Mile 248 to 266
I wake at 2:00 am. freezing. The forecast was in the high 20s, and I am feeling it. A backpacker’s stomach is like a furnace, you need to stoke it with calories to keep it warm. I reach instinctively under my head for a Snickers log, only to realize the Ursack is tied to a tree. Damn that bear!
I lie there knowing exactly what I have to do, but dreading all that is involved. I need to find a flashlight. I cannot untie the knot without one. I will have to take off my gloves for the same reason. I need to find my shoes. I need to get out of the sleeping bag. If I get up I am going to pee, because I am not getting up again. I order each step in my head. I then execute my military operation with maximum efficiency, minus the normal downed Apache aircraft. Once I have the Ursack open, I even manage to gnaw a huge chunk of parmesan cheese. In the starlit night, I must have looked like Smeagol from Lord of the Rings cooing over his precious. Back in my bag I load the furnace and sleep until 5:30 am, my normal wakeup time.
While making coffee at 6:00 am, I notice a hiker walking down the trail with his wet sleeping bag draped over his shoulder. It is either a strange religious ceremony, or a futile attempt at drying. I pack up my own soaking wet bag, not knowing he is the last person I will see until I meet my sister at the highway 18 trailhead.
The day of walking is a blur, interrupted occasionally by trail magic caches, which offer empty boxes where soda cans once were. Torture. Speaking of torture, I pass by animal cages for retired Hollywood stars from Predators in Action. I push on to Highway 18.
Hold out your hands. Go ahead, do it. If you are like most of us you will find 10 fingers. Now wiggle one of them. That’s how much of the trail I have behind me. When the trail is 2,650 miles, 266 miles is 10%. It is amazing how much and how absolutely little 10% can seem.
At highway 18 I am greeted by my sister and a glorious Arby’s roast beef sandwich. She takes me shopping for resupplies, then whisks me to my parent’s cabin. I shower, do laundry, sort food and eat, and eat, and eat. Can you say pork tenderloin sandwich? Ice cream with sticky hot fudge? How about warm soft bed? Goodnight.