Walking is hard. More specifically: walking ten to twelve hours a day, up and down mountains, carrying a pack, every day, day after day—is exhausting. I am very tired. My feet hurt. A lot.
Make no mistake: the big picture, when I lurch back to look at it, is phenomenal. As I write, on July 30th, I’m sitting at Mile 1,607 on the Pacific Crest Trail. I have traveled across almost the entire state of California, south to north, in an unbroken line, USING MY FEET. Four days from now, I will have walked to Oregon. From Mexico. (As one hiker put it: “We’ve already hiked more miles than from The Shire to Mordor and back!”) That’s crazy and awesome and I’m extremely proud.
But holy shit, y’all, the days are tough. Every single one has beauty—the morning sun in the trees, or views of mountains layered beyond mountains stretching to the horizon, or hummingbirds chasing each other across hillsides of wildflowers. But each day also has a long hot uphill trudge, or a steep rocky descent, or even just those last three miles of the day when all I want is to stop hiking and take off my pack.
When we finally do stop after walking 23 miles—or whatever’s necessary that day to keep us on track to beat the snow to Canada—it’s all about doing camp chores as quickly as possible in order to crawl into our sleeping bags as quickly as possible. Set up the tarp and net tent, blow up the air mattresses, filter water, boil water and make dinner, try to wipe some of the dirt and smell off, eat, secure the food from mice and bears, and then hopefully pass out. I definitely get satisfaction from the routine, from using the tarp that I made myself, from having a place for every piece of gear and keeping everything in its place. But every moment is filled. Fancypants gets out his folding Bluetooth keyboard each night and types up an entry for the day, but I can rarely summon the willpower to do the same. I just want to sleep before it’s time to get up and walk again.
Time. I recognize that it probably sounds crazy to complain about a lack of time when I have taken six months off from work to hike through the woods. I’m not stuck in traffic, not standing in line at a store, not slogging through the workday wishing for the weekend. In that sense, hiking this trail is a luxury, time-wise. I am lucky and grateful and enjoying myself very, very much.
When planning for this trip, I imagined there would be breaks during the day or downtime at night that I would need to fill. I got the new Neal Stephenson book for my Kindle app. I loaded my phone with movies and TV shows and footage from the documentary I’m working on.
I haven’t started the novel. I haven’t watched a single minute of doc footage. Turns out, walking the PCT from Mexico to Canada during the window of theoretically decent weather is a full-time job. I’ve been listening to podcasts and audiobooks almost every afternoon, which is a lot of fun and helps with getting through the miles, but time spent hiking requires the full attention of my eyeballs and time spent not hiking is, again, time I mostly just want to sleep.
So while I make notes every day of notable moments or places or feelings and record our daily mileage, I’ve been falling increasingly far behind on turning those notes into blog posts. Right now I’m trying to write about the hike up Muir Pass—something that happened 45 days and 770 miles ago.
So I suppose this is a mea culpa—to my mother, if no one else, because she both worries about me and also wants to know why the heck I’m not keeping this updated. And to myself, to perhaps release myself from the frustration and guilt of falling behind in writing. Anyway, we’re on schedule with the hiking, which is of course the whole point, so I’m going to congratulate myself on that and then do some summary posts to catch the blog back up to the present(ish).
Thanks for reading. Onward.