Day 18 — Grit

Wednesday, August 22, 2018 — CW Miles 219.1–235.0 (15.9 miles for the day)

The storm raged for most of the night last night, dumping buckets of rain that pooled under our tent and rushing winds that caved our tent poles at abnormal angles. In the early hours of the morning, it let up enough to get some sleep.

Now it’s 7am and we are slowly coming to. There’s a gentle patter of rain beating a rhythm on the tent. Isaac sticks his head out and confirms that it’s cloudy and low visibility. No sign of clear skies in any direction.

Neither one of us want to do the miles today, but we know there’s no choice. We pack up, put on our rain gear, and at the last minute jump out and grab the tent.

Then we take off on the first incline of the day. We have 16 miles to do today, which includes 5 major peaks in elevation. This will be a long, tough hike straddling the Continental Divide, with grueling climbs and brutal descents.

The first climb has us shrouded in fog, as does the second. The wind is driving and the rain scatters on and off. This segment is supposed to be one of the most beautiful of the trail, but we can’t see a thing. To be honest, I don’t mind. I’m so focused on diligently completing the climb and keeping warm.

See that amazing view? … me neither

We spend most of the morning this way, though the fog parts enough to show us some spectacular views.

The afternoon is a little clearer, though still windy and cold, with intermittent rain. Because of how chilly it is, we keep our breaks short and maintain a higher than normal pace, ping-ponging back and forth between 12,000 and 13,000 feet.

In the late afternoon the sun comes out for just 15 minutes, enough time to bust out our tent and dry the soaking panels.

We finish our last climb of the day, exhausted but feeling a keen sense of accomplishment. The view is simply breathtaking. We talked earlier with Liam about how difficult it is to define “grit”, how we can’t really understand grit until we see the results of it. But standing with Isaac on top of this last peak, I’m feeling very gritty indeed.

We hustle down a thousand feet to our campsite for the night. And just as we finish setting up the tent, it starts pouring rain. A second night of providential timing. A second night eating dinner in the tent. At least we are safe and dry. And who knows? Tomorrow could possibly be sunny.

Isaac says: I feel like I go about my life trying to establish a comfortable routine. Very seldom do I do anything to deviate from that routine. But doing this trail has taken me and put me in a place that is uncomfortable. How often do we as humans do that? It’s not part of our survivalist nature. But I think as I deny my natural impulses of comfort and stability, I am discovering elements of myself and of God that I didn’t know before. And that is one of the great benefits of thru hiking. That, and stunning wilderness…

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