I decide to try a new strategy today. Rather than focus on the big goal — twenty miles, or whatever distant landmark or campsite we have in mind for tonight — I’m going to pick mini-goals, one at a time, of five miles or so. Today, first it’s down down down to get water at Milk Creek. Then it’s up up up for a wonderful break at beautiful glacial Mica Lake. Then it’s up down up down up to the last high point before a long descent. And so on.
The down down down to Milk Creek is nothing to write home about. We leave alpine wonderland early on and switchback through overgrowth. On the bridge over the creek while we filter water, we chat with a couple of former thru-hikers who are circumnavigating Glacier Peak.
Up up up — back to alpine wonderland, and oh my Mica Lake is wonderful. It was the camping destination we didn’t make it to yesterday, but it’s nice to be here midday too — I soak my feet in the cold cold water and we eat snacks and watch marmots climb the rocks nearby. The water is deep and clear and blue, and we hear fish jumping but never see them.
We do hear and see two fighter planes fly overhead, executing crazy banking maneuvers before disappearing behind a mountain. We saw one yesterday, too, actually — it just, you know, didn’t fit into the narrative. They are hugely loud and bizarre and incongruous. The one we saw yesterday sparked a conversation along the lines of “what if something terrible has happened in the world and we just don’t know because we don’t have cell phone signal?” We concluded that the wilderness was probably the best place to be.
I’m still feeling good as we hike towards our next mini-goal. I hear Backup yelp up ahead, and ask if he’s okay. “Just tripped on a root!” That gets “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” stuck in my head (“root root root for the home team,” you know), and I find myself writing a silly thru-hiker version:
Take me out to the trails
Take me ‘way from the crowds
Buy me a nice tent and a backpack
I don’t care if we never go back
Yes we’ll hike hike hike all the whole day
Whatever will be, will be
‘Cause there’s one, two, three states we’ll hike
On the P! C! Teee!
Hey, never said it was a masterpiece.
We’re worried about making miles. What else is new? Backup offers a few new mini-goals. Tent sites we could aim for. Whatever will get us twenty miles today, I tell him. We’ll hike in the dark if we have to.
But some miles later, when dark really is approaching, I am not so keen on hiking in the dark. I mean, I’ve never been very keen on it, but we’re pushing through these huge blueberry thickets, and the trees above are big and dark, and I am desperate to get to camp before dark. I’m navigating blowdowns with grace like never before. My feet are moving fast. I’m even running a bit. I guess panic is a good motivator. We make it at nine o’clock, almost exactly. The woods are dim. I set up the tent furiously. I can’t believe I’m scared of the dark, but there you have it. This thin structure of cuben fiber and mesh will protect me from mountain lions and bogey men. I believe it. Ugh.
But Mica Lake was so beautiful, readers. Mostly, it was a good day.