Mile 1284 to 1260
I wake early and pop some Ibuprofen. I slept in the knee brace. I am not sure it helps, but at least my placebo is in place and ready for action. Again no time for coffee, just snacks and go. I climb and cross the railroad tracks. So this is where all that rumbling and whistling was happening throughout the night.
The climb is steep, and full of switchbacks. I start at about 2,000 feet and within 5 miles I am over 6,000 feet. My knee is screaming at me. It is warmer than it has been and there is sweat, and probably tears, streaming down my face. At a saddle I eat a Snickers bar laced with Ibuprofen. It is my new favorite treat. I continue up and over 7,000 feet.
At the top I am rewarded with a more gentle tread and meandering elevations. The views back towards Belden are amazing, but not as amazing as the views the other direction.
I am walking along high bluffs, looking down on a series of tree lined lakes. I almost forget how much pain I am in. But I don’t. For the first time other than impassable snow, I can understand why people leave the trail.
Since we have 6 days of food for this 140 mile stretch, our goal is 23 miles. Because I am painfully slow today, I do not take many breaks. BLT and Dish Cloth were last seen heading to breakfast in Belden. Klutz and Mountain Goat stop for lunch and to dry gear. In my slow steady pace, I reach the 23 miles first. There is really no good place to set up a tent, but the light drizzle of moisture and the fog of mosquitoes encourage me to do so anyway. I hide in my tent and cook dinner by reaching my arms out under the netting.
Eventually Klutz and Mountain Goat arrive and set up camp. We do not ever see BLT or Dish Cloth. They are probably camped somewhere behind. I take more Ibuprofen and fall asleep.