I was awoken to the sounds of fire, first thing that morning. Staring at my tent wall, I could see the mirage of air on the other side. Someone had made a fire and was trying to get us out of bed. The air below 30, kept me inside my sleeping bag for as long as I could bare to stay. The fire called and so did the day, we had to get up and moving. I was so cold, I had to keep going back and forth to the fire to warm my fingers as I fought off frost bite, trying to pack. I ate a cold breakfast and hit the trail running. At our altitude the air was colder than predicted and it motivated me to get moving. I hiked hard all the way to the second pond. Most of my time spent in thought.
I wondered about coming home, did I want to come home? Could I come back from an adventure like this? The months I have spent out on the trail have been more fulfilling than the days spent back working in the warehouse and other places. The bonds I have formed will last a life time. How do you come back from that? There would be no way to explain what I have experienced on the trail and no way to convey the full depth of my experiences. Did I really want to come back, or should I take a job guiding or keep doing what I was doing. Perpetually living a simpler life full of adventure and stories. What of my friends and family who longed for my return? Those looking to see me sooner than later, how could I explain and tell this story? I thought of my return as I made my way to the second pond.
Here Flailing caught me and passed me on our way to our breaking point for lunch. By the time I caught him he had the beginnings of a fire going and I gathered more wood for him. We had to cook over the fire and get warm. Even in mid day the air was too cold in the gear we had to stay warm. I was wearing all of my clothes, which were covered in sweat, to stay warm. We all were, it had dropped so much so soon none of us were prepared. Our fire, nice and big, was a welcoming sign for Earthling as she called out to us. She had smelled it for quite some time and hoped it was the two of us. She was tired and cold, the motto of our day.
After lunch I set out hard, no need to take it easy, it was freezing in my shorts and shirt. I pushed hard again, my thoughts returning to the topic of the day, how to return. My mind wandered like a buoy lost at sea, floating from here to there. Did I really want to come back to a “normal” life? No, this life I had been living was the one for me. I had followed the “white blazes” so far and I settled on continuing that decision. God, the trail, would provide an opportunity for me later. I took comfort in that as I reached the last big pond for the day.
The three of us took our last break and ate some snacks, Earthling had a timer on her break and made it out first. Flailing and I took off together down the trail. We allowed ourselves music at first, then conversation. He, in his headphones, and me, in mine, the only difference was his off key singing in English. The sounds of his voice penetrated my ears, forcing me to drown him out with more volume. We both checked our pond count for the day and hoped we were not short of the last pond. The two of us tired and worn out hoped at every tiny brook that there was no last pond. If we crossed one last pond it meant we had another 3 miles or so to go and we desperately wanted to go to town.
Thankfully coming out to the road we met Earthling and started walking to the hostel. Just a short walk up the road and we would be warm and safe, or so we thought. The hostel had closed for the season and we could be screwed now. The light fading we took out our sign for town and hoped for a ride. Within minutes we had a truck pull over and graciously take us into town to the inn. Our night was getting better, that was until the hotel owner cut his rate in half for us and let us use his car to go to the grocery store. Our night had become stellar. We ate like champs that night, I cooked tortellini with meat sauce, as Flailing prepped ingredients, and Earthling rested.
The next morning we spent most of the day trying to acquire the items we needed, fuel, food, warmer gear and other essentials. Our luck wasn’t over, while I was talking to a local gentleman, he offered to take us out of town to an outfitter. The outfitter turned out to be a bust, on the way home we struck gold though. He had offered to let Earthling borrow his sleeping bag, she was quite hesitant to take until, he mentioned he had hiked in the Himalayas in the 80’s. His old down bag was the perfect item, hood-less, zero degree down, made back when gear was tough, would do the trick. She would sleep warm that night. By the time we left down and got back out to the trail, we only hiked four miles or so to the shelter. I set up my tent and ate before falling asleep for the first time in days.