Keeping Pace & Creating Bonds

Written May 26 – 1 Month Into Trail 

I want to write about this right now because it’s fresh and vibrant and real in my mind. In a way that it won’t be at some point. I anticipate that not too long from now, I’ll look back on this time with confusion and distance. I anticipate this because I’ve seen it in more experienced hikers. I’ve seen that ability to just “hike your own hike” as they say, or really just hike miles you want to and find the friends that fit in the places there. But one month in, I have seen and heard a similar song. The song of how many miles do I walk each day? This song of do I hike faster to be with them? Do I hold myself back and hike slower to stay around them? How does the speed at which I go through my day, miles of land that touch the souls of my feet, impact my experience? 


Now, this may seem like overthought ideas, but I do spend all day with my thoughts.

These are some of the thoughts dancing within my head but also echoed as other hikers verbalize them.  So, I thought it’d be worthwhile to talk about.


I’m about half a mile away from five people. I can tell this because every time we turn a corner I can see the tail end hiker. Who are these people? Why am I right behind them? These people are the ragtag bunch that I guess some may call the trail family. I say ragtag bunch because that’s the title Stumbleweed has given us. Our reluctance towards officiating the “trail family” status is based in a hope to have an open door for anyone to wander in. We’ve booked an Airbnb but don’t hesitate inviting another hiker we just met. Or sharing a Lyft with a different hiker. Or cooking a communal dinner with new faces. 

I started this trail with my former co-worker and former roommate and forever sister-friend, Octavia Scott. She goes by Stumbleweed these days because she stumbles along the trail and is fascinated with all things plants. Within 2 days of this trail, I met someone named Jackie. She made me laugh that deep ache in my stomach kind of laugh. I remember returning home to my tarp to tell Stumbleweed, “I just made a friend!” After some time and miles together we named her Swift for her love of Taylor, her quick zinger comments, and a bird that has something like the longest migration without stopping. So here we are: Pretzel, Stumbleweed, Swift. A ragtag bunch because we pick up people along the way. We three don’t always hike together or camp at the same place but we somehow manage to end up in towns mostly around the same time. While we’re hiking and camping without each other, there’s an openness, an invitation if you will, for anyone else to connect with us as individuals. We talked about this and we can notice how hard it can be to meet people when you’re already a crew of togetherness. There’s usually only four seats at a table, anyway.


What do I mean by “keeping pace”? I’ve heard people talk about if they should hike more or less miles just to spend time with someone. And what about injury? I’ve seen people over exert themselves to maintain relationships. But what about hiking your own hike? It can be pretty lonely out here. We naturally crave community, connection and belonging. As a mode of our natural survival. It’s ingrained in us! 


I believe all of those needs are natural. We want a pack to speak up for us on our behalf even when we’re not around. We want to know that someone has our back. I think in these early miles and these early days, we can shift our decisions around suiting this need for belonging. 

I’m observing. Noticing. 


Update 3 months on trail: 22 July 2022

I’ve been hiking alone! I’ve been meeting new people but also watching close knit bonds around me. Wondering where my pack is? Stumbleweed is playing catchup behind me as she got off trail for a wedding. Swift is off trail enjoying some time in Washington – where we look forward to a reunion! More than halfway done with trail, I feel more and more open to finding a “trail family”. 


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Comments 3

  • Michael lewallen : Jul 23rd

    Just discovered the writings of pretzel, enjoyed them very much. I look forward to more.

  • bozo : Jul 24th

    you can always
    slow down for somebody,
    but never speed up for anyone.
    that way lies injury and unhappiness.

  • Hermano : Jul 29th

    Hey I’m from Corpus too and I’m hiking the PCT 🙂


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