Monday, August 22, 2011

The Backpacking Chronicles: 1

posted by Melissa
The Mountain and Me

Me with my backpack.
After getting everything ready for the backpacking trip, I got up early on Thursday morning to go and take my final test for Anatomy & Physiology.  As soon as I was finished, the crew (Amy, Jamie and Bob) picked me up from school and we left for our big adventure.  I was relieved to be finished with the summer quarter of school, anxiety ridden about the mountain I was about to climb, and joyful to be spending time with people I love.

I had to keep reminding myself, "I am on vacation.  This is what some people do for fun."

We popped into Leavenworth for a hearty lunch before the hike.  The first place we laid eyes on was a Mexican restaurant, South.  We were in a Bavarian themed town, but sure, why not have Mexican.  Our server, Valente, was what we call "one of our people."  His humor had me cackling loudly and his hospitality warmed our hearts.  Not five minutes after sitting down, Valente walks over with four double shots of tequila, just because.  When does that ever happen?  I knew, at that moment, that this was going to be a charmed trip.

We all sang along to the Grateful Dead on the sunny drive up to the trailhead.  I wasn't as afraid of the mountain as I thought I'd be as we gained elevation on every curve.  We geared up at the trailhead and cheerfully started our ascent.

It was tough, one minute in and I was huffing and puffing like nobody's business.  All I could think was that I need to get my ass back into the yoga studio.  Three miles in, we took a rest at Little Eightmile Lake.  By that time, I had had some sort of unlikely rejuvenation sent from the mountain gods.  I was literally running up some of the trails, and keeping a pretty good pace.  I also thought we were nearly done for the day, maybe another half mile more to go to Eightmile Lake.

We needed to make one of the first of many big decisions of our trip.  It was 5:30pm, so with few hours of sunlight, should we take the short hike to Eightmile or should we set ourselves up for tomorrow's jaunt to Windy Pass by climbing up to Lake Caroline?  People, Lake Caroline was another 2.5 miles and 3000 feet in elevation.  And I had a 50 pound pack on my back.  The crew decided on Lake Caroline.  I was obsequious.

Last picture of the ascent.
As we started our climb, I was hopeful.  I had the past three miles under my belt, and it hadn't been so bad. I talked myself through most of the first mile or so, reminding myself of the "exposure therapy" I was working through.  I got shaky at one steep and narrow part of the trail, but I kept on going, one foot in front of the other.  I was feel pretty proud of myself by the time we got to our next resting point at a beautiful rocky spot just above the burn line of a forest fire in the 90's.  It was there that I took my last photo of the hike up, and felt the last joy I would feel until we had long since reached the top.

I said the word f*#k more times than I ever thought I could.  It was the only word I could utter.

At some point, because the rest of the hike is mostly a blur, the mosquitos started swarming.  It was around that time that I also started to lose it.  Every time I looked ahead, it was all uphill.  Steep.  Dangerous.  Overwhelmingly impossible.  And I could hardly breathe.

I had to stop, but the mosquitos were relentless.  Jamie begged me to keep going, for the sake of our already spotted skin.  I simply could not.  I just stood there and cried.  Jamie later told me it was the saddest state he had ever seen me in, crying while mosquitoes bit my face, and too tired and despondent to swat them away.

"I have no joy."  I shared, with the flattest affect I could muster.

I had to stop and cry one more time on the way up.  An inconsolable and heavy sobbing.  I just had no idea how I was going to do this.  The light was fading, and I had three other people depending on me to get my ass up that mountain.  I was miserable.

 "Do we have to get up over that?" I asked, pointing to an even taller peak above us.

"I'm not going to sugar coat it," Amy offered.  "I think we do have to get over that crest.  We have to do this.  Now."

It actually helped.  To hear the truth about that next part.  It was like transition when you are giving birth.  it is the worst, and hardest part and you don't think you can do it for another second.  Sometimes you need sometime to grab your face and tell you to continue on, you have no choice.  Amy was like my hiking doula.  Thankfully, transition is also the shortest part of the journey to motherhood, or in my case, mountain climbing.

Luckily, it wasn't as high as I had thought and we got a reprieve of downhill towards Lake Caroline.  I still had no joy, even downhill.  And unlike giving birth, where you get to meet your new baby, all I got as a reward were more mosquitos.  They were incessant.

My first glimpse of joy returning was when I heard Bob say, "We have to leave here tomorrow.  We can't stay here with these bugs!"

Smiling, on the way down.
Thank f*#ing god.  I was giddy inside with the thought of leaving this mountain.  And not being the one that made everyone else leave.  We all wanted to leave.

After a horrible night of sleep, we scurried around and packed up and started down the mountain.  The steep and narrow trails were nothing to me after the day before.  I was thinking this exposure therapy worked, and the best part was, I wouldn't ever have to do this again.  I was filled with joy once again, and excitement.

Where would our adventure take us next?

Find out in "The Backpacking Chronicles: 2"  Coming soon....


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