Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Destiny of a Snowflake

Each day is like a snowflake. Delicate and precious and unique unto itself. There will never be another like it, once it's gone, it's gone. How often do I live with that truth before me? Not often enough. Days seem to come stacked up to overflowing, faster than I can cope with them. Like a snow flurry on a mountain pass, seemingly infinite and immeasurable. Yet that perception is false, we have so few days allotted to us. So many dreams and so little time.

I sit here in front of my computer, contemplating the marriage of my fourth child. The fourth out of five leaving the nest to set out on her own adventures. To live her life, I pray, with the same joyous wonderment that I have lived mine. To experience all the joys and sorrows of life, to drink the cup to the dregs and live without any regrets. Where did the days go? How quickly they pass. The little willful girl with the button nose whose smile or frown always came directly from her heart is leaving me for another man. It's sad and sweet at the same time, it is what I want for her. It is one of the crosses that dads get to bear; to see their precious, cute, daughters grow up and become beautiful young women. Who then fall in love with another man, and leave the man who invested so much time, energy, money, and emotion into their lives. Yet I am happy for her and excited about her new life without me.

I just finished reading Cheryl Strayed's book, Wild, From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. My heart broke for her, to hear the pain in her words. A past so unlike my own, or my daughters. Lost, alone, searching for something that she senses is there, but just out of each. Looking for peace and comfort in an otherwise seemingly indifferent, and uncaring universe. Her story is not my story, her experiences are so different than my own.  

There is something unique about the people that choose to dedicate a few months of their lives to such a painful and self-denying endeavor as thru-hiking hundreds of miles of remote and desolate trail. I am not saying they are better, or worse, just unique, different. Some of them are like Cheryl, lonely and afraid, yet facing their fears rather than running from them. Are they looking for something? Do they have something to prove? Perhaps, but at least some of them also have something within that is calling them, compelling them, driving them to it. At least that is how it is for me.  My dream of hiking the PCT doesn't go away. Even in the long spaces between the postings on this blog. Much of my free thinking time is spent contemplating the trail. Cheryl's portraits of the trail are as real to me as my own memories of the John Muir Trail that I hiked last summer.

I am not consciously looking for anything, I don't consider myself a seeker. In fact I feel as though I have already found myself, and my 'purpose'. I am not conscious of a need to prove to myself or anyone else that I can actually hike the whole way from Mexico to Canada, in fact I don't even know if I can. For me it's more like the next step, the unfolding of something new, the unwrapping of the next stage of my journey. It's like everything in my past is driving me forward to the PCT; that to turn aside from it and not take it would be to reject the very reason that I was made.

It's weird because, career-wise it is dumb. Relationally it is strange and counter-intuitive. Rationally it seems like a foolish interruption of the otherwise successful and productive life that I have lived to this point. Yet I can't shake it, I can't leave it undone. I feel that if I happen to successfully walk two-thousand six hundred sixty two miles and I have one mile to go, that I will not necessarily be any wiser, more fulfilled, or complete than I am right now. I only know that if I don't go, I would be disobedient to that still small voice that is driving me to it.

There are other Cheryl's out there that need a friend while they hike the trail. There are Dougs, Jasons, and Sams too. They all need a friend, a companion, an encourager, and co-commiserator. I want to be that friend, I want to walk in the rain with them. I want to feel the sun baking our brains, to be dirty, and sweaty, and exhausted along side them. I want to share the journey with these unique people who fondly refer to themselves as 'hiker-trash'.

Life is too short, time passes, the sand is emptying from the glass. The days cannot be restored, they are gone forever. Like snowflakes in the spring, they are melted and pour down like water into the vast sea that is called the past. Then only memories remain of the glorious unique creations they once were. Live your life. Live it, love it, share it.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Desert Hiking Plans

Desert! Hot! Sandy, no water, every plant and rock is out to puncture you and your equipment. Or so I have heard. I personally have no experience hiking in the desert.
What??? Hiking for over thirty five years and you've never hiked in the desert?
That's right, I have never hiked in the desert. A desert newbie, a babe in the cacti. There are miles and miles of desert on the PCT and if I am going to hike the entire PCT I am going to need to know how to hike in the desert. So...

Next year's adventure is to the desert. Two weeks, Three hundred forty two miles of blistering, scorching, sun-baked, dusty, blinding, bliss in the wilderness. I am planning on hiking the PCT from the southern terminus to Interstate 15. Last summer I hiked the John Muir trail plus a few extra miles for a total of two hundred forty three miles in fifteen days. The plan is to hike an additional hundred miles in the same number of days.

I will attend the Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off (ADZPCTKO) event at Morena Lake before setting off to push myself further than I have ever pushed myself before. Even though there are not as many high passes as the JMT there is still significant elevation in climbing up and over San Jacinto Peak. I think the hardest part of this trip will be the challenges of finding water and surviving the harsh desert temperature extremes.

One of the most exciting aspects of this trip is going to be meeting the other hikers that will be attempting to hike the entire trail and the trail angels that volunteer their time and effort to assist hikers.

Now that I have set a target I have something to start working towards. For the first time in months I went to the gym and worked out today. What a weakling I have become. A pudgy weakling with skinny arms and a well rounded middle. I am having difficulty lifting my arms and legs they are so sore. It's amazing how much more motivation I feel now that I have set a goal. I find that without a goal I simply have no motivation to get in shape or stay in shape.

I'll be writing more about my plans and the stuff I learn as I prepare. The trip starts at the end of April, 2015. That is less than six months from now! So much to do, so little time...