It’s tough not think about how small and inconsequential you are when you’re alone and exposed in the mountains. The scale of the environment is sometimes difficult to comprehend. I can only imagine what it must be like in the greater ranges. The feeling is particularly salient on a mountain like St. Helens that not too long ago was the exemplar of a conical mountain peak as Hood is today, but then exploded with the force of several megaton nuclear bombs. As I was crossing the breach yesterday running through Pumice Plains the thought occurred to me — I’m just a guest here; literally, on this planet…just a guest.
When I was driving out to Cougar, WA on Sunday night I caught On Being on NPR. I can’t remember the last time I listened to the radio in the car on a Sunday night — so I’ve never heard the program. There was in interview with Paulo Coehlo, the author of The Alchemist. Apparently it’s a popular book , 300 weeks on the NYT best seller list. The interview was very good and perfect for setting the tone of some reflective time alone in the mountains. In the interview he speaks of a universal question to ask oneself – it sounds strange but is actually quite compelling. The question is, “who am I?”.
As I was descending into the Toutle River drainage and the scale of the landscape became clear and the sublime vantage point looking up to the still intact East side of the mountain afforded me a moment to reflect that I had not seen or spoken to another soul for 3 hours – I asked myself, “who am I?”. My answer:”I don’t know who you are, but you’re a bad ass and lot of fun to hang out with. Now get moving.”
- Beginning before sun up full of hustle.
- Toutle River drainage – wow.
- Plains of Abraham
- The oasis…I could have stayed there for a *long* time.
- The climb between June Lake and Loowit/Ptarmigan intersection ~mile 27. I hate it…but I *love it*. 1000 ft. power hike? Bring it!
- Shooting the shit with Will from Massachusetts when I got back to the Climber’s Bivouac (hadn’t spoken to anyone in about 12 hours). He supplied the bottle opener for my ice cold beer that I brought for afterwards.
- Making the mistake that I could get to the Climber’s Bivouac on the 244 ski trail near Chocolate Falls. It cost me a descent and ascent. There is a massive ridge between the Worm Flows and Monitor Ridge — I forgot about that.
- Second guessing myself in the last 5 miles and considering that I might be lost. I was dehydrated and calorie deprived. It was the only time I got scared and started running through sleeping on the mountain scenarios. It’s easy to start analyzing and re-analyzing into a negative spiral. I was skeert, but I kept moving.
- Descending to June Lake to pump water with 5 miles to go. Another descent and ascent. Sucked.
- Drinking questionable water in Pumice Plain. I filtered it, but it had green stuff floating in it… UV at altitude kills most baddies in water (I read).
- Lava fields … in my nightmares. Some rocks move, others don’t. You won’t know until you step on them.
- 8 Clif shots
- 2 packages Clif blocks
- 2 Pocket Fuels* (chocolate haze, chia goji & honey)
- 1 PBJ
- 6 s-caps (electrolyte caps)
- Water, Tailwind, Nuun
*So at one point I was eating my last Pocket Fuel and sitting in the sun on a big rock overlooking this barren moonscape and I couldn’t get the last bit of almond butter out because of the construction of the packaging (it’s hard plastic and you can’t get your tongue in there). So what does any good monkey do? I grabbed a stick off the ground and used it to scoop out the last bit of nutrition. Epic + primal.
** my watch didn’t record coordinates for the first half of the loop – the SPOT however did record the coordinates and the track. And Garmin connect (not Strava) somehow maintained the total mileage and pace. The elevation gain is why my legs are still sore