Transition – Week 7

Authors Note- I’ve been delayed for weeks due to non-existent signal, un-reliable WiFi, and one hit and run accident (they ran, we stopped and are OK) Nothing has stopped me from writing though and new articles are now in the chute. Stay tuned and pray my luck improves. At this point I’ll take all the help I can get.

I have made it out of the desert, but I know this is only the end of the beginning…

The Sierras loom with all their challenge, Mt Whitney lurks with its imposing bulk, casting wide shadows over the trail. Undaunted though, I proceeded after a zero at the general store ever north reflecting on the journey so far.

Embrace the SUCK

Within many cultures and mythologies deserts are places of trial, purification and challenge. Messiahs, prophets, ascetics and future leaders have all fled to deserts across a myriad of ancient tales. Once there, the stark and harsh environments stripped them down to their barest essence revealing their truest nature within.

The one universal truth to all of these tales though is that they were not a place of endings, but beginnings.

Looking back at all the challenges I have faced so far, the gear failures, the loss, the setbacks in time, schedule and finance I recognize similar themes in my own life. The last two months have been a veritable wildfire of change and struggle, but, as I began to climb and the air began to grow wetter with the smells of the forest, I realized there was a greater truth lurking beyond the char of my earlier plans.

I had survived all of it, I am still here, hiking the trail, chasing the dream, moving north towards the terminus.

What’s more, I haven’t done it alone. I’ve spoken often about how I am a lone wolf hiker. I hike to be out in nature, to experience the wild, good, bad and indifferent. While that has been part of my journey it has not been all of it. Within the course of the last few months I have made a slew of new connections with fellow thru-hikers and angels many of which now feel like family.

Friendships form quickly, bonds are forged out of trials and shared victory.

New names now dot my contact list, Birgita, Tiedye, Produce, Sunshine, Elyse, Jim, and Jakko just to name a few. They are people that have been there, shown up on a bad day to commiserate, encourage, or offer a ride. Within that incomplete list are folk who have opened their homes and hearts to me, made me vegan dinners paying careful attention to my diet for no other reason than friendship and care, and gotten me through the hard times.

It is another feature of those ancient tales. They are places of encounter, and none within them ever leave unchanged, and I find myself among their number.

I have changed too, dramatically in some ways, at least I think I have. An overall sense of mission pervades my days, a purpose that has grown so firm as to become conviction.

This is who I am, a wandering soul, moving from place to place, and within that truth I have found a strength I have searched for my entire life.

I can achieve. I can do. I am capable. No matter what others might think, say, or assume about me.

Beyond that I am not alone in my effort. Trail Angels, friends, and fellow hikers wait at every trail head, or just around the next bend of trail to encourage me, cheer me on, or brighten my day. Together, we have conquered peaks, survived scorching valleys, and made progress towards our goals.

After 40 years I feel I’m finally coming to an understanding of the purpose of my life, and along with it, the feeling that this is only the beginning for me.

Wandering, thru-hiking in some way is part of what I need to be happy. It’s where I’ve met my soul, and had a good long look at it.

As lonely as it can get sometimes, as quiet and isolated as it can be, I’ve come to understand that I am never alone.

The Sierras await, some of the biggest, most frightening challenges of the PCT await but I know I am ready, not out of arrogance, or a cocky self assuredness, but an abundance of confidence that no matter the challenge so far, no matter the trial or hardship I’ve found a way to persevere, often with a little help from new friends.

It’s going to be hard, it’s never going to be easy, but it will always be worth doing.

Everything I have been through so far is training. I know now that every day prepares me for the next. As water gets easier to find, the climbs become steeper, the air thinner, as the trail changes along with me.

It seems almost a metaphor, the harshness of the scrub tinged mountains, the heat, a crucible, and then at its end are towering peaks, majestic forests. It is almost as if the trail is a mirror of the spirit, a reflection of the changes one undergoes as they find more of themselves with each passing day, and decide to continue through it all.

Canada awaits. The Northern Terminus calls like a beacon, a lighthouse on the horizon, but even that will not be an ending.

It will be yet another beginning, a doorway that will lead to the next adventure, the next choice, the next change.

Onward, towards the farthest star!

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