It was full dark by the time we started climbing up to Dockerys Gap. 7:00 was on us and there was no joy in this excursion. We sat around long enough to get cold, so I was bundled up when I began hiking. Kat’s trick is to maintain a steady, mountain grinding pace all the way up. Mine is to stop and pant angrily at every other switchback, staring accusingly in the general direction of the summit where Kat’s headlamp bobs and fades away like a will-o-wisp impossibly far ahead of me.
In five or six years of hiking together, I’ve never heard him complain once. Me, I consider it a sacred form of poetry to be savored and shared. Maybe he took a vow of conditional silence back at that monastery. I knew it was rough, then, when I heard, “Does this climb ever stop?” drift down out of the darkness. I about fell off the trail.
Up and over, down and through. There’s another established camp site near the creek just at the bottom of the hill. (What is up with the fire rings all stacked into knee-high cairns?) We were between mile 9 & 10, I think, and entirely too exhausted to build a fire. It was pure bliss once the hammocks were strung and the boots off. It was already colder than the night before, and I was glad for the extra fleece blanket I threw into my pack at the last minute. I didn’t bother with the rain fly, considering how clear the skies were, and zipped into my mummy bag. I was asleep before the Tylenol could kick in, curled fetal in the middle of my bag and huffing my own stench.
Woke up freezing four hours later around midnight. Pulled my knit cap off of my head and used it to cover my feet. I tied the drip ring too close to the tree and when the temperature dropped, a damp fog rolled in. My hammock was soaked enough to damp the shell of my sleeping bag. Woke up every hour between crazy dreams to change position and try to warm a different part of my body.
Kat’s alarm went off around 4:00 a.m., I thought I heard him call out “Crap!” around 4:20 but I think he was just calling my name. I think.