Day 1-6 (June 18 – June 23)
Miles hiked: 82.2
Total mileage: 82.2
After a pretty good night sleep at Junction Lake, my first challenge of the day comes only after hiking 0.5 mile. Crossing a raging ford. With tons of water coming down. I see the trail just across it. But for goodness sake, where can I cross it? Ah, there is a log. But it looks sketchy. Too narrow and slippery. And when I fall there, a 5 feet drop in a raging waterfall awaits me.
No. There must be another way.
A little lower, I suddenly see a small snow bridge, which runs over the ford. It’s still early in the morning so that means the snow will still be hard and I decide to give it a go. Hopefully it will hold my (and my pack’s) weight. I go for it. Sketchy!! But, it goes well and I cross the raging river. Later that morning I cross a few more fords, a lot of melting water. At one ford, I have to walk through the ice cold water, there is no other way.
The higher the elevation, the more snow I encounter. The trail is totally invisible now. And there are no more footprints to be followed. Strangely enough, I still feel calm and confident. My GPS works and shows me how to navigate through the forest, telling me the trail is somewhere 10 feet below my feet.
I’m alone, together with millions of trees and deep snow.
‘Where are all the fast and strong hikers when you need them’, I ask myself. This is tough on the mind. Very tough. I’m calculating my situation, over and over. Do I have enough food? -Yes. Can I go back? -Yes. Do I have enough power for my GPS? – Yes. At the umpteenth time that I lose the trail, I sit myself down and speak to myself in a strict way: “This is crazy. This is how people die. This is how people get lost. Walk back. You will find the hiker who is behind you. Together you can do this. Don’t do this by yourself.’ But then, just as I’m about to walk back, I see a glimpse of the trail again. And I’m driven by this force which I was not aware I had it in me.
Hiking in snow slows you down. A lot. And it is very stressful.
When it gets later and later, I know I just have to get myself off this mountain, out of the snow. Fast. I don’t give myself the time to drink, eat, or pee. I totally hike on pure adrenaline. Finally, I pass the highest point in elevation of today’s section and by the time I reach Sawtooth Mountain Junction, I’m starting to relax. There is less snow here. And the trail is starting to reveal itself again. I give myself just enough time for a break.
Then, around 3pm, I reach Sawtooth Mountain trailhead, with a little information kiosk, close to a dirt road.
There is a pink ribbon wrapped around the kiosk. With a message. For me.