Sup Jennifer Jennifer Hooper McCarty
Jennifer Jennifer Hooper McCarty
I was feeling better on our departure from Ashland; a proper zero day on my belt, and fresh feet to charge the dusty, lackluster trail toward Crater Lake. I was prepared for 25-mile days back to back, but after an evening stroll out of town with 'Sags,' I found myself already past my mileage on night one. The 'set-up' as I will call it, brought a breakfast at Crater Lake Rim fully with reach, and unleashed the madness for more and more miles.
Day 15 was a nearly a full marathon at 25.5, camping in the duff next to slate-colored lava rock. From there Happy JO told me I was only 60 miles from the rim, with two huge waterless stretches separating us from the end. The animal was born--I used the waterless sections of the Oregon desert to enable us into our first and only 30-mile day of the trip.
We were up at 5:15am on Day 16. Happy JO rolled back the tarp as I taped my toes and heels like every other day so far. We downed our granola and powdered milk, and began the death march --two water stops that day and a guaranteed third only if I made it the full 30. I was already nervous, siked out by my own ridiculous goal-setting. How quickly the thru-hiker mentality returns.
At lunch I downed my last 5-hour energy, and a few espresso beans. Physically I was drained, my legs hanging from my torso like a rag doll, but mentally I had begun to focus on nothing else but the miles. It took me back to ultramarathon days: worn down, thirsty, and in pain, but never losing focus on the finish line. The hours whizzed past, Happy JO and I ceased any talk. We were aiming for the distance and zenned out like two silent monks, unable to even contemplate a meaningful conversation.
At last we arrived at Snow Lakes Trail junction--the sun was just beginning its descent below the mountains. A cool breeze blew over us as we jammed mashed potatoes into our faces. I slept like a rock that night, so tired, so content, so proud by the depth of my mental focus. We were set up to reach the base of Crater Lake by the end of the next day. I could almost smell the bacon...
Song for this section is Metallica's Bleeding Me. "Can't stop to save my soul. I take the leash that's leading me." I'm totally responsible for my physical destruction, but it feels so good to conquer the trail.
Heading for Crater Lake (30 miles away) with nothing stopping me now, but me!