Jon’s Perspective: Before The Hike Part 2
“Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on
Just a perfect day
Problems all left alone
Weekenders on our own
It’s such fun”
From an oft quoted Lou Reed song
Schenectady has a new casino. They built it near the historical district, on a stretch of river bank that lay abandoned for decades due to heavy contamination from the factories that used to be a symbol of progress. They’re building condos there now, the new demonstration of progress. On the casino’s front, emblazoned in large white, capital letters, shouts this phrase
GET OUT and LIVE A LOT
I would like to take this time to thank the Schenectady casino for sharing their inspiring philosophy with the world, because if there is any organization that is invested in having your time well spent you know it’s a casino. It’s very common for old people to mutter in their last moments, just before unexpected confessions, that they wished they’d spent more of their life in casinos, especially Schenectady’s.
The days prior to a thru hike are busy with all the countless logistical details that chew away hours and money faster than I’d rather think about. And I’m not going to write about those logistical details, although, if that’s what you’re looking for I’m sure another hiker blog will have taken the time to break that down. Instead, dear reader, I’d like to tell you of a day that broke the calamitous pace of preparing a thru hike.
For the first time in days, the rain and slate grey clouds dispersed bringing the sun and a warm gentle breeze. Shaina and I met up with Logan and Dennis and decided to take advantage of this brief window of sunshine. Logan and Dennis are two of my best friends who I’ve known since high school. We’ve gone years without seeing each other, but they’re amongst those I’ve kept in close contact with no matter where I end up on this Earth.
A late afternoon brunch was in order so we headed towards a local café on foot. Along the tree lined streets, we darted crisscross up and down throwing a football back and forth, occasionally stalling the slow-moving traffic and destroying an unfortunate tulip or two. At the café, we dined on the patio and joked about the cast of characters lingering on the nearby street corners. With full bellies, we transitioned to an abandoned baseball diamond where we played several rounds of kubb, a Scandinavian game which involves throwing various pieces of wood. It’s awesome, look it up. Logan and Dennis would play dirty, all the while laughing at the various ways I would cuss them out in indignation. We were the personification of a spring day, 30 year old men, and a lovely 25 year old woman, running bare foot, handstands and cartwheels, breathing the oxygen rich, chlorophyll scented air, embracing the familiarity that can only come from knowing a person since childhood.
Dark clouds once again obscured the sun, bringing a sharper wind laced with prickly rain. Logan, Dennis, Shaina, and I, now in a car cruising through Schenectady, the music of “Demure for Sure” thundering out our open windows. At a bowling alley, completely empty except for us four, we filled our bellies with watery beer and bowled wildly inconsistent games. The night concluded with a meal at a local drive in diner near the river, and a session in the sauna at Logan’s.
I’ve had countless hangouts with Logan, Dennis, and others. There is an intimacy to that familiarity which defeats banality, a comfort in dispensing with any sort of plan or purposeful probing conversations, where a day can be enjoyed solely on the playfulness inspired in each other. It allows for something new to felt and shared.
A thru hike can be similar. A routine sets in, a repetitious and sometimes arduous activity dominates the days. Measuring a days’ worth in the miles logged with a focus on how far there is still yet to go can rob a person of noticing that each day provides a new setting with new people to meet. The addictive flow state the body and mind enters on the trail. The acceptance to let the hike take its own shape and allow that something new to be felt and shared. To sweat, struggle, laugh, play and listen to gentle whisper that breathes…
get out and live a lot
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