This…this by far was one of my weirdest hikes yet. If you ever wake up the morning of a hike with the start of a cold and think, “sure, I can do this, I’ll just take some Contac,” DON’T. DO. IT.
Because you will hike all the way to your destination blowing into a handkerchief, only to turn around and hike back out while feeling like your head is now a balloon floating somewhere waaaay above your body, unable to help with trivial things like, say, walking.
Seriously, as fun as that may sound, I really cannot stress enough how much I do not recommend it. Just take the meds and lay around camp eating sandwiches. It might make for a pretty good blog post (at least I’m hoping it does!) but it’s really kind of miserable to experience.
Our hike started just down the hill from the Carson Pass ranger station, at the Meiss Trailhead. This trail, like my last hike, is part of the Pacific Crest Trail. In fact, it is just down the road from the trail we took on my last hike. This is also a trail I have hiked many times before, starting when I was just a little one – my family and I used to take weekend backpack trips to Meiss Meadows in the summers when I was younger. I can remember one hiking trip in which my grandfather joined us and told us stories about when he was a kid, of people he knew, of people he didn’t know, and some I’m pretty sure he just made up, as much to entertain himself as us. He was a great storyteller, and I wish I’d gotten just half of his talent in that respect. He could enthrall even the most stoic person with his tall tales.
It was already warm this morning, despite having been freezing the night before. I shrugged on my pack, sighing at its lightness. I was already regretting not having brought more water. I hoped that the one bottle and the peaches and plums I packed would be enough.
The trail starts out somewhat steeply, but nothing unbearable. It’s relatively shaded by the scattered pine trees, but with more than one large bare patch. Our large group came to a bit of a halt when we reached a large boulder that seemed to be blocking the trail. I forged ahead, pointing out that “you just need to follow the ducks!” as though I were the only real hiker there that day, giving a lesson in the basics. Maybe my lightheadedness started sooner than I realized. We turned to the left and continued on.
Not long after, the trees were just a distant memory, and we were instead surrounded by scrubby little patches of dried sagebrush and mule’s ear. Our trail was dirt and rocks, and it climbed steadily toward an imposing hillside. Across a small ravine, we could see a slash through the dirt, a part of the trail we had yet to walk. I was breathing completely through my mouth at this point, stopping periodically to take a drink but mostly to catch my breath. I was also feeling a dip in blood sugar and swiped a peach from my pack to tide me over. I ate and walked and sighed and sniffed and kept walking.
This was a familiar trail to me, and while it had been a while since I’d last traveled it, I knew we were only just beginning.
The sun beat down on us as we ascended the hillside, coming finally to the top and seeing a broad flat hilltop and a small pond to our left. A duck paddled around and I envied him and his cool resting place. I plunked myself down by a patchy little tree (we had found some trees again!) and drank some more water.
My cousin came bopping up (how did he have so much energy!?) asking why we were stopping. He, after all, had so much energy, why didn’t I? Oh, kid, enjoy it while you can, I wanted to tell him. I wanted to explain that grownups don’t have that kind of energy, that we have to sit and rest even on good days, and that today I wasn’t exactly in tip-top shape, and that while someday he might understand, for now he should just enjoy being so peppy.
What came out instead was more like “uuunnnngh.”
I blew my nose again, then tied my handkerchief back to my pack strap (I had no pockets and needed it easily reachable by this point. Against my better judgement, I stood up and kept walking. We had some mercifully downhill sections coming up, I knew. As we walked across the flat hill, however, we could see a blue shape emerge in front of us. Lake Tahoe was peeking at us from between the mountains. This was always so fascinating to me as a kid, and that hasn’t changed a bit.
Knowing that we had passed one of the hike’s more notable milestones gave me enough motivation to keep going. It didn’t hurt to know that I was in for quite a bit of downhill for a while, either. I wiped my nose, again, and kept moving.
It wasn’t long until we were at our destination. We had reached the cabins, which to me meant simply that I could have an extra long rest. My contac seemed to back off for a moment, and I explored the buildings. Got a few neat pictures, and a good scare from a spider who wasn’t too crazy about my camera being so close to his hiding place.
After we spent some time kicking around the cabins, it was time to get back to our cars. There was a delicious basque dinner waiting for us in town, and a lunch of nectarines and water can leave one a little famished. The uphill hike I faced, however, was made more difficult by the contac’s resurgence with a force I had not yet seen. It was unbelievable. I was certain my face remained expressionless, but my mind wandered and raced through a variety of thoughts, none of which made any sense. I struggled up the hill, taking more and more breaks, and wishing that the old trail was still the jeep road it had once been. I sighed when I saw the little duck pond again, glad for the marker of time and place that let me know how much closer I was to being done.
As I wound my way down the hill, I reveled in the fact that each step carried me closer to the car, to dinner, to burning off the ridiculous medicine that hadn’t even done it’s job to help my symptoms.
But even the most miserable hike is still a hike, and that’s never really such things as a bad one.