Early Thru-hike Thoughts
179 miles. Day 8.
I’ve been procrastinating with writing this first post because I feel as if I should have something profound and remarkable to write. Over the past week and 180 miles, I wish I could say I’ve had some sort of grand revelation, but that’s not the case.
In fact, most of the time I think about absurd and meaningless things. How many ants would it take to weigh the same as my backpack? Answer is approx 52.5 million (!!!!) in case you were curious too. Sometimes, I dream about being stuck inside a giant, chilled watermelon and having to eat my way out. I repeat monotonous patterns of numbers or different lyrics over and over. (Mainly “I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more….”). Sometimes I verbally cheer myself on (“go Jackie go Jackie go”) in a variety of accents. And every time I see a lizard (about every 10 minutes), I think about that scene from the Parent Trap when one crawls on the evil fiance Meredith’s face. Thank goodness that hadn’t happened to me yet.
Not all of my thoughts are pointless though. I think about my friends and family a lot. And how I’m so darn proud of every one of them. I think about all the recent changes in my life, and sometimes I begin to process them and really reflect… But then I get distracted by a lizard (especially the ones that truly look like mini dinosaurs), and it turns unproductive again.
There is one part of this trail is far from meaningless though: the people. If you ever need to restore your faith in humanity, hit the trail. It seems like people offer up free beers and ice cream treats left and right. Even more, people are great listeners out here. Everyone wants to hear your story and share theirs. I’ve met a 75-year-old man from Hong Kong who had never left China or slept in a tent until a matter of days ago. I’ve meet an Estonian man who designed the LTE modem chip in my phone (and probably yours too). Two guys who just quit their full-time high paying jobs. One guy who tried to make it in Hollywood, but ended up out here instead. A woman who only eats potatoes on trail (potato chips for breakfast and Idahoan potatoes for every other meal). A guy who attempted to hike the whole trail in flip flops. Another guy who funds his trail expenses by washing dishes for different businesses in towns. All in all, I’ve met hikers from 12 different countries already!
So far, I’ve only met 2 solo female hikers. One middle aged woman whose name is Cheryl and was inspired by Cheryl Strayed and her memoir Wild. And another who also just graduated college, also has an ambitious early September deadline and also loves naps. Her name is Caitlin (trail name: Mittens). Turns out we’re hiking soulmates. Over the past five days of our friendship, we’ve already cheered each other on for over 100 miles, shared ramen noodles, attempted to take a nap in a swarm of biting flies together and watched a sunset that made us stop and watch in silence because it was just so beautiful. And we’ve even pooped next to each other. Talk about true friendship.
I guess there is one more thought that isn’t quite pointless: I constantly think about how grateful I am. Grateful to have graduated and made it out here. Grateful for all my family and friends back home who cheer me on and support me so much that it boggles my mind. Grateful to have come out here alone, but met an incredible friend instead. Grateful to watch the sunrise and set everyday. Grateful the desert isn’t as spooky as I thought it would be (it’s actually relatively green and mountainous). Grateful for the people and the hospitality and selflessness I’ve met out here. Grateful for $1.50 box of strawberries I just ate and devoured.
The night before I started my hike, I stayed with a couple of trail angels (SUPER kind people who help out hikers) named Scout and Frodo. They provided us hikers with lots of advice (like to always apologize for your awful stench when you get into a hitch), but one lesson really resonated with me: “Each day, find at least one thing that literally makes you yell for joy.” It’s pretty easy to do that out here. Really, the hardest part seems that there are too many good things to yell about. (Everything except for some massive blisters that almost awarded me the trail name “blister girl”).
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