Category: Post AT ’13

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour

The sun set an hour ago and the air has gotten cool – a wonderful change from the heat and humidity of the mid-Atlantic day. It’s no longer 90+ degrees in the air, though it still has the clinging heaviness that comes with being near the water. But the bricks of the old buildings around you still hold the heat from the day – radiating out as you pass your hand near them.

 

Your own personal sunset as you walk down the street

 

I’ve been exploring at sunset more and more, walking past buildings that have been home to generations of families, a church that sheltered soldiers during war, graves spanning centuries. Turning down streets with more modern building, condos and townhomes costing more than I’ll ever make a block away from low income housing, children in playground from both sides of the tracks screaming in the summer delight that they don’t have to go to school tomorrow.

 

So much history here, so many people. I sat and listened to an opera singer as she hit the highs and lows of a great Italian master. What is she singing about? What is the story being told? You can hear happy and sad all in the same song – longing and regret alongside joyous reunion. People pass her by, a few stop to listen – she becomes just another sound in the backdrop; along with buses and cars, music from shops and blasted from speakers, overheard conversations from tourists. She finishes, red faced and sweating in the dying heat. Walks a small circle around her tips bucket and then takes a deep breath to start anew a fresh song.

 

Across the street are three crusty young punks – they haven’t showered in weeks it smells like – tourists avoid them  and they smell like hikers do after a long stint out. I know the smell, and their needs. I give them some cigs that I was carrying, a pack I never smoke but have for when I go to bars. One offers to swap shirts with me “You’ll get more of a story with this one my friend!” I decline the offer but borrow his guitar for a song, singing about people left behind and the places we wish to go to.

 

On the walk home the lightning bugs lazily drone over the large field in the park – a city block in size. The twinkle and shine, pinpoints of light in a sea of darkness, alone from the streetlights and windows. The bridge across the river shines into the water, as headlights reflect out into the night. Airplanes come in on approach to land every 3 minutes – the last few of the night. A fat third of a moon shines down, reminding me that somewhere, someone else is looking up and wishing to be somewhere other than where they are.

 

image

But even when you’ve known it forever, somewhere you know isn’t that bad at times.

Present Thoughts, Future Tense.

Present Thoughts, Future Tense.

Currently, in a little town in the south-west part of Virginia named Damascus, there is an amazing event going on. A party for hikers, by hikers, about hikers.

 

I am not there.

 

It’s a hard thing – not being somewhere you want to be. It’s even harder knowing you could have made something happen that you wanted to, but didn’t. But part of growing up is realizing that just because you want something doesn’t mean it’s good for you to do.

So I’m not at Trail Days, with a bunch of other 2013 AT Hikers that I know. I was not there when they showed Seven’s documentary and my short on Thursday night.

Nor does it look like I’ll be getting on the PCT in 2015.

 

 

I don’t think that reality fully sank in until I wrote it down there.

 

Why not? Maybe I’m growing up a little bit. I’ve got a new job that has me tied to a contract for a year, pays well and has good benefits. It lets me meet new people, be flexible and travel some, all while letting me pay off the bills and debts. Maybe if I play things right, I can knock my debt off a lot faster than I thought I was going to. It also is a job that might let me come back and work somewhere else in the nation after my next adventure in a few years. Just not next year.

I mentioned something Chevy, a 2011 AT Thru-Hiker had said to months ago – “Some people never leave the trail.”  They are walking to find something, or walking away from other things. Sometimes it’s because they don’t know anything different, they understand hiking and the people and culture. It’s the only place they feel right about. I can understand that entirely. When I sit in the cubeland during my current gig I find it hard to relate to my coworkers, I just want to stand up and scream – punch a window out to feel real air, not the same recycled air-conditioning. But I can’t – it wouldn’t get my anywhere. I know I don’t belong here, and as much as I miss the hiking and the people, I don’t belong back there yet either.

There are people I know on the PCT right now and there are people I know at Trail Days right now who I’m jealous of, whom I’d trade places with in a heartbeat. But I also know that I’m not ready to go back to that life yet – physically definetly, and probably mentally too. I learned many things about myself last year, and about those I love. But I have to work at making that person who hiked the person I am back here at home.

That is my greatest challenge. Not money, not love, not injury. But my own self.

So instead I’ll follow their adventures. Just like others followed mine. I’ll support them, just like others have supported me.

http://live-4today.com/blog/

http://ketchuponthepct.wordpress.com/

 

Because even though I’m not with them, my brothers and sisters, My Family, are still out there.

And you do everything you can for the family you choose.

