Dawnbreak – Week 5
With my new poles firmly in hand, I set out from Wrightwood eager to make up some time.
According to my updated trip plan, I was now a full week behind schedule inspiring in me a great amount of anxiety.
People talk about the trail as if the six months of the hiking season will last forever. I’ve heard people say “Canada isn’t going anywhere” but in my mind there is a dark counterpoint that always rings like an ominous echo…
“The snows are coming.”
My goal is not just to hike the trail, but to see it finished. There is a special magic and impetus in the idea of seeing the northern terminus and taking those final steps. It fills up my daydreams when the uphills feel soul crushing, or the mornings bitterly cold.
What will it feel like, I wonder, to have come so far only to head home?
After a life full of disparate focus consumed at times by my very real ADHD, there is one all-consuming passion drawing my attention to a laser point.
I need to finish. I have to finish, yet I was already a week behind. One month in, and I was already a week behind.
The trail closure out of Wrightwood gleamed as an opportunity to make up some time and restore my beleaguered schedule. It was also the safer track considering the PCTA advised not to road walk highway two. I did promise my husband not to die on the trail and I’m doing my best not to let him down.
It took two days off my transit time into Acton, but on the other side the trail was overgrown having been closed and ill-maintained up until only a few weeks ago. Rattlesnakes and bushwhacking were constant realities for the next two days, until I arrived at the KOA.
Everything had shifted. I was hiking now with an almost entirely new group of people and it felt foreign and strange. Still, there in Acton I found the same sense of community I had encountered prior as fellow hikers shared communal food. We overate, swapped war stories, and talked about our goals only to pack up the next day, and head out again towards Hiker Town, and Tehachapi.
The LA Aqueduct loomed. We all knew there would be new challenges ahead, and, as if in foreshadow, the climb out of the Acton KOA was brutal in its own right. Just after the completion marker for the PCT, you arc uphill for miles. My legs burned, my heart pounded with all the weight of a fully-loaded pack on the other side of a resupply, and after a span of what felt like hours, I checked my watch to find that 30 minutes had passed.
There was nothing to do but press on. Finally reaching the summit my heart immediately downshifted. For all the effort and strenuous work my sense of exertion vanished and I was left with another sensation rushing in, overwhelming the ebbing emotional void…
Joy soared like a raven in the dawn. The world felt like it was singing as my music played in my ears. I could do nothing but move, and dance in my awkward clumsy way with it, while I picked my way back down the trail, as the chorus echoed in my ears.
All your life you’ve been searching on, but you are right where you belong.
Purpose and intent. Joy and focus. I was on the trail, living the dream, alive in spite of all the trial, challenge, and loss. Regardless of my delays, I was ever moving towards my next goal, my next destination, ticking off by degrees the small victories that would carry me like a building wave towards the terminus I longed for.
Canada awaits, but before I arrive at the finish, there is the journey itself. It is valuable for all its dynamic realism, all of its challenges, emotional and physical giving me an outlet that lets me drown my grief and worries as I face each new day.
This is life on the trail, life in the now. Out here every ugly and beautiful moment is just that, a moment that never comes again.
Somehow even the bad days take on a shine if for no other reason than that I persevered through them.
Standing there looking out over on the trail to come the sun was approaching its noonday peak. For me though, I could not see it as anything other than the break of dawn, and the hope of spring with a long summer waiting just beyond the next horizon.
Onward, towards the farthest star!
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