Section C - Day 6: Sun & Beauty
Updated: Aug 7, 2019
Day 6 of section C brought the most welcome thing I could imagine - the beginning of three days in a row of uninterrupted sun! I'd camped in a very high spot the past night though, and of course with clear skies comes cold nights. I awoke early, before the sun had crested over the mountains, and the condensation from my night's breathing had crystallized on the interior of my tent, making it stiff like waxed canvass as I folded it up and packed in in my bag, groaning with pain from the icy cold on my fingers.
I crossed a pass and was down to the Radium Highway below as the heat of the afternoon began. Down on flat rocks on the banks of the Vermillion River, I spread out all my wet gear to dry: melted and dripping tent, sopping socks, shoes, mud crusted pants. I even did some laundry in the river. This spot was the beginning of the Rockwall Trail - one of Canada's most famous and popular hikes for dayhikers and overnighters alike. So many people passed me while I lay there amidst my gear on the rocks, some waving, some just staring. I'm still getting used to being around so many people again.
Newly dry, washed, fed and re-packed, I start off on the huge ascent up to Floe Lake. The trail switchbacks upwards seemingly forever, but I'm feeling great. This is what happens on a thru-hike when you finally get your trail legs. The mountains seem to flatten. I'm powering up the trail, feeling amazing. I am bone and tendon and blood and muscle. The trail hits my heel, I feel the ground roll along the ball of my feet, my big toe pushes off. My calves and quads stretch and push upwards, the former pain in my achilles now nearly forgotten. The breath runs easy in my lungs, my shirt clings to my belly with sweat. I feel GOOD.
It's such a freeing feeling, after all that pushing and pain and suffering for the first two sections. The way I walk has changed too. It's less of a setting-down of my load onto my stacked bones with every step, and more of a floating or a gliding from step to step - moving as gracefully as one can with big pack on. It's like the different parts of my body have finally learned to work together to do this task I am asking of them. I am very thankful.
Getting my trail legs is part of what I love about thru-hiking, not because it makes me feel strong and powerful (although it does, and that is nice), but because it makes the mountains and the landscape feel less like an adversary that I'm trying to overcome, and more like a friend, or a home. Once the pain and struggle part is behind me, I can start to move and flow through the landscape and I feel free and like I belong there. Less like a rubber-shod human, and more like a cloven-hooved thing.
The switchbacks take me up and up and up to Floe Lake campground, which is gorgeous, but large and full of the kind of dude hikers who carry camel-bags of booze up the mountain with them and talk very loudly about their gear at each other. So I don't linger very long.
The next pass is one of my favourites. It's big and wide with an elegant s-shaped cornice of snow remaining from the winter. The views go far in every direction. The trail is easy and comfortable and it's later in the day now, so I doubt I'll encounter anyone else. I'm grinning with my whole damn body and I want to linger up there forever, so I descend slowly and reluctantly, taking it all in, singing out loud, and feeling stupidly peaceful and happy.
A voice from behind me interrupts my reverence, and a hiker with a tiny pack comes bounding past me, talking a mile-a-minute. Her name is Brazil Nut - another GDT thru-hiker, from Brazil, who is attempting to break the speed record for doing a yo-yo of the trail (that's when you go all the way to one end, and then back to the start again). I try to keep up with her blistering pace for a bit, while she talks to me about all the people she's passed, all the training she did, how she keeps up her mental game, how she only spends 3 hours in town doing her resupply before hitting the trail again. Eventually, she gets too far ahead of me and continues on without a backwards glance.
We all thru-hike for our own reasons and with our own goals, I think. Hers is impressive, but I'm glad I'm not trying to beat any records, and I go back to the sunset. My little hooves going on at their own pace.