When I opened my eyes in the morning, I looked up to see Cuddle’s tent gone! He had already left. Dust Bunny was sitting on a rock, gazing out into the horizon. Why was I the only person that needed to sleep? Dust Bunny came over and sat next to my sleeping bag. She asked me how I was feeling and I told her not well. She said that she she was getting the feeling that I needed to learn to care for myself and that it really wouldn’t help me if someone else tried to do reiki on me, which is why she decided not to do it. I didn’t know how to feel about that. The flagyl had not made me feel at all better, and was in fact making me feel worse. I dreaded taking another pill. Dust Bunny told me that she had learned a lot from her dog and told me about the time he was sick and refused to take his medicine, no matter how hard she tried to disguise it. She learned that it knew what was best for him more than she did and encouraged me not to take the antibiotics if they were doing more damage than good. I figured I had taken at least the equivalent of a five day dose by now and wouldn’t swallow anymore of those pills. Instead, I would just concentrate on giving my body probiotics. I opened up my bear canister and spread out my food to see what I could have for breakfast. “Oh, sweetie,” Dust Bunny said. “All of your food is bad for your stomach! It’s all sugar.”
“I know”. She said she would go get her ginger and make me some tea. I set her little strainer with the real pieces of ginger in it on top of my jetboil and let it absorb into the water. She ordered me to sit and relax for awhile. I agreed to do so for this one morning. The ginger tasted really good. It felt like the first real food my body had ingested in a long time! I was so thankful.
I got up to collect some water and saw LuckyMan headed towards us. I told Dust Bunny and she ran out to greet him. She loves talking to people! She stood there asking him about his family like she had all the time in the world. LuckyMan told us where he planned on camping this evening (he had hiked this section before) and bid us farewell.
I returned to my spot, packed up my things, and headed out before Dust Bunny.
Just after I had made it across the first creek of the morning, I heard someone make a sound. I turned around to see Ash and Sexy Legs! Yay! I had wondered why they hadn’t caught up to me yesterday. They asked for help in choosing the best route across the water and I pointed out the rocks I had chosen. (Really? They wanted MY help?) Once across, I told them about how I had injured my Achilles coming down Mather last night. They told me about their cold night high up near the pass, and how LuckyMan was fascinated with the cracking ice in a little pond when he passed by them this morning. They went on ahead and I walked alone for awhile. The trail paralleled a beautiful Alpine lake that reminded me of being in the Swiss Alps.
A little while later, I heard another call and thought it must be Dust Bunny catching up to me, but realized it was Sexy Legs again. “What are you doing up there?” I shouted.
He and Ash were high above the trail. “We found a cave! Come see!”.
“But I’ll never finish if I do that!”.
“Sure you will! Just pack some extra food!”.
“But I can’t even eat with my hurting stomach!”.
I continued along the trail and Sexy Legs shrugged. It would be so fun to explore with them, but walking the PCT alone took all of my time and energy. I could’t keep scampering up and down to see all of the natural attractions along the trail like they could, because I couldn’t walk as fast as they did.
I came to a huge cascade of rushing water and decided to take a break there. Ash and Sexy Legs came down from the cave and stopped for a minute with me. Ash took a picture of me looking like I was relaxing in front of the rushing water, which is the antithesis of who I really am. I almost never relax and enjoy myself! Sexy Legs put the edges of his fingers to his forehead and bid me farewell as they moved on.
The trail descended out of the granite rocks and back into the woods. I contemplated heading away from the trail and taking a break at the creek, but decided to move on. As I started the next climb, I saw three deer on the trail! They were not at all fearful like the others ones I had encountered.
I continued the climb and suddenly saw Sexy Legs and Ash about 300 feet in front of me! I reached out my arm and almost called out to them, but no sound came out of my mouth. By this time, the pain in my Achilles was immense and I knew I would not be able to catch up to them. I wondered if they would stay with me if they knew how much I was hurting. I stopped and took off my pack, dejected. I decided to try walking a few steps without the weight on my back and found that even without my pack, my Achilles could not bear weight! I couldn’t even take a step on flat terrain without excruciating pain. What was I going to do? I was in the middle of my longest section in the toughest terrain on the PCT, in the remote Sierras, and my foot could not bear any weight. I decided that I needed to get to some water and soak it. I put my pack back on and hobbled to a small lake, took off my shoes, and put my feet in the cold water. Maybe I was being forced to relax. I imagined being airlifted out of the mountains and resting in a hospital bed with Ash and Sexy Legs sitting at my side, looking after me. Surely they would care enough about me to do that! Then, we could share stories about our journey and our lives. It would be so nice! The water briefly numbed my feet and I felt like I might be able to walk again. It took only a few steps for the pain to return, however.
