The bruises on my shins were now big, raised welts. Even though I hadn’t cleaned out the open wounds, I dotted some neosporin on them. My new goal was to catch the 3:00 bus into Stehekin if I could. That way, I wouldn’t be racing to get dinner and find a place to stay. It would take nearly an hour to get into town from the High Bridge Ranger Station. I ate my breakfast and looked out at the cliffs in the morning light as I packed up. Everything looked bluer and darker.
I was also stopped by more gigantic trees that I had to find my around. At times, I would have to take off my pack, shove it under the tree and then crawl under myself.
The lower the terrain got, the more muddy it became, as well. It took a great amount of time to find rocks to place my feet on or try to step to the side of the mud pits. Eventually, I gave up trying to keep my feet dry. The last in the series of creeks had a bridge across it which was broken in the middle. I wished someone had been around to take my picture with it!
Grabbing the handrails, I slowly made my way down to the center point and then back up the other side.
Then, I began the next 1,700 foot ascent. Near the top, I found a fallen log in the forest to sit on for a break, but the flies wouldn’t leave me alone. I found it especially annoying that they wanted to land in my wounds! As tired as I was, I decided to keep going. I came out into more open terrain, and although scratchy plants lined both sides of the trail, I needed a break. I took my sleeping pad off the top of my back and sat down in the tall grass. The sun was burning down strongly.
A short while later, I reached a nice creek where I stopped to collect water and take my ice coffee break.
I kept backing myself further and further into the evergreen tree on the side of the bank in order not to be burned by the intensity of the sun. I covered my legs the best I could with my bandana.
The trail climbed again and headed into snow filled mountains.
The landscape opened up, but the rocks made the hiking slow going. I kept looking at the time and knew that I could only afford to take a couple of very short breaks for the remainder of the day.
When I saw Mica Lake, I wished I had time to stop, but I did not. I felt exhausted and stressed. I had to keep going. It was now 3pm and I had only hiked just under 15 miles for the day.
After descending towards Milk Creek for several miles, I needed to stop for a snack to boost my energy. I looked at my watch and figured I could take two 5 minute breaks for the rest of the day. This was not fun! Two ladies made their way past me in the opposite direction. They were in much better moods than I was. After I crossed the bridge, I had to start a 2,600 foot climb! It was so hot out that I was sweating! How could it be this warm in September? The weather always seemed to be at an extreme. Slowly, I huffed my way up the mountain.
In the evening light, I found myself in an open, rocky, exposed landscape that was reminiscent of the Sierras. There was definitely no place to camp in this area!
A small marmot peaked out from behind a rock and stared at me, which made me laugh. I realized that was the first time I had smiled the entire day! I felt like I had not had a moment to enjoy myself! When I reached a cascade, I stopped to collect and filter water, hoping the process would go as quickly as possible. The air was now very cold and I needed to race against the setting sun. I continued to climb higher and saw the sliver of moon in the sky.
On the other side, towards which I was heading, the sun had cast the mountains in purple.
I still had miles to go before I would reach a camping spot.
As the sun disappeared, I found myself in a grassy landscape at high altitude.
It became harder and harder to see the path in front of me. At last, I reentered forest and found my camp spot in a grove of trees. It was 7:48 and now completely dark. I set up my tent by headlamp, cooked some dinner, and then crawled into my sleeping bag, thankful to finally be able to lie down and rest.