Thursday, August 9, 2018
Today will be our last day on the SEKI trail. Tomorrow we will meet my mom in Fresno. After that we’ll retell of our travels, and make plans for future trails. But for now we’re in the wild. So, we’ll enjoy every minute as it lasts.
The morning sun turns the tree tops to gold, and I hoist my weight onto trail stained legs. The Roaring River rambled all night long, inspired from the glaciers and snow pack miles away. It’s voice comforts me as I greet the day.
We clear our bear bin locker. Anticipation, excitement, and a touch of melancholy hangs in the morning mist. It’s a familiar feeling.
For a full summary and map, check out our guide to The Big SEKI Loop.
Every hiking trip ends like this. It’s the feeling of contentness and satisfaction. I could keep walking for weeks. I’m one with the rhythm of the trail, in harmony with natures melody. But like every perfect song, the trail too will end. And like every great song, it’s never over when it stops. It remains in your head.
We gently climb to avalanche pass, inching closer to puffy white clouds with little effort. We stop to admire and identify the peaks and ridges within view. According to our map we climbed 2,500 ft, which is hard to believe. We pat ourselves on the back. Good job Rachel. Good job Jon. These chicken legs still got it.
We captured some video along the way for the first time.
As we top out on Avalanche pass, the hillside gently slopes like a globe. The trail turns into fine pebbles and sand, and the trail dissapears. We orient ourselves toward where we believe it must go, and soon we intersect it’s path. When you hike it feels like you leave earth. As the environment changes, you feel like you’re seeing a different world around every corner, to the moon, Mars, and back to an earthside tranquil stream.
Old Man in the Wild
Avalanche pass begins to descend and we spot our first hiker of the day. A scrawny framed man, with a giant backpack, he looks as if he’s hiked for months. Without any words, I know Rachel’s thinking the same thing… Maybe he has.
His immense backpack is balanced out by a front pouch full books and maps. How much weight is this tiny old man carrying?
In a scratchy New Zealand accent, “I don’t use GPS” he roars. “I’ve got maps and guides for everywhere, up north. I’m here for 8 weeks and I plan to rent a car near the end.” His hair crazily flops in the wind, hovering above his head. His skin is sunloved brown. The muscles bulge in his calves, supported by immense hiking boots, and wrapped in thick hiking socks. His biceps round as he grips the straps on his backpack.
Rachel’s looking at him. I can tell she’s thinking it. The gears in her head have connected and are propelling her curiousity. I can tell she’s going to say it before the words announce their presence. Oh no, I think to myself.
“You didn’t by chance lose your backpack a few days ago did you?” Rachel asks.
“No”, he looked suprised. What’s this lady thinking. What a random question. I know exactly what she’s thinking.
We had heard about a nutty old man who lost his backpack near Colby pass and showed up at the roaring river ranger station last week at 3 am looking for help, then disappeared. Obviously this guy kind of fit the bill…
- Old Man
- Alone in the Wild
- Appears to be kind of Nutty
But this guy has two backpacks. Maybe he found his lost one. Or, maybe learned from past experience, got off the trail replaced his pack, and added a backup. But, would the park really let him back in? So many questions fill my head.
Rachel explains the reason for her odd question to the man. He’s bewildered, shocked, and maybe a little offended.
“Lost his backpack?” the masochist with two packs asks frantically. Then with exasperation, “How do you lose your backpack? What the hell?” He continues stammering as he turns and begins hiking off, “Americans are weird….”. We watch him as he wonders way, two sturdy thin sticks trading the load of an enormous backpack. His voice trails off to a murmur, and I hear something about Trump.
Descending Avalanche Pass
On the rest of the trail down we help place several hiking parties in campsites for the night. We run into a couple at sphynx creek. They are heading to roaring river and Colby pass tomorrow. Two men near a sphynx creek tributary ask us about camping on either side of the pass. We joke to them about food and place them in a campsite just below the pass near the creek
Another couple, of unknown European origin, look tired and hot heading up. We place them in a spot near the sphynx creek. All in a day’s work. I wonder if this is what it’s like to be a ranger.
We walk down the longest staircase in the world (probably not), knees aching all along the way, begging for flat ground until we eventually reach bubba creek. Hallelujah! But we’re not done. We cool off in the creek, eat the last of our snacks, Gatorade and electrolytes. Yum. We savor the last stream of our journey. We know we are almost back. Back to civilization, back to society. But still together.
Now, it’s time to finish this off. It’s 4 more miles to roads end, where the trail ends. But when it ends, we’ll still have together. And we’ll have each of these memories to share. More memories with mountains and movement to make.
The path is not too busy on this Thursday afternoon. But there are several parties speaking Spanish, french, and dialects I cannot recognize. There’s little English heard. The trails are calm and that is comforting. After so many days in nature, I was afraid of emerging into the noise of crowds. Too many people now could ruin this last sacred mile.
I can feel the warmth of the sun as it rises from the dusty dry dirt. We are filthy and it is wonderful.
As we pass groups of people, my nose becomes alert. Everyone smells of laundry soap and dryer sheets. They smell of soap used in bathrooms. The smell of synthetic flowers, overengineered as if to specifically offend to the nostrils. I wonder how I smell today. I can smell where they have been. Can they smell my yesterday too? I wonder how I’ll smell in a week. Will I also smell of artificial flowers? I hope not.
We make it to the ranger station at Roads End. We weigh our packs in at about 20 lbs each, and drop off my bear bin. A ranger asks, “are you guys heading in or out?”
“Out” we say.
“Did you guys see a man walking in a black shirt with nothing else?”
Our New Zealand friend flashes through my mind. Two packs, and loads of books and maps. He definitely doesn’t fit the description.
We tell him we have not. “We get a lot of weird people up here” he says slightly rolling his eyes. It’s a behavior that instantly reminds me of my brother-in-law Tom.
We ask about the old man who lost his backpack. These are different individuals. They found the old man, and drove him to his home outside the park in Hanover. He did the same thing last year, the ranger says. He had Alzheimer’s. How cruel time can be to our minds. It’s a reminder to enjoy every moment that we can with those people, places, and acts we love. Part of me hopes to be like the lost traveler one day. If I become lost in my mind maybe it’s best to be lost in the woods as well.
We pop open our rental car, load it up, and grab our food from the bear locker. We switch out our clothes quickly from the trunk. I exchange my stained gray shirt for a comfy tank top. Ahhh… Feels good to be sleeveless.
We sink into our hot seats, turn up the AC, and leave roads end.
Rachel thumbs through serious xm. She finds adolescent Rachel’s favorite, from 1992. It’s Boyz to Men, To the End of the Road.
I crack the sun roof and we drive the curvy hillside to find real food. Maybe a hot dog. Maybe Greek fries. We will see what the road shall bring.
The song goes on.
Prologue: Ribs at the SEKI Lodge
Back in civilization, we celebrate with ribs and root beer. Gluttony has never been more satisfying.
## The End ##