Maybe you should stay off the mountains... This has been echoing loudly in my head. And even before it had become loud, I had been thinking it. Maybe I should give up and walk away. After all, it happens a lot and maybe it was time that I should give it a go. Find another new identity as this one seems to be wearing out. People were scarce these days so, maybe I needed to find new people... Two weeks ago, I started a new job and settled into something that feels right. Crazy but right. I could feel my life coming back to me. And some time this week, I told the voice that told me to quit to SHUT UP... A plan to do one last backpack was born rather impulsively and the place was none other than an area that gave me the most trouble. Garfield and all the way over to the Twins.
Isis who now sleeps on my bed (and hogs it!) and I got up late. We'd start by 9am which actually sat well with me. Keeping in mind that I still tote around my medical issues, I am finding that early mornings are no longer in the cards for me. It's too hard to get going on less than 8 hours. The trail head for Garfield is PACKED and that was mostly because two RV's were parked (rather poorly) at the trail head. I had to park across from it on the road and hoped that my car would be good for the over night. There were plenty of dogs milling about and I just made up my mind that Isis would be OK. It no longer mattered to me that she didn't get along with other dogs, or just some dogs, or any dogs really. She's my best girl and she will hike with me whether we are solo or not and whether there are other dogs with us or not. She's earned it. We head up the trail and start out relatively strong. I'm fighting off the memories and my own wishes to just pop out at the summit. It's still beautiful on this easy section of trail with lots of yellows still on the trees. Isis and I begin to hit a stride and come to the water crossings. All are low and that included the dirty double cross where you kind of zig zag through a stream. Isis is not looking to be picked up. She just cruises through them and drinks too. This makes it easier on my water supply, especially on an over night.
While we are heading over the water crossings, the people start over coming us. We let them pass as we have started a section of elevation gain and start to slow down. THIS is where it always happens. This is where I start to doubt. Because this is where it first all started to go wrong and for some reason, my mind goes back there to that night where I climbed in tears in the dark. And I continue to push through everything, including my health which is always slow on the incline. It's hard to breath sometimes. Like I forget how. We run into a nice family who are taking their parents up for their first 4K. They are older hikers but they just take their time. Slow and steady wins the race. There is no need to power up the trail. I slow myself down and stop to give Isis some food. Another dog (Lilly) is coming up and I ask for her to be leashed because I have food down. The group of two young boys has no problem with this and I explains s they pass. They completely understood. I'd run into them later to find out that the boys are counting them and one was in the teens with peaks and the other single digits. I amazed them with my numbers.
Isis and I come to my favorite rock and I finally get my picture taken on it with my tripod and timer. So many pictures of others I remember taking and no one took mine. Another wave of memories to push through and how another hike to Garfield was cold in August and so covertly a separation that even I didn't see it for what it was. And I kicked myself for far to long for it all. Took too much responsibility for something I never understood nor received and explanation for. Shortly after that a dog was coming up the trail at Isis and I asked the owners to control him. Never got his name and got a face full of attitude from the owner who didn't think I had a right to protect my dog. Fair warning if you are not going to control your dog, I will tell you too. My dog is ALWAYS in my control and therefore cannot be blamed for anything. I do my best to make sure that nothing happens but it you are not in eye sight of your dog well, I'll still act to protect Isis. And to that owner, I make no apology for my lack of filter. Not today, not ever. The next stop would be the summit. I was going to make it up there solo.
The view from the top is AMAZING and Isis actually posed for me (she never does that for anyone that is me... Everyone else, sure!). I say the view is amazing because I am standing there solo. There is laughter where there has been stiffness and distance. A couple of old time hikers are up there and the conversation is wonderful. I'm smiling because I know that this is how is should be. This is how I want it to be. Garfield is no longer a sore spot in my journey. It's now a triumph. The next hurdle would be the Garfield Ridge trail over to Galehead hut and eventually Galehead peak. Now, the last time I was on this trail, it was dark and icy... Today would be a perfect way to get reacquainted. Well, minus the company that cared more about the thrill than our safety as we got delayed the very first time I was hiking these peaks causing the one and only enactment of my safety plan. Now, the GRT is full of what we call PUDS (Pointless Ups and Downs). And this is how it goes until you get to the edge of what I call the Waterfall. Which for all intents and purposes is a waterfall. It just depends on how it's flowing. Today, it's low and slow. The last time with the guy I should not have hiked with, it was ice. So, two gentlemen had come up behind me and followed my lead because I was taking my time and they appreciated it. They had never been down it before so, I felt good for helping them. We continued over the PUDS and leap frogging one another. Most of the time I was in the lead which was fine. Isis likes to be out in front. We take breaks to catch my breath an she seems to be at a good pace and not pulling the leash. We make it the the junction of the Gale River Trail and this is another critical place. I can go down now or I can really commit. We head to the hut after another interchange with the two gentlemen I have been sharing the trail with. They again let me pass and commit to the .6 to the hut.
