Crazy sounding honking noises came from each tree nearby my tent last night as the sun went down. Small birds swirled in circles around my tent in the morning, cheeping as they went by me. It was very cold at dawn, but also dry. Even my clothes, which I had worn in the hot spring were dry by morning.
I set off back to town early enough to do a little shopping before breakfast. I really wanted to find a map to help me through Section J. Lenny's map had been so handy. I could not find any maps of the area, however.
I went to a little coffee place to use the Internet and update my journal. I tried to call Tony but was unsuccessful. I met Lenny and Chuck for breakfast, but I was late and they had already eaten. They waited as I ate an omlette.
Chuck let me take a shower in his hotel room. It had been at least 9 days since I had washed my hair. Even when I had swum in the rivers, my hair had stayed dry and so never had gotten clean. It took four applications of shampoo before it was clean.
I started thinking about my options. I really did not want to go back out there. I had had enough. I wanted to enjoy myself and not just endure. I wanted to experience the beauty of nature and not just survive its extremes. I knew I had pushed the upper limits of my abilities and crossed the line a few times, too. I wanted to feel safe. And yet, a part of me was amazed and proud of what I had just come through. The accomplishment felt great. I felt strong and powerful. Nature had thrown a lot of obstacles my way -- some of my deepest fears involve water -- and I had taken them all. I almost wanted to say, bring it on. I wasn't sure which pulled harder at me, the adventure and great stories to tell or the quieter, calmer, more sublime experiences I really prefer.
Whenever it's hard to decide something, sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. So I committed to do nothing today.
As I was sitting in the park I saw two hikers arrive into town. I tried to chase them down, but they disappeared. I figured they would turn up later, and later they did. They turned out to be Rob and Fluffy Puff. They had hiked southbound from Echo Lake through Section J. They told me that it had been mostly covered in snow and that they had spent a lot of time postholing and route-finding and even had gotten off-course by about 5 miles. Elephant Back mountain had been treacherous and frightening. I felt so let down. I did not want to do this anymore. They didn't want to do it anymore either and had come to Bridgeport to rest and figure out what to do next. I told them about our experience in Section I and gave them tips on crossing Falls Creek early before the Tilden Lake outflow in case they were going to continue.
I found Lenny and Chuck at the Pony Expresso and told them about meeting Rob and Fluffy Puff and their experiences in Section J. Chuck looked so let down. Lenny was unfazed.
Chuck mentioned that cellphone service was good from his hotel balcony so I went up there to call Tony. I had a nice talk with him. Then I called my mom. Friends were coming to visit her tomorrow. It seemed like the best thing to do would be to take a bus up to her neck of the woods and visit for a few days. I now had a plan that didn't fill me with dread.
Lenny decided to return to the trail. I said good-bye to him and thanked him for helping me through Section I. I could not have done it without his help. He seemed disappointed I would not be coming with him. He is hard-core, but he needs company, too.
I planned to hike back out to the hot spring for another cheap night under the million stars. But I bumped into Rob on the way and we sat for a while in his hotel's living room. I then realized that if I didn't wash my clothes, I would be very offensive to others on the bus tomorrow. Rob said he'd do my laundry for me since I have nothing proper to wear when my laundry is being done. Since I had nothing to wear, I got a room.
I wasn't sure what I would do after visiting with my mother. But snow would have a chance to melt and days would have a chance to pass. Maybe someone would come out soon with a chainsaw and clear all the deadfall from the section I needed to do between Quincy-LaPorte road and Chester. That section is my last missing piece before I can resume my hike from last year and finish to Canada, weather and conditions permitting. And it's so full of deadfall that it sounds as bad as the snow.
Chuck decided to take the bus tomorrow, too, and try to get to Tahoe. Our group of three through Section I has broken up. It was so good to be with others. I could not have done it without Lenny's snow and route-finding skills and Chuck's moral support. They were my trail magic this section. The trail giving me what I needed just when I needed it.