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December 15 2023, Travers River Stealth Site to West Sabine Hut:
Today I felt inspired to walk alone until John Tait Hut where I would meet up with Orange. There, I ran into Ben who was filling out the intentions book and reading through other peoples notes. Orange showed up shortly after me. We ate some snacks then as we left the hut, we looked up at the clouds and were tripped out! They looked like disc shaped UFO’s!
Orange spoke to Ben through the cracked window of the hut. “Ben, you gotta check out these clouds, mate!”
Ben ran to the window and with his mouth agape goes, “Woah.”
It was so cute watching his amazement! He reminded me of a little boy in complete awe of the world.
It was a really rough day for me mentally. I felt heavy in thought and in my body. Orange took us on a detour to a waterfall which was a steep descent off the trail.
“It’s worth it,” he said.
At that point in time, I felt a feeling sense of overwhelm override me. I was starting to do the math in my head as I compared myself to how fast everyone else was hiking. We had planned a pretty big mileage day today and every little side track, each root/rock and blob of mud that required me take an extra step or hop felt as if it made me experience a loss of energy.
As we were sitting at this waterfall overlook, I began crying. I noticed the way I followed myself down the train of thoughts, really convincing myself there was a problem. It was funny really, I was in New Zealand sitting in front of the most stunning view and I couldn’t really see it for what it was. I couldn’t really feel it the way it was intended to be felt. When I was down, the whole world came down with me. Inevitably, the pain in my mind would reflect a dull image.
“Are you okay?” Orange asked.
I shook my head ‘no’ as a tear rolled from the left corner of my eye.
He sat beside me and I scooted closer, leaning my head on his shoulder as I let it out.
“It seems I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself right now,” I said. “I’m really beating myself up because I’m used to doing high mile days and I’m feeling as if I can’t today and as if it’s requiring so much more energy.”
Orange laughed and interrupted, “Yeah, this isn’t a regular trail, everyone’s mileage goes down a lot here. You’re not alone.”
“And I’m feeling overwhelmed that we won’t make it over the pass in time and then the rain is going to come and we’ll be screwed,” I said.
He smiled and said, “It’ll be an adventure.”
“I don’t have enough food to take a bunch of zeros in the huts,” I continued.
“You can eat all my food and I’ll starve to death,” he soothed.
I loved how he was so calm in the moment of my experiencing panic. He was stable and showed me through his energy that all would be okay and that there was no need to worry or make up fearful stories.
A girl came strolling down to us as Orange had his arm around my waist. She was so chipper and full of energy and for a moment I felt annoyance and jealousy for not being able to meet her where she was at. Her name was Mountain Ninja. She chatted us up for a bit, trying to figure out what our plan was for the upcoming storm. We told her it was pretty lose for us and that we were going to figure it out along the way.
We got up and got going. I still felt super emotional and Orange was very sweet through it all.
“Cry it out if ya have to,” he said.
And so I did. I acted like a complaining cry baby a good portion of the day and felt a lot better. I noticed I felt comparative the same way I did on my first thru, but the reality was that I didn’t see it the way the Big Eye did. I didn’t see that people were always just behind or ahead of me. I found uphills to be very challenging, but downhills were a piece of cake for me. I wouldn’t even break a sweat, no matter the steepness. So, I couldn’t compare myself to other people. We all had our own personal difficulties and trials on trail. In the end, we were all headed to the same place and we would all experience a different kine of mental journey in getting there.
As we were almost connected back to the trail, we saw Ben making his way down to the waterfall. He stopped to chat for a moment and I noticed he had a Garmin attached to his shoulder strap that read: 11:17am. My power numbers from Spirit. I took a breath.
As we continued walking, Orange fell and slipped nearly falling off the trail which helped me to laugh again. I could tell he was happy to see my smile again which went missing for about an hour.
The day only got more intense as the cold rain and winds made their way in. We took a break at the Upper Travers Hut before the steep ascent to summit the Travers Saddle. Ben showed up along with a couple of other NOBO hikers. We all had goosebumps on our hairy legs, sitting hunched over in the cold, knowing it was going to be much worse at the top. We didn’t stay too long as we could see the clouds thickly forming at the summit. We packed up and trekked on.
The views reminded me of trekking through Peru, being in the middle of a bowl with steep, jagged mountains surrounding us and waterfalls cascading down the crevices. The climb was tough and had a false summit. False summits really seemed to piss me off and this one in particular seemed to have several. I was on the verge of screaming and slamming my trekking poles and pulling another temper tantrum. I realized my emotions would often fluctuate all over the place during my moon so I kept that in mind and took a breath.
As we reached the summit, the winds were sharp and cold, the rain even worse on the other side of the valley.
“I want to go down,” I said in a bitter tone.