Breathing in Spring. Breathing Out Doubt.

Breathing in Spring. Breathing Out Doubt.

We had 5 inches of rain here in VA over the last two days. The walk home from the train station has necessitated the need for my rain jacket – I’m not a big fan of umbrellas – and despite the washing it has received (does that make any sense? To wash a rain jacket?) it still smells terrible.

It smells like the trail.

Rain jackets develop a pungent odor of their own – stale sweat and body odor that is at odds with the crisp smell of rain.

It is spring now here. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom two weeks ago. Now they are on their way out – taken from the trees by the winds and the rain. But the smell of spring persists in every breath you take.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

I stopped to take a deep breath on my way home. In that moment I stood and just listened. I could feel everything around me. This is what I was in those moments.

Breathe in.

I could feel the drops of water on my skin. It had stopped raining and was just misting. I had taken off my jacket. I had taken off my shirt and tie. I was standing in short sleeves, and could feel the wind tugging the shirt, washing the drops of water over my skin.

“We are clean and fresh, unspoiled by the world yet. Can you say the same about yourself right now?”

Breathe out.

I could smell the new life that the rain had brought. Everything was growing. The crisp smell of water, of fresh earth, of life. Flowers and trees. Grass and leaves. All happy to be breathing with me, contributing their own scent to the world in that moment.
“I’m happy to be here right now. I’m happy to be alive. Are you as happy as we are?”

Breathe in.

The bugs are singing their symphony. It’s the noise of dusk – crickets calling to one and other. Katydids reassuring themselves they aren’t lost. Anglewings saying hello. All rolled together, playing on endless loop. Drowning out the sounds of the distant city.
“We’re in our rightful place. Are you?”

The water is rushing, trickling. Carrying away all the cares and worries. Everything is moving. Aimlessly but with purpose. There is power in it and you can hear it.
“We are going to the ocean” the water says. “Won’t you come and follow us?”

Breathe out.

The fox that lives around here runs across the path. She’s done this every day for the last 3 days for me when I’m coming home. Where is she going?

“Come follow me. Back into the woods – into the mystery that is my den here. I am not the trickster that Coyote is in the West – but I will play with your mind here instead.

Breathe in

6 second was all it took.

Breathe out

I question everything I’m doing again.

Pains That Never Leave

Pains That Never Leave

It’s been 5 months since I’ve come back, 6 months since I first had the serious knees pains in the Whites. 4 1/2 since I was told I had a stress fracture in my knee and that I’d walked 450 miles on it.

It hasn’t really gone away. The pain. It still aches – maybe it’s been the cold weather, or the rehab or any number of things. But it doesn’t feel healed.

I did 2.4 miles today – half walking and half jogging. It was supposed to be all jogging but I just couldn’t do it. It was really too painful at times – especially going downhills or inclines.

So now out comes the ice

There were no frozen peas in the freezer... damn
There were no frozen peas in the freezer… damn

I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever truly heal. Physically, mentally and emotionally.

Better question – do I want to heal from all of this?

I’m not talking about the physical bits – I very much want them to heal up completely. But do I want to go back to the way I was before? Do I want to go back to offices, schools and a world of concrete? Do I want to return to the trail? I know I’m not the only one with these issues – Lots of other hikers I know are having the same issues with transition and their futures.

Spring Fever has officially hit and a lot of people are talking about new hikes. Hell Acorn has gone from the AT, to the Florida Trail and is now heading to the PCT. Some are talking of CDT, JMT or even the AT again.

But I’m struck by something my friend Chevy, a 2011 thru hiker had said about his girlfriend at the time.

“We got off the trail together, but she never left the Trail. She couldn’t leave it. I understood that, but you have to come back to society at some point. You can’t keep walking away from yourself and your problems forever. So we ended. And she kept walking.”

I feel that pull everyday, to go back out there and be free. It changed me, hiking for that long. But I also was on the trail running away from things, trying to figure myself out and to achieve something. I did those things. Now I’m back in society figuring out my next move.

Maybe it is hiking about long distance trail. Maybe it’s getting a good job that pays well and paying off my student debt. Maybe it’s going back to school for something I want to do. Maybe it’s meeting someone I can spend the rest of my life with.

Maybe it’s all of those things. But for the moment, I think I’ve got to Leave the Trail for a little bit. Concentrate on something that isn’t 20 miles a day.

Because we all have to change, and leave our trails at some point. They all end – there is a finite amount. I’d rather leave more adventures for tomorrow then put off everything for today.

I just think about what Chevy said sometimes and wonder – what happens to those people who never leave The Trail?