Wednesday, October 7, 2015

PCT 2014, Day 148: Grief and Hope

DAY 148
September 19th, Friday
2485.2ish to 2504.6

We awoke that morning to hear rain still drumming and splatting on our tent, so we used this as an excuse to sleep in. In my mind, it would probably be raining all the way from here to the Canadian border, but that still didn’t give me much motivation to get up and at ‘em. 

Surprisingly, the rain started to let up, so Zach and I used the window of opportunity to leap out and start packing up. The morning was cool and bejeweled with dew, and fat cold drops of water dripped on us from the overhanging pines. Our tent, sleeping bag, backpacks, and all our gear were soaked, and I tried to resign myself to the idea that we’d probably never get them dried out. After all, I felt that we had cheated the weather this long— it would rain from now on.

I don’t like being wet unless I have dry clothes and a hot shower readily to hand, and I had a viscerally unhappy feeling every time I put my soaking pack onto my back. We started up the hill with a moss-draped gully falling away to our left and a mossy bank rising up to our right. Both of us were in a sour mood, and tried not to talk too much to avoid rubbing off on each other.

It was cold and wet as we hiked, but the rain held off, and soon a muted sunlight began falling on the mountains, causing them to start giving off steam. Soon we were hiking among pine trees while a mist rose all about us. It was magical.

Despite the gorgeous landscape, I struggled to keep putting one foot in front of the other. My grandparents were still weighing heavily on my mind: Nonni was going to be gone soon, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Poppi followed soon after. 

I’ll always associate that section of Washington with coming to terms with my grandparents’ deaths. They were both alive at the time, but I had to look at the reality that they soon wouldn’t be with us. In the wet, lonely landscape, God gave me peace about it. They were suffering so much, and soon that suffering would be over.

A song, one of Nonni’s favorite hymns, kept running through my head:

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus
Sing his mercy and his grace
In the mansions bright and blessed
He’s prepared for us a place!

I hummed this as a struggled along, my pants legs getting soaked from brushing against huckleberry leaves, my eyes squinting in the filtered sunlight, my breath steaming, my trekking pole damp in my hand.

When we all get to Heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

Death is sad, but for the Christian it’s just the beginning. I began to feel better, knowing that someday I would see Nonni and Poppi again. My heart ached because it was going to be a long time (Lord willing, a very long time), but I knew that I would.

Humming the hymn, I felt peace returning.

A few months later, my Nonni went home to be with Jesus, and Poppi followed less than two months after her. It broke my heart, but I’m glad that they aren’t suffering anymore. Someday I’ll see them again.

These woods, like much of Washington, were damp and mossy and full of mushrooms and snails— we even saw some mushrooms that were rotting, with new mushrooms growing from the old ones. I thought this was cool, but it creeped Zach out. “I just feel like everything is decaying,” he said. “I feel like I’m getting fungus in my lungs.”

Zach was downright discouraged today. Our feet squished and squelched with every step, and we were both shivering a little. However, the longer we walked, slowly and steadily through the rising steam and through meadows of feathery wildflowers, the more my spirits lifted.

At last we came to a little alpine stream meandering through a swatch of turf, and we saw that some patchy sunlight was showing through the clouds. We decided to stop and take an early supper here and lay our stuff out to dry. We pulled out the tent and shook it, spraying water all over, then laid out our sleeping bag on a rock. We took off our shoes and peeled off our wet socks, standing with chilled bare feet in the grass. I gathered water from the clear stream and picked huckleberries to go with our meal.

After a full, hot meal, we checked our tent and sleeping bag and found that they were a lot drier than before. Our shoes hardly squished when we put them back on. We felt in better spirits now and sped ahead through an alpine area. 

I can’t remember for sure, but it was either this day or the next when we were crossing through a field of huckleberries and saw something we’d hadn’t glimpsed since California. As we waded into the field of fiery-colored bushes, we heard a heavy galloping sound, and looked up to see a mother bear and two dog-sized cubs bounding off toward the trees away to our left. As in California, their cuteness made me want to chase after them, and Zach had to physically grab my arm and drag me away from them before I remembered that these are creatures that can tear your face off. They’re just so darn cute! This was definitely the highlight of the day.

We kept hiking. Huge green mountains rose around us, and a blanket of gray clouds descended lower and lower until they covered the mountaintops. We hiked along dry ridges with the clouds overhead, but the air didn’t feel like rain. We chatted about what we’d do after the trail. We talked about watching Legend of Korra with our friend Amy, and eating pizza, and playing video games in Portland, and going out to Lee’s Chicken with my family. We crossed a mileage marker made out of lichen: 2500.

I looked out at the ranks of mountains and the wide gray sky and the hills all around. I could see for miles upon miles, and the only manmade thing in sight was the thin dirt track of the trail. We were out in the middle of the wilderness, this vast untamed landscape, and we were at home. We were part of it.

“You know,” I told Zach, “it really is incredible to have everything you need on your back.”

Zach agreed. I looked out at the wide landscape as we walked. I had water and food and shelter and clothes on my back; I was more self-sufficient than I had ever been in my life. I felt strong and powerful and connected to the land around me.

We decided to stop for the night at Lake Sally Ann, a crystal-clear body of water that banked up against a cliff. We found an established campsite on shore and pitched our tent, then ate peanut-butter-chocolate-honey wraps for our “fourthmeal.” We were pleased with our mileage today and hoped that we could make good mileage tomorrow as well.

We crawled into the tent and got situated, drifting toward sleep. It was nearly dark when we saw a scurry of movement— a little mouse went crawling over our tent, sniffing for food.

During the night, I stepped out to go to the bathroom, and saw that the clouds had cleared. The sky was pitch black, with stars drifting overhead like distant diamonds.



  1. Beautiful and poignant day and reflective of your mood, feelings, and emotions as you dealt with reality of your grandparents coming to the end of this life and the beginning of their perfect life. Thankful for the hope we share.

  2. Being Christian brings peace but we still miss those we love. Blessings