I positioned my tent so the door faced east, and at 6:15am the sky started to glow on the horizon as the last stars held onto the night above over the Elkhorn Mountains. It was breathtaking.
I had some cell phone reception and was doing some scrolling (and posting) on Instagram this morning. I’ve been following another long-distance hiker (trail name Blackalachian) on Instagram for the past few years, and early this morning he posted a few stories about his dream of climbing Mt Everest. The next few stories however, he came back on camera to share that he had been told by many of his followers that it would be impossible for him to do (too expensive, too far, too strenuous), and he should just forget it. Props to Daniel (real name) for pushing back and voicing that crushing someone’s dreams is not an option. We don’t know what he is capable of, and he not going to let other people set his limits for him. 100% Daniel! If we listened to the people who said it was too far, too hard, too much for us, we’d be home sad and scared of the world. It’s up to us to define our limits, and push them, and make new limits. My current mantra is Live Now (I think it always has been…I’m just verbalizing it now). That’s my hope for all of you too. Live now. Nothing is guaranteed. Live now.
As I watched the sunrise, Cinder Well’s song Our Lady’s started playing. I’ve listen to this song a lot this month, and it absolutely slays me. (It’s a long song…let it play. My favorite part starts at about 2:40 and lasts until the end at 9 minutes.) This was turning out to be quite a start to the day: the sunrise, the music, the feeling that it was all connected, I was connected. Very moving.
Pack on, I hiked to the summit of Crown Point and paused to take it all in. Wow.
Going up and over was proving to be easier than the one little steep section yesterday, and I was happy with my route choice. The ground was still slick in places with snow, so I held hands with the trees so they could help me control my descent on the frozen patches, and now my hands smell like evergreens….mmmmmmm.
Then I found the trail! And I was expecting a bushwack, but it wasn’t…there were a few trees to navigate around, but the going was good.
I got water at a creek and continued on beautiful wonderful trail for a few more miles. The forest was green, the ground white and yellow from dropped Larch needles, and the sunlight flitered through the trees to dapple the trail and forest (and me) in light. It was incredible.
I was in the flow. Me and the world…vibeing.
Towards a road the trail was buried under more trees, and after some rummaging around between a bunch of dead fall I noticed a cut end of a log and yelled out, “trail!” That had been our habit on the PCT in the Sierra Mountains in 2006. So much of our route was covered in snow that when we did find the elusive tread we yelled “trail!” triumphantly in awe that we could stay on track in the white cold that blanketed the land. It was a true test of our map and terrain reading skills, especially in the days before everyone carried a gps. And I was not included in that “our”…the PCT was my first experience with map reading and navigating. I would look over other hiker’s shoulders as they were looking at maps and placing ourselves. Yes, there was a day when I didn’t have the skills.
I had found the trail, then promptly lost it again.
Today I couldn’t get enough of the “cheezy” almonds I was carrying from Gather Nuts. The “cheeze” was nutritional yeast, and my body wanted it. (Reminder…some of my sponsors have given me coupon codes to share with you…all are listed on my gear list page).
I had a break once I got to the road junction. Oh, to linger in the sun. Shoes off, the air warmer than it’s been in weeks. Late October what?!?!
I took the long-cut in front of me. There was a short-cut road walk through the forest, or a long-cut up to some views and around the forest. Jared said the way up had some lovely views, so I went that way. And up was an understatement. The roads around here are steeper than trail! But at the top of that climb was the skyline of the Elkhorn Crest Trail again…it looked so different. No snow at all anywhere. I was happy I was up there for the brief moment in time when it was all frosty white. I see how lucky that was now.
Lots of roads, but then trail! Beautiful, glorious, cleared trail! I popped out on a road and crossed to the Crane Creek Trailhead which will usher me back into the North Fork John Day Wilderness again. There were orange caution vests about…today was the start of elk rifle season…and I was prepared in my bright red wind jacket and my own day-glow orange vest draped over the back of my pack. There would be no mistaking me for an elk.
The next 4.5 miles were a walk along the quiet creek; meadows lined much of the route until I got to a steep gorge where the water filtered through ice that still edged the rocks. The different states of water created all sorts of sculptures and fascinating features as the water flowed through and over and under.
I popped out on the North Fork of the John Day River and spied a big horse camp. I forded the icy water to the trail on the other side.
I turned a corner and there sat three Coors Light beers in the middle on the trail. I don’t mind if I do! I picked one up, popped it open, and enjoyed the frosty cold beverage as I walked a few more miles till I found a lovely spot for me and my tent. Ok Blue Mountains Trail, this is the second unopened beer you have left for me on the trail. You really are magical. Have you heard the phrase: “The trail provides?” It seems the BMT is taking that to a new level.