Day 153: mile 2434.7 to mile 2456.7

9.15.18. 22 miles.

Well, this morning was... messy. I’ll just say this: the thing that everyone jokes about happening that makes you a “real thru-hiker” happened to me this morning. I’ve had some very close calls over the course of the trail, but it officially happened today. *if you know, you know* Afterwards, I sat in my tent, already feeling pretty defeated for the day.

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I started the day finishing the climb I began last night. It was partly cloudy and I was getting warm towards the top. After the ascent, there was a long descent to a rocky creek crossing. From there, the trail went up steeply for a bit, then leveled out for a few miles, then climbed steeply up again. I had my lunch break by Deception Lakes. Very pretty. I again made hot ramen which has been a treat! The weather was iffy all afternoon, threatening to rain. I put my rain jacket on after lunch just in case. I finished the rest of the climb, and then had a shorter descent before steeply climbing again.

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At the bottom of the descent, I saw Estes down the trail facing me, madly waving his arms, trying to get my attention. I immediately stopped and he called out “Bear!” I hesitantly took a few steps forward since I couldn’t see where he was indicating. Then I saw this massive, beautiful black bear, that was mostly black in color with some brown fur around her neck and face. She was staring at Estes before turning around and noticing me. Me and Estes started yelling at each other to make the bear retreat, which sort of worked. I continued down the trail, loudly speaking to the bear, who actually perched up on her hind legs to watch me walk off. We turned around and watched her retreat back into the bushes & Estes told me he saw her with cubs, who ran up into the trees, but she stayed on the ground, en guard. Estes saw me coming in my bright rain jacket and stuck around to warn me. Thanks Estes! I was completely engrossed in my audiobook at the time, which was Hour of the Land by Terry Tempest Williams, and she had just described a bear encounter on the recording! How fitting!

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Estes and I were walking the same pace mostly, me lingering about 100 ft behind. There was a little more up & down to go, and we ran into quite a few weekenders on our way to the lake where we wanted to camp, Mig Lake. I originally intended on going a little further, but the rain was starting to pick up and I wanted to be warm in my tent, and not hiking until dark like yesterday. I’m still 7.5 miles from the road, but I’ll be there in the morning. I’m super excited because Will & Angel are meeting me tomorrow and it’s going to be great! We’re going to go into Leavenworth.