July and August 2017
Highlight #1: it rained for 5 days straight. So, I got to spend the first part of my hike asking myself, again and again, why do I choose to do hard things?
Thoughts from day 2: It doesn't rain for every second of the day, but I am wet and cold for every second of the day. I'm cheerful in the morning, unfazed by the drizzles. It's a nice path along the river and then a road along the river and then a path again for a long time. Finally I start climbing steeply, feeling like I must be making progress. It rains harder as I go higher and I have to put my gloves on to keep my hands from freezing. Then a river crossing on a thin log with cows watching. I make it across and climb a bit and see this is not the right way... so I have to go back down and across again, still being watched by cows. And up some more. Then I get shocked by an electric fence that I've climbed through quite clumsily. After more climbing I see that the rain has perhaps turned into snow and the wind blows precipitation into my face causing sharp prickles on my cheek.
My toes have been numb for a while now but my hands start to lose feeling as well. I'm so close to the top when I notice I'm having trouble walking straight. I stop and then stumble again. Altitude? Low blood sugar? This has never happened before. I think my foot is landing in one spot and really it lands 3 inches to the left. I sit down next to a rock in the sideways snow/rain and force myself to eat a bar, then drink some water and then put on more layers. If I stop for more than these few minutes I know I'll become hypothermic. With my fleece sweater and hat now on my body I put on my pack and struggle to clip the waste belt. It takes 4 tries with no feeling in my fingers. I walk and walk and remind myself to slow down so as not to fall over. But I want to move faster to keep warm. But in the end I do it slowly and as soon as I'm over the pass the snow stops. I fumble my downward steps and see that the sun is almost visible behind the clouds. It won't come out though, it's just a tease.
Then comes the excruciating and wonderful pain of the feeling returning to my fingers.
Highlight #2: Sheep
Thoughts from day 3:
It's called the Alpine PASS route - which means I'm to climb at least one pass per day. But not today. No way I'm going back up there! I choose a road walk instead to avoid another snowy pass. But it turns out there are paths the whole way so it's actually quite lovely. I have to double check the maps to make sure this is the way. Oh, Switzerland. You make even a rainy road walk into something beautiful.
So I just walk the paths that follow the river. For some reason I can't stop thinking about how fast the river is moving with all this rain and the story of the woman who just recently died in a Sierra river due to being swept away. I keep imagining myself in the river and what would I do!? At one point I start to imagine my dog in the river, floating helplessly in the rush of white water. And then I have to stop. This is awful. I ban myself from looking at the river and just focus on my feet. And the cows. Why do we have minds that force is to think terrible thoughts over and over again? As if thinking it will somehow prepare me for when it actually happens. But I'd rather it just not actually happen. And it's possible that we manifest our own reality so I better stop with the terrifying river scenarios and think positive thoughts. This is what happens when one walks alone.
Soon the rain has tapered down and I'm hot. I find a spot just inside some trees where there are sheep but no humans. There I stop to change my pants to lighter ones. But the sheep just prances right up to me and despite me explaining that I'm just here to change my pants she keeps approaching. I'm worried she may try to take some of my things strewn about on the damp grass, thinking they are edible. For a moment she stops and stares at me with that peculiar long fluffy face. I realize I have never truly looked a sheep in the eyes until today. How strange and adorable her face is! She refrains from steeling my things and walks past me. Then turns around to report back to her herd.
I feel bad now. I should have been more friendly to the sheep while I had the chance.
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