Day 103, august 5th
Start: bumping creek, mile 2317
End: camp near small spring, mile 2350
Miles hiked: 33

It’s a 2,000 foot gain to start the morning. Right away. Normally, this would be like splashing cold water on your face to wake you up. But today, it energizes me, and sets the tone for my day. I feel strong, endorphins churning out of my furnace as I easily make my way up the mountain with brainstorm and tiny. It’s going to be a good day, I can feel it. I wait at the top for carrot, and we continue at a very good pace. I feel so good, so strong. My feet finally are pain free. I never had constant pain, but often times in the morning or late evenings my feet would ache. After 2,350 miles, maybe I’m finally over this. I hope I’m over that. Possibly switching out my shoes much earlier than the last time is really helping, as I never allowed my feet to feel much pain due to the shoe being spent. I’m still learning a lot out here. So much. And I like it. I enjoy feeling as if there are limits left to be pushed, and new things to be learned. The learning curve and possibilities excite me.

I hike on with carrot up and over hills, around lake, and eventually we can see chinook pass. The whole mountain range opens up, with ridges stretching across dark green valleys. We start to see a bunch of day hikers, including a group of elderly ladies. They supposedly know we’re thru-hikers, as they hold their poles and make a tunnel for us, cheering as we make our way under them.

“They’re swimming in the lake before the pass.” One says to me, “you should swim!”

As I hike further, I see brainstorm in the middle of a small lake doing the butterfly. I get totally pumped up and run down to the lake. Brainstorm says it’s warm, and I quickly strip to my underwear and get in. The water feels so good, rinsing the dirt and grime from my body. As I swim I dunk my head under the water and cruise around, imagining I’m back at the pool I grew up in in Michigan. When I surface, I wipe the water from my eyes and see the surrounding mountains. Is this real life? Am I really swimming in a warm alpine lake right now with my buddies? I doggy paddle back (don’t judge me) and realize the surface of the water is a mosquito graveyard, and my beard acts as a pool net, catching all of the bugs. It’s pretty awesome, and brainstorm gets a good laugh out of it.

Carrot and I continue hiking on the ridges past chinook pass. The trail cuts through endless flowers on the slopes of mountains, all the while rainier, the giant snowy mountain, looks to our west. It’s huge, on the same scale as Shasta in terms of prominence. However Rainier is completely snow capped and covered with glaciers. I will climb that mountain one day, no doubt. When my long distance hiking days are behind me, and I’m limited to shorter trips, one will be to rainier.

As we traverse the mountain ridges and the day gets later, we hear a ‘ca-caw’ yelled loudly from the trail several miles back across the valley. It’s the call our group uses, and it’s likely coughee, woody, and Guthrie. An hour later as carrot and I stop for a snack by a stream, coughee comes running up.

“Get out of my way, nerds!” He yells as he runs by, arms flailing.

He turns around shortly after and sits down with us. Between panting breaths he tell us he’s ran for the last two hours to catch us. Dude is nuts!

I hike out with coughee, as his energy has lit a fire in me to get to camp. It’s 8.5 miles, and I just want to get there and relax. So we crush, getting there in two hours and fifteen minutes. Just flying! But it feels good. Oddly enough, I had pent up energy, and going that quickly was a great outlet. How I have extra energy our here is beyond me.

We get to camp and soon carrot and crispies, then Woody, then Guthrie show up, spaced a half hour between each one. Guthrie says he passed pigpen and handy Andy, and they’re going to camp with us! That’s so awesome. I met the two of them hiking SoBo through the sisters. Younger guys, college aged, trying to do the trail in 90 days. Soon they’re with us, and we all sit around an empty fire pit and tell stories. They’ve been trying to catch crispies for some time, having started ten days after her, on May 18th. We all have a great time, and eventually I retire to my bag. It’s been a wonderful day, and I feel so happy. I absolutely love it out here, love the trail, love the life on the move.