Walking Johnny Down the Mountain

Had planned to do something big for Black Friday. Had a good day doing Mt Raymond, and felt like drinking to celebrate. My roommate’s girlfriend had some cider we had to drink. So I did my part, a little to well. Like blackout drunk and doing dumb stuff and not remembering any of it. And puking on the living room rug. And on the rug in my room. Mushrooms and carrots. 

On Thanksgiving day, I pretty much slept till five pm. I didn’t want to get up. I could hear my roommate vacuuming the puke. Turns out, he had to get a steam cleaner. When I finally did get up, I had no desire to leave the house. So I binge watched The Office and ate a sandwich. The next morning I felt a million times better. 

Did laundry and finally worked up the courage to clean my rug. The weather was beautiful outside. I felt incredibly guilty for not taking advantage. I turned on some music to get psyched. I got dressed and got out to my car, and kind of sat there for a bit, debating whether I really wanted to go out. There was a winter storm warning that was still in effect. I didn’t want to be fooled by this weather and get up into the mountains and then get stranded or blown off. After waffling for a minute, I decided to go anyway. I could always bail if it looked bad. 

Gorgeous start of the hike. 

Got to the trailhead at 2 pm which is a very late start. It was warm and I felt overdressed. At least a dozen people passed me coming down. I saw a guy that used to work at my store. 

I saw fewer and fewer people. And then I ran into this bird. He was just chilling on the trail. I was surprised that he didn’t run away or freak out. I took out a granola bar and fed him little pieces. He was a little nervous, but he’s probably seen (and been fed by) other people before. I fed him another bit of granola and told him I’d see him later. 

Two minutes later, I see a hiker just standing on the trail. It’s a Chinese guy. He appears to be waiting for someone. I ask him if he’s okay. He was tired and had run out of water. He gave me his bottle and I filled it up halfway or so. He said his phone was at 15%, so I lent him my charger.

We started hiking and a minute later, this other Chinese runner guy comes down the hill. “Here Johnny. This is for you.” and the guy gives Johnny a bottled water. I assumed they must know each other and was confused. This guy left his friend behind?? 

Then the runner guy, Wan Ho, wants to get a picture of the three of us. He does, and then he heads down. I ask “You’re leaving him?” He says, “Yeah, I gotta get down before the storm gets here.” Right, that Winter Storm Warning…

Screenshot of Wan Ho’s Strava image. 

Turns out, Wan Ho had just met Johnny on the way up. Wan Ho was just doing his own hike and Johnny was moving too slow. So Wan Ho went to the summit and was going back down. They weren’t friends, they just happened to both be Chinese. 

Johnny and I continued upward toward the saddle. I wanted him to see it since he was so close. He seemed kind of out of it, but he told me he had just flown in from Buffalo, New York on Wednesday. He failed to earn two different degrees at school, and was too ashamed to go back home for Thanksgiving because of his super traditional parents. He had been hiking the last few days to clear his mind. He was leaving tonight at midnight. 

I had no idea what to say about this. I terrible at it but I tried to make small talk. I asked him what he had in his backpack- a laptop (??) and a book. I told him about the bird on the trail. I sort of let the conversation die. His mind was elsewhere. Add to that the elevation was taking a toll on his lungs, he’d hardly eaten anything all day, and he was slipping and sliding in his shoes. Just not a conducive environment to talking. 

I gave him my poles, but he was still sliding so I took off my microspikes and put them on his shoes. He was able to hike much better. We finally got to the saddle and took a few photos. I made him eat some of my food. 

At the Saddle.
The mountains look great in snow. 
Johnny.

I’m not sure if he thought the view was worth the struggle. We didn’t hang around too long. It was about 4pm by this point, so we didn’t have much sunlight left.

I thought going down would be quicker, but it was just as slow, if not slower, than going uphill. He was very tired and taking very small, slow cautious steps. There was a lot of slushy ice on the trail. I slipped a few times, but just small slips. 

This was actually the first time I saw the bird. 

We got to a spot and there was the bird again! He was still there just chilling! And I think he remembered me. I fed him again, at one point he ate out of my hand. I could tell he associated the sound of the wrapper with the food. I don’t know why, but this little bird made me happy. 

There was a constant, slight rain. I was getting chilled moving at such a slow pace, so I  put on my rain pants and rain jacket. It got progressively darker until it was time for a headlamp. I tried to follow Johnny and light his way with my headlamp, but that didn’t work so well. So I had him wear it. I could see surprisingly well without it.  We crept along ever so slowly. 

One other “exciting” thing was that I discovered my phone now has “Night Sight” for taking photos at night. It’s about damn time, Google!

Usually you can tell you’re getting closer by the traffic. It’s weird what a relief it is to hear traffic. It makes me feel like I’m not in the middle of nowhere, although we were still really far from the trailhead. Then the cars start getting slightly bigger as you get closer. The cars seemed tiny for sooo long. But then we got to the last switchback. Then the last staircase. We made it! I was probably more excited than Johnny was. 

Before I dropped him off at the Air BNB he was staying at, we ate some food at a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. After being out in the dark and cold hiking for a few hours, some hot soup and hot tea were just what we both needed.

Johnny should be just about to get on a plane for Buffalo right about now. 

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