It’s getting existential and daydreamy out here in NorCal
So let’s not be negative but let’s be honest: Nobody really wants to read about my day-to-day out here. Trust me. I’m just not great at listing out what I’ve done without feeling the urge to share the stuff that is more impactful. But since we’re on the subject, I’ve hiked 500 miles since my last post. We are 1,407 miles in and if you wanted me to tell you over and over again about how I have recently been averaging 30 miles and how I feel strong and how the challenge is still mental and physical and how I still think more than I should about food and how I am still filtering water and how trail angels and hikers are still the biggest motivation, you’d think this was just a hiking version of “Groundhog Day”. The title would inarguably be called “Woodchuck Day” and the next thing we know, Bill Murray would be on the side of the road with beer and snacks, saying “your friends will never believe you”. Wouldn’t that be cool?
See, the thing about writing about hiking is that they are similar in that I am actively working on something I love and something I view to be a spiritual sort of healing. But they are two separate activities. There is a disconnect between what I saw in the Sierras and in Yosemite, and how I remember it and write about it. John Muir seems to have found a way to make it feel like heaven and a little less like an anxiety attack, so I’ll just point you in the direction of his books for now.
The views in these parks were breathtaking and I have never felt stronger, but the stress on my mind and body were at an all time high. I was in survival mode. In fact, I am pretty certain that my trek through the Sierras took years off my life; However, that’s immeasurable and I am certain my life wouldn’t be the same without this experience, so what’s it matter anyways? I am now safely in Northern California and can once again hike for hours without checking my map or worrying about my footing. I sometimes find myself on physical autopilot with the same adrenaline as I had in the Sierras, minus the fight-or-flight situation to focus it on. So instead, I become a walking stream of thoughts that are everything from my beliefs and deepest secrets to apathetic and silly daydreams like that Bill Murray trail angel one above.
I’m telling you this because people want to know what we are thinking about all day. The answers vary depending on how receptive these people seem, the environment we’re in, and how exhausted I am. Most of the time, the answer includes the mention of food cravings, mileage tracking, and motivating myself to get up the next climb or to the next water source. This is true in the case of, for example, the Sierras, when the only time I had to really reflect was at the end of the day when I wasn’t hiking. They are the thoughts I would equate with long distance running – the mind game stuff to keep the momentum. And while it’s true that those are probably the more consistent thoughts that come up, they’re recited mainly because they’re the easiest to recite. I’m speaking on behalf of thru-hikers.
On the other hand, I have personal thoughts that would just call for awkward responses. Nobody wants to hear that while I hike up a mountain, I thought about how I was under anesthesia during 3 neurosurgries and wondered if it was possible that one day the suppressed memories will come back and I will remember it vividly, since anesthesia is just a drug. Nobody wants to hear about how I find conspiracy theories entertaining and wonder why I could buy into some being true while others seem ridiculous, and think about how I’m not a scientist but I believe in science so easily just because that word is attached to it. Nobody wants to have to react to me thinking that maybe the best conspiracy theorist of them all is God and he is being mocked with what could just be a theory of earth and people and time and space. Or that it would be a good idea to write an open letter to Reese Witherspoon asking her to come out and do a section under the trail named “Cheryl Strayed”, or at least convince her that she should make and serve hikers lavender lemonade or some other adorable bougie beverage and serve ice cream so we can take photos of her holding the scoop and caption them “reese with her spoon”. No one expects to hear that I’ve come up with this idea that balance is really just an optimistic way to justify everything contradicting itself… and the list goes on. It really does.
That would just be too much to throw at a stranger, though. Rude, even. Thank the real truth in why I don’t say these things when people really want to know what I think about all day out here in nature, is because it’s not what I’m thinking about when they ask. Actually, the only reason I remember it now is because I decided to write a blog post and went back into my notebook to read the random things I had jotted down and thought I would “woman up” and share them. And also maybe because it’s one-sided screen and I don’t have to stand in front of you, dirty and seemingly crazy, watching you react.
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