As for this much-needed easy day, it was as advertised. We hiked around 2-3 miles, and it took around three hours because we spent an hour and a half hiking and an hour and a half loafing around. There was a particularly exquisite meadow into which we entered and sat for about an hour. Well worth it. On the trail, I got to enjoy a couple deep conversations with Jamie about all kinds of stuff which was really fun. Hikes are good for that kind of thing.
At the most welcome time of two o'clock, we arrived at the river that we needed to cross in order to get to camp. The previous teams had found a bridge made of logs that past mountain men had constructed. Our camp was at the site of a common horsepacking camp, so people stayed at the site pretty frequently. With our debrief done at 2:30, physical exertion for the day was complete. To celebrate this wonderful reality, a few people and I went down to the creek to wash off. I reveled this 15 minutes of pure joy, acting like a little kid in a pool. After rinsing out as much clothing as possible (yes, the water I squeezed out was brown. That's 18 days with no washer/dryer for ya!), I proceeded to completely submerge myself in the icy cold water via a pushup. There was no recourse but to let out a vociferous "WOOOOO" Ric Flair style after returning to the surface. It was markedly frigid but felt so refreshing. I've come to the conclusion that a cold water dunk is a form of natural rejuvenation that should be used in the frontcountry to fight stress and work related fatigue and all that sillyness of civilization. You can't help but think of just how freakin' cold every inch of your skin is, and then you stop thinking about all that bad stuff. I think that will be my new business post-NOLS. "Ben's Blizzard Baths: Coming to a River Near You".
After the river dunk/shower/natural rejuvenator, we had a class on risk management and then it was time for dinner. This being our last evening meal of the ration, it was time to make a hearty combination of "whatever the hell was left". Eric took the task on with his usual gusto and created a thick mixture of potato pearls, lentils, dried veggies, onions, and cheese that I dubbed "Lunch Lady Mush". It actually tasted pretty good, like mashed potatoes with the flavoring already mixed in. And, more importantly, there was enough for 3 bowls apiece. By the time I was finished consuming my meal like a wolf that hadn't seen food in days, I could barely move. It was wonderful. My stomach hurt for a good 3 hours, my body working overtime to figure out what the hell to do with all of this extra sustenance. Even throwing the frisbee was taxing, as I couldn't do anything but walk slowly to attempt a catch at an off-track throw. Whatever. Totally worth it.
Before going to bed, we gathered as a group for Max's spotlight. During the Q&A, Lily asked a question she had asked many times previously, but the importance of it only registered with me as the sun slowly set behind the peaks in the distance: "What would you do if you couldn't fail?". Think about that for a few seconds. What would you do if you couldn't fail? It's a powerful question, the answer to which I daresay is what most people are actually looking for in life, the thing for which they should start reaching to achieve if they are not already. True, the path to the goal might not be as exciting (or, perhaps the goal wouldn't even be worth it) if you actually knew that failure could not occur. But, to ponder the question for a second is second spent thinking about what you actually
want to do with your life, that superseding reason for waking up to that blaring klaxon in the morning, the purpose of existing. I don't know why, on the 8th or 9th time Lily asked the question, that it hit me like a Randy Johnson fastball, but it did. It was a question I pondered through the trip and still ponder as I write this. I'm convinced that finding the answer to this question and pursuing it with every last breath is the "reason for it all".
An early wake-up with the sun on the docket for the morning, I retreated to bed. But sleep was a long way off, my mind lost in a raging internal debate about the question posed above. Another great, well-lived day.
A midnight bedtime meant a much needed "late" wakeup of 7:30 for both Asante and I. The refreshing feeling of a good sleep was grand, and knowing that a mere 3 mile hike was in the cards did wonders for the spirits. Eric and Avery were kind enough to get up early to make hash browns with Monterrey Jack cheese, and Asante and I took the tent down. By the time we made our way over to the kitchen, they were just about done, and the feast commenced. This was our 2nd-to-last breakfast of the ration. I believe I can speak for myself and the 17 other people that we were all delighted that in just about 24 hours from this time, we'd have a gigantic 11 days worth of food at our hands. I cared not about pack weight, as long as it was food-related. Yes please.