My body is sunburnt, more so than in the desert. Schweppes said it's because we're closer to the sun. Underneath my nose and chin, the skin is peeling from the light reflecting off the snow after hours of walking through it. My shoulders blister. I walk towards the passes in anticipation. The approaches drain your energy, pulling your body towards the ground. On the steep, rocky switchbacks, I tell myself I only have to make it to the next shady spot and then I can stop and breathe. When I make it to that spot, I tell myself there must be a better spot to stop and rest and so I walk on. By the time I finally recognize the spot I would like to sit, the rocky incline usually flattens and I continue on my way.
It's the mile before the pass that my excitement comes to me. I am able to look up, see other hikers slogging up the switchbacks, kicking footholds into the snow. I can see the top, where most often, there is a mound of snow that you must climb up almost vertically. My body is in constant pain, a dull ache that feels natural. I no longer grunt when I hoist my backpack onto my back. I know now that it belongs there, the straps hugging my shoulders, my filled camelback resting in the dip on my lower back. It took five days to make it to VVR, a campground they call a resort that gives you a ferry ride across the lake and a free beer when you walk in the store. When I made it to the spot where the ferry would eventually pick me up, there were four others scattered around the rock outcropping, a couple hunched under their sun umbrellas, a couple others shifting along with the shadows. We all waited four hours, all the while watching as hiker after hiker appeared from the woods. Everyone began to shift as 3pm came around and then a girl said, "There!" She pointed to a speck on the water, all of us squinting, laughing how that could not possibly be the ferry we had been waiting for. Sure enough, a rocking, fourteen foot outboard fishing boat comes skudding up, an older lithe man hopping around the two hikers inside it to keep it from slamming into the rocky shore. Somehow, he managed to fit six of us in there with our bags strapped to the bow. All through the ride, all I could think of was how if we were to tip, thanks to my swimming skills, I would be able to make it to shore and at one point in the ride, I looked to the side of me and noticed a sticker with the recommended weight. I looked around, counted the bags, and came up with a number a few hundred pounds over the weight limit. As long as we hit no waves on the seven mile ride, we would totally be fine.