Thursday, February 11, 2016

Day -78: The Call of the Wild, with apologies to Jack London

Dodwell Rixon Pass - August 30, 2003

Thursday, February 11, 2016
Miles to go: 2,663

Counting the days. There are still too many. My routine is too... routine. I am finding it hard to keep my excitement in check. I still have a job... for now, but the thrill of it is all but evaporated. The anticipation of hitting the trail in less than three months is overshadowing every other part of my life.

Our house is still 'on-the-market', whatever that means. I used to think it meant that we were selling it and some buyer would come along to purchase it. I don't feel that way anymore. I feel that all it means is that there is a sign in the front of our house and we have people tromping through at various times to see how we live. Sort of like we live in a museum or a zoo.

There are so many things going on at work that my workdays are filled with activities and decisions that all but drown out the excitement of hitting the trail. Everyday as I exit my office and head to my car I can begin to think about my 'real' life again, and the excitement of five months of dirt, squalor, and exposure to the elements comes rushing back. At some intellectual level I can understand and identify with the people who look at me quizzically when they hear that I am taking five months of my life to hike through the wilderness. Sometimes I wonder, "What's wrong with me? I am way too excited about this. Am I delusional?"

Then I think and remember moments from the trail. Like the time I was hiking in Olympic National Park. We had camped the night before in the cold, drizzly rain. We woke up in a gray cloud, the condensation on the inside of our tent walls was just as thick as the condensed cloud on the outside. We had breakfast in the damp pre-dawn diffused grayness. Then we packed our sopping wet things into our packs, shouldered them, and headed down the trail.

After an hour or so of hiking we came around a corner and there was the sun. A shaft of sunlight blazing through an opening in the trees. I walked into its dazzling glory and warmth. The contrast was exhilarating. There were happy little bees buzzing through the air, the flowers smiled and waved as they watched our parade down the trail. I stopped, closed my eyes, took a deep breath of the clean, woodsy, air. The damp forest floor steamed a light wispy vapor as it warmed in the sun. "I can't imagine being anywhere else than right here, forever and ever."

A transcendent moment in time, my mind recorded it, and now the moment is part of history. A history that most people never had. That moment, and many others like it have captivated my memory. I want to experience them again, and again, and again. That is what keeps pulling me back into the mountains.

Someday, if I live that long, I'll be sitting in a lazy-boy napping, too old and frail to walk very far. I won't hear very well and be mostly blind. Family will be doing family stuff around me but they won't find me all that interesting. I'll be a fixture that takes us a few cubic feet of space but really not all that interactive. I'll appear to not be all there and people will talk loudly and patronizing to me because I am old, and seemingly slow. But it won't matter much to me, during my nap I'll be reliving those moments on the trail in my head, forever and ever.

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