Morning broke, as did the blister on my right heel. Determined to begin the day with protected feet, instead of leaving it too late like I had the day before, I began asking people for stuff with which to wrap them up. Andrew had a blister, too, so there was some competition for supplies. Braden, being a good friend of Andrew, offered him his moleskin. Then I hiked up my pants and Braden caught sight of my blister.
"That's disgusting!" he exclaimed. Without a further thought, he reneged on Andrew. "I'm giving it to Carla instead," he said. "She needs it more." Andrew used tent repair tape.
I also claimed a whack more athletic tape from stillnotmybrother!Justin and used a sizable portion of Dad's duct tape. We spent a good deal of time attempting to protect my heels from further destruction. Then I put on my boots. As far as I was concerned, someone was standing behind me with a blow torch aimed at my feet, turning it on every time I tried to slide my heels into place. But I managed nonetheless, hoping to live up to the moniker "Woman of Iron Steel" that I had earned in ballet class years before. Of course, I earned that moniker for never getting blisters to begin with, not for valiantly dealing with them.
At any rate, we set off. Three things happened within the first twenty minutes:
1) I called a company halt, as the prospect of a full day's hiking in my condition was altogether too daunting. Dad and Brianna both offered me a pair of thicker socks to add another layer. I took Bri's.
2) Justin called a company halt because he noticed I was limping. He and his dad, Mike, argued over the best way to tape blisters and then redid my feet with an assortment of various supplies. Meanwhile, Braden took pictures. Clary was probably looking for extra hills to scale.
A person can be the cause of only so many company halts within a twenty minute span before feeling extremely self-conscious. However, everyone was very gracious.
"How are you doing, Carla?" they would take turns asking. "Do you need to stop?"
"You realize," said Brianna, "that we're asking mostly because we want an excuse to pause for a break without admitting we need one."
"We're only feigning concern," said Mike, "because we need to rest ourselves."
"That's what I did when I went hiking with Rachel," said Brianna. "'Hey, Rachel! Let's pause for your asthma,' whenever we went up a hill. I needed it."
"Oh, is that so?" I said.
"Totally," said Mike. "We are just using you."
Plus, I overheard someone saying to someone else that I was a trooper, so that was encouraging. And once my blisters had been dealt with, the morning was actually quite pleasant. We were hiking mostly through alpine meadows, which Braden later referred to as, "The Meadow of Wonders". Every twist, turn, or rise in the path seemed to open up to some new and interesting or beautiful feature.
"Wow," said Bri, noticing this snow drift and creek.
"Wow," I agreed.
Dad didn't even wait to see what we were wowing at. "Picture time," he said.
We broke for lunch at the next campground, then kept going. Andrew, Luke, and Justin took off ahead of us. Apparently Andrew actually ran to keep Luke from catching up. They ended up beating us to the campsite by at least an hour-and-a-half, and that was after they climbed a peak for fun and doubled back part of the distance to search for the cell phone Luke lost in a field of rocks. But this is what happens when the pace for the back group is set by a gimped girl who essentially tip-toes the entire way.
Braden, though perfectly capable of traveling with the crazy trio, got stuck in the very back. By the time he realized how slow I was moving it would have been awkward for him to leap past the crippled girl to join his friends. So he hung out taking pictures and I didn't hear him complain once.
"This is actually kind of nice," he said. "Refreshing. I'm in it mostly for the scenery, anyway."
The scenery may have been as pleasant in the afternoon as in the morning, but I was not appreciative at the time. We covered almost 12 kilometers on this day, but I'm convinced they were all in the afternoon. In my head, the only thought was, "This path just keeps going... and going... and going... and I'm NOT the Energizer Bunny!"
Most of it was uphill, and I had to climb pretty much exclusively on the balls of my feet, because my heels came out of my boots. All of me plus my backpack on just the balls of my feet for an extended time... it wasn't a good scene. Then when we'd go downhill, my toes were squashed because of the multiple socks and it wasn't really much better on the balls of my feet. Not to mention my blisters, of course.
It turns out I wasn't the only one hitting my limit.
"Well," said my dad, exhausted, as we crested hill number six hundred and thirty-seven to see yet another long expanse of rolling hills, "I can see why you'd want to drill holes in your toothbrush."
But we finally made it to the end of the trail. From there we could see our next campsite... way down in the bottom of a valley.
"It's only three hundred metres away," said Mike. Wordlessly, we all slogged onwards.
Fifteen minutes later, I said, "I don't think this is just three hundred metres."
Ten minutes after that, my dad said, "I don't think this is just three hundred metres."
"I think," said Mike, "that the fold in the map made a point eight kilometres look like a point three kilometers."
It was the trail that never ended. And we would have to reclimb it before climbing the purportedly most difficult part of the hike first thing the next morning. I was not a happy camper. When we finally (finally!) stumbled into the campsite, Andrew cheered in welcome. Clary told us to soak our feet in the creek.
Then Andrew said, "Isn't it great to think that you don't have to do that again for another eighteen hours?" He was totally serious. He found that great to think about. I just tried not to cry. Here I am, trying not to cry:
We killed time with a limitless question version of 20 Questions, and fought in front of other backpackers while playing mini-cards. Brianna had tried on the trail to start a game of I Spy, but it went like this:
Brianna: "I spy with my little eye something that is yellow."
Clary: "A flower."
Brianna: "Which flower?"
Clary: "One of them somewhere in this field?"
Clary: "That one?"
Braden: "That one?"
Justin: "That one?"
The game lasted only one round.
So rather than revisit the world of I Spy, we then settled down for the night, again at about eight-thirty. No bears pawed at our tents. No Sasquatches screamed in the night. No helicopters came to my rescue.
And then it was morning.
"In life as in dance: Grace glides on blistered feet." Alice Abrams