Too high to get over, too low to get under

Are those actually song lyrics? I feel like they are, but I can’t for the life of me figure out which song they belong to; it’s turning into one if those brain-melt situations, so if you know, do a girl a favor and put it in the comments! 🤔

It’s also a perfect description of the trail on day 2. But before I get into details, here’s a look at the start of the day, and the first couple of hours, which were quite nice. Of course, in an 8-9 hour day, there’s plenty of time for the situation to erode…

So yeah, I was enjoying the sun and feeling pretty good about the trail – still difficult (like day 1), but maybe I’m starting to adapt to the difficult terrain.  The river crossings also weren’t too bad – we had one with a very large (yay!) log, which had dried out a bit in the sun so wasn’t slippery or scary.  And a second crossing was made on a bridge of logs lashed together with vines of some sort, even with a “handrail” on one side!  So I was feeling pretty good.

Shortly after our little break in the meadow, the clouds converged on our beautiful morning sky. As we re-entered the thick jungle environment after lunch, the terrain deteriorated significantly and we headed up a seemingly-endless, steep embankment.

A trail comprised of tree-root webs

During this part of the hike, the trail runs mostly over spiderwebs of tree roots, so that you’re actually walking several feet above the actual ground.  And “walking” may be a bit of a reach – I was more picking my way through, one arduous step at a time.  Some of those steps were on the roots themselves (slippery – it’s wet in here) and some steps or pole placements were on what I’ll call “foliage bridges.”  These foliage bridges are essentially dirt, leaves, etc that have caught and settled into the space between roots – much like snow bridges over a glacier crevasse.  They make for great steps, when they hold.  More than once, however, I found a pole or a leg plummeting through a weak bridge.  Twice, I wound up with one leg sinking thigh-deep into murky water underneath while my opposite foot still stood on the web above, essentially hanging there at crotch level – not a comfortable position.

And then there are all the fallen trees and logs obstructing the route.  Some actually become part of the trail, as we step up onto them and balance across to the other end.  Others we climb over, and still others we duck underneath – some requiring almost a belly-crawl on the ground to get past.  Why do so many of them seem to be at exactly the height, that neither going over nor going under seems a good choice?

plenty of mud to slide around in and require yanking trapped feet out of

The steepness of the slopes we were clambering over was also demanding, in and of itself.  Many very big steps up and down were putting enormous strain on my legs, as quads and knee ligaments worked hard on the upward steps and then those same tired ligaments were stretched to the maximum on the downwards steps.  Once even beyond the maximum, as I heard a creaking sound and felt a sudden shot of pain in my right knee.  So I try to limit the vertical reach of my steps, clambering over the blankets of roots and testing foliage bridges, pounding my toes into mud walls to build an in between step where there is none, losing my footing and sliding back down the slope, looking for branches and leaves to step on in order to prevent sinking too deeply into the mud.  And this carries on…for hours. And hours.  The third time I plunge through a bridge, I feel the cold water in the hole underneath splash up over my rubber boot and sink into the fabric on my pants above, then I topple sideways and bang my ankle against something hard.  Great – ankle contusion on the left, over-stretched knee ligaments on the right.  And it has started to rain, making everything even more slippery and treacherous.  The tears sting my eyes and I start to quietly sob – in pain, in frustration, in desperation. I am so tired and worn out. Each and every step requires absolute concentration (where do I step, how do I place my foot and maintain balance, is the surface solid, will it be slippery, …?) , we continue to climb steeply upwards, I’m wet and cold and increasingly losing my footing.

So yes, I’m at the point of tears and find myself thinking: Crying…really?!  I continue forward, trying to hide my battle with sobs from Lauren and from our Porter Lead (Dariusz).  I can’t believe I’m crying, but I can’t stop either. So I decide to allow it – with a caveat – and tell myself: ‘Okay, Jaimi: you have 30 seconds to pity yourself and lament the situation. Then you’re going to take a deep breath, get your head together, and push through the rest of this day.

The relief of finally reaching camp 2 was immense.  Covered in mud and exhausted, we wade across the final river and cross the last marshy field over to the tent area.  In an effort to finish the day on a positive note, I remove my muddy pants and pull on some leggings, then retrace my steps to the river to fill my water bottle and wash the pants.  The daughter of one porter woman, a beautiful perhaps 14-year old, ushered me to the river and insisting not only on fetching my drinking water, but also took my pants away and did the washing job for me.  I shared some candies with her and thanked her profusely, beginning to find my smile again as I watched her fly back across the marsh (how DOES she so effortlessly move around and across the water holes?). Dariusz took my soaking wet hiking pants and socks into the porter tent to hang dry in the smoke of the fire, and I crawled into my tent for a cup of much-needed tea. Then rolled out my sleeping mat, unpacked my sleeping bag and got inside – which, except for one short pee break, is where I stayed until morning.