Looking for an old man named Endurance

Beta, Dailies, Sec I

Day 18: Struggles

Start mile: 2334.1, 7/10/2018

Eventful night indeed – I have never had to use the sleeping bag full zipped like a mummy until tonight – and dressed in layers underneath. It was chillingly cold, decidedly damp and wickedly windy. And with being in a cloud – everything, inside the tent and out, was coated with water – a nightmare for a multinight hiker.

I tried to wait it out by “sleeping” in, but the sun did nothing to warm up the issue – the wind was blowing fiercer than ever. It was frigid as all get out – life at 6,235 ft. Today was going to be a test of endurance.

I got up and got moving in pretty good order, spurred by the uncaring harshness of the environment.

Hitting the trail, the burned out section resumed quickly.

I would remain in it for much of the morning and early afternoon.

Luckily, it only took of few hours to get below the wall of clouds I was in, and the warmth sucking blanket of mist lifted.

Walking through the burned out areas, it was very clear which areas encountered off the chart heat (like above) – enough to incinerate all living things deep into the soil – and which ones were running quickly and “lightly” on the trees. It made me realize the severity of the issue that forest fire repression creates a dangerous buildup of fuel, causing truly devastating fires. Nature has this way of being in balance, and when muck with her, it creates more problems than not.

Take a look at this burnout – it roasted a tree from the inside out, finding a break in the protective bark and then burning wicked inside.

Here is another that had snow on the inside.

These both were large trees, and not the exception in the landscape.

This much burned out and flimsy 100 foot shell of a tree made for an excessive amount of “blow down” on the trail. The trail volunteers will have their work cut off for them for many years. It also slowed the pace of the hike considerably.

My morning reading was on Doris Day and the nature of struggle and endurance. It matched my body and environment. At one point it even began to hail. The trees and plants were struggling to survive as my body struggled for the miles and my mind struggled to understand the role of struggle in character.

So often as a kid, my father would remark on some complaint of mine with “tough it out – it builds character”. Sadly, I realize I have lost the use of that great phrase – and a reality that is paramount. I hope my kids will soon come to shiver when hearing that phrase as much as I did.

I’ve long wondered why some people appear to be strengthen and expanded by suffering or a traumatic event, while others are debilitated and set on a course of life long meekness, victimhood, fragility and/or self pity.

Brooks gave one clue – he states that suffering is a route to character but the suffering must have a cause. Without cause or purpose, suffering leads to “doubt, nihilism and despair”. That cause does not have to be external, but can be even just an internal cause to survive and grow from the suffering. Instead suffering must be in solidarity with others who have suffering. Paul Tillich wrote that people who endure suffering are taken beneath the routine business of life and find they are not who they believed themselves to be.

It’s not a fully convincing argument (all good observations not withstanding) as to why some people are enriched by suffering and others not. I look at childhood struggles and see how many people remain victim to it lifelong, while a rare few rise and are spurred on – but too young to view it with purpose or solidarity.

The trail continued to match my topic of the day with more burn outs – but yet signs of life as if to signify the linkage of suffering to growth.

I also encountered a puzzling phenomenon. On one of the common plants in the area (forgive me, I can’t pull out it’s name yet), ants would swarm its leaves and move around them in a stupor. They weren’t eating the leaves. And each plant had its own species of ant to cover – different yet 100% just that colony. Were they drugged by the plant? Was the colony in trouble from the lack of food with the burn, and they are making their last gasp by planting eggs on the leaves? I couldn’t figure it out.

I soon left my final burn section from last year’s fires and encountered some variety in geology. Also, being further east into the Cascades, the forest here was not quite so rainforest like. The ground layer was measured in inches not feet.

Listening to the discussion of the role of struggle and endurance on the building of character, it brought me full circle to as to why I was here in the first place.

One of the principal reasons why I am on the trail is to test my endurance, to dig the “well” of perseverance so that it can contain more water for handling future unknown sufferings. I’m a big fan in believing these aspects of your character must be exercised and put to the test simply to maintain if not expand them. Daily simplified life feels like the sludge that accumulated behind a dam – an insidious unseen weight filling up your potential energy with small accumulations, such that when the time for power is needed, if you are not careful, you find yourself weak with the weight of years of sludge of simplicity backed up against your dam.

I am on the trail to get more struggle – to combat life with endurance – to clear out some of that sludge – to dig the well of character deeper so that I can contain more strength when adversity strikes.

I eventually reached another highlight of the day – the Mike Ulrich shelter. It was constructed in the wilderness in memory of Mike by a local snowmobile group. It also now serves as a rest stop for PCT hikers. It is a brilliant way to honor the spirit of someone.

Speaking of spiritual, I came across one of those textbook scenes of sunlight filtering through mist. Truly surreal to see it in 3D and shimmering in the motion of the mist:

It only lasted for 30 seconds and I count myself lucky to have captured it in pixels.

I soon came across another burned out section – but from 30 years ago:

It was sadly painfully clear just how long the devastation of the day will last into the future.

When I met a fellow NOBO hiker three days later, she too commented on the realization that the burned sections would take decades to reset.

I found my first cell connection at the top of the burnout and sent a few quick hellos.

I like this next one as it makes me think of a histogram.

The view finally cleared out as the clouds of the past 24 hours took their torment to eastward victims.

Also – a quick shout out to my geologist daughter – the rocks in this section were so blue!

And then ducked down a way further to make camp next to a lovely spring on the edge of a clearcut.

I gave my Achilles’ tendons so much needed icing.

I had the luxury to watch the sunset from my tent …

… and then nodded off to exhausted sleep quickly after. By Fitbit measurement, it was a 20 mile day.

Daily Stats:

  • Beginning mileage: 2334.1
  • Ending mileage: 2351.7
  • Trail Miles completed: 17.6
  • FitBit Steps: 43,903
  • FitBit Miles: 20.71
  • FitBit Flights of Stairs: 179
  • FitBit Calories Burned: 5,761
  • Weather: Cold and misty
  • iPhone Battery: 70%
  • InReach Battery: 10%

  • People Parties Met: 8
  • Confirmed PCT hikers: 5 thru hikers

  • Wakeup: 7:00 am
  • Camp Departure: 9:15 am
  • Camp Arrival: 7:15 pm
  • Sleep Attempted: 9:45 pm
  • Camp Co-Inhabitors: 0
  • Morning Pack rolls: 4

  • Sorest Body Part: Right Calf
  • Highlight of the Day: Doing a 40k step day
  • What did I shed from civilization: Snot crusties
  • Realization of the day: Struggle, to be of value, must have a purpose
  • Trail tidbit I learned today: Camp spoons slowly take on a really nasty smell/taste – soaking it in the spring water overnight.

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