A little ways ahead, I saw another place that was just down off the trail that looked like a good stopping point and again, I took off my shoes and put my feet in the water. I kept looking back up at the trail to see if anyone was passing by.
I was surprised that Dust Bunny hadn’t caught up to me yet. As I hobbled along the path, wincing in pain, she suddenly called out behind me, scaring me. I told her how much pain I was in and that she should go ahead. I was still determined to make it several more miles in order to stage Muir Pass for the following morning. There was a lot of snow on this pass, and I would be postholing in it for hours if I didn’t get through it early enough in the day! The remaining miles were mostly uphill, which fortunately hurt my Achilles the least. Downhills and flat terrain hurt it the most.
I walked behind Dust Bunny while she scouted out a place to take her dinner break and then continued on alone at my slow pace. Still in forested terrain, I continued to climb. At some point, I saw an unattended backpack ahead, which I found strange. I walked by it and soon saw a man coming toward me. He stopped and asked if I was looking forward to seeing the whale. “The what?”.
“The whale! It’s a famous landmark on the JMT!”.
“I never heard of it.”
“None of you PCT hikers have. To us, it’s something we really look forward to seeing. You’re not going to make me walk back up there to show you, are you?”.
I told him I would be able to find it myself, but he insisted on showing me. To the left of the trail, two big rocks made a formation that looked like the mouth of a whale. I went and sat in it and let him take my picture.
“Oh, you’re a model!” he said.
He told me that he wished he were hiking the JMT the other way. “Why?” I wondered, thinking it might be easier that way.
“Because then I could hike with you for awhile!”. I told him that would not be enjoyable for him at all with my hurting stomach and Achilles. He looked at my shoes and admonished me for not wearing boots. He said that there was a lot of snow on the upcoming pass and that the running shoes the PCT hikers were wearing turned their toes red and raw from the cold and wet. Then, he offered to give me some of the drops he was carrying for stomach pain. I followed him back down to his backpack and waited while he searched through his first-aid kit. It turned out that he had sent them home along with some of his extra supplies. Before I headed on my way, he asked if he could give me a hug.
I continued the climb, emerging from the trees into a world of granite. Someone had made huge stone steps up the trail and they seemed to steal my energy as I slowly heaved myself upwards. This was not an easy climb for me at all.
Slowly, I put one foot in front of the other and made it out of the granite and into a meadow. I knew from what Luckyman had said, that I was relatively close to our stopping point for the night. It took everything I had to make it across the rocks and up another climb. I almost stopped at a place that looked like it would fit my sleeping bag but climbed a bit father and suddenly saw three tents! I had made it! I walked past them and then saw LuckyMan set a little further back. I dropped my pack. This had been a brutally tough day. I looked around to see where I might be able to set up and ended up finding a place up a slope, next to a tree. I spread out my piece of Tyvek and picked up a rock by the tree to weight it down. I coiled back when I saw toilet paper underneath it. I was sleeping right beside someone’s bathroom spot! It didn’t appear that I had much of a choice to move elsewhere, so I just tried to ignore it.
I boiled some water for my pasta soup and went to talk to LuckyMan while it steeped. He said that he was hoping we would make it this far tonight. The others who had stopped were JMT hikers and a PCT hiker that neither of us knew. Lucyman said that he had crawled into his tent as soon as he set it up and went to sleep!
After I finished my dinner, we went and looked down across the meadow to see if we could see Dust Bunny coming. I spotted her. “She’s stopping!” I said to LuckyMan. He shouted out, “No! Don’t stop! Keep going!”. I told him she was probably just peeing. She does that a lot!
We cheered when we saw her pick up her pack and keep heading along the trail. Then, we went to make an arrow out of sticks to be sure she wouldn’t miss us! We ended up waiting for her right beside the trail, like expectant parents waiting for our child to return home after a late night out.
She made it and seemed both a little amused and disappointed to find so many people camping in one area. She chatted with us for a couple of minutes and then went off into the woods to find her own little area before coming back to chat with me next to my sleeping bag while we sipped our tea. She told me that when she sleeps in a places where others have slept before, her dreams get mixed up with theirs and it is very disturbing to her! She looked out across the water and rocks that I was near and exclaimed over my view. “But I’m going to be asleep and won’t be able to see it!” I said.
It got too cold for her to sit any longer so we agreed to see each other in the morning.