7 surprises from my section hike
In May, I hiked Section A. I researched my trip deeply – at one point even pushing the patient Zog to say, “Damn you ask a lot of questions!” Despite my love of planning, I kind of enjoy it when things surprise me. I like being taken off guard because it’s interesting and fun.
So that leads me to this post outlining, in no particular order:
7 things that surprised me on my section hike
1. I was creatively quiet
Y’all, I like to talk. I was always the kid whose desk got moved, pulled up right next to the teacher’s desk where I would immediately begin talking to her. I had some thought about keeping a vlog, or at the very least journaling what happened, and taking high quality images.
Once on trail, I was so humbled by the depth of learning, the beauty of what was around me, the absorption of trail culture, and the physical demands – I had nothing of value to offer in the face of that. I felt honored to be given the opportunity and opened my ears wide to hear what the desert had to say.
2. It was hard and I was strong
I knew it would take getting out there to figure out just how much I didn’t know. But it still surprised me how hard it was in actuality. And it surprised me how I kept up. We tinkered around 20 mile days from the very start. I was proud of myself. It was hard and I hung in there.
3. I wasn’t scared
Sometimes I’m dumb, and just assume that I can figure out ad hoc solutions to any issues that might arise. As my trip grew closer, I started to finally *think* about the fact that I was about to face real dangers out in the backcountry. This wasn’t car camping. I was gonna be far out there. Rattlesnakes, dehydration, microbial parasites, homocidal maniacs, blisters, werewolves, aliens, skunks, scorpions, mountain lions, hitchhiking, ghosts, just flat out being scared in my tent at night – the list was endless. Death seemed certain, but how would I react? Turns out I didn’t die, and also, I wasn’t afraid. I slept like a baby. Go figure!
4. I didn’t see a rattlesnake
I just thought that was weird. I prepared myself as if it was inevitable, and I never even heard one. I have whatever mental disorder it is where you get disappointed by stuff like that. So it bummed me out a little.
5. I didn’t listen to music
Bubbles was usually too far ahead, but we had a few conversations – Zog and I would fall into long stretches of quiet interspersed with storytelling and philosophy. One time I listened as he and Pencil discovered they had very different political views, which was oddly relaxing and entertaining. I got lost in my thoughts a lot and many times had no thoughts at all. But one common thread – I never listened to the extensive playlist I prepared.
6. I was startled by my own face
I guess I see my face a lot in normal life. When I was out there, I never saw my face for any reason. It was a nice break. When we got to Carmen’s in Julian, I slipped into the bathroom to wash up before going Jurassic Park on my cheeseburger and I scared myself when I saw my face (so I suppose that is an amendment to #3 above). I paused for a moment and looked myself over. I was a dirty hippie, no make-up, sharp cheekbones, mild sunburn on the nose, tough little dusty cookie. Said goodbye and didn’t see me again for another long stretch.
7. I knew some stuff by Warner Springs
Hanging out at the picnic tables, we enjoyed conversation with the other hikers camping outside the community center. One guy was carrying some heavy things and began asking me questions about my pack, my gear, how we approached various tasks. It was my honor to share anything helpful I had learned and it surprised me how much I had absorbed by then. Zog (the Pay It Forward King) gets the credit for that one.
Now, you and I are different. These things were mine – but what about you?
What things surprised you out there on your last trail?
Here’s hoping you never stop being surprised out there.
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