Carrying It Up The Mountain – Day 32: Grassy Hollow Visitor Center to Islip Saddle Trailhead

PCT miles: to 386.1
Miles: 15.7

I woke up in the morning to a dream that my brothers, Mark and I were all living in my mother’s house but my mother was dead and we were all half-pretending she wasn’t. I was trying to figure out where everyone should go – should we all move into another house together? Are we going to live separately? But nobody would really talk to me. In the dream I felt deeply sad and frustrated to the point of tears, and I woke up with that feeling in my chest. It dissipated to just a feeling of sadness. 
I walked along the trail slow and heavy until I got cell service and sat down, texting a few people and sending out a blog post. My stomach twisted and I realized I’d need to dig a cat hole – annoying, since I’d been by a perfectly wonderful pit toilet earlier and nothing. I went about my business and I’m starting to think that town food doesn’t quite agree with me, that my body doesn’t know what to do with it. I probably need to be better about eating some fresher foods out here because I’m afraid my body might not be absorbing a ton when I’m in town. 

I keep walking and I hear something huge moving in the bushes next to me. A mountain lion? A deer? A bear? I walk a little and then decide to call out “hey there!”

“Where are you?” A voice responds.

It’s just a lost hiker doing some crazy bushwacking trying to get back to trail. Her name is Leah. She doesn’t have a trail name yet and I suggest “Bushwhacker” – she says she’ll consider it.


I slowly finish the last few miles before the Baden-Powell Trailhead and sit down with a few hikers at a picnic table and eat a little more before heading up the mountain. It’s a steep 4+ mile climb and I can’t tell if I’m breathing heavy because it is strenuous or because it’s steep or both. I’m cursing myself for talking so happily about getting trail legs because I feel like a total newbie climbing this trail, even though I know I’ve done steeper climbs before. 

I stop at the junction for water and Mousetrap and I head with our filters to get some spring water. The trail is short but pretty sketchy in some areas with soft, loose dirt that collapses as we step and makes us think of tumbling hundreds of feet down the mountain side. I’m grateful I spend so much energy trying to put myself in scary heights situations before I came, because I’m not sure I’d be able to handle the moment otherwise. 

With water, I keep continuing up, slow step after slow step. At least it’s shaded, I tell myself. Thank you pine trees. I see Mousetrap having a break so I sit down with him and we chat about non-trail life, the things he did for work, his ex girlfriend. It’s one of the better conversations I’ve had in a while. We get up to keep hiking and my heart grips and as Mousetrap rounds the switchback I stop and start crying. I miss my mom, I’m thinking. I miss her I miss her I miss her.

I let myself cry and try to let go of the weight I’ve been carrying all morning. It’s been heavier than liters of water, my food bag, even the whole pack. It steals my breath more than the altitude. I loved her and she couldn’t stay. It is the hardest fact of my life. Harder than going a week without a shower, harder than walking 12 hours a day, harder than this mountain. And it will be true either way that she is gone. What can I do but carry it with me?

I hear another hiker coming so I round up my tears and get moving again. Soon I’m looking at a snow drift covering the trail. Mousetrap is looking at it, trying to figure out where we’re supposed to go. We find a side trail and take it, and this happens several more times until I look to my left and the mountain is gone and instead I can see for miles. From there it’s only a few minutes to the top.


I sit and have lunch looking out at the view. I think for a moment I might have cell service and I want to FaceTime Mark to share the moment with him but the signal dies. I eat and realize I’m ready to keep moving so I pass Mousetrap and a few others and head down the mountain, but not before asking where everyone is camping. It’s been a hard day and I’m considering only doing 13.5 miles, which would put me at a little trail camp on the mountain, but people are saying they’re going a couple miles past that so I resolve to do the same.

I get to the camp, which is actually a Trailhead parking area near highway 2. There are two hikers there already, Yoav and Dean, who I haven’t met before, but nobody from the group I’ve been hiking with. We chat a little and they say they’re going to do a few more miles, maybe even four, because they heard there’s trail magic ahead. Sloppy Joe’s and soda. And I really don’t want to camp alone, especially near a road. But… I’m pretty tired. 

After 30 minutes of hemming and hawing, I see Mousetrap come down the mountain. He doesn’t know her everyone went either and seems upset – he’s been hiking more consistently with them than I have. We don’t have cell service so we can’t get ahold of them. We suspect they kept going to trail magic, maybe even hitching. But we decide to stay and set up camp, another hiker named Fish Fry joining us. We chat and eat dinner. Around 8 I crawl into my tent.

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3 thoughts on “Carrying It Up The Mountain – Day 32: Grassy Hollow Visitor Center to Islip Saddle Trailhead

  1. Alison Kelly

    Oh honey,

    The grief will become less painful as time goes on. Hang on and remember all the other people who love you, too.

    Like

  2. Elizabeth Frazier

    Yes, my dear neice there are many of us who love you. I’m so glad that you could have a good cry, lighten the load and keep moving.

    Like

  3. Ann Crane

    I am interested in your dreams about your mother. My mother died when I was 32 after deciding to stop dialysis. For about 5 years every dream I had about her was while she was “under a death sentence ” sometimes she seemed fine but I knew her time was short. I still remember waking from the first dream where she was just “mom being mom”. What a relief that was! I asked others about it but no one else described that until you wrote about it. Losing your mother is an unfortunate part of growing up but when you aren’t really grown up yet (I thought I was, at 32, but I really wasn’t) really isn’t fair.
    I am enjoying your journey, thank you for sharing it.
    Ann

    Like

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