Less than an hour later, Ralph and I met Firesox again. She was now camped with a hiker named Saunter and was nursing a sprained ankle. As with Cheerio, she was trying to think positively.
I’ve had enough ankle sprains to know they don’t have to be hike-ending and I wished her the best.
Ralph and I hiked about 30 more minutes before we found a flat campsite partway up a long climb. We were the only hikers there. The location would put us in good position to finish the climb to reach one of the most spectacular sections of trail, the Knife’s Edge.
After setting up our tents, we prepared our dinners. That’s when Ralph proved once again what a good friend he is. He reached into his food bag and pulled out a celebratory beer.
This would be his last night on the trail with me. Tomorrow he will hike the Knife’s Edge with me, then turn back to White Pass. He plans then to meet up with his wife and travel to Seattle and San Francisco.
Later, my thoughts returned to Flawless, Cheerio and Firesox. All three were strong and determined young women who were now struggling with painful injuries. I hated that for them.
I was sure they wondered if it was time to end their hike, or if they should try to push on for at least one more day.
This struggle happens often on the trail. It’s an emotion that’s difficult to recognize at first, or maybe it’s easy for a while to block. You don’t feel it happening, but your intense drive to finish a long-held dream is slowly being chipped away by pain, frustration, and loneliness. Everything is going well, yet your resolve is losing its footing.
Then suddenly you catch yourself falling and questioning whether you can hold on. Can you pull yourself back up, or is your hike still worth the discomfort?
I speak of this from experience. I felt this way more than once on the Appalachian Trail.
I didn’t know it tonight, but I would soon find myself again walking on that unstable ground.