It's around 3pm when we get there and there are people milling about. Isis gets way more love than I have ever seen this little dog get and it makes me smile. People are drawn to her which is another sore spot where so many have pushed her away. We have some food and water before making our way to find a place to stay for the night (dogs are not allowed at the hut). We head to Galehead because it's smaller and requires less energy. It's only .5 to the summit. And easy two summits for today. But not so easy on the mind. We find a place to tuck in just before the elevation gain of the trail. I set up the tent and hang my pack. We then head to the summit so that I have the Twins only for tomorrow. Isis and I stop at the outlook and I feel good for not having my heavy pack on. WE then head to the summit and claim it. I allow myself to smile. It's a BIG day for me and for Isis.
We run into another hiker who is a very gentile soul and spend some time chatting on the outlook. He approved of my weekend plan and wished me lots of luck and I really appreciated the support from this stranger. He never said anything negative about my choice of camp and in fact, said it looked good. Isis and I head back there for dinner (cheese, olives, salami, and wine). He passes by with s happy "good night" for us both. Shortly after that we settle in for a long cold night. I'm wearing way more cloths than I usually wear to bed: Base 2 EMS base layer, fleece socks, my puffy coat, my balaclava and hat, and my gloves. Isis has her coat on and the advantage of being small and able to fit in my sleeping bag. It's cold but I am acclimating to the temp. The sun sets and the coyotes begin to howl in the distance. I loved listening to them as I fell asleep for a while. I woke up a few hours later with a chill and a need to pee so I put my purple mid layer and duck out briefly then, on with a hood and then the puffy again. I fall back to sleep to Isis' heavy breathing and dare I say snoring. Love that little girl... She's such a lady. Repeat this process a few times with various animal noises outside the tent and it makes for a lot less than 8 hours for me. At 6am I start to get dressed and then start packing up. Nothing had gotten into my pack so what ever it was, they were just passing through. My pack however was soaked. I had put my pack cover on and somehow water had pooled in it and soaked the bottom. Thank goodness, it was just food. I moved my cloths to the top. We headed down to the hut for breakfast and quickly realized that there were no views today. It was cold but the coffee and the eggs I made were warm. I'll admit that I needed more for breakfast though as my energy was low. And so, day two begins with a hope of not turning back.
Isis and I head up the Twin Way to South Twin. This is .8 and probably the toughest .8 with all it's rocks and uneven footings. I've done it with ice on it and still don't like it. I am determined to take my time and this time not leave anything hanging (North Twin). People pass us and we are OK with it. A brother and sister team seem very intent of getting to the summit and we just let them go. I am layered up as it's really cold with no sun and in the clouds. My mind is thinking all the thoughts that kept me up last night. Past present and future colliding and I just keep climbing. I'm done with not being happy and holding myself too accountable for choices I never made. Isis and I take plenty of breaks to catch my breath and as usual when I am hyper focused, I see the little things.
As we continue climbing, we run into a couple who spent the night between North and South Twin. We laugh about how cold it was and these two seem to really click with me. So many meetings on the trail are fleeting because the chances of running into them again are not great. They are very impressed with Isis and wish that they could have a dog just like her. It's now the final push to the summit and I have to take ten steps and rest. I'm getting frustrated with my slowness and lack of breath but I know that this is it. This is me. I am again met but he brother and sister team on their way down and I marvel at how put together they look. I'm a hot mess in winter gear and they look like they could be in a magazine. This bothers me. The older brother is disappointed by the lack of view. I mention that people are motivated by other things and the views are not what I am interested in today. He couldn't get it. He's a view hiker. I guess I am different. I'm OK with this.
Isis and I crest the summit into a world of rime ice and we are so happy. It reminds me that winter is not far away and the goals I have set. The summit is locked in and viewless and I can only smile. The wind is whipping but I get a few pics and we begin our final leg to North Twin. So close with miles to go still. The rime fades as we make our way over. It's only a mile after all and I should be fine. But it's a tough one without a lot of energy. Isis senses it too and tries to rush. I pull her back a bit and she hates this. We reach the Col and it's flat so I take advantage of this and make some time. We run into hikers here and there and despite the weather, all are happy to be out. All are happy for my journey. For the first time, I feel like I can do something again. I just have to get to North Twin and that is harder than it seems. There are ups and downs and I know that I have to go back and do it again to get back to the car. I again take a lot of breaks and get upset about this. I'm really tired and drag myself up the legdgy parts. We finally arrive at North Twin to 4 other hikers who are going in different directions. Some to South and some down as one peak is enough. I was just happy to break and have some food and water. Water that is crystal cold and not hot and plastic tasting.
