21.2 miles (Miles 2416.9 – 2438.1)
PCT Mile 2416.9 – Waptus River
It was a good day for me mentally and spiritually. I think I came through a pretty challenging morning feeling stronger and thanking God for guiding me through it… even without my asking or praying for it.
I woke up this morning and poked my head out of my sleeping bag only to be slapped by a cold morning air. I could already feel the dampness in everything around me – my tent walls, sleeping bag, tent floor, stuff-sack pillow… It rained pretty hard most of the night, but I stayed tucked deep into my downy shelter. Now that I was awake I’d have to face the chilly air and assess any water damages. At one point I tucked my head back into the warm cocoon I’d created and thought, “could I afford to take a zero day right here and just not get up?” It drizzled on and off until I finally sat up and started to get my things together.
The first thing I noticed was that my butt felt wet through my sleeping bag. I was sitting in a puddle of water. My sleeping pad kept most of it off of me, but wherever it seeped over the edges got my sleeping bag pretty damp. There was a small pool under my pillow and under my backpack, too.
Gah. Everything was just… wet.
Getting changed wasn’t too bad. Putting those cold, wet, sticky rain pants on was probably the worst of it all. Even getting my dripping-wet socks and wet shoes on went okay. I was cold, but not unbearably so. I was really glad I tossed in my fleece last minute – I wore it starting out hiking, and I enjoyed the extra warmth. Breakfast was a cinnamon-raisin bagel topped with Nutella and honey, along with a cold coffee. I packed up my gear into my pack the best I could, set it outside and took down a soaking-wet tent and strapped it to the outside and covered it all up with my pack cover. It was still drizzling.
What else is there to do but just pack up and hike?
As we started hiking I got to thinking about how I was feeling. I knew I was facing one of my biggest personal challenges today… one of my greatest weaknesses head on. I just struggle to keep positive and happy when I’m cold, wet and tired. I couldn’t let a potentially grumpy mood escalate, so I just kept thinking, hiking and looking around, kind of silently hoping for a miracle of sunshine and blue sky, but not expecting it. The more I looked around me, the more I noticed that my surroundings were absolutely gorgeous. Without this rain and low, whispy cloud cover, I’d never have scenery like this. This was unique. My mood was improving as I started to bring it all in.
I was led to my weakness so I could become stronger. This was the first thought I pondered. I felt so humbled at how difficult something so basic and simple as being cold seemed to me. It shouldn’t be a big deal… right?
A ray of sunshine popped through the clouds. The mist stopped for just a moment. I stopped on the trail and watched the sky suck the sunlight back in as everything returned back to shadow. I smiled. How pretty. What a fantastic few seconds. I started to feel emotional… but why? I whispered a thanks to God and realized I wasn’t facing this alone. I never am. Even when I don’t ask, I think my struggles are felt and shared. My mind took a sharp spiritual turn, and this lasted for quite some time.
As we hiked through the cold and damp wonderland of beauty, the sky’s clouds started to thin out a little. Right up until we stopped for lunch it would still drizzle on and off. We climbed a series of switchbacks up a pretty big mountainside, and once we reached the top, there was blue sky showing and it seemed like the rain was going to hold off.
Once at the top, we rounded a long corner and dropped down to a small pond where we took a break. I laid out my tent and let it dry in the back-and-forth sunshine and cold breeze. It eventually did dry and I was able to pack it up. Duh… if only I’d have remembered to do the same with my sleeping bag! *sigh*
The last four miles brought us around another ridge with new views of different peaks, some dusted with new snow up high. It was still chilly out, sticking to around 53º or so, but that sky was clearing up more and more as we hiked toward camp.
We found a nice spot for our tents just above the Waptus River for tonight, and after hot cocoa and mac & cheese & cheese (because extra cheese is good) to warm and fill my belly, I’m just about ready to fall asleep inside this slightly damp, yet very warm sleeping bag.
So… after this morning’s thought sessions, I was reminded once again to appreciate some smaller things amongst a potentially uncomfortable situation. If I hadn’t been cold and wet, I wouldn’t have teared up and smiled from the tiny moment of warmth I felt from a short-lived ray of sunshine. That was pretty amazing, and it’s become the favorite part of my day… even more so than that blue sky when it finally appeared!
Tonight I love these Cascades. They are some really beautiful, rugged mountains full of cascading waterfalls that rumble and echo constantly across deep valleys.
Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!