After a long night listening to critters and my imagination, after fighting the pull of gravitation, I awoke with the sun. Light poured onto my tent, nature called, I was awake for a new adventure. The air was cold – no sun to warm it yet, but I was up and dressed, cleaning out my food can and picking breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the day. Then calling to the girls to get up and packed so we could get water. I was dry and didn’t know how far before we would come to any water. I pack and stretch and hurry the girls along. Before I put on my pack, I take off one layer knowing it wouldn’t be long before I warmed up.
Finally we were headed out, stopping to take pictures where Camazon and Babyzon had looked at the waterfall the day before. My stomach growls, and I begin to get anxious and hangry. It is time to get a move on. We begin down. We know it will be a long downhill trip, but we are looking forward to some water along the way. Then we enter the trees and the slope gets steeper, my feet slide forward in my shoes. The trees become denser and the sound of rushing water drowns everything except our excited chatter. As we come around a bend, we see a man sitting on a boulder eating his breakfast. His gear spread out around him gave him a clam air. My cousin stopped and talked to him; he was the first through hiker we met. He was fueling for another long day. He was hiking from the north to the south. At least he was missing the fires to come later in the season. When asked how far water was, he said there were a few crossings just up ahead. We marched on energized by the prospect of finding water soon. The path was clear and easy to follow. It was encouraging. We pass a mud puddle; a tinge of worry crept in, and on the next curve a river comes into view. We start watching for places to get to it and filter water as well as eat breakfast. My stomach let out a growl. I have walked more than an hour with no food or water since the night before. This is about my max, especially with exercise. Camazon and Babyzon climb down a bank to a nice wide spot with some rocks to sit on to filter water. Yay! We are all so happy to get water. Babyzon and I alternate filling our bags and making our breakfast, sharing my filter and stove. We are having oatmeal with honey. I forgot to dig my peanut butter out. I drink almost a liter of water right away and then make sure to refill everything as the water is cooking. We leave with all our water containers and our stomachs full. Muscling on the packs seems harder than earlier.
Right away we have to cross what to me is a raging river. The banks are nothing but rocks. We look for a way across and find a log, but it isn’t stable enough to walk on. We look more and find cairns beside the log on both sides of the river and there is a sandbar in the middle. We change into our water shoes, excitement builds again. We have a reason we carried the extra shoes. The water is moving fast, it’s cold, and it’s up to our knees. But we carefully find our way across and are raring to go again. The first of the water crossings that the forester told me about. We would have two more today. Once we find the trail again, we are pleased to see that it is rolling hills not the climb of the day before. This would not last.
The next water crossing is a well built bridge, and the last one is two logs lying across the water. This one is scary because of the height, the precariousness of the two logs, and the raging water below. This is the only time height scares me on this trip. Then we begin to climb. We climb for many hours taking switchbacks. Hiking only a few feet at a time in some places. Walking only until our legs won’t lift anymore before taking a break. That is us old folks. The girls hike on without us getting frustrated with our continuous stopping. The divide between the two sets gets farther. We often see the backs of the girls disappearing with Babyzon’s hands in her pockets.
We’ve been hiking for hours, no campsite to be found. Our bodies are exhausted. After all day of climbing deep brown trails surrounded by trees so dense we can’t see the other part of the switchback, we are finally going down. The girls hike ahead looking for a camp site. There is a cliff on one side and rocks on the other. The trail is just wide enough for us. Half the time my trekking poles fall off into nothing. But the downhill propels us. We are light on our feet. The mileage slips away. The sun is below the mountain tops, the color is leaching out of the day. Desperation is filling our minds. The drop off prevents us from camping on the trail itself. We haven’t seen water since morning. We are facing another dry night. My cousin starts humming. The sound gets lost in the trees. We are startled out of our thoughts by the fuzzy “Mom? Momma?” over the radio. “Camazon,” I reply. “We’ve got a camp spot. It’s got tables, fire pit, plenty of room for all four tents.” My cousin and I sigh in relief. “Yea!” I holler over the radio. A pause – “But…” I speak into the radio. Camazon understands the question, “There’s no water. But there’s a parking lot.” This statement helps balance out the dread of a dry night. We don’t have more than is needed to make dinner. But, the prospect of getting someone to give or drive us to water is great. My cousin and I pick up our pace. We’ve passed the last downed tree before the camp so nothing slows us down. Soon we are gathered at a nice camp ground eating dinner laughing at the day. No there isn’t water, but another hiker poured the remains of his water into our bags. We don’t have to go another night without water.