Going over Carson Pass in the morning I got stuck. It was actually the scariest thing that has happened to me on the trip so far. Our shoes were pretty worn out at that point, in fact we had new ones waiting for us in South Lake Tahoe, and so snow has been a bit of a challenge lately. On the way up the pass we had to cross a couple of bigger patches and because it was early morning they were frozen pretty solid. The first one we crossed appeared to have two sets of footsteps kicked into it, one that required a scramble down to it and then back up to the trail on the other side, and one that continued along with the contour of the trail. Greedy and wanting to put in as little effort as possible I took the higher trail, while Kyle scrambled down to the lower one. The upper trail was clearly the path less traveled, and the steps weren’t kicked in very well. The further out onto the snow slope I got the sketchier they were, becoming more and more out-sloped and slick. The snow slope below me was steep and without an ice ax (maybe even with an ice ax) there was no way I was stopping if I slid down it. I would have ended up in a sharp pile of rocks, no doubt hurting. The steps also began to climb gradually as they crossed the snow, which wasn’t a problem as I got myself into the situation; it became a problem when I finally decided I needed to turn around and get myself out. Now I had to try to place my feet on slippery icy out-sloping steps that were also slanting down. Fuck. I managed to make it back to the safety of the trail, but wasted a good fifteen minutes doing so because I was moving at the pace of a snail and placing almost all of my weight on my trekking poles. Thank goodness Cameron fixed them when he was out here so they don’t randomly collapse on me…
The pass wasn’t too bad (other than the snow) and we were soon walking by Frog Lake and crossing the road. The rest of the day was hot but easy and we made it to Echo Summit by one o’clock. We also got an easy hitch and were picked up by this older lady named Grace, who was a regular trail angel, she had just dropped off hikers where the trail crossed the highway. She informed us that she couldn’t take us all the way into town, she was already late delivering a product for work, but if we waited at a grocery store on the outskirts of SLT for a bit she would come back and get us and take us in. We needed to grab some snacks anyway so we agreed. Once we were inside we also decided we needed to grab a sandwich from the deli because they looked phenomenal. They turned out to be even better than they looked and Kyle and I raved about them the whole time we were eating them, sadly looking down at the crumbs littering the wax paper when we were done. The cashier found it side splitting-ly hilarious that I reflexively brushed crumbs out of Kyle’s beard. To us that is just part of life, but I guess it must have looked weird in public.
Grace picked us up and took us into town so we could grab our packages at the outfitters (which is actually a very good little outfitters). Kyle actually gasped with joy when they had Aquamira (we had been out for about two weeks and forced to filter all of our water by hand, which is a pain). Determined to never run out again he stocked us up with two packs and bought a third to mail ahead to Chester, just in case they didn’t have any in town. We then headed to our hotel, laden down in boxes, which quickly became too heavy for our tiny stick arms, causing us to weave all over the sidewalk in pain, groaning under their weight. The hotel was simple but had everything we needed, and was, most importantly, located across the street from a pizza place. The pizza place turned out to have excellent pizza, HBO was playing Everest, and I had picked the side of the bed with the better pillow. It was an fabulous nero.
The next morning we ran a couple of errands and Grace picked us up to take us back to the trail. The drive up to Echo Summit isn’t a super long drive, and on the way in the day before it had been split up into two halves and we hadn’t really gotten to chat deeply with Grace. On the way out it was a different story. One question about her son led to stories about her life and pretty soon all of our eyes were glistening with tears as she told us about her amazing relationship with her husband, who had died too young in a car crash in Africa, immediately after they summited Kilaminjaro together. I was heartbroken for her. When I told her about Kyle and I getting engaged on top of Mount Rainier she gripped my arm and practically pleaded with us to stay together. It was clear she knows how precious finding the right partner can be. When we got out of the car we all hugged and honestly, I just wanted to bring her along with us. Grace, if you are reading this, know that we have been carrying you and your husband in our hearts ever since we met you. Every time you tell someone your story, you become a part of their story, and you travel with them to places you will never go yourself. So share your love and your heartache, it makes everyone’s tapestry richer.