who made the swan and the black bear?
who made the Grasshopper?
This Grasshopper, I mean..the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth, instead of up and down
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down, into the grass, how to kneel down, how to be idle and blessed and how to stroll through the field,
which is what i have been doing all day.
Tell me what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
What a crazy couple of weeks. I was looking at so many options of getting back on the trail. Once decided I couldn’t wait any longer. David dropped me off at the Paradise Valley Trailhead in Cedar Grove at Kings Canyon National Forest at 11:30 am. I was so happy just to start walking again, with a pack on my back, and very high hopes.
It was really hot. I mean sweat streaming down my face hot. I mean stopping every 15 minutes to take a drink hot. I recognized right off that I had lost strength, stamina and any acclimating I had acquired during the first 800 miles of my PCT walk. It was going to be a long 15 mile climb. I was climbing up to meet my friend Rockin at Woods Creek, where I had left the Rodents, Whynot?! and Spirit three weeks prior.
Trying not to pay any attention at all to the little nagging sensations in my back I kept my eyes open for perhaps a friendly bear, or even my escort, the sweet, injured deer that was my guide a couple of weeks ago. The fast flowing King River kept energy flowing into my weary body. I was slowing quickly. I realized the pain was reappearing. A slight twinge in the original right side Sacro-iliac joint, soon dissipated and an ever-increasing knife sharp pain into my left glute. I never have left side body pain, ever. But it was there, and I feared it wasn’t going away. Trying to keep the momentum, but with a sinking heart I felt my PCT was over for this year.
I made it to Woods Creek at 6:30pm. It took so long to get there. My steps had slowed to a very weak pace. Rockin was there with her contagious smile and laughter. After she shared with me her adventures hiking down from Rae Lakes, I shared my bad news. We decided to wake early and see how I felt in the morning. I dreamt that night. What I remember most, was that I was falling. I was falling hard. Right before I hit bottom, I jerked and I awoke.
It was 5 am and Rockin was taking off. I decided to stay one night at Woods Creek and go back out the way I came in. I lay there falling in and out of sleep for about two hours. During that time period a little voice, or spirit or energy suggested I give it one more try. I reevaluated my food situation. I originally planned on 5 days from Woods Creek to Reds Meadow, where I would pick up my next re-supply. That was walking 20 miles a day. That was impossible I knew at this point. I was hurting and needed to go slower. I wasn’t that hungry anyway! I figured out how to make my food last by eating a little less.
Off I went. I wanted to get up and over Pinchot Pass. Thats all. I originally planned on hiking over both Pinchot and Mather, but figured Pinchot was good enough. It was tough. Really tough. Digging to the depths tough. I felt as though I had never acclimated. The new ULA OHM pack wasn’t making me happy. The nerves in my feet that had recently been shot up with cortisone were acting as if they hadn’t. But, I could only give attention to my left side. It was hurting. But, I was walking. The birds were singing their songs. The river was sending energetic waves of possibility. The air was clean, and fresh, and pure. The wildflowers were in bloom. And, I was walking. The pass was spectacular. A storm looked like it was brewing and the winds were getting stronger, so I sat for only a minute. But, the feeling inside…..YES!!! I am on my way. I can do this. Injury or no. I want this.
I walked all day. I camped along the south fork of the King river. A few other campers, but it was quiet, and peaceful, and lovely. I cowboy camped as I do. It was different cowboy camping alone. I wasn’t afraid, but it was different. It’s not like the walls of my tent could protect me from anything!!! I wasn’t much hungry again, but I ate a little. I dreamt again. This time , I was falling faster and the jolt to save myself before hitting bottom, was even bigger than the night before.
I decided to start walking earlier as I needed to get over Mather and close enough to Muir for the next days ascent. I was walking by 5 am. Trying not to focus on my back, but it was getting a little more difficult. All my energy was going towards protecting further injury and I had none to give the walk. I believe I was depleting energy stores, quickly. I decided I needed to force myself to eat. I was still so stoked to be out there. I wasn’t going to let the pain take me away. I got energy from the mighty old Sequoia trees. So majestic, and strong and beautiful. The pass at Mather. I was doing it. But, I was tired. I had lost so much. I was still determined. The descent down Mather took a toll on me. The down had typically been the worst, and it was. With every step I had to remember which foot to reach with. This section of the trail was very rocky, with high step ups and step downs. I was growing really concerned and had many miles to go if I wanted to climb Muir the next day. I looked at my maps. Grouse Meadow. I spent a night at Grouse Meadow last year when I hiked the John Muir Trail. I had met a guy, Tom, who I hiked with for about a week. We camped at Grouse Meadow. It was lovely. I remember him knocking on my tent at 4am asking if I wanted to star gaze. We went out along the river and lay upon this large rock, side by side gazing at the stars for about an hour before we packed up and went on our way. This memory propelled me forward. I would camp there again. I found the same lovely spot, sheltered by the trees and a very large boulder. I could gaze upon the stars and the grassy meadow with the mountains looming above. I swam in the river and rejuvenated. I made plans. I figured that I was fine. I could do the whole thing!!! The pain would go away. It had to.
I dreamt again. The fall was faster and much more furious. The jolt before I hit bottom threw me off my sleep pad. I was awake. I was listening. I could barely rise from the ground. I knew I was in trouble.
I packed up slower than the previous mornings. I knew I was finished. The pain was just too intense. I was taking pain medications. It shouldn’t be like this. This is not how I wanted to walk from Mexico to Canada. I got my maps out and discovered one exit I didn’t know about. I gave myself time though to make my final decision. The turnoff wasn’t for a couple of miles. That couple of miles took me almost 3 hours. It was much too slow. It was much too painful. I had to admit to myself. It was over. For now.
The hike up and over Bishop Pass was long. Not in miles, it was only 14 miles. But long because I didnt want it to end. I love the trail so much. I learned so much about myself during this PCT attempt. I am much stronger than I ever realized. I know if I hadn’t attempted the last section I would have wondered. I did get a little angry though, at one point when I thought I had no choice but to call for help. I was only in trouble, because I let myself get into trouble. I just know how short life can be. I know how ever so quickly it can be taken away. The trail showed me that the path is always changing. And that this change, is glorious. That this change, no matter how painful, is a life lesson. We can endure the toughest of situations, because we know, as nature has taught us so well, that this too will pass. This too will pass.
I ran into a fellow walker on the trail. I could tell he felt my pain by the way he looked at me. He said,” you know, this only means one thing, something truly un-expected and wonderful is about to happen to you this summer.” My shining light. I was grateful for those kind words. My friend David said,” enjoy the healing.” That also affected me greatly. I have never thought about enjoying the healing process. But in contemplating that, how joyful a process to witness. Watching the body morph, from unwell into well!!! Yes!! I am on my way.
I will walk the PCT. Not this year, but I will walk it. For now, I will heal and plan my next adventure. It is in the works. I can’t sit idle for too long. I will heal. I will live this one wild and precious life with passion….
I will walk on , and always with love
I spent the night in Bishop. I dreamt. I was falling hard and fast. I had fallen off the curb. I landed. I was okay……