Thursday, July 3, 2014

Some Thoughts from the 1,093-Mile Mark

In the past two months (give or take a few days), I have walked 1,093 trail miles. This number is offset a bit by trail closures (we hitched/hiked a few miles around 60 miles of closed trail), an endangered species detour (save the yellow-legged frog!), several instances of town-walking, and huge side trips in the Sierra (17-mile detour for Mount Whitney; 14-mile detour to resupply). But still, it all boils down to one fact: over the course of two months, I've hiked over a thousand miles. And we're not even halfway there.

This is kind of hard to process.

That's part of the reason I'm writing this post, is to try to process it a bit. I hope to post a longer blog series with more details about the trip (and pictures) once we're done, but for now, as I sit in the air conditioning at my husband's grandparents' house in Sacramento, I try to collect some of my scattered thoughts. I try to draw in a deep breath before we hit the trail again on Saturday. (Also, I try to eat as much as humanly possible-- I've gained back six pounds in the past five days.)

What does it feel like, to hike 1,093 miles across desert and forest and mountains? What does it feel like to walk 15 to 20 miles a day, every day, for two months? What does it feel like to spend half an hour to an hour every night setting up camp, and another hour to pack up in the morning? What does it feel like to look at a sheet of paper that tells you about the water sources and see that you don't know if there will be any water for another 30 miles? What does it feel like to clamber over yet another snowy 12,000-foot elevation pass knowing that the previous pass was the most terrifying thing you've ever experienced, that your food is running out, and that if you don't get over the pass before noon the snowy drifts will become dangerous and you'll have to waste a precious day's worth of food waiting to go over? What does it feel like to stand by an alpine lake with jagged snow-capped peaks all around and realize that the only way to see this view is to hike seven days into the middle of the wilderness?

What does it feel like?

These are questions I can answer with my heart, my gut, or my rock-hard muscled legs. But my words falter. I haven't had time to piece them together, to make the vague words "desert" and "forest" and "mountains" take on stony flesh. That will take time. I make sparse notes in a journal, trying to help myself remember a bit about each day. "Rough day. Beautiful alpine lakes. I have to take video to remind myself that it's really pretty. Summer sausage and m. potatoes for supper. Z reads Lord of the Rings. Freezing night." After the trip, when I'm not so tired, so focused on camp chores, so mentally exhausted from keeping a good attitude all day, I hope that the notes will come together into something intelligible.

In the meantime, I think about the last 1,093 miles. I look forward to the next. I eat yogurt with fresh fruit. I prepare for the next big dash.

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