Everything we now carry since we’ve emptied our packs and unshouldered their weight.
A summer that somehow felt like lifetimes, all wrapped and rolled into an amorphous mass in the center of my being, begging to be unraveled and lived, again and again.
l get flashbacks that rock through my body and leave me breathless.
Yesterday, it had me bawling.
The simplest things…
like positive trauma –
Walking behind Wes.
A cup of tea cradled in my cold hands, breath billowing out in front of me, mingling with the vast, scenic view.
Hearing Cozy singing softly up trail, the words floating back like little clouds.
They go down my throat and nestle into my heart space, to stay.
Moments planted and growing over everything, like vines, inviting new life unto itself yet blocking the light.
Do I rip them down and let them die? Or let them grow and see what happens?
I don’t know.
. . . . . . .
Some days, the memories that surface through the over-spastic brain-static cause tears to tumble down my cheeks. Other days, laughter bubbles up from my core and bursts out of my mouth, surprising even me.
I never know what it will be. What I’ll be faced with, when I open the door to a flow of feelings asking for welcome. I know I must love it unconditionally. Embrace it as a friend, give it my full attention while it’s visiting within, and let it go completely when it leaves.
And then… maybe a third option will arise. The trail taught me to climb. To love the ascension – the work that it takes to lift oneself up. Because then you can see. You can stand clearly in the light once more, breathing freely. Maybe those vines growing so rapidly around me are an opportunity to climb and see my life from a higher perspective.
. . . . . . .
A lesson that dirt path reverberated into my every footstep, insistently, profuse and profound –
One. Step. At. A. Time.
Breathe and walk…
Walk and breathe.
Trust the path in front of you. Move forward, however slow, however painful.
To stagnate is to give in to a slow, unnecessary lifelessness.
I say Aloha to my mom and sister and my island man Jake.
I hop on a plane and fly East to San Diego. Land late.
Meet my Couchsurf host, Ryan. Picks me up in his Tesla and puts me up in his beautiful condo. A room to myself.
April 19th, 2019.
Excitement bubbles up, over and over. Glee and giggles escape my smiling mouth. Nerves tingle expectantly. It’s happening. You’re doing it. You’re here. Step one. Or… 100 depending on how you count your steps. A lot of time and preparation have led me to this moment. Researching, daydreaming, buying, testing, planning, prepping. Four months of getting it together to get here.
A last-minute trip to the San Diego REI. The Mecca of outdoor adventure supplies. Everything I’d been looking at online for months, right at my fingertips. Only get what you need, your money has to last. Fuel, Garmin, a lighter, snacks. A woman outside trying to line up her mobile coffee shop trailer to her truck pauses in her efforts to ask me where I’m going. I tell her I’m about to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She applauds my courage, not knowing just how uncourageous I feel, and offers me a free cold brew coffee. My first official Trail Angel. Thank you, Taylor.
Back at the condo, I lay out all of my supplies. Is this really everything I need to survive outside for 6 months? I go over each item, again and again. Check the lists I’ve saved from thru-hikers alumni. Check all of the most important and some of the not so important but how could I live without it boxes.
It’s go time…
Scout and Frodo’s. Beacons I didn’t know I needed and was so thankful to have. They gathered hikers in their home. Primed us in those final moments with comfort food, familial love, experienced wise advise, a warm, safe place to sleep, and an opportunity to connect with our new trail “tramily” before embarking on our wild wonderful journeys into the unknown. They reminded us what was most important – “make wise decisions”, “make sure everything fits into your pack BEFORE you leave in the morning”, “have each other’s backs, “watch out for one another”. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you. Sometimes, when we’re vortexed in our excitement, we forget these simple directives.
April 21st, 2019.
We wake up early. Before the sun. Pack in the dark, trying our best to stay quiet. Keep our rising nerves at bay. Eat breakfast and barely taste a thing. I brought along two Cherimoyas from a local Farmer’s Market I had visited the day before. A sweet, tropical thing to connect where I’ve been to where I am and where I’m going. A final ode to my life in Hawaii, and a celebration of my new home, the PCT. I can only manage to get one down though, because my stomach is in knots, so I leave the other behind in a fruit bowl at Scout and Frodo’s. Not knowing that a month later, I’d find out exactly who found and delighted in that odd, delicious little fruit.
We line up outside. Keep quiet, the neighbors are sleeping. Cars and vans pull up. Locals and friends of Scout and Frodo who volunteer their time and money to drive us hikers to Campo. Simply for the love of the trail. For the love of community. I get in a van with a father and son duo who intend to section hike the desert together. I don’t remember their names. The drive feels long. I’m sweating, even though it’s cold outside and the van is comfortable.
