Last week I shared the thoughts and reflections from the first few days of my backpacking trip. This week’s thoughts are from the last two days. I made it to the top of the mountain, but got sick as I was leaving the trail. This last day was one of the toughest of my life–literally experiencing highs and lows.
We are sleeping in a little today, and I’m looking forward to this nice day of hiking with my son. I’m doing my devotions in a nice glade with marmots around me and the sun shining through the trees. God is so good. Yesterday was tough, and my body is tired—so part of me wants this to be done. Of course, there’s no way out but forward! But a bigger part of me digs down deep to find a better attitude. This is where I want to be. This is what I have dreamed of for over a year. I’m thankful for this time with God, my son, and my thoughts. It is beautiful out here. I am ready for a good day.
Every day we begin with a prayer and devotional. Today we read 1 Samuel 17, and talked about it while we walked. The talk went on for over an hour…about faith, then girls, past relationships, and lessons learned. This evening, we sat down in the meadow with our dinner and talked for an hour. These times with my son are some of the best parts of backpacking.
Today was tougher than I thought it would be. Our legs ache, and I forgot to give ibuprofen to Ben. We stopped a bit short of our goal, but our campsite is amazing; it even has a toilet! You know you are backpacking when you are excited about a pit toilet with no doors! Tomorrow, we have to climb 4000 feet and 7.5 miles to reach the summit, plus 11 miles and 6000’ down to get to the car. It will be a very tough day—our toughest ever—but I know we can do it. The day starts at 4:30am tomorrow.
I was so cold last night that I woke up at 3:00am; it was a miserable start to the day. I got out of bed at 4:30am hiked until 9:00pm—it was a very long day! These days were harder than past years because the elevation was so much higher. We started the day hiking in the dark, and we didn’t get hit by the sun until almost 11:00am (though it was light outside). The shade helped with the hard climb—which only got harder after 12,000 feet. There were not many people climbing, which gave a sense of solitude on the switchbacks. When we hit the turnoff to the summit, we ran into a jovial Boy Scout group. They shared a lot of stories, encouraged us, and told us we were crazy for trying to ascend and exit in one day. We dropped our packs and began the ascent for the summit. Even without our packs it was tough; the air was thin, and the trail was rocky in parts. We could see the hut on the summit in the distance, and eventually we made it. We signed the book, shared a Snickers, took pictures, and called Hannah (there is coverage on the summit). We made it! I was so proud of my son…and proud of myself. Next we had to begin the 6000 foot, 11 mile descent to the Portal. It took a long time, but we had some great conversations. At 9:30pm, ending (as we began) with headlamps on, we met the family on the trail. It was so good to see them! When we reached the car, we had burgers waiting for us. We conquered this very hard trip—49 miles at high elevation with 11,500 feet of gain—in four days. This was a big accomplishment!
On the way down, I began to feel sick in my stomach. I thought it might have been lack of food, but after stopping to eat I continued to feel bad. For the last four miles I was getting dizzy. I thought it was fatigue, but it turns out I had a bug. On the car ride home, I was shaking like crazy, and the next day I had a fever up to 103.5 degrees. I slept most of this day and the fever broke, but my stomach stayed sick for a few days. This allowed me to ask more questions and reflect more on the trail. Did I push myself too far, forcing my body to break down in exhaustion? No. Although this was a very hard trip, it is clear I caught some bug and got sick, and exiting the trail was the best thing that could have happened. I am so thankful for Ben’s great attitude over the last 6 miles that kept me going. He shared stories, encouraged me, and remained steadfast through it all. He is not only a great son and hiking partner, but a young man of great character, and a good friend. Backpacking is hard, but the rewarding feeling, the conversations, and the memories make it all worth it.