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December 10 2023, Mt Rintoul Hut to Top Wairoa Hut:
I woke up to my moon—deep crimson red between my thighs. I cleaned up and we headed out into the cold rain, being the first ones to leave and start hiking over Purple Top. We told ourselves the sun was going to burn off the clouds which did end up happening, however once we made it over the tree line the wind was so intense I thought it would lift us up and blow us over the ridge.
I felt alive.
I felt free.
Almost as if I wanted the wind to take me.
We caressed the ridges as we walked over sharp, loose rocks. The wind whipped us around as we used our trekking poles for balance while we held onto boulders to keep still. The clouds played with the mountain tops, teasing us in and out of sacred views. Wild mountain goats appeared from slanted mountain faces.
“Now this is what I call backpacking!” I yelled over the wind.
We entered back down into the fairy garden of mossy trees and plump lichen, once again in the safety of the tree line.
Somehow the sense of protection I felt in nature reminded me of the lack of receiving that feeling in my romantic relationships. I started venting to Orange about my taste in men over the years.
“It’s interesting how I seem to keep attracting married/taken people that are in shitty relationships,” I said.
“Ya ever think you just got shit taste in men?” he asked.
“Well, I thought Fox was a good guy,” I said.
Orange had met my last boyfriend on the PCT when he came for a short visit.
“Ha! I could tell right away it was going to be a train wreck,” he said.
I pondered on it. Interesting how when we found ourselves to be in an addictive relationship state with a person, it was as if we became blinded by them and overlooked their negative qualities.
We stopped at an overlook to take a breath and I said, “Maybe I do have a way of romanticizing men. Maybe you’re right, maybe I do have shit taste in men.”
It was okay, I was simply noticing what I was attracted to and why. The trail gave me a lot of time to think. I was ready to acknowledge that maybe the men weren’t the problem. Maybe I was the problem for being shown how they were from the get go and continuing to make an effort to relate with them.
We made a steep descent down the mountain and took a break at a trickling stream to collect water. It had heavy moss and dirt sediments.
“Mm, it tastes earthy and alive,” Orange said.
Then he began telling me about how he paid his coworker $500 to eat a handful of dirt, because for one, the guy needed some money to go to a wedding, and for two, he wanted to use it as an experiment to see if the poisons they were putting into the dirt would effect a human. Turned out, the guy did end up getting really sick and couldn’t go to the wedding.
I sat in the dirt, grabbed a bendy twig and played with a nub of a deadened tree, however to me it felt alive. The energy of it was full of Spirit. I pointed the tip of the twig towards the stump and began to scratch at the bark. As elements of it fell off, it appeared as soft glitters in the wind. It was as if I could see multitudes of colors reflecting back to me. I began laughing to myself and smiling for no apparent reason. It felt I was in a state of play with myself.
“You really are like a child in your nature,” Orange said. “Never lose that part of yourself that looks at the world from those eyes.”
“My friend Aaron used to tell me that, too,” I said as I reminisced of our days traveling on the road.
I felt grateful for being able to view things from a child’s eyes and I noticed the way my imagination would run a lot more wild the less I had technology nearby to distract me. I enjoyed the long hiking stretches with zero civilization, the only entertainment being other hikers and the vast world of nature around me which was actually the true version of television. It was full of life and touch and sensory pleasure.
“I’m so grateful the weather has been so good for us in this section,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, “someone’s looking out for us.
Everything was dandy for a while. I felt grateful to be limber. I felt in high spirits to be walking through roots, mud, rocks and leaves. I felt happy to be alive and well.
We met a northbound German TA hiker and I found myself growing annoyed of talking to him. The cramps were setting in so I started walking and Orange caught up. We were coming down the hill when suddenly I stopped to take a breath and the waterworks came out of nowhere.
“Wanna take a break?” Orange asked.
I nodded my head ‘yes’ and dramatically plopped down into the dirt on my side with my pack still on. I threw my trekking poles to the side, unclipped my pack and watched as it rolled off the trail with my water bottles accidentally slipping out of their holders. I had a vision of myself stabbing the dirt with my trekking poles and screaming. Instead, I sat in a fetal position and cried. I warned Orange that my hormones would fluctuate a lot during my moon.
A couple of minutes later, with a wet face full of after tears, I looked up at him and said, “I feel much better!”
He smiled and asked if I wanted some chocolate to which I nodded my head ‘yes.’ I crawled up to him on all fours, sat beside him and munched on some caramilk squares. Then, I started laughing hysterically for no reason and he looked at me in confusion.
He asked why I was laughing to which I said, “I don’t know.”
“I wish I could just fall on the trail and cry sometimes, too,” he said.
We made it across a swinging bridge and down to Mid Wairoa Hut. From there, we would decide if we would keep pushing on or call it a night. I didn’t plan for my moon to come early so I knew I would be double as hungry, however I didn’t bring enough food to plan for it. The elevation looked pretty chill and we both had some energy still so we decided to keep trekking, figured we would get to the next hut in a couple of hours—double that.
