PCT Day 9, Vista Creek to Fire Creek, 18 miles

I believe great people do things before they are ready. – Amy Poehler

It feels late getting up at 5:30, but I just wake when it’s light and we’re deep in the woods. It’s clear and a bit cold. I did my business, digging a cat hole with the orange trowel, and now coffee is heating up. I’m almost certain I can’t keep up this pace. My socks are still wet.

Richard was right sending me here. It’s hard to think of much else but being in the moment. When I left Saint Paul, I was so bereft I thought joy was forever out of reach. He reminded me when dystonia took over my hands nearly twenty years ago and made my beautiful fluid technique on the flute impossible, I wouldn’t allow him to play classical music in the house.

It’s kind of phenomenal, then, that I was able to make the leap to a classical music cheerleader and feel pride and joy announcing other people’s performances. When I told Steve Copes, the concertmaster of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra that my job was eliminated, he told me I had been such a positive force for them. I smile now sitting in dirty clothes, my camp shoes covered in pine pitch, remembering how it felt to share my thoughts with listeners and time them perfectly with a sometimes unknown downbeat. It was some of my finest work.

I climb up on switchbacks at railroad grade. Sure, I’m tired, but it’s such a gentle ascent I can moderate my breathing and pull right in the midst of a magnificent glacier. My ice axe is just along for the ride, beautiful hand made moccasins and all, because the snow has melted to rushing streams, only white fingers left. I sit with Olive Oyl against a dancing fir. A hawk whizzes by on the hunt; a hummingbird buzzes. Slowly a cloud pushes over the icy summit.

I come around a corner and spy a cone completely snow covered. Ranier? I have never seen such beauty surrounding me on all sides. And the weather is perfect.

Outstanding views continue as I descend – endlessly, it would seem, first on soft needles, then into overgrown brush. The brush hides rocks, so it’s slow going.

Down and down. I can see the river getting closer, but the trail skips it and descends even more.

Until I go back up again to a bridge. Then pack mule it up more switchbacks. It’s lovely, but hot and I’m dressed for the 40’s as predicted.

The trail gains all of the altitude I just lost, and then some, the views opening up of spectacular Milk Lake Glacier. I hit a beautiful campsite, but decide to press on to Mica Lake in a bowl just below one of the biggest passes yet at 6311 feet. There’s a whole group of people hanging out at this frigid lake, still covered in mushy ice though the turquoise water beneath is visible at the edges.

The sky is gray and forbidding up here, the views astounding. I’m happy to meet this crowd not knowing how much snow is at the pass and if it will be tough going. I’m even happy to see the trail asshole who turns out to be less of an one – I admit I judged too quickly – as we march together up the steep, rocky moonscape. We both slip at the same spot, managing to arrest a fall and mostly bruising only our egos.

As usual, I can fly uphill, though not the speed of the twenty-somethings of the group, including one cute boy with the trail name “teen dream.”

At the top, the views all around of the cascades are astounding. What I love is the way the snow settles in fingers, reaching across gullies and flatter spots in interesting patterns. We are literally surrounded by these beautiful mountains – but also have a good view of angry gray clouds building.

So down we go, getting lost in a snow-patch for a moment before reaching a beautiful grassy area next to a rushing stream. A few raindrops hit me and I decide this is far enough. A good idea, because I only have enough time to set the alicoop and jump in before it really comes down. It’s only 6:00, but I’m cozy listening to the raindrops and eating a cold meal.

I suppose it’s possible Laura will show up later, but I imagine she is camping below the pass. It was a long, beautiful day of big switchbacks to views, ending with raindrops on the tent. I feel today suddenly so right being here. It’s taken a week of uncertainty and ambivalence, cranky feet over big miles, seemingly unrelenting sorrow and panic and finally, more and more, I am finding the peace Richard thought I might coming out here – a sense of belonging, purpose and returning to myself. I yearn for my work, but I am coming to see that taking it away from me does not take away my essence. Nor does it take away my talents, skills and interests. A home will be found for them soon enough. But right now, it’s resting my feet and letting my spirit soar having used those feet to take me to such beauty.

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