Sunday, August 31, 2014

Day 140: Enjoying the new rhythm

Day 140: 8/26/14
1062 to 1074
Miles hiked: 12

I spent the whole day really enjoying slowing down and being on the PCT.  It was such a refreshing shift from the day before- yay!  Rather than focusing on miles, it felt wonderful to think of time as something to be savored.  I relaxed into the new rhythm of the day.
Pausing to watch the shadows.
Every lake was an opportunity for a swim.  I got in no matter how cold it was.  Feeling feet off the bottom and what it is to be free.  I raced the waterboatmen around. I wondered why some lakes had more caddisfly larvae than others, and wished I knew more about the local ecology.
Going for yet another swim.
Every stream offered a chance to linger, to be curious about the life nurtured along the banks.  It brought back memories of all the hikes I used to do with the Nature Ramblers, a group of naturalists at the GA botanical gardens, and how they look at and learn about everything along the trail.  Only I didn't have anyone to ask about what I saw, so I took a lot of photos and will try to look up the plants when I get to town.
So exciting to find Grass of Parnassus!!!  This one I knew from seeing it in North Carolina.
At every viewpoint, I pulled out the sit-pad and took off my shoes.   I also thought about hiking with the Trail Dames, our women's hiking club back in Georgia, and all the times we'd sit and soak in the views.  Being by myself was making me appreciative of all the hiking communities that I've been part of.
Stopping for another view and contemplating the stark beauty.
No more thru hikers
I am still adjusting to hiking without thru hikers around.  When I crested the passes, I still expected to see my old hiking friends sitting around waiting for me.  One time I saw an arrow in the dirt and my heart skipped because I thought maybe it was MeToo’s sign that he was up ahead but it wasn’t right, and anyway he is up at the OR/WA border already.  I thought about everyone in my trail family spread out hundreds of miles north of me, maybe even at the Canada border soon.  Where had they camped when they’d passed by here?  I noticed I missed hiking with them, but I wasn’t lonely.

Still, I tried to engage everyone I met on the trail beyond just finding out about water sources up ahead.  A moment of connection was had with a woman who’d broken her foot years ago and knew about what it took to heal.  Yet conversations felt different compared to when I was hiking among thru hikers and I trusted that I could make a new life-long friend in a short time.  It made me realize that was the one of the most important and wonderful thing I’d gotten out of my PCT experience up until I got the stress fracture- those friends I made out there. <Aww I love you my trail friends and family! Hugs to you whereever you are!>

Evening off-trail
In the afternoon when I began to run out of miles, I started looking for a place to set up camp.  The PCT skirted around a set of lakes and then dropped below them, but from far away I could see perfectly spaced trees for my hammock above the largest lake.  So I went off-trail to find those trees and it turned out to be an incredible spot.
View from the PCT of the lakes I explored.
When I got to camp, I changed into my “camp” shoes which are actually my old style hiking shoes- the Altras- that I decided to carry in case the Keens caused my feet any problems.  It was weird carrying two sets of shoes- I don’t even carry flip flops.  But I managed to switch out some gear and leave enough stuff behind (including my down booties!) to offset the extra weight of the shoes.  My feet were not used to the stiff, constricting feel of my new “supportive” hiking shoes after being in trail runners for so long, so they felt so happy for the break. 
Off to play in the rocks and water in my trail runners.
I decided to go exploring around the lakes to see if I could find the source of the water.  Around the wildflower-lined lake, I splashed through a delightful bog to reach a small gurgling inlet.

Then I headed up a boulder field above the lake.  Soon I was scrambling on all fours up the rocks.  Probably not an approved part of the stress fracture recovery plan, but it was so much fun I couldn't resist.
View of the lake after climbing up the boulders on the side of the valley opposite the PCT.
Descending down the rocks in my wet shoes, I had a moment of insight about the cause of my stress fracture.  My feet sloshed sideways in the wet shoes as I slid down the uneven and unstable terrain.  It struck me that this was motion that could have caused my stress fracture especially when I had shoes that were the half size bigger and I was in the snow.  It was such a distinct type of movement, unlike normal hiking on regular trail and unlike what it feels like when my shoes are dry because they flexed a lot more.  Of course I can’t be sure, but at least it was a working hypothesis that I could live with.  

I’d been fixated on finding out the cause of the stress fracture.  I hate feeling like I can’t prevent it from happening again.  I’ve spent hours going through my pre-PCT training spreadsheets trying to determine where I’d gone wrong.  I hope I can move on at some point because the mentally beating myself up for not training harder or being able to prevent this from happening hasn’t been healthy. 
Shadows creeping slowly across the valley below.
I returned to camp and spent an entire 2 hours watching the sunset.  I felt proud of myself for making the most of my time.  The delightful off-trail adventures wouldn’t have happened if I hadn't needed these shorter mile days.  I felt so grateful and appreciative for everything- life, this beautiful place, the PCT, my communities, my friends, everything.

8 comments:

  1. Oh awesome. I should have read this before I commented on your last one. You figured out the new camp thing! We seem somewhat similar. Enjoy and soon you will be back to bigger miles. Haha to regular folk ten miles is big. Remember?

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    1. It did take me some time to adjust, but I did finally get the hang of enjoying camp, or at least exploring without my pack. I am laughing because I do remember when 10 miles was a big deal. Thanks!!! :)

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  2. I really enjoyed reading your post, it was amazingly beautiful and from the heart.

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  3. I can feel the joy! Keep smiling :)

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  4. Wonderful picture of flowers in Shadows Creeping Slowly..

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    1. Oh Patti I wish you could have been there in person. The whole slope was carpeted in that intense color, and the mountains stretched in waves on and on.

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