We had planned to arrive at the Barr Trail head at 5 a.m. We got there at 5:30 a.m., and not a parking spot in sight on the upper deck area next to the actual trail. I was confident the extra 30 minutes wouldn’t have mattered. People had been there since midnight and slept in their cars. Parking per day at that spot was $5 or $10 a day. Around 6:00 a.m. paid parking down from the Cog Railway Station became available. Overnight parking was $20.
We finally hit the trail around 6:30 a.m. We were off! 3 flights of “stairs” / switchbacks and it quickly became evident; “Every ounce of weight you carry does count”; it was time for a break. There were several breaks. Water weighs quite a bit, and all those other little things you THINK you need you will soon realize you don’t, but it is too late (leave no trace).
We trudged along and came across a newly placed mile marker on the trail; “HEY 1 MILE!” We continued on for what seemed a LONG while, but then there we saw waiting for us another mile marker, but WAIT! It wasn’t a mile marker….. It was a half mile marker….. “REALLY??? It has been like an HOUR!!!!”
We continued on; sipping water. I was never hungry… I just wanted to GO!!! “Drink some water and GO!!!! Sip some water, take a break and GO!!!!” I was feeling pretty good. We made it to the 3 mile mark!!! “Experimental forest straight ahead, Barr Camp; turn left.”
Chugga, chugga. Chugga, chugga. Chug…..ga ch…. ug…. ga……… I need to sit down, for a while…. WHOOP! Clouds started forming above, dark ones, “got to move... but I should rest and eat. No I will eat a little something and walk at the same time. “ I inserted some solid form of nuts and grains into my mouth….. “Dry as rock…. BLEH!” I spit it out, sipped more water. “Go…” Thunder clapped…. “GO!!!! Spread out from one another but GO!!!” And then, ”phew!”. The clouds passed and out came the sun!
“I have got to REST!” We found a log and sat, and sat, and cooked and sat and cooked…. “ugh... let’s get going!” I stood up. I took 10 Steps. BOOM I began to black out. I began to sweat like mad. “I MUST sit down. MORE WATER!” Enter my hero and his mom.
My son showed great compassion and leadership qualities. He walked me back to the log where we had been resting. He took over carrying any extra items I had already been carrying two backpacks. My wife took over carrying some items too and acted as my Water Girl”. But with all that, for me to go on I had to leave something else behind that even though it weighed nothing, MY MODESTY!
Off went the shirt I was down to boots and shorts… Oh those poor people we met on the trail who had to see that! The cost of their therapy to erase that image from their mind will easily burn their insurance deductible. Onward I trudged, dying, stopping every 50 to 100 yards for the next 2 miles. My son provided assistance to sit down and stand up. He patted on me and encouraged me. He even broke out his phone to play “theme music”!
Finally we saw it; one half mile to Barr Camp! “LET’S GO!” I put my shirt back on, my energy was renewed, mentally anyway. “And it should be right around this corner….. OK…. this corner…. OK... OK… Right up this path at the top of this slope…….? The corner after that???”
I felt defeated, tired, and like I was dying. We were down to mere sips of water now. Simon would run ahead and scout and come back with, “It’s just right there”. We press on. I just wanted to sleep. I just wanted to lay down and sIeep.
Barely taking half steps we came to higher than usual ledge. I took the large step up and “WOAH!” I begin to collapse backwards. I slam my trekking poles into the ground ahead of me! I stiffen my body to pull myself forward! With every OUNCE of what little energy was left I managed to right myself. Then POW! My left groin to below my knee CRAMPS, CRAMPS HARD! I began to hyperventilate! “I can’t think how to stretch it…. think… THINK! CONTROL YOUR BREATHING!!!! WORK YOUR WAY TO THAT LOG AND SIT DOWN!!!”
I hobbled to the log. I somehow began to stretch the groin, but simple butterfly stretches weren’t cutting it. I was cramping in other muscles too. “WHERE DID THOSE COME FROM???? What is the counter movement??? Just stretch, control your breathing, just relax…… “ Finally... Finally; the cramping subsided, the breathing was back to normal and we moved on.
Then a VERY LONG soon after there was the first bench outside of Barr Camp! I had seen it so many times in photos and videos…. “AHHHH…” I went to sit one last time before dragging myself across the small bridge and onto the benches outside of the Barr Camp cabin at 3 p.m. I did not even think about the fact that the last time any caloric substance hit my stomach was before 5 a.m. that morning. I foolishly hiked 6 uphill miles over 10 hours with no food.
Moral of this DAY 1: drink and EAT, drink and EAT, drink and EAT, drink and EAT. EVERY 15 to 30 minutes DRINK AND EAT!!!
“Tomorrow we summit.”