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December 7 2023, Captains Creek Hut to Browning Hut:
I loved the luxury of the huts and that they actually provided comfy mattresses to sleep on. It also felt nice to sleep separately again so I could sprawl out like a starfish. I loved having my own space to move around any way I pleased, and most of all, I could masturbate again. I couldn’t believe I actually went a few days without masturbating. Orange was an extremely light sleeper so I didn’t want to take the risk of attempting to get myself off in his tent.
I spontaneously felt I wanted to hike alone today so I told Orange I would meet him at Rocks Hut. The section reminded me of the 100 mile wilderness on the AT, the area that I mostly skipped. I felt I was going to go back and clean up the small leftover sections I missed on the AT this summer since I didn’t have much time to do it after I parted ways with Voodoo.
Today, I thought about Pusher and how I wanted to make amends. I had been feeling that way for quite some time now actually. Once I was in America again, I figured I would find a way to reach out to him and see if he would feel open enough to receive a letter from me. I wanted to apologize for being an immature asshole.
I came across another swinging bridge, one out of multiple throughout the day. I felt my focus suddenly zone into the sound of my breath as I mindfully watched my footing and hand placement along the wire railing.
I kept thinking, What the fuck, this should not be considered safe.
I learned so much from being alone, I came to recognize that every time. There was no one there to watch me if I fell. There was no one to save me if it came down to it. Something about knowing there was someone just around the corner or in my general vicinity took the main excitement away from me. I noticed the way solitude time helped me grow mentally in my day to day life as well. It helped teach my mind that I was capable of surpassing what I considered obstacles with the simplicity of having faith in myself.
Along the climb I ran into Angus, plopped down in the middle of the trail as he said he would be. I took a quick break with him as we cooled down.
Then, I waited for Orange to show up at Rocks Hut so we could take a lunch break. Upon arriving, I got to meet a father and son who were from Australia. They were taking a few weeks to hike SOBO on the TA. I looked down at the young lad’s shoes to find they were coming apart drastically, barely holding together at the seams. He had the soles taped taut with tape, even using some of his tent line straps for further security. They often would come undone if he stepped in mud as it would form a strong suction.
“They couldn’t have broke in a worse section,” he said, “my only option is to push through until we get to civilization.”
Angus showed up and I told him how my tent ripped the night of the thunderstorm. I asked if he knew any good tent brands in NZ that I could invest in, but he said the only ones he had used were American brand ones. Next thing I knew, he was offering me his zpacks tent which he had sitting around at home. He said his sister could ship it out for him. I couldn’t believe it! I was so beyond stoked. I had always wanted to try out their tent but didn’t know if I would resonate with it or not so I never bought it.
“That’ll be a first for ya,” he said, “gettin’ offered and usin’ an American brand tent in New Zealand, ay.”
I had waited for a couple of hours but Orange didn’t show so I left him a note letting him know I loved him and would be pushing on. When I started walking again a dragonfly buzzed beside my left ear for a few seconds then flew away. I looked up and saw it high above me in the tree line.
“Hello, Vadim,” I said.
After some subtle bushwhacking, the views opened up, exposing mountain ridges and blue skies. I appreciated the rocky terrain of the path, helping me feel extra grounded. At the highest peak today I sat on top of a moss rock eating a shortbread cookie, staring at the mountains and laughing out loud into the abyss. The view was rural in the distance. Below in the valley, far ahead of me, I could hear the rushing of a river. My body shook with goosebumps. I felt grateful for feeling happy in that very moment. Joyous for no reason in particular.
Before I got going, something about the path felt off so I went to explore for a bit. Intuition was correct. If I kept going I would’ve accidentally went down the wrong side of the mountain. Eventually, I found a fallen tree with an orange blaze on it and trekked on in the right direction.
I arrived to Browning Hut and ran into Ben who decided he was going to push on to the next one. I apparently decided to call it early. Once he left, I went to bathe in the river and wash the dirt off myself. Then, I got dressed and Angus showed up! He let me know Orange Man was just behind him, having had spotted him up on the mountain ridge just as he was coming down.
People slowly piled in and by the time we knew it, we had a full crowd. We sat to make dinner at the picnic table. Orange and Malcom brought up how there were some swing bridges coming up that were barely holding it together, some of which only had one line to hold onto.
“Why would you guys do that?” I asked, astonished.
“To save money,” both of them said.
We got to talking about Garmin devices and Angus shared that the SOS buttons were free to press in their country. People could call upon the helicopter service whenever they felt they needed it. I couldn’t fathom the striking difference between our countries. In America, I recalled it costing around 50k for such a service.
I ate my last salami and cheese ciabatta bread sandwiches and then out popped another hiker named Queen Elizabeth. He was feeling spunky and excited after a long day of hiking. He began to decompress by taking his shirt off and doing stretches while we continued to eat.
I saw a PCT tag on his bag so we shared trail talk and discovered we happened to know a couple of the same people! He was on a journey to make his own personal calendar year triple crown, which would be to hike the South Island of the TA, then start the AT in February and finish SOBO on the CDT.