Switchbacks and Setbacks – Week 4

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a month.

In some ways I feel like I’ve been out here forever, and in other ways it’s like I’ve just begun. One thing is for certain though…

For all of my training, for all of my study, for all of my work, nothing could have prepared me for the reality of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Everything in my life has become dynamic, life comes in pulses and rhythms like ocean waves. There will be days where I see no one, where my life is quiet and there is nothing out there but me and nature. There I move silently from camp to camp, and water hole to water hole, making my way quietly north.

Then on other days the trail is almost like a party, a conga line of hikers pass me, or I pass them. We clump together, we talk a while, and share our joys or pains, but as quickly as they come, they often go, leaving me with silence and the challenge yet again.

Some people would call it lonely, and I do miss home, I miss my husband, and most especially my Grandfather, who just recently passed. As the hours get long I find myself thinking of them, replaying memories, reflecting on the importance of them in my life.

To be certain, his loss is still affecting me, there are days where my grief feels like it’s hiking right next to me, others, it’s as if its on the outer side of an impossibly thin door, banging to be let back in.

But for all the miles, all the struggle, all the hardship, I have found a kind of healing in the rhythm and routine. I’ve had time to think about his loss, and the exertion of the trail to work through the pain.

This became all the more real when I ended up stranded in Wrightwood. On my way out of town my right trekking pole snapped, then my express re-order ended up delayed almost three days.

Suddenly, I was marooned. There was nowhere to go, there was nothing to do, no way to hike, or pitch my tent.

Shortly after the funeral I had complained to my husband about not getting enough downtime to process the loss, and then, as if the trail was some angry genie, I had nothing but time when all I wanted was the long hours and solitude to think, reflect and remember.

There was no choice though, all I could do was accept the pause and wait as my budget took a beating, and the minutes ticked by like hours.

Ironically those turned out to be some of the hardest days. I dreamed at night about hiking, not in some grand or breathtaking way so much as the constant sensation of motion, and with it a longing.

All I wanted to do was go, but circumstances were forcing me to stay put and it left me feeling miserable.

However, it was then, towards the end of my confinement that I started to understand what it all meant. Gear failures had not stopped me, the snows of San Jacinto had not stopped me, rattlesnakes and the dangers of the trail, even the loss of my Grandfather and I had kept going.

While I might not know what’s going to happen tomorrow out here, I have found some peace and a place in the journey that I’ve never had sitting still.

This is where I belong, nature for all its challenges, hardships, and breathtaking triumphs is where I have found a home and thus I press onward towards the goal.

Yes it’s hard and at times abjectly miserable but there is something beyond the lows and even the highs. It is the siren call of a life lived in fullness, a journey that will come only once and never again.

We’ll see you out there!

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Comments 1

  • Michael Mckenna : May 28th

    Loving this. Living miles away in Japan, having my own business and a family means I work 7 days a week. However, living in north osaka, I am only 20 mins by motorcycle from deep Japanese country side. Not anywhere as vast and remote as America’s but still a place that turns at very different revolutions to the hub of the city. I ride there 2 or 3 times a week to reset my brain and often see ramblers and hikers criss crossing the pine covered mountains that make up 70 percent of Japan. I would love to be one of them but I cannot so blogs like this to give me a chance to share some of the experiences of hiking. Great stuff!


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