Afterwards we started navigating towards the gullies. After going over the first couple tiny dips I remarked, "these can't be the gullies that they're talking about, they're way too easy!" And they weren't.
Things went much better from there onwards to Loowit Falls. We passed a bunch of cairns on the Plains of Abraham and each added a rock to the piles to leave our mark. The landscape was incredible looking. Barren land with rocks and clumps of colorful wildflowers littered across the plains. The top of the mountain was encased in fog, so it was easy to forget it existed. We filled up with fresh cold mountain water around mile 9.
We pressed onwards, turned and ended up at Loowit falls and at a raging river otherwise known as Loowit Creek. Up so close to the falls it was pretty darn intense. We went up and down the cliff for 20 minutes looking for a "safe" spot to cross, assuming once we did so we'd pick up the trail on the other side. I've never crossed something with such fast moving water and started to hyperventilate and cry at the prospect. At that point we didn't know we were off trail again, and I pulled my shit together, rock hopped and climbed up out of the riverbed to discover no trail.
We made it to the trail marker, sat down and ate our sandwiches. I was elated to see the trail and sit alongside it. While the trail in the distance was clear and sunny, my emotions and legs were fried. We were already 6 hours in and only 14 miles, but had only made about 12 miles progress on trail. We decided to not let our egos get the best of us and turned around.
Again, more defeat. My warm bed and snuggly kitties sounded so nice, but we still had 10 miles to go back to the car. When out in remote wilderness you have no choice but to keep going. It's how you handle that moment that shows your character. After another mile of feeling weak, tired, grumpy and wanting to never run again with Kevin, I realized I was being an ass. It wasn't helping anything by feeling sorry for myself or directing anger at someone who lives his life more fearlessly than I do. While pushing me past my walls, he still deeply cares about my well being and loves me. He beckoned me over and held me close a few times. I knew my being distant was affecting him, so I chose to snap out of it, asked him to lead us up over the pass and started to feel my spirits lift. I started to really appreciate us being in such an incredible place and being healthy enough to see a place that so many others will never experience. I even had positive thoughts about coming back, once I was stronger and not sick. Oh, and with a real map.
The rain that had picked up around the pass again let up, and we were back on the plains and moving fairly well. The mountain top became a little more visible and the vivid blues and greens from the sky and trees against the mostly tan landscape left me in awe. We laughed and I was able to lighten up about our intense adventurous off trail journey. I could acknowledge I had been terrified and realized I am still so new at these things and that's okay. I grew up hiking, camping, caving, and climbing mountains, but not to the extremes we were pushing yesterday. I'm positive being sick affected me a lot as well.
The entire trek took us about 12 hours, 9 hours moving time, 7,700ft gain via Garmin (which seems a bit high Strava pegs over 1k less). We covered almost 28 miles which seems like snail pace except for when you take in account what happened out there. Kevin was calm and collected, I lost my shit. It helped having him there, but I chose to internally deal with a lot of the emotions I was having. I don't necessarily know if I made the right decision to undertake the journey despite feeling so under the weather, but we both were looking forward to the adventure.
I already have more plans to do things that scare me this summer: things that will continuously humble me. But I want to be emotionally raw. I want to stay acquainted with being slightly uncomfortable, reminded of my vulnerabilities, my smallness, and learn to persevere in my own way. Though, I admit, I desire to experience the sharpness on my own too. (preferably in a slightly more familiar setting though).
I look back on yesterday with gratitude. Sometimes in the moment we are distracted by our internal struggles. (Though of course, I am pretty elated to be home snuggled up with the kitties today, sleeping off this cold and watching a movie.)
I suppose it sounds cliche, but in those emotionally raw moments the normal life bullshit doesn't matter. When we are stripped down and drained we can choose to fill ourselves back up with love and gratitude, or fester in a negative space and shut down opportunities. I choose gratitude. I choose growth.
Finally, I don't really know if it's just selective memory, or sheer stubborn will, but I think I'd like to go back out there before September. I think I'd be okay alone too... which doesn't sound logical at all after everything that I went through. The wilderness reminds me that I am tiny. I am a mere speck. But I'm a speck that wants to finish what I started.