Day 9 — Up and Down (All Day Long)

Sunday, July 5 — Miles 376.7-391.5 + 1 mile off-trail (15.8 miles for the day)

Another blissful night of rest all snug in our tent. I’ve finally figured out how to sleep comfortably in the great outdoors. The morning is cold, though, and we make coffee from the comfort of our tent (passing a cup out to Codex to enjoy).

We have an exceptionally big day planned which involves 20 miles, 9 major climbs and descents, and an entire day spent between 12 to 13,000 feet. We’re daunted but excited to enjoy the scenery and thankful the sky is blue.

We take off by 7:30 (a record!) and start our first big climb of the day which sees us topping out with incredible views on all sides.

And then, of course, we hike back down the other side before gearing up for climb number 2.

And then again for climbs 3, 4, and 5. Every time the climb is exhausting and our muscles start to feel cumulative fatigue. Worse for Isaac is the downhill, which starts to take a toll on his knees and feet.

We break for lunch atop a gorgeous vista, and we all three bemoan the effects the high altitude is having: constant headaches, overall fatigue, a sense of disorientation. Nothing to it but to continue the trek with climbs 6 and 7. The scenery is still GORGEOUS and I’m just so thankful there don’t seem to be major storms in the works.

This is by far the most strenuous day of hiking. We didn’t really have a choice as there is 20 miles between viable campsites. We’re all tired, but I can see it affecting Isaac the most. To help out, I take some of his gear and move it to my pack, and the combined effect is that we’re both now exhausted.

On a steep descent Isaac takes a bad step and rolls his ankle. Nothing broken, but he’s in pain.

We finish climb 8 at Stony Pass around 5pm, and talk about our options. To stick with our schedule we need to press forward another 5.5 miles tonight. At the same time, we’re at a fairly busy Jeep road that winds 10 miles down into Silverton—we could try hitching again?

Codex wants to press on (as he should! We just now learned that he’s an ultramarathon runner who averages a 100 miles a week… can’t believe we keep pace with him). So we swap contact info, wish him well, and say our goodbyes. Cheers to the best bassoonist the Chicago Symphony has ever seen!

Then Isaac and I start on our “get to Silverton” plan. There are a few parked cars at the top of Stony Pass but we assume their owners are out camping in the woods. So we gear up to start walking down toward Silverton, but as we do, a surprise massive storm moves in. There’s no time and no place to pitch our tent, so we hop in the back of one of the parked trucks. We TOTALLY realize this is a violation of personal property but hope the owner would understand the situation. We spend 30 minutes huddled under the topper as the storm does its thing: rain, hail, wind, lightning. And then, like that, it passes through, and we head down the road.

A couple jeeps/ razors pass us with well wishes but no room. After a mile of walking, a razor pulls up with two vacant back seats and before Isaac can even say “can we get a ride to Silverton?” the driver has hopped out and is taking our packs to throw in the back. Thank you!

The drive down to Silverton is intense but beautiful, and our hosts Charlie and Cathy entertain us the whole way with their stories of adventure. Point blank these are two of the kindest people we’ve encountered and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude.

They drop us at an inn in town, where we get a crummy overpriced room for the night. Whatever— warm showers and comfy bed is all we need. Then we head to a pizza place for a carb-loaded dinner, where every bite is heavenly. After that, we wander around looking for our rescuers to see if we can buy them a drink. No sign of them and the town seems to be closing up for the night. So we head back to the inn for a delicious night of sleep, excited to see mom tomorrow!

Isaac’s haiku of the day:

Mind, body, all struggle

Peace beyond understanding

God is good to me

I wander, I fall

His mercy always finds me

God is good to me

His love helps me see

All are his, he loves them

God is good to me

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