The dirt trail, winding its way through towering trees and across flowing streams, had been taking us up and down all day. At 8.4 km, this was supposed to be our “easy” day before making the more demanding trip up and over the Chilkoot Pass. But it didn’t feel easy for me and I was stopping regularly, resting against boulders that jutted out from the hillside, letting other hikers pass.
My boots felt heavy as I made my way up yet another hill. I felt weak and frustrated and embarrassed and like I was letting Mark down. I felt like all the training and preparations I had done before coming were for nothing.
Tears started to sting my eyes, making it more and more difficult to see where I was going. I tried hard to fight back against the up-welling emotions but sometimes self-doubt and anxiety plow right through you, no matter what you do.
And that’s when the ranger showed up.
Really? We’re 15 kilometers deep into the wilderness and this is the exact moment we come across someone who hikes this trail for a living?
I tried to pull it together, not wanting to look weak in front of the ranger. But my red eyes gave me away. She stopped and asked if I was okay. If there was something wrong with my pack or my boots. No, I said, I was just having a moment. She wasn’t easily convinced and looked questioningly at Mark, as if she wanted him to rat me out and tell her what was really going on. I don’t blame her. I’m sure she was just trying to avoid having to airlift me off the side of the mountain in a few hours.
I didn’t know how to explain to her that any kind of emotion tends to come out of me in the form of tears and sniffles and sobs.
I don’t know if there’s a “no crying in hiking” rule, but if there is, I broke it that day. And I would again in the days to come.
But the “moment” I was having was just that, a moment. The majority of the day was another mind-blowingly beautiful experience.
We had detoured to the Canyon City ruins first thing that morning, crossing the suspension bridge and continuing on until we came across the old relics of the Gold Rush era. An old stove and boiler sat among the trees and weeds, rusting away. I tried to imagine an entire city set up there, complete with a barbershop and saloon, but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it.
The main trail continued on through forest for the rest of the day, winding its way up and down, meeting up with and crossing the river occasionally. The amount of diversity within the forest was astounding. Areas with thick, leafy undergrowth gave way to more open, airy forest where moss covered the ground and occasional bursts of sunlight danced through the tree branches. We didn’t come across anymore bear scat but did see one big-ass paw print.
By the time we reached Sheep Camp I was feeling much better mentally, but physically I was quite exhausted. The trails around camp grew muddy and slippery as a light rain began to fall, foreshadowing what was to come the following day.
We spent most of the evening in the tent, where Mark dozed while I unloaded my worries about the upcoming summit day into my journal, hoping that setting the negative thoughts on paper would clear them from my mind.
Day 2 Trail Stats:
Date: August 10, 2016
Trail Section: Canyon City to Sheep Camp
Total Distance: 8.4 km/5.3 miles
Total Time: 5 hrs; 8:45 am to 1:45 pm
Read about day 3 here.