July 22, 2017
Mile 1430.10 – Gold Creek Trail Junction (1430.10-1455.64)
Confession time: not every day on the trail is fun. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a day is bad, it just means that, sometimes, the act of thru-hiking can be incredibly mundane. At some point, you reach a certain level of fitness where walking 25 miles over mild terrain just doesn’t provide that much of a challenge, physically. You might spend hours walking through a shrub-choked forest, with nary a view in sight. Your headphones might die in the middle of the afternoon, leaving you to listen to nothing but the rhythmic connection of your own feet with the earth for hours on end (which is sometimes nice, but other times drives you crazy).
People like to say that thru-hiking will take you through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and that’s true. The trail will make you scream out in utter joy and in raw frustration, sometimes within the same day, sometimes within the same hour. But people don’t often talk about the days when there’s just… nothing. The days when you start walking at the beginning of the day and stop walking at the end of the day, and nothing really incredible happens. But again, these are not bad days. Bad days are the ones where hurricane-force winds cause your tent to collapse on top of you, the ones where you watch someone you love get taken to the hospital in a helicopter with a potentially life-threatening condition, the ones where you fear if you stop moving you’ll lose some fingers and toes to the cold. These are just “meh” days. Nothing-to-see-here days. And they happen, and that’s okay. They are a fact of the trail, just like they’re a fact of life. This is really where, for me at least, the mental challenge of thru-hiking comes in. We fill our social media pages with the highlights, with the mountains we’ve conquered and the amazing things we’ve seen, but the real truth is sometimes there are days and days between these events where we just walk. And these days aren’t bad, but they can be hard.
You’ve probably already figured out that today was one of these days. We spent most of the day winding through the forest. There were no distractions but the ones we created for ourselves: blogging about the previous day at lunch because we were too exhausted the night before, sitting by creeks or roadsides for water and snack breaks. The trail did break out of the trees every now and then, treating us to magnificent views of Mount Shasta, ever so slightly closer each time we saw it. Shasta is a truly impressive-looking peak. It rises out of the ground, seemingly from nowhere, towering over the surrounding hills and valleys like some massive, snowy sentinel.
Near the end of the day, the trail did become pretty scenic, as it wound along the open area on top of a ridge, providing views of the rolling green hills in all directions as far as the eye could see. I started out the last few miles of the day pounding down the trail as fast as I could, just focusing on getting to camp, but then made the conscious effort to slow down, breathe, and observe, and found that the hiking immediately became much more enjoyable. I finished out the day walking at a pretty slow pace, just taking in the views, and it was really nice.
We got to camp somewhat late again, and by the time we had everything set up and had made the trek down the side trail to get water from the creek, we were eating in the dark again. I made one of Gummies’ favourite trail “recipes”: a teriyaki pasta side with a healthy scoop of peanut butter and a packet of Thai chili tuna added in. I threw in a handful of dehydrated vegetables too for good measure. It was so good. Now we’re in our sleeping bags, way past hiker midnight, ready to rest up for tomorrow’s hike. We got through this day, and we’ll get through the next one, and the next, no matter the highs or lows or mundane moments the trail decides to throw our way.