Day 14 – July 17, 2014
Odometer Reading: 145 miles
Miles today: 11.8
Camped: Cascade Creek below Deer Meadow – elevation 8,426
Today’s Key to Success: Pepto Bismol
I knew it was Thursday because of my watch, but the alarm still didn’t work. We still seem to naturally wake up around 5:30, though, so our body clocks still work. Me and my Benadryl + Aidan and his Unisom = decent sleep. We still woke up a few times, though, just because it was so freakin’ cold.
Over breakfast, the gal we were hiking with said between bites, “Well, the only way out now is by foot or by helicopter. We’re out of options.”
Now we were in the meat of the adventure. This was where the fun really starts. This was where you got sorted out. The point where the cloth you were made of shined through any bluff. Any posturing.
We drink an electrolyte tablet in hot water now, in the morning, before coffee. We considered it lesson learned.
Chipmunks ran away from us, down the trail, while waterfalls slid around and over and through.
We met so many other hikers, headed the other way. Our downhill was crazy and never-ending. We did not envy those folk headed up. They universally loved our sunbrellas, though. We re-thought our business plan. Down-down-down.
Never shake hands with another hiker. Too many germs.
We were beetles, cooking in the sun. Our backs rounded with weight, crawling across the scalding, barren earth.
…and then we found The Whale!
Aidan felt sick. What was that smell? OMG. “It’s US.” I didn’t mean to say that out loud. We smelled like a poorly run nursing home.
“What’s us?” Aidan asked. All sweat and unclean bodies and a little urine.
“Nothing. How are you feeling?” Aidan had started feeling under the weather yesterday or so. Now he was really starting to feel run down. His stomach hurt. He started having diarrhea. Milkshake quality. He was tired.
He pointed at nothing and declared a perfect lunch spot just off to the right. To the right we went. A scrabble down a hillside left us next to a pit toilet in the middle of the woods with a river down the way. The pit toilet had a toilet seat and lid all attached together with a padlock. We went down to the river. Aidan wanted to lie down. He took his pack off and set it aside. I pulled out my bear can. Aidan was asleep, his head against a log. Precarious position. I made lunch, but he was still asleep. I started washing some clothes. I stripped down and hopped in the creek. I washed myself. None of it seemed to help. I smelled so bad. My clothes smelled so bad.
Aidan woke up and we ate lunch. He founded out that while the toilet had a padlock, it wasn’t actually locked. Aidan used this good fortune several times over. We packed up and headed up the hill when we realized we were in the back yard of the Ranger Station. I hoped no one saw me in my skivvies. We carried on. The landscape kept changing dramatically. Lush forest, stark desert, fern gully. Meandering meadows, craggy tops of mountains everywhere, stretching to the heavens.
We miscalculated mileage again. We didn’t get a day off after all if we intended to stay on schedule. We had to keep truckin’. Aidan was dragging.
We rounded a corner in a meadow and ran into a guy with a thick German accent. He was wearing a tank top and a tiny black speedo. And nothing else.
“I’m looking for my campsite.”
“Oh,” we said, as though that explained everything. We rounded the corner and doubled over laughing.
As the afternoon wore on, Aidan felt progressively worse. We stopped fairly early. I asked him to just hang out while I set up camp. I was in the tent blowing up the sleeping pads when Aidan violently whispered, “Jo, Jo! There’s a bear in our camp!”
I couldn’t get out of the tent fast enough. I felt responsible for our safety since Aidan wasn’t well. I started running toward the trail and the bear. Grabbed my trekking poles and started banging them together yelling, “Hey Bear! Hey Bear!” The bear took off. Aidan got a picture of his butt, running into the trees. He’d been poking around 20 feet behind Aidan for a while. Aidan just figured it was a hiker on the trail…before he looked over and discovered what he discovered. The bear had been tearing apart a log. Aidan really wasn’t feeling well. It wasn’t like him to wait so long before identifying a sound.
The bear stopped about 200 feet away. I bravely faced him with my sunbrella – opened and closed it in quick succession. Silver side flashing. Made myself BIG. I hollered at him in some primal, guttural language that came from somewhere deep in my being. The bear just looked at me. So did my husband. He grinned, amused.
We went back to camp and ate dinner in the rain. I ate more than Aidan.
We both took sponge baths. Aidan lay down again. I made hot chocolate and did the dishes really well. I didn’t want the bear to have a reason to come back. I meticulously packed the bear canisters and stuffed them under a log. I put the fuel canisters outside the hole in the log. Bite THAT, bear. Then I carefully set a booby trap of dishes. I hoped if they moved in the night, clanking around, that I’d hear it…but the creek was so loud…
Then I realized I needed something else from the bear can. I undid the whole shebang, pulled out a bear can, unpacked it. Ug. The smell. It was the wrong bear can. I put everything back and undid the other bear can. Put everything away again. Re-booby trapped it. I was frustrated.
Aidan was losing dramatic amounts of weight lately. It seemed like he couldn’t eat anything anymore. He’d been carrying his breakfast around in his pocket for the first few hours of the day. He couldn’t choke it down. He seemed to be getting a little weaker instead of stronger for the last few days. He still had diarrhea and we were almost out of Pepto Bismol and Tums. I was concerned about dehydration. I was doing the best I could to keep up his spirits and keep him in good health. What if we needed to bail? It was three days at best to the next exit point, I thought. “…the only way out now is by foot or by helicopter. We’re out of options.” But I was getting ahead of myself. He’d be okay.
I watched an ant clean his little antennae and wander around the stove. The night would be a long one. My head hurt. The aspirin was in the bear cans. I didn’t want to undo everything again.
I started to cry. Silent tears of frustration. Damned bear. Damned rain. Damned sickness. Damned rice & beans. Damned bear cans.
I was so tired. Damned miscalculations. This is so freakin’ hard. I Hate Crying.
I lay in my bed a long time, listening to the pumping blood in my ears, drowning out the distant waterfalls.