So, to get back to my rediscovery of the greatness of PB & J...
Last Saturday I took off for a much needed head-clearing adventure with Drake, my 90+lb. Weimeraner. My destination...Crimson Lake in the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness. After stopping for some water and a pee-break (both of us needed it) in Stanley, Idaho I drove 13 miles Northeast on Hwy. 75 and turned off at Sunbeam. A few miles down the road, the pavement turns to packed dirt and gravel and about 8 miles further I reached the ghost town of Bonanza. Another mile on a narrow, bumpy, washed out road brought me to the West Fork trailhead where we were to start the journey.
I had initially planned to backpack up to Crimson Lake (8.5 miles - one way) and stay the night but at the last second changed my mind and decided to make it a long, long day hike. I set off with Drake leading the way with the type of excitement and anticipation that can only be portrayed by a four-legged buddy. We winded through an old burn area where the previously untouched-by-the-sun soil was vibrant with new life. Painted, lush meadows were abundant and the West Fork of the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River flowed alongside the trail within easy reach. Across scree fields, through open meadows and chilly creek crossings the hours passed quickly and pleasantly. With 3 miles to go the going got extremely steep and kept getting steeper. My breathing turned heavy and Drake's pace slowed significantly as he stopped in shady spots to wait for me and rest himself. Time after time, I thought, "It HAS to be just over this ridge" but I knew it was not the case - sometimes I wonder at how easily I can trick my mind. When we finally arrived at the lake we were both exhausted and found a shady area where we could relax and recover.
The view was spectacular and at-once I regretted my decision to not stay the night. In fact, I considered just roughing it (no sleeping bag, no tent) but realized at almost 11,000 feet it would certainly get chilly and Drake does not have a lot of meat on him. In preparation for this trip, I had crafted four peanut butter and jam sandwiches which I consumed most of without a second thought. It has been literally years since I ate pb & j and I had not realized what I was missing. After about an hour I realized it was time to get rolling unless I wanted to finish in the dark - ummm....in bear country? No, thank you.
Now, if you don't know me I will tell you this - I am a climber. I prefer to climb. Did I mention, I love climbing?? Equally as passionately, I hate descending. In the midst of an excruciating climb I always manage to convince myself that I can't wait to go downhill for once and then, I am reminded. But, down we went and my feet hollered at me, “hey! Get us out of these boots!” And I hollered back, “I am moving as fast as you’ll let me!” Yes, I may have been slightly delirious from a combination of heat, slight dehydration, lack of calories, and 17 miles of hiking. Eight hours (7:45 to be exact) from when I began the hike, I finished it. Shaky legged and weary but satisfied, I made quick work of getting Drake fed and watered up after which he collapsed in the back seat with an extremely dramatic series of groans.
After chugging almost a full gallon of water, I drove about 7 miles down the road to set up camp at a site I had spotted on the way up – next to a creek, under a huge mass of fir trees. It was 8:45 pm and I was shutting down rapidly. I barely had the tent up before Drake was in it – passed out. I envied him. The thought of skipping dinner momentarily crossed my mind as my sleeping bag unfurled but some semblance of sanity remained and I trudge up the hillside to gather firewood. As soon as hot coals began to form I opened a can of veggie chilly into them and waited for it to warm. Becoming impatient, I scarfed it down luke warm and spread the coals until a faint amber glow remained. A quick teeth brushing and wash in the creek and I was asleep next to Drake. We slept until 10:30 the next morning.
The next morning I took my time making breakfast and drinking my cowboy coffee. As I sat staring at the bubbling creek I felt refreshed – too soon to be sore – and balanced. Alone with my thoughts, my goals became more clear and I felt rejuvenated for the months ahead. In particular, my thoughts turned to my goals for running; first, regaining some specific fitness, next renewing my passion for racing, finally reaching my ultimate goal of qualifying for the Olympic Trials. The over-arching goal felt achievable and I anticipated the work with excitement. On the drive home I finished the remaining pb & j sandwich and thought, “what a perfect balance.”