The wind becomes gentler in the night, but never stops; I’m restless, tossing and turning and waking up even before my alarm goes off. I’m the earliest up in this group, too, sidling out of camp before the others are really moving. I cross the nearby Wolf Creek, and make my way up to the Asa Lake junction.
A short drop, and then a climb – a long one, where another thruhiker passes me. He stayed at Asa Lake last night, and it’s nice to have someone to climb after while I huff uphill.
I cross the fairly-forgettable Ebbetts Pass into the first properly volcanic section just after 9, spires and columns and strange shapes dogging every step. Some dayhikers out for one’s 58th birthday go by, and I hope I’m still hiking at his age.
I see Heatwave on one of the smaller ups, and we chat for quite a bit before I pass her, though she passes me when I stop for lunch at a water source. Lost and Found finally catches me there. He’s been relaxing all day where I’ve been hoofing – no wonder it took him so long to catch me. He sits to eat with me, but I finish first and move on – he’ll catch me, of course, but for the moment I enjoy my solo windy trip further down into volcanoland.
The trail doesn’t really stop going down so much as opens up, showing off its beauty while continuing to push me around in the wind. It’s hard to think, hard to focus, so I don’t – or at least I try not to. I zone out, moving, but listening to the wind.
The trail curves around a ridge and the trail gets sketchy for a moment; the wind threatens to push me off into the abyss a couple of times, which is rude of it, but I try not to take it personally. That only works for so long, though, and by the time I think I’m out of the worst of the wind I’m in a bit of a mood. It melts when I stumble upon this, near a break spot on the side of the trail:
I’m standing there, cooing over the perfect little heart and remembering Sweetheart from Mount Whitney, when Lost and Found comes by, sits to eat, take a break. We talk about the crazy wind, the crazy ridges, how much further we’re going to walk. We’re both looking to make about the same mileage, so we agree to meet at mile 1066.7, sleep off the echo of the wind in our ears. I head out before Lost and Found, but he’ll catch me soon enough.
The wind’s still moving and the trail is facing directly westward, putting the sun in our eyes to boot. I think about the day, in the first hundred miles, when I came up with a thruhiker pantheon, including the two-faced God of West-Facing Slopes; I’m dealing with his Evening aspect all up in my shit this evening, and I’m cranky about it. Not even climbing, up past the road and the precious water running beneath it, lets me escape it for long. Lost and Found passes me while I’m collecting, waves as he hauls his way further up the hill.
I’m concerned that Lost and Found might be gone for good when I run across another hiker, who says he’s just ahead, still planning on camping where we agreed. It’s the only thing that soothes my nerves. There are a couple of campsites all in a row, and sure enough, in the last one, Lost and Found’s about two-thirds of the way through setting up. This site’s more protected than the others we’ve seen, and I cozy my tent into a rad little nook. We laugh about the sun and the wind and the moon, eat together, hope we don’t get blown away together. Today has been strange: dreamy, infuriating, excellent. I hope tomorrow’s weighted the excellent way as I make my way into dreaming proper.