Eventually (really, only an hour later), we pull into a sandy dirt expanse amongst hills growing with green desert chaparral. The thin metal US/Mexico border wall stretching in either direction…
We scramble out of the van and into our jackets. The early morning wind is icy and blowing hard. We follow one another up the hill with our heavy packs and the Southern Terminus stands before us, solid and real as the wind and Earth. We all gather up around it, twenty or so of us beginning today, Easter Sunday. I jump into the photo last minute, as I’m distracted struggling to lengthen my trekking poles with freezing fingers. Not sure why I was attempting to do so in that moment but, whatever…
Looking back at this photo – these people – all of whom I had just barely met. Not yet knowing their stories. Not yet knowing how our stories would entwine and unfold. It makes my heart swell and my eyes brim with tears. Friends. Family. Life support on trail. I didn’t know yet that this community would become everything to me. More important than the hike itself. More important than finishing.
The friends I made along the way – the connections I would feel to people I hardly knew, what they would teach me – that would become my purpose here. My reason for leaving Maui, for planning this adventure, for hiking all day every day in pain and wonder. To know – without a shadow of a doubt – that love truly is everything.
Six months later. A month and a half post-trail. Might as well be years, decades. A millennia, for how I feel. Changed. Forever altered, through an experience I’m uncertain at this time can even be captured and put into words. We’ll see. It just seems… too big. Like attempting to understand the scale of a 100 billion lightyears. Impossible? No. Beyond the scope of our human processing power? Probably…
We can only go so far as we ourselves can go. Part of me wants to believe that that is infinite. We’re One with the Universe and therefore can translate and comprehend anything, given enough space, patience, and practice. Another part however, the inherently human part, feels… inadequate, to express something so far above & beyond the Me that is sitting here typing this now.
I am cross legged on a borrowed bed in Bend, Spotify’s “Musical Therapy” playing lightly in my ears. A peaceful sound to combat the war-tainment blaring from the TV in the other room.
It’s 10am on a Sunday. I want to cry. You know, the usual.
It’s the New Moon in Libra. I started my own moon yesterday. The cramps, the feels, the confusion and clarity coming through in equal measure. The word “surrender” drifting around inside my head.
Surrender. Wave the white flag and let go of control, it says. Let go of anything you believe you once were. You’ve been reborn. Yes, growing pains can be uncomfortable. Embrace them with love and acceptance.
Are you ready?
It’ll be ok.
It’s time to share what you’ve learned. Bit by bit, the lessons will seep up through your memories, past your heart, and be pushed like blood to your fingertips, and translated as symbols on a screen.
I woke up this morning, all limbs and love, intertwined with a man that I adore. On the floor of my moms apartment. Have I ever been so comfortable? So cared for? I don’t know. But I do know it’s 6am. My sister has to go to work. We hug and we say I love you twelve times. Over & over, in case it didn’t sink in the first eleven. Do you know? How much I love you, how much you mean. I’ll see you in six-ish weeks, but, it’s an eternity and I need you to know… I love you, more than these words will ever pronounce. My going away is a gift, opened slowly. It will reveal its contents in time. We’ll see how we grow together through our being apart. We’ve done it before. She drives away, arm waving wildly out the car window. “I’ll see you soon”.
We beach. Swim in warm water. Sunlight rising over mountains pulsating with my own steady beat. Live. Live. Live. I dive and hear the call of a whale, distant but distinct. Their song reverberates in my bones and blood, an arrow shot through to my soul. It opens me up in a way only this kind of magic can. Life’s subtle reminder that what we perceive with our senses is only a fraction of what’s being experienced. Song and salt water wrapped around me, and I am clean. Ready.
He says aloha to my mom. And as her tears begin to brim, so do his. Tears wanting to fall free, held in place by the urge to laugh at our own surprise. Did you know we’d feel this much? A love, a safety, a comfort, held close for months and now we’re saying goodbye. And thank you. I love you. We knew this moment would be ours. We didn’t know it’d come with so much heartache. Letting go of something so good, trusting the void will be filled with something even greater – what a wonderful, bittersweet expression of faith. Over and over, we hug and kiss and hold each other, for just another moment longer, to soak in each other’s presence. But the parting belongs here too, so we say goodbye, and he drives away, and waves out the window.
Everything’s in order. Amazing how it all came together and now it’s happening and we’re here, driving to the airport. Stretch your wings, little bird, prepare for take off. Mom, please park and come in. I’m dreading our goodbye more than the others. Let’s prolong it for as long as possible. Boarding pass, check. Backpack checked, check. TSA next. Thank you, Mom. For everything. For inspiring me to grow beyond my current boundaries. For allowing me freedom to explore and granting me the invaluable gift of complete and total acceptance. The ocean behind our eyes swells and spills over onto our reddened cheeks.