Leaving the hut, we hiked straight up and then Orange told me to expect a lot of creek crossings coming up. We meandered the stream, or “the raging river” as I liked to call it. The trail became intense and technical real fast. The path felt even thinner than a single track. Most of the time we had to lean our body towards the side of the mountain rock face for balance as to not fall off the edge of the cliff numerous times. We had to grab hold of flimsy bushes while we slid down slick mud, trying hard not to interlock our feet between the roots which might cause a fracture.
We used our tippy toes to step in between tree stumps and slippery rocks, constantly making sure we had three points of contact before making the next move. It truly was a fine work of art figuring out the foot placement. Sometimes we would rotate our foot 90° to take a step or do improper body twists as not to slip.
There was one spot in particular that if I were to have been hiking alone, I would’ve turned around and waited until I found someone to hike with. It was a sheer boulder with the next few steps of the path being completely eroded so we had to figure out a way to get across. It didn’t look too promising to get to the other side since it was too far apart to hop over. The boulder was slanted as well so we had to step with our wet shoes on a slippery sleet of rock then grab hold of the tiniest grip of rock slab while hanging backwards over a cliff, taking a trusting step back onto the path.
Before we decided to go through with that, Orange climbed all the way up over the boulder to see if there was a safer way around. Nope. Then, he attempted to sit below the part we had to cross so just in case I fell he would stop me using his weight as a barricade, but that didn’t work either because as he was sitting he lost his grip. The dirt and rocks caused him to start slipping down the cliff. He grabbed hold of a flimsy tree and started crawling his way back up, beet red in the face by the time he made it up. His body bruised and his legs bleeding. I started laughing hysterically, that crazy kine laughter where I was actually scared shitless.
“I don’t want to die today,” I said through clenched teeth.
Eventually, we threw our trekking poles over and Orange made it across safely. He had me take my pack off and hand it to him so I could make it over smoothly, without the weight of my pack tipping me over towards the river.
Both of us were incredibly inspired by Marc-André Leclerc and his alpine/rock climbing expeditions. I especially wanted to be like him, yet as I was holding onto this boulder, (that probably would be meaningless to Marc) I yelled, “I will never be like the Alpinist!”
There hasn’t been any other trail that had brought me this in touch with my breath. I felt as if I was constantly listening to my breath pattern here, focusing attentively when nervousness came over me. There was a sharpness. I loved how I seemed to have this sporadic personality that seemed all over the place, yet when I was experiencing a hike that was extremely challenging and required a lot of focus with solid foot placement, I couldn’t help but drop all of that anxious energy aside and instead become quiet and alert.
We had another challenging section where Orange had to throw his trekking poles over to the other side to descend some boulders safely. We both watched as his one trekking pole accidentally fell over the sheer cliff. We listened as it hit the rocks and tumbled down into the river. For a split second he went to go look and I begged him not to because I felt nervous of him falling in his attempt.
“Think of it as a sacrifice to the river and your previous thru-hike of the trail,” I said.
He agreed and let it go. The trail went back down to the river and Orange spotted his trekking pole.
I saw the look in his eyes and said, “Orange, no. No! You made a sacrifice!“
“I gotta get it,” he said.
“For gods sake no, just let it go,” I said.
He threw his pack off and yelled, “I gotta go get it! It will only be a knee deep crossing! I’ll be okay.”
I had no say. He went across the river. I shook my head in disapproval. He ended up getting it and we pushed on. By the last mile and a half we were definitely feeling it. It felt it took us at least an hour to do one mile. It felt defeating to my ego, but it truly was a very challenging trail. I was genuinely surprised by how more people didn’t summit to their death here.
By the last couple miles, I started to experience some intense anxiety around the water. My legs felt shaky and my mind grew uneasy. The sound of the rushing streams reminded me of the recurring tsunami dreams I had which seemed to bring about even more discomfort. I kept focusing the view on my feet, magnetizing my steps into the dirt and roots along with touching the bark of the trees to feel a bit more grounded. Eventually, I didn’t even look at the water at all. I felt very grateful that Orange was guiding the way and inspiring us both to push on.
We made it to the hut and knocked before entering in case there was someone in there. Turned out our friend Ben was there! It felt so good to reunite and be in a safe hut with protected walls.
Orange and I made ourselves some pasta. Ben was eating using his blister bandage packages as a utensil because he kept losing his spork. He had found a spoon in a hut which he traded for his spork. He lost that one then found another one, then lost that one only to found another one which he lost again. Hence being in the situation of eating with blister bandage packages. Immediately after I ate, I got horizontal and knocked out. That was the best feeling ever—kicking ass so hard all day that by the time I laid down I couldn’t help but fall into a deep, restful sleep.