The poop line begins at 6 am. Inside tent confines the rustle of ziplock baggies being pulled opened is followed by the sound of teeth being brushed. On the stove, a cook pot glistens as water begins to boil and steam floats out the smallest vent. Slow emergence – some faces smiling and others still grouchy. Someone spills their full mocha mug soaking their gloves with a chocolatey smell. Repeat the process of boiling water.
As tents are broken down the last eater of breakfast plucks fallen oatmeal from the dirt and stores the particles in a trash bag. One more water run with liters filled on creek edges shared with marsh marigolds and the tracks of elk.
It is time to go. Switchbacks ascending with changing leads, removing of layers and the clanking of hiking poles. Occasional quick breather breaks silent the heavy breathing. Queries exposed on faces believing they “can’t do this” yet they are “doing this” is a good mental challenge. Just a few more paces when a steady rhythm is found, momentum is gained, the rise is crossed and the view opens for miles upon miles.
What peak is that? is met with a map and compass. Already, each knows the drill. Don’t ask a question you can answer yourself and within moments the map is orientated north and the peak is named. The long break grows hot with the bright sun as hands are filled with yummy snacks and hats are resituated to avoid the glare and burn if skin is exposed.
Stretching up, packs are lifted and buckled. Marker posts dot the landscape – some easy to see and others requiring a shift to the left or right. The corral is empty and deteriorating but here we turn left for a short uphill slog on overgrown trail winding amongst the trees, over trees. Still climbing individuals of the group spread following their own pace and faced with self-challenge.
Another bend in the trail to a meadow sitting exposed with views long into the rolling hillside. A steep descent leads to the water source. As a group, decisions for where to place tents, set the kitchen and an area for the bathroom are discussed and decided. Tasks assigned and as suddenly as it was light it is now dark.
Dinner water is boiling and red food bags hang on a sturdy limb of a tall tree. Carole finally poops as one star is seen. Then clusters of stars. The moon rises in a sea of orange clouds. Rising higher, and higher, just out of reach.
Tents glow with headlamps used to write notes or play a quick game of cards. Snoring increases as giggles decrease. A flutter of wind and then … quiet.