I’m hiking this trail for the people I love. The ones whose hearts beat within my own. If I can learn, I can teach. If I can grow and stretch and fly, I can encourage and carry and instill that unstoppable, wonderful, life changing sense of possibility. Of curiosity. Of how it feels to co-create an experience you genuinely enjoy.
I am on the plane now. Typing this into Evernote, freezing my tuckus off. Why are airplanes so cold? Is it because we’re at 30,000 feet? I imagine how cozy and toasty this thing would be if they’d just turn the A/C off. But… in just a few days I’ll be hiking through the desert and dreaming about this air, wishing it was all around me again. That’s the lesson, isn’t it? To appreciate what we have while we have it. That’s the practice.
Good thing I’ve got 5 months and 2,650 miles to do just that.
I want to talk about food. Specifically, trail food. More specifically, PCT trail food. What people eat while they’re walking from Mexico to Canada. Thus far into my research, I’ve discovered the majority of thru-hikers eat a whole lot of junk and nonsense, and they’re equal parts proud and disgusted by their chosen hiking diets. Honestly – I don’t fully understand how they do it. How someone can walk all day every day up and down mountains fueled by chips and snickers bars, ramen and dehydrated mashed potatoes. Honestly, what? If I ate that way every day in my normal life at my average activity level – I would feel like absolute shit. Maybe because they walk so much they don’t feel the affects? But can’t they imagine how much more energy they can have, how light they might feel, if they just ate a little smarter? Gave their bodies some shred of proper nutrition and balance? Idk. I’m going to do my best to find out.
I eat primarily plant based. For the past two years, I’ve been 100% plant based, however, I’ll always leave room for growth and change and exploratory science experiments. I follow what feels good for me personally. To each their own – I’m not trying to judge these hikers who eat sugar and carbs and cardboard labeled “food” to keep them going – I just don’t fully understand how they can and not die. While I’m out on trail, I have a feeling my inquiring mind will venture into the depths of these oddly magical eat-anything beings to better understand how they feel about the foods they ingest – and how they feel after they ingest said food.
For me, choosing noms is a highly intuitive process. Listen to your body, what does it want? Give it that. So in the weeks leading up to the start of my thru-hike, I’ve actually put little thought into what food I’ll be eating on trail. I made a couple of lists as things came to me, and have researched different resupply strategies to ensure I’m setting myself up for success (or at least as much success as possible – no one really knows what will work until they’re out there). I’ve made one Costco run and one Amazon order. So far, I feel really good about what I’ve got. I honestly feel like I’ll be eating healthier out on trail, when I have less availability of variety and preparation space, than I do in my current lifestyle.
Right now, I constantly make excuses as to why I can’t prepare food at home (I share a kitchen with a family of 4 + my sister and tend to feel like I’m in the way or taking up too much space [ooo there’s a personal growth opportunity for ya]) so I eat at my work or at my sister’s work, or snack as I go and all in all it’s not all that healthy. Physically or financially. So, whilst I’m trekking along the two foot highways of the high Sierra – I’ll have no choice but to make my own meals every day and remain properly aware of what I’m intaking. No more excuses. Want to ensure proper nutrition and recovery? Eat nothing but fresh veg in town and stock up on the good stuff. So far, this is what I’m taking with me and mailing out ahead to myself:
Breakfast and Lunch and Snacks:
Meusli! My favorite oatmeal alternative…
Chia Seed puddings with any and all of the following
Golden Milk Powder (I’m very excited about this one)
MCT Oil (always)
Yerba Maté for good clean caffeine
Nuts (all of them)
Bars of the Nut & Seed & Fruit variety
Trail Mixes but in moderation because too much will make you crazy and hate them forever…
Turmeric Powder (mmm yeah, gimme all them anti-inflammatory properties)
Fresh Sprouts (you can sprout while you walk. I’m intending to give it a go – I’ll let you know if I do!)
String Beans & Peas and any other vegetable that will stay sans refrigeration
and if I’m being honest I’ll probably dabble in the ramen and instant mashed potato realm every once in awhile because sometimes they just sound really delicious…
aaaaand I ordered a CBD tincture, to help with inflammation, nerves, and everything else…
I fully plan to cold soak most of my food between meals to save fuel. At night I’ll cold soak breakfast, between b-fast and lunch I’ll cold soak whatever I plan to eat for lunch, and between lunch and dinner I’ll be cold soaking my din. It’ll save on fuel and if I’m really feeling too tired to start up my little stove, I’ll still have something other than nuts to eat. All of this is pre-hike planning and intending. We’ll see what happens when I’m actually out there. Maybe I’ll end up eating bagels and candy all day and feeling great. Only one way to find out…