Day 9–26.1 miles hiked (sure wish it had been a 1/10 mile more so I could call it a full marathon day!)
The night is a lesson in patience. The wind is blowing so hard that dust literally blows through the mesh of my tent. I don’t know how people survived the Dust Bowl days without going insane. At one point I had the idea to open my umbrella and try to block it from accosting me, at least my face. It doesn’t work well and everything in my tent, including me, ends up coated in it by morning. My face looks like a coal miner, and I’m thankful I looked at myself with my phone’s camera and knew to wash it off, so I don’t look like a complete weirdo traipsing down the trail.
I leave camp tired and on the verge of grouchy, but I quickly snap out of it. There is a several mile stretch of elevation gain ahead. I love to bolt up mountains as fast as my legs and lungs will allow. Today, my body feels like it has limitless reserves of oxygen and energy to pull from as I ascend.
I reach the highest point on the TRT, Relay Peak (10,330 feet). The 360 degree views take my breath away, much more so than the thinning atmosphere. I inadvertently discover the location of the ashes of the 27-year-old boy, and I tell him something he already knows–your dad loves you very, very much. Then I tell my own mother how very much I love her too. I sit for awhile, wondering how on Earth I got so lucky.
I descend towards a highway crossing and encounter many day hikers and mountain bikers. A retired man day hiking stops to talk to me while I’m eating lunch. He know a lot about the big name trails (AT, PCT, CDT) and I enjoy talking to him. There is no judgement that I’m a woman in the wilderness by myself–he thinks it’s great what I’m doing and he makes me smile.
Later, two mountain bikers are stopped as I pass them, one of them on his first ride, the other a competitor with no lack of pride in his abilities. As we play leap frog for a few miles I feel for the newbie, as he must dismount and push his bike in so many sections, wearing Converse sneakers instead of fancy cleats. I cheer him on when he gets through a section without having to stop. The courage to tackle these trails on a bike for the first time isn’t lost on me.
>As I make my final miles to camp, my guide book insists that I take a 1.2 mile side trip to Sand Harbor overlook–it’s the best view of the entire lake from the TRT, it says. How can I resist? Indeed the view almost swallows me whole and I feel as if I can trace my route around the entire lake.
I walk the final 2.4 miles to camp but it might as well be 24 miles, my dogs are barking so loudly. I FaceTime my family as I hike, hoping it will make the time go by quicker. It works.
I’m soon in a forest service campground as still and quiet as the woods, despite a couple and a solo man also camping here. The solo guy is friendly but keeps to himself, except to explain how to work the glorious water pump. To not filter water with my very clogged filter is like waking up on Christmas morning! I talk to the wife from the couple and she tells me about the 3-1/2 pound chairs they brought for their trip and how light they are. I chuckle to myself because my tent weighs less than half of her “light” chair, but who am I to judge if she gets pleasure out of it and doesn’t mind carrying it.
The night is so still and calm. I have nice people camped beside me, my food is safely stored in a bear locker, and I have a feeling I’ll sleep much better.
What a marvelous day.