My Cup Runneth Over (A Mother’s Day Tale)

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Beautiful morning after a nightmare evening

This is going to be a long one.

The trail is tough. I don’t care how the robots are doing, completely unfazed by a climb. I am a real person. One who has never been athletic in my entire life. I am doing this hike at my own pace, because I don’t intend to die on this trail. Also, I don’t want to hate the trail, which is kind of how I felt on this stretch. When I tell other hikers that I do 8-11 miles per day, they all feel the need to comment on how I’m taking it slow. For a while, that comment upset me. I’m not taking it slow. I’m just not a robot. Therefore, I’m going at human speeds. I listen to my body when it’s in pain and I go at MY speed. Eventually I’ll get faster, but it’s no one’s business but mine.

That being said, I did 14 miles yesterday. 14! On the hardest part of the trail so far. I climbed a mountain and did 7,000 feet in elevation gain. The past few days have been interesting. There was more desert, lots of heat, but happily, there was water this time. I hiked with people for the first time and I could almost keep up with them. Almost.

I met some great trail angels who devote half of their year to helping us out. It’s so awesome to even have someone willing to drive you to or from the trail, and having the ones at home figuring out where you are and where you should be. I am lucky to have the best trail angels of all in my life. I’ll get to that story in a bit. It’s just so great to be walking all day in the heat and have a total stranger be there at your stopping point for the day who just wants to make you a heaping plate of spaghetti. Or even ones who set up a water fountain in the middle of nowhere for you. Or the ones who let you hang out in their break room and help yourself to the Gatorade and cushy chairs. There are great people out there and they understand what we are putting ourselves through on the trail. No one understands more than my parents.

Let me tell you a story. It’s a little long, but an important lesson. Yesterday I walked from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. I stopped for a siesta in the afternoon then began my assent up to Onyx Summit. It was hell. This section has been difficult. A lot of up and down in an intense way. Walking through areas filled with mud. Dry areas without water. Then, of course, mountains. This is the steepest part of the trail, and once you start, you can’t stop to camp because it’s just a cliff the whole way. Once it levels out, you can’t camp because it’s a burn area. I pushed and pushed myself. There were many steps made out of rocks, but these weren’t steps for normal people. If I were 2 feet taller, I might be okay with these steps. Toward the end of the day I was getting to the point where my body was shutting down. I know I needed to get through the burn area and I desperately wanted to be home with my family. I didn’t have a cell signal, so I sent my family a message from my spot tracker with my location. I was trying to make it to Heart Bar because it was a dirt road where I have been before with my family. I sent another message saying that is where I was going because it said on my map that the PCT connected to a 4×4 road that lead there (this is the first time Half Mile maps failed me in a major way). It was dark at this point.

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White Water Preserve

Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate being outside alone at night. God knows I’m trying to conquer that fear, but I’m just not there yet. I set off with my cellphone light, thinking it would be a quick walk to the road and I wouldn’t​ use up much battery. There wasn’t a road! I kept going, kept searching. Pushing forward on only adrenaline because I was starting to freak out. I kept checking the maps and checking the location on my GPS. It should have been there, but there was no road to be found. I kept going. I was starting to worry about my cell battery, so I switched to the only flashlight I had, my taser (thanks Rob). I didn’t carry a headlamp or anything because I hate the dark and was always snug in my tent before sundown.

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Thick, shoe-stealing mud

I wasn’t getting replies from my parents. I didn’t even know if they were in the area. I was just trying to find that damn road that wasn’t there. Eventually, messages came through at 9:30 p.m. I sent my coordinates of where I was. My parents were looking for me but we had no idea how to find each other. At 10 p.m. I saw a tent. When you are alone for several hours and are freaking out, it is a warm feeling to see another hiker. Even if you only see their tent. I stopped there to look at the maps and the GPS. It said I passed it! But how?! I started crying for probably the 5th time that evening.DSC02020

I was freezing and the wind was relentless. My hands were shaking and I could not warm up because everything I was wearing, including my jacket, was soaked with sweat. I texted them that I needed to set up camp or I’d freeze. They said they would keep looking, but I texted them to go home and we’d figure it out in the morning. I didn’t know that they never got that message.

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The steep climb

I set up my tent, changed into dry clothes, opened up several hand-warmers (not a luxury now), and tried to get warm. I was shaking uncontrollably for the next three hours. Hour 4, I was finally warm but couldn’t sleep because the wind was trying its best to tear through my tent. My cell phone was dead, and I kept the tracker next to me in the sleeping bag in case there was word from my parents.

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Walking through the burn area

Morning came and I packed up. I was ready to leave that mountain in the past. I walked a mile and got a message from my parents, asking how I was doing. I told them where I was and which road I was turning on. Within 20 minutes, I heard their truck even before I saw them. When they pulled up, my mom and I both cried. I didn’t know that their night was worse than mine.

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Fog rolling in was the last thing I could see

They had gone to the original place I sent a message from but the road was closed, so they had to walk to get there. Then they backtracked on the trail because the GPS coordinates made it look like I was down the canyon I had come up earlier that day. They didn’t have shelter or anything to keep them warm. They walked all night trying to find me just because I sounded sad. Eighteen miles is what their phones said they did. My mom hurt her knee and my dad’s leg was hurting. They tried to lay down to sleep because they were so tired, but it was too cold. I thought it was in the 40’s, but looking at the weather now, it was 31°F. So they kept walking. They got back to the truck at 9 a.m. and that’s when I got their message.

We agreed that if this happens again, they are to go home and I’ll figure it out until morning. Even though I’m alone, I have all of my emergency stuff. They didn’t. I wouldn’t have died that night, but they could have. We will never let this happen again.

This year for Mother’s Day, we all laid around the house, groaning painfully any time we had to stand up. And when we finally did, we went to REI and bought new hiking shoes. I have the best parents in the world.

7 thoughts on “My Cup Runneth Over (A Mother’s Day Tale)

  1. Dr. Bob Van Setten

    Wow what night! So did you make it to Heart Bar? Or Onyx? There is a camp you passed called Laurel Pines, a lot of years ago I worked at that camp. Anyhow, keep on it Tawny!!!

    Like

    Reply

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