Awaiting Calm of the Trail after Storm of Preparations
I have a countdown app on my phone reminding me exactly how many days until I set out on my attempted thru-hike, which I take a peek at every day. The other day when I looked at the number 19 on that countdown, it hit me that I started it at 136 days.
136 days to think about and acquire gear.
136 days to learn everything there is to learn about the trail.
136 days to save money.
136 days to figure out one single good strong answer to why I’m hiking this.
And now, here I am; now with only 17 days and little progress on any of the above.
It’s not that I haven’t obsessed each and every one of those 136 days about the AT. I have. My friends are so sick of hearing about it. The ads in my Facebook and Google searches are now primarily related to outdoor living. I have every piece of gear I “need” and a little bit of gear that I just want. I’ve learned about bears, flowers, trees, mushrooms, gear, food. An outsider would look in and say “that girl has done her preparations!”
But I don’t feel that way. I feel grossly unprepared. I feel like I’m going to get out there and mess it all up. I feel like if I can’t handle the annoyances of real life, like dealing with customer service phone reps, how in the world am I going to deal with the really tough struggles of the trail?
What once was giddy excitement is now terror and depression and excitement.
Life on the Precipice of Greatness
I’ve been thinking about the idea of life on the precipice of greatness. Even from birth we come into this world painful, and crying, and it hurts the worst just before it doesn’t anymore. Greatness is always just on the other side of a whole lot of pain. The inner wall of the hurricane is the worst part, followed by the eye. Then calmness. Serenity. The saying is “the calm before the storm,” but maybe it should be “the storm before the calm.” We have to experience the pain before we can appreciate the beauty.
I was camping in the Canyonlands in Utah last summer during monsoon season. I was naïve and had no idea what monsoon season really meant. Until I was sitting in my tent with my dog, with the tent being whipped all around us by the torrential wind and rain and only being kept down by the weight of our bodies. I had put massive rocks in each of the four corners of the tent, but the storm laughed at them as they rolled to the center of the tent. Continuous flash flood warnings came through my phone. Sirens rang, like an apocalypse. I thought I was going to die that day.
As the rain began to slow down, I could see a ray of light from inside my tent. It started to get warm. I’ve never been happier to see the sun. I unzipped my tent and stepped out to examine the campsite and reflect on the craziness I had just been through. As the clouds drifted away, a rainbow started to appear. And then another one right under it. I stood in awe and watched these two rainbows materializing right in front of me. I had never seen a double rainbow before, and I felt so close to God and at peace with the universe. That double rainbow was God’s apology.
I’m in the storm right now. I’m a bit depressed. Thinking about how my dog will do without me. Thinking about whether I’ll be able to do this thing, afford this thing, enjoy this thing. My friend who thru-hiked last year tells me this is probably the most terrified I’ll be for the next six months. I believe her, and I do know that the “not knowing” would be much worse. I’m just waiting on my double rainbow. I know it’ll be there. I just have to get on the other side of this storm first.
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