The Pre-hike Limbo

Took twenty years to grow my teeth
in cul-de-sacs of model molars
coins spilling off the hills
pushed by our losing feet

open a pack of fresh candles
melt them sunshine raw
and gallop on the lakebed
like you love it
like you’ll be buried
and hope for tender ground

the sky will be open, yes
spare as a hawked bone
and I do love beneath it, yes
but damn it
if the cold isn’t under my
fingernails already.

I have been wearing my trail clothes almost every day, vocally because I’m testing them, secretly because I have lost my already meager interest in deciding what to wear in the morning. Good thing merino wool doesn’t smell.

Society is a great dance and I’ve begun to fall out of step. It’s all too easy, really, holed away at my parents’ house in a town I barely know, focused on writing in a dim basement, conspiring to vanish. I even have an excuse to gain some weight as a start against trail atrophy.

Our bags are packed.

I’m thinking I’ll post some poems I write along this journey, so the first is above. This one’s what came from my state of mind the other night, anticipating the trail.

This past weekend I finished the first draft of the novel I’ve been working on for over a year now. This is great news for me, because I was downright terrified that I’d be leaving the project hanging, but turns out I’m right on schedule. Now when I get back in the fall I’ll be set to reread it with pine-fresh eyes. I feel good about that. This also means that we’re going to be starting earlier than expected, and suddenly the trail’s in our faces like a rogue branch.

This week we’ll be going on our shakedown hike, so we’ve got almost all our gear together and packed. Just waiting on a few Amazon shipments. Our packs are each about 30lbs with food, without water. Without food around 22lbs, which is a pretty decent core weight. There’s been a hell of a lot of shopping this past month, a real satanic spree, and I am more than happy to be done with it. Spending money makes me grouchy, it’s a character flaw.

Starting the Appalachian Trail, it turns out, doesn’t feel all that different from moving to a new city. There’s angst, excitement, trepidation, and lots to prepare. The strange difference is how much of an immense privilege it is to get to do this thing. To have the time and the money and the freedom from obligations to disappear into a five-month-long recreational activity is boggling from many perspectives. I have to remind myself that there are a lot worse ways to spend one’s good fortune than to appreciate nature.

My head swirls with questions of what it means to do this hike, what it symbolizes to choose to do it, but in the end it just comes down to states of being. My state will soon be a man in the woods. But until then I am a man in a house. And there is nothing more to it than that.

(Photo by Mimi Zhang)

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