Today was a Thursday, not that it matters to me anymore what day of the week it is, unless I have a package to pick up at the Post Office. Today, is the 4th day of August, 2016, day # 133 on the PCT.
Laying here in my tent, its getting dark, its 9:30pm, close to hiker midnight. Prince just told me a joke: “Do you know how you can tell the toothbrush was invented in Alabama? ….because if it were made in any other state, it would have been called a teethbrush”. Ta da. Ha Ha Ha. So, about today. Today was a pretty good day. I did not hike the 24 miles I had planned to, I hiked 18, and that’s okay with me, because I enjoyed it. I set my alarm for the usual time of 5:30am, hit the snooze and went back to sleep. At 5:59 I raised my but up and got out of my tent to go pee. I hobbled like an old person, no, actually I hobbled like a hiker, over to the back side of a log and squatted ever so gingerly with stiff morning knees. I noticed a cool breeze caressing me, the sky was still white, and my hiking mate was still asleep. Odd. He is usually up quite a while before me. He must need the rest. After my normal morning routine, isn’t it funny that I can say that about this lifestyle? My “normal” routine is indeed quite routine, and I can basically predict how long it will take me to do a series of tasks. I tried a new breakfast today though, which started with a tortilla. Then I mixed butter powder with water to make butter, which I spread on the tortilla, and to this I added some brown sugar and cinnamon. Yum! I also scored some biscotti in the hiker box in Etna, so I have 5 little pieces of Biscotti this week for dipping in my coffee. And finally, as is often the case after leaving town, I bring some fresh fruit, so I treated myself to a half of a perfect juicy nectarine!
This morning I was on trail by 7:20am. It was later than I had wanted, but earlier than I had been setting off recently, so I was still happy. I set off alone into the forest, and soon found myself amongst a burned area. I have found a new beauty in these charred forests of late, something I never took much of a liking to, as they felt depressing and barren, I dare even say ugly. Now, within the last couple of weeks, I suddenly find them beautiful. The fires and the resulting char, blackness, presence of destruction, are afterall a necessary part of a healthy forest Ecology. This morning I started taking some pictures of the various burned trees.
I later started thinking about something that has always fascinated me, and is more of a pondering hypothesis of mine, rather than a proven fact or known thing. What it is, is what I am going to call Ecoanthropology: the study of humans relationships with the landscape, climate or topography they live in and how that geoenergy shapes the evolution of cultures. I thought about this for a wile this morning, wondering how I could possibly come up with a doctoral thesis within this subject. Fun stuff that walking for 12 hours a day allows.
My original goal for today, in ideal conditions, was 24 miles. However, the first 10 miles of the day involved a lot of roller coaster climbing up and down on very uneven, rocky and slanted surfaces, which killed my ankle and feet, slowing me down considerably. Not much I could do, so I slowed down. The scenery more than made up for this however. We are currently in the Klamath National Forest, in the Marble Mountain Wilderness, and it is stunning. It reminds me a lot of the Sierra’s, with interesting and dramatic rock formations, lots of small alpine lakes, grand views and vistas and lots of evergreen trees, fresh green herbaceous plants and abundant wild flowers.
By 4:30 this afternoon, stopping to fill up on water, Prince and I looked at our options and decided on stopping at mile 1626, where there was a small lake and some campsites. We had about 4 more miles to go and at this prospect of getting into camp so early, I got excited. So excited, I slowed down. I let go of the need to push for miles. I let go of the pressure I usually place on myself, and I just enjoyed being where I was. Today was less hot than it has been the past week, quite refreshing, actually. But around 5:30pm, I had stopped to have a small snack, and realized that something was different. The light had changed. The air was cooler. I looked off into the distance, and saw the most wonderful thing: clouds. Ahhhhhh……like a tall drink of water. It’s been weeks since we have had any clouds at all. Bring it on!
Hiking onward, slowly, deliberately, I thought about how often my thoughts out here on the trail lead me to things in the past. I wonder why the past and not the future? What am I still processing? What am I not letting go of? Why am I not daydreaming about what lies ahead? I decided that memories are one thing that bring happiness, but if it’s not a memory, I want not to dwell on anything from my past if it’s not serving me now.
We had a new hiker we’d never met before, join us in our camp last night. Her name is “Genie” and she is from Australia. We enjoyed some lovely conversation with her, and she remarked about something very poignantly. She said that in the past, she could never see a clear path in front of her, and that was scary and confusing. But that now, years later, she has grown so much and come a long way, and can see the path she took. So now, she still cannot see a clear path in front of her, and thats okay. This made me think of a quote thst I will paraphrase: “love what lies ahead by loving what has come before”. All Very True. When we hike, we most of the time see a very clear path right in front of us. But we never know whats really around the bend. We know where we’ve been though, and I love where I’ve been, both on the trail and in my life.
Reflecting on a poem I read last week while I was in Mt.Shasta:
If you let go a little, you will have a little peace.
If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.
If you let go completely, you will have complete peace.