The Trail Was My Life for a While, And I Lived It

I thought I could write. I thought there was a creative power I would tap into while walking that walk. That I’d find some deep knowledge to share, that there would be funny anecdotes to make someone laugh. And there were, don’t get me wrong. I did learn a thing or two about life, about myself. I did live through numerous situations I’ll share at a bar table throughout my life. I just wasn’t ready to share it as I lived it. I’m just not ready to share it now.

There were many times I picked up my phone in an attempt to recount what was going on. I wrote numerous articles in my head while climbing endless mountains that would vanish as soon as I hit camp, and if I hadn’t decided to start typing at 2:30 a.m. in this insomniac night, this one too would be gone by morning. Perhaps one day I’ll be ready to relive those five months. Perhaps one day they will become text, art, poetry. But not today.

I have been holding this task over my head for the past six months, and I realize now I can’t keep myself in that position any longer. So, I’m writing this instead. For The Trek audience that just wants to feel the mountain air through someone else’s words, I apologize, for all I have are loose ramblings.

I keep telling people that if I go through my pictures and a calendar with Guthook’s by my side I could remember everything I’ve lived in each of the 153 days I spent in that journey. But I have no desire to tell that tale yet. I haven’t processed any of it, to be honest. And I need some distance from the internet-pace-of-time where everything is live and now and then forgotten. I want to believe that maybe the trail synced me to nature’s-pace-of-time, where seeds are planted, and they become saplings, and then they flourish. And this takes time. All I could think about while on trail was the metaphors for life. How seasons affect every being in the forest, the endless ups-and-downs of mountains, the slow and steady speed with which we march forward. And in nature’s time, the seed of the PCT that was planted within me hasn’t reached maturity just yet. Turns out the trail wasn’t a project for which I’d write a script. It was just my life.

For those of you that wondered (although I feel that this might be giving myself too much importance), I did stick to the trail until the end. It was an imperfect hike, just like living is seldom perfect. A purist may even say I didn’t thru-hike, but what would they know of everything I hiked-thru within me? It was the hardest, most beautiful thing I’ve ever done. With permit day just past us, I must say to any potential future PCTer that I’m forever grateful to that past Lara that was scared shitless sitting on the couch, waiting for three hours for my spot in line. Scared I wouldn’t fetch a date, terrified I would. After all, I still think that the most important thing that happened to me on this trail was deciding to hike it. Deciding to bring to life that dream I’ve carried for so long. In a way fulfilling that dream was like fulfilling many dreams that remained ideas. Now I know my word has power and I can make things happen.

I’m grateful that I could afford this hike and that I went into it fully aware of my physical limitations which lead me to take it reaaallly slow and not injure myself. I’m grateful that fate would have no major curveballs to throw my way that I couldn’t dodge and that the US government let me in for six continuous months. During this trail I met special people I will carry with me forever, even though I’m far away. And most importantly, I made some peace with myself, learned to laugh at my childish emotions, and to accept my despair, which was often present, as the fleeting feeling it really is. No, I didn’t die because I was so hot, cold, or tired, that 10-mile climb ended eventually, they always do. And that’s what I take with me. If you keep walking, you’ll get there eventually.


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Comments 5

  • John R : Nov 14th

    I envy you, Laura. I had a taste of through hiking on the JMT this summer on a section hike from Thousand island lakes to Bishop, and I do understand what you mean. I’m 55 years old with many arthritis issues, it often took several minutes just to get out of bed in the morning. Younger 20-somethings flying by me was often a blow to my moral and ego. But I soon realized it was much like the tale of the tortoise and the rabbit. I would wake before the crack of dawn, have breakfast, pack up and just start walking at first sunlight. At mid day I would pull out my Z-sol mat, have some lunch and take an hour power nap. I would get back up and continue until dusk. I realized I wasn’t actually doing less miles the the young rabbits, as they would catch up and passed by me by mid day, totally shocked that I again somehow got ahead of them. Tine made be realize not to be frustrated at my slow hiking pace, I learned to listen to my body. I miss the trail. I long to get back out for a longer endeavor.

    • GB : Nov 15th

      I applaud your desire to accomplish a major feat. I felt the same 25 years ago when my girlfriend and I dreamed of traveling around the world. After a year and a half of saving money, we finally set out. The hardest step is always the first. We visited 28 countries in 6 months and the memories are cherished every day since. Traveling and adventure is an addiction. We’ve now traveled to 85 countries and what a journey itse been.

      At age 58, I’m planning on hiking the Appalachian Trail. I’ve read many journals from others who have and have a map of it on my wall.

      My favorite saying is: There’s never enough money, the time will never be right and there a thousand reasons not to. Just do it.

    • Lara Antonia : Nov 17th

      Thank you for reading and shring your experiences as well. The trail is something individual and we all experience it with our souls, not only with our feet!

  • Lance Goehring : Nov 17th

    Well said, Lara. I was positive that I was going to write a Trek blog post every week while I was on trail and I ended up only doing 4 or 5. There was plenty to write about, but it’s a lot of work to actually do it when the only thing you want to do is eat dinner and go to bed. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been trying to write down as many specific memories as I can in Evernote, but not in any kind of structured or flowery way. I just want to get them down while they are relatively fresh. It’ll probably be a few years before I have the ambition to do anything with them.

    Congrats on your hike! It was quite the experience and we may have even crossed paths out there.


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