Even though I was now in the “easiest” part of the trail, I was feeling more and more exhausted and therefore getting up later and later. I think the accumulation of miles was finally catching up to me. I had not had a day off from hiking since July 4th! And I was still very sick. So far, neither the Guatamalan tea, nor the Old Man’s Beard had had any positive effects. I had another emergency this morning, and while I was in the middle of it, I heard a man cough. Someone was coming down the trail! I did what I could and stood there as the person passed by. My eyes grew wide as I realized it was my 75 year old fiend, Phil, who I had last seen at the Callahan’s. How on earth did he catch up to me?! I waved to him, but he did not seem to recognize me. I guess that was for the better, given the situation I was in. I packed up my tent and stuffed all of my possessions into my backpack and headed back out to the trail. It didn’t take me too long to catch up to my friend. “Phil!”
He turned around and now recognized me. “Wendy! Was that you back there?”.
I asked him how he was now here. “Well, I’ve really picked up my speed since I last saw you,” he began. I was incredulous. Then he explained that the night he stopped at the Fish Hatchery, the smoke in the air from the nearby forest fires was so thick that he was having trouble breathing. He called his wife and she came to pick him up and bring him back home for a few days. He decided to get back on the trail just after Shelter Cove. Today, he was going to head out on the Elk Lake Trail and be picked up by his wife to spend another few days in Bend. I told him I planned on getting there tomorrow from MacKenzie Pass. I mentioned that his pack looked a lot smaller now! He explained that Slacks’s friend, who he had never met, saw him on the trail and told him that his pack was looking very lopsided. He asked if he wanted help adjusting it and spent several minutes adjusting all of the straps for him. Slack then came along and apparently had the same reaction to seeing him as I did! He couldn’t believe that he was now at the same place as him and Phil had fun playing with him about his increased pace and endurance. I thought it was so sweet that these guys took the time to help him and also thought it was interesting that Slack and I were the two thru-hikers that were repeatedly being placed in his path. I liked this connection. I slowed down my pace to keep chatting, as I was enjoying our conversation. I began to grow hot in the rain layers that I had started out in and stepped aside to peel off the extra clothes. Phil told me his last name so I could look him up in the phone book if I needed to be driven somewhere while I was in Bend.
Then, I got moving. I told my friend that I would be at the Pass as close to 3pm as possible. I still had nearly 40 miles to hike before then!
I walked through another burn area with the sun glaring down on me and walked by the Elk Lake Trail turn-off.
Soon after, I found a grassy slope to sit on and enjoyed an ice coffee and snacks. It was now 1pm, and I still had 31 miles to hike by 3pm tomorrow! That thought alone exhausted me!
I began the next, steeper climb. My tummy was hurting and I felt lethargic. At the top of the climb, on top of a pile of rocks, I noticed that I had some reception and stopped to check in with my friend. She wanted to know if I had plans for the evening. I began to worry that she might want to go out and do something in town. All I could think about was getting a shower, washing my clothes, picking up my resupply box that I sent to REI, sleeping, sorting, and eating! There was no time for anything fun…
I headed on, feeling worse and worse. This was a bad intestinal day! As I approached the next lake, I heard a woman calling for her dog. When she saw me, she asked if I had seen him. I had not. She was very surprised to hear what I was doing out here and especially that I was doing it alone. We talked about my illness and she sympathized, as her daughter had picked up something similar during her world travels and still struggled with it years later. She asked me to keep a lookout for her dog, who had chased after some big animal, and asked if I could yell back to her if I saw him. Before we parted, her dog came trotting over to her, now without his pink pack that was holding its dog food! It acted extremely nonchalant, as if nothing had happened and he had never left her side. I left her to the task of searching out his pack and headed on, stopping at the lake to snack and collect more water. I could see her family sitting on the shore of the opposite side of the lake.
I thought the trail would take me over there, but it headed away from the lake and back into the woods.
Soon after, the trail emerged from the woods back out into an open landscape. I could see a huge snowy mountain in the distance, but had no idea which one it was. All I knew was that I was happy to be back in an open expanse again. It had been a long time!
I listened to some Ray LaMontagne as I walked and felt energetically fed. A large group of teenage girls headed toward me and a couple of the leaders asked me about my journey as they passed by. They were planning on camping at the same lake as the woman and her dog. I still had many miles to go…
I re-entered the woods and came across a nice, flowing stream, saw a cute deer, and had another intestinal emergency.
The trail climbed again and I walked through a field where I could see a tent set up in the distance and a couple walking around outside of it. I thought that must be where the upcoming pond was. I continued to walk and came upon tent after tent. This was a crowded area! The mosquitoes were out in full force again. I needed my own space, so I walked by the pond and all the campers and headed back into the woods, searching out a possible camp spot.
After several minutes, I decided to pull over. I could have set up my sleeping bag on a large rock, but decided it would be better to sleep on dirt and thus moved. Once again, my intestines demanded immediate attention. When was this ever going to end?! I had had enough!
I set up my cowboy camp as the air cooled and cooked my pasta in the darkening night air. In the distance, I heard a loud rumbling. It sounded like an avalanche on the big mountain nearby! I hoped everyone camping underneath it remained safe. Tomorrow, I would have to get up fairly early, as I had to hike 17 miles by 3:00!