Having worked through my past and stayed in the present, I made it to my final peak. Now I just needed to double back as my plan was to head down South Twin to Galehead hut and go to that trail head. I'd walk the road to the Garfield trail head and my waiting car. But I had to get back there first. The pack is really heavy now even though it's weight is depleted from use. We run into repeat hikers who are going to various destinations and trail heads for cars. The weather is intermittent sun and clods but it is cold. I am still bundled up and the only things that are coming off and on are my gloves and my hood. I am still happy to be in the winter wonderland and feeling better than I have been. My footing is getting sloppy and I know that my energy is low. I don't stop to eat and I keep pushing. Isis is kind of my watch dog as when she needs a break, I have to stop. But still I push. My mind is wandering to the car and I know it's time to get back to my life below 4K. It took a lot less time to get back to South Twin but still the ascent was slow and painful. The rocks are just kicking my ass and as usual. I reflect to times when I was embarrassed by my short coming. This however, would prove to be a good things as on South Twin the second pass, the clouds opened and I got a view! I talked with a very nice couple and again, I was very aware of what a night out in the woods can do for my looks. I must have look like a hot mess but there was not much I could do about it. A shower awaited me at home and possibly a soak in the hot tub. It's been many miles to travel.
Isis and I begin the slow .8 back to the hut. It's painful and as we go down, the layers come off. My hair is now two days of hiking and probably less than controlled. With each passing group, I run my hands through it to try and tame it. I will always be that socially awkward person who never quite has a grip on her hair. I'll never make it into a magazine and I need to be OK with this. I manage to not slip on the rocks going down but time passes so slowly and I am even more tired. Thankful to be a little flatter, we stop at the junction for the Twins and the hut. I strip my base layer top off in favor of my t-shirt (columbia omni freeze). And we pack up again. It's time to push it and head down. Isis has issues with things that are not loops and after a struggle, she settles into a rhythm. We make the .6 to the junction of the ridge trail in good time. It's now 4 miles to the base and gale head trail head. It's hard on my feet and I slip and roll my ankle a few times. Isis begins to pull as she is excited to be heading out. The people coming up to stay at the hut all look so fresh and a lot of kids try and rush at Isis. I caution them as she is very tired and can get grouchy. Some are again, put off by my directions and others really understand. You cannot please everyone. I am noticing that in my over tired state, I have lost my filter and I am prone to really telling people what is on my mind. I again make no apology for things. It is what it is. Most of the things I speak up about are for my safety or for Isis'. I'm done bitting my tongue when it comes to my feelings. When someone stops on a narrow bridge to adjust a pack or fix something on a pack, I am going to speak up to be let by. Telling me that you know the rules of etiquette and you break them often does not help. It just tells me that you don't care. And if you in turn ask for compassion and tell me that you are having a tough time on the trail, I am still going to tell you to turn back for your SAFETY and the safety of my friends on the rescue squads that would eventually come out to save your ass when you get in over your head. So, don't get upset when I ask to be let by because you broke my momentum by stopping on a bridge to fix your pack (by taking it off and taking up the whole bridge). These situations just serve as a reminder of all the situations I have been in where I am prevented from speaking my mind. Where closure is left undone. Where I am left just to draw my own conclusions. The final straw out to the trail head. And I rectify it with just being me. It's all I can be. We hit the trail head after a few last water crossings which were low and the home stretch begins. Time for the road walk back to the car.
Stay off the mountains??? Maybe every once and a while I'll pay attention better to things below 4k. Certainly, once this job really settles in, I'll have some on call times where I will need to stay in the area so, I will have to stay off the mountains. But my journey will continue. I feel so proud of myself for all that I faced this weekend. The cold night was very rough and the trails were both kind and unkind to my feet and my emotions. All the while, Isis and I keep on going and the people that we meet, however briefly, make an impression on us. I think I will continue to keep the filter off as it felt good to be able to speak up. So long ago, I set out to meet people on the trails to form lasting bonds. What I have found is a lasting bond with the mountains themselves. I became emotional when talking to a hiker about how beautiful I found the rime ice. I'm OK with my emotions and expressing them. I'm not OK with being prevented from expressing them and this has been my road block. Unfortunately, sometimes you just need to move on to the next peak and accept that you may never get that chance. There is always a hope that I'll find that special guy to share the trails and my cold nights in the tent with (for as much as I love Isis, I'd like to give my love to another human!) but until then, I will strengthen my relationship with my self and my little furry girl. She has prove to be strong, brave, and while a sleeping bag hog, someone that I love sharing the trails with.
In a coincidental way, as I stopped for coffee, the very song that got me down to ground level the night my safety plan was enacted played as I got my coffee on the way home... Southern Cross played over and over in my mind that night. I smiled at the reminder as if it was telling me that the past is the past and to keep in incorporated in my present. My journey to 576 continues...