As the start of our Appalachian Trail hike nears, I’ve been thinking more about prior trips. In 2007, I hiked from the Mexican border to Yellowstone National Park on the Continental Divide Trail. A couple days later, sitting in a coffee shop in Bozeman, Montana and processing my prior three months, I sat down and these words poured out. They were a mass email then (ah, the quaint old-fashioned mass email) but mostly hold up at capturing the long hike experience for me.
no job. no schedule. all i need is all is i have. in my pack, on my back. a route to follow, a narrow swath of this country to see. the continental divide – the place where waters part, pacific and atlantic.
trail. a gentle path, just wide enough for one foot traveler? or maybe a jeep road, forest road, gravel road, highway, stock driveway, cow path, no path… pile of rocks, sea of sagebrush, beaver swamp, creek bed, canyon, ridgeline, line of cairns, nothing…
where’d it go? i don’t know… find your way. topo maps, backwards guidebook, compass, gps. follow your trail instincts, game trail, path of least resistance, probably uphill… if all else fails, go norther.
walk. desert heat, open range, barbed wire, “keep out”, cows… grassland, mesas, mountains. snow-capped, snow-covered… post-holing, going nowhere, everyone going their own way… mountain forests, mountain meadows, mountain ridges, mountain-sized pile of rocks. walk. up. way up. down. straight down. rain, wind, hail, thunder and lightning… glorious sunshine. sunrise, sunset. just walk.
95 days following the divide… never a dull one. i know fatigue and frustration. i know strength and satisfaction. the futility of self-pity and the immense comfort of shared misery.
thanks for making my summer immeasurably more joyful, for reminding me all along the way that i am never alone.