Today started with an argument.Actually, today started with a beautiful, sunny morning, but the novelty of waking up to warmth and light next to Sapphire Lake, crystalline water surrounded by towering, snow covered mountains, dissolved very quickly once Seth announced to me, wearing his ‘I’m miserable’ face that he feels trapped.
This revelation took place immediately following the discovery that Seth had overlooked a very high mountain pass in his initial summation of our day-to-day mileage plans. He announced this oversight by stating simply, “and then at mile 24 today, we’ll gain a thousand feet to go over Selden Pass…”
A few yards away, I ceased my tooth brushing and was visited by an urgent need to throw something hefty at brother dearest. Of late it seems that I’ve fallen into a recurring nightmare of reaching mile 20 at a 45 degree angle climb to an uncampable area.
Shame on me, really, for not paying closer attention to the maps and resources that might allow me to avoid such situations, as this is certainly not the first time Seth has overlooked, or perhaps “forgotten” to mention information that is much better received in advance and planned for in such a way that passes and high elevation climbs can come early in the day. However, the maps are on his phone, and requesting to view them generally results in a quarrel of its own. Basically, short of dropping dead on the trail, I don’t know that any sort of protestation on my part could convince him to slow his pace further, or alter his course any more than he already has considering my tortoise pace.
But this morning, news of an epic climb at mile 24 with the expectation of making it up and over before dark, and the fresh memory of how difficult it was to come over Muir Pass just a day before – it all seemed too much. Although I was able to restrain myself from lobbing anything at his head, my response to what Seth apparently considered an acceptable and leisurely day rushed out in an angry, obscenity-spotted outburst. The gist, which, I admit, could have been stated much more diplomatically given slightly more forethought, was that no way in hell was I climbing up a pass at mile 24, and that today was going to be 20 miles long, followed by an early-morning climb of Selden Pass with fresh legs the following day.
Cue ‘I’m miserable’ face, along with an onset of very violent, intentionally sloppy tent folding before my second unfiltered outburst of, “why are you being such an asshole right now?”
His response was delivered with the exact angst and defiance that I remember from him as a teenager, stamping away from me, then turning about after he deemed the silence dramatic enough and shooting back, “I just feel so trapped right now! I’m all caged up.”
Overpowering my desire to call him out on his soap-worthy melodramatic performance, frustration and anger boiled up in me. Frustration born of feeling on one hand like the most inadequate wannabe-hiker to ever set foot on a mountain, and on the other hand like I was being held to an unreasonable standard. Who expects to hike 25+ mile days at elevations upwards of 10,000 feet and, well, survive, or even look back fondly on the experience, much less remember anything short of heaving unattractively and striving to put one foot in front of the other fast enough to make miles without keeling over?
Of course none of this inner dialogue, at least intelligible if not logical, translated into my final outburst of, “fuck you! I’m sorry I’m such a fat-ass,” thereby sustaining the tension between us and adding a viable contender to that morning’s game of who could be more pathetically, ineffectively melodramatic.
In a very distant corner of my mind, the separate piece of me that stands watch – arms folded, head cocked or wagging ashamedly – summoned forth a horrifying visual of other hikers we have met on the trail passing by our campsite as we screamed empty words at each other, noting that the pair of us are severely unhinged in the worst of ways, if not embarrassingly comical in our pathos.
Our argument fizzled directly following my ‘fat-ass’ retort, and though I realized that I was angry-hiking through a good portion of the morning; treading more aggressively and dwelling on all the reasons why Seth is a total tyrant (woe-is-me, boo-hoo, etc.), we managed not to revisit our frustrations on each-other, and by lunch, I think we had both given into the relative calm of our surroundings, realizing that we had suddenly entered into some of the most beautiful and enjoyable terrain we had yet encountered.
For his part, Seth didn’t comment again on his disappointment at hiking the mere mortal pace of 20 miles per day, and even demonstrated something I construed as guilt, or as close to remorse as Seth comes, for he ceased his previous habit of hurrying me past potential swimming holes by reminding me of how slow I am, and instead made an effort to point them out to me, saying that we could stop if I really wanted to. For the most part I appreciated the gesture as a peace-keeping tactic, but also acknowledged selfishly that his apparent generosity came only after we started seeing the other hikers we had begun the section with and he realized that I wasn’t the only one affected by the altitude.
After one of our most beautiful days on the trail, we camped just below Selden Pass at Sally Keyes Lake Outlet, another serene locale, after a 21.5 mile day, which can’t really be considered a compromise, as it was the flattest ground close to 20 miles I could find.