestly) I might not have known Leigh very well then, but even so, I could tell she was someone who once she had her mind set, there was no stopping her. Of course now I know I was 100% right.
Hope Lake
Trap Lake
Okay, here is where I have to confess that we didn't actually do the whole 75 miles; but that was my call, not Leigh's. After much vacillating and being very torn, I decided we should cheat a little and go in the Tunnel Creek trail to shave off 6-ish miles to get us in quicker and further.(THANK GOD!!! Otherwise we would have had back to back 15 miles days, and for sure we would have been hiking in the dark, and DYING...or quite possibly actually be dead because we fell off a cliff. I swear I thought parts of this trail should not even be legal to hike on--I'll talk more about that later) As always, getting going took longer than expected and we didn't start up the trail until 2:20 pm. Melissa, Heather, and her dog Ruby were our drop off team and planned to stay the first night with us. As we headed in, Leigh started to make her noises after just about 30 minutes. I really grew to love her pissed off little grunts, but at the time I was a little worried. I certainly couldn't blame her; she was wearing a 44 pound backpack and gaining 1300 feet in just a mile and a half. (see how carefully I'm considering elevation gain now? Thank you Lake Blanca!) I kept telling her (and myself) this short cut was worth it, that the PCT is not this steep, and that it was going to get better. I only lied about the getting better part, because overall, I knew it was only going to get harder...but sometimes denial is our friend.  
Yes, we are cheaters; and proud of it!!!
Melissa wore Leigh's pack for a few miles...
after getting help standing up!
Thankfully we made it to Trap Lake just before dark. We had a great girl bonding evening together, but in the morning Leigh confessed that she was absolutely freezing all night. Not good. Was it her bag? Was it her tent? Was it her sleeping pad? With the help of our EXTREMELY generous and supportive friends, we switched things up and tried to alleviate the problem with some different gear. But of course I could make no guarantees that the next night or any of the others would be any better for her. This is when I gave Leigh the option of tapping out. This was her one and only chance to change her mind and head back with the girls. I knew she wouldn't, and I'm SO glad she didn't. To be continued...
Heather, you should have patented the sleeping bag coat!
But sorry, REI already sells it.
The morning after a long night....I think I can speak for all of us when I plead:
Do not zoom in on this photo!