I felt Orange knew it wasn’t the best time to be perky with me and keep a conversation in the state of mind I was in. I did not feel talkative nor did I want to look up at a shit ass view of being in the clouds, so my sight remained on my feet. I didn’t remember the last time I felt this way on trail.
We descended down the mountain, the wind and rain only becoming worse, so I eventually threw on a rain jacket and my pack cover despite everything already being drenched. I was grunting each time I slipped on a wet rock and every slight twist of the ankle, expressing my fucking annoyance.
Eventually, we made it back down into the tree line and I felt happy again, feeling much more protected.
“From what I remember, there is a steep descent in the trees from here as well,” Orange said.
“Sweet,” I said, “I don’t mind.”
It was true, the descent was brutal, but I was going downhill so I felt I could fly though! My emotions switched as did the dynamics between Orange and I. He was now grunting and taking breaks to shake off the intense jabs occurring in his knees, whereas I was in the zone and trying to uplift the mood.
“How do your legs feel?” he asked me.
“Great!” I said.
He gave me the ‘what the fuck’ look.
He took a large step down, using a root for a grip, letting out a loud groan while doing so. He sounded like an old man walking down a flight of stairs. He slipped and fell and I started laughing my ass off. I found so much humor in slapstick comedy.
“Glad you’re enjoyin’ yourself,” he said.
I found myself laughing again because I could see the power play of the ego and how it hooked me so well. Most importantly, that I let it. The truth was, most people out on trail today were having a super shit time. Most people were hiking alone in the cold, wet rain and it was very challenging mentally. Crying about it, once again, had shown me that it wouldn’t change the circumstance itself. I had no control over the weather conditions, but I could choose to pray for peace of mind.
I also better understood the phrase “don’t quit on a bad day.” It was so rare that there were days that truly tested everything in my mind to the point where I just wanted to scream, so it would be silly to quit because of one shit day out of a thousand great ones. Plus, I guaranteed I would look back on this day when I was in some warm secure place in the future, wishing to be back in the mountains experiencing exactly what I did today.
We made it to West Sabine Hut. It truly felt like home each time we walked upon the sight of a hut. I expected there to be a full house, however Mountain Ninja was the only one there. I was so happy to see her and she was so happy to see us! She was making herself dinner.
We we dropped our packs and Orange made us a fire right away to heat the place up. We hung all of our gear and clothing to dry. Shortly after, Ben showed up! I ran up to open the door and greet him.
“I was just thinking about you and then I look up and see you strolling by!” I exclaimed.
“Oh god, I’m so happy to see you guys,” he said out of breath, visibly wet and cold.
“It’s only us here tonight,” I said.
“Oh what?! Wow,” he said in relief. “I was having nightmares thinking I was going to walk in here and see a table of 20 people.”
I laughed and said, “I had the same nightmare.”
So, we all sat around the table together, joining in our shared misery of the day as we opened up about our own personal difficulties from today. Everyone was defeated.
We attempted to plan what we wanted to do. Ben and Mountain Goat only packed 4-5 days max of food whereas Orange and I packed 7-9 days just in case we were going to take zeros in the huts. So, their only option was to make it over the next pass in dangerous weather or turn around and hike back to St Arnaud, which would still require going over the pass again in even shittier weather than today.
I offered some of my food in case they needed it and we all decided we would simply wake up tomorrow and feel it out. We would either take a couple of zero days or hike together as a group over the pass.
Orange made us some grilled cheese biscuits which were so fucking good and much needed after a day like today. At first he fried them over his propane stove, then he tried it over the fireplace which took way too long, finally he fried it over the fireplace but in his giant cook pot. He put a pool of butter on the bottom and threw a bunch of biscuits with cheese in it which cooked to beyond perfection. I felt so grateful and couldn’t even stomach the full amount. My body communicated it had enough.
So, Mountain Ninja began to communicate how she had a very difficult day on trail a few days back. She began describing the boulder with the dangerous river below it which was the same one that Orange and I struggled to traverse.
“Finally!” I yelled, “somebody finally knows what we were talking about!”
We had brought up this trail obstacle to numerous hikers and nobody knew what the fuck we were talking about. People would just make jokes saying that we must have not been on the trail. Mountain Ninja had the same experience with people not knowing what she was talking about.
Anyways, she also had a near death experience in the same spot but her situation was much worse. She had taken her pack off which ended up falling down the crevice where Orange had slipped. She had to descend all the way to the bottom to retrieve it where it was floating in the river! She said she was shaking from how scared she was, knowing she had to climb back up the same way she came down.
“It’s such a blessing that you guys came here today,” she voiced.
I knew exactly what she was feeling—that sense of safety in people after facing extremely challenging days.
After eating and reading my porn book some, I was unable to keep my eyes open anymore so called it a night. Before I knew it, I knocked out and fell into a deep slumber.