Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Dream of Trees

I meant to write a post several weeks ago, when I had 42 days until the start of my hike.  I was engaged with the field work I was doing at the time, and I did not give myself space to write.  I also was feeling more concerned with the minutiae of the trip- what I'd be eating, where I'd acquire my fuel, and how I was getting from the train station to the trail head.

Yesterday I meant to write that I had five days of work remaining, and exactly one month until I started hiking, but instead I went to Tuesday night dinner, looked around at my friends and housemates, and started to feel the loss of my community strongly.  It may be months, or even years, given the transient nature of the folks who make up my current home, before I see some of my friends again, and the loss burns a bit.  (I suppose melancholy music and wine don't help with these feelings, either.)  Over the past few years I've gotten used to being the one left behind; it's kind of hard to be the one who leaves for a change.

But last night... last night, sometime around 3 am I woke up, so terribly excited that my legs were antsy and my heart was racing.  I'm now four days away from my last day of work, and 27 days away from starting my thru-hike, and I'm occasionally having to catch my breath at the wonder and joy of it all.  Saying that I'm excited feels like a tremendous understatement- I have energy and excitement coursing through my veins, and simple tasks like filing my taxes and cooking dinner are difficult to finish because I ONLY HAVE 4 DAYS OF WORK REMAINING.  I'm opting out of standard society as we all know it, and am instead am forging a path of my own (metaphorically, not literally, as that would violate the Leave No Trace Principles.) through the woods.  In less than a month I'm starting an epic journey, one which will allow me to meander through 14 states, testing my patience, determination, and ability to cope with wet feet, smelly clothing, and food sources that are raided by all sorts of pests, including mice, bear, and possibly other hungry thru-hikers.  I know that this sounds like most peoples idea of a personal hell, but for me it's the beginning of a dream that's been 10 years in the making.

I've acquired my equipment.  I've built my stove.  I've hashed out my rough plan, and talked to other thru-hikers.  I've informed everyone I know of my plans, and I've bought a one-way ticket south.  There's nothing else for me to do except to celebrate, enjoy every moment, and, most of all, attempt, however loosely and poorly, to keep this joy from seeping out of my pores at every single moment, distracting me from the work I still need to do.

Friday, February 4, 2011

You've been asking...

Here are some of the answers to the questions you've been asking me.

Q: Who are you going with?  A: Nobody.  I know that this probably makes most people feel a little bit nervous, but I am starting the hike alone.  However, approximately 1,500 people will be starting the AT between March and May, and although 75% will drop out before they complete the trail, I'm confident that I will only be alone when I well and truly want to be alone. 

Q: Are you carrying a gun?  A: No, I am not carrying a gun.  I neither want nor need a gun to keep me safe.  Also, guns are heavy.

Q: But aren't you worried about running into bad people or animals?  A: Not really.  I'm more worried about ticks and eating well.  Also leeches.  Yeeeech. 

Q: Are you bringing a book / a kindle / a journal / a computer?  A: Yes and no.  Some thru-hikers have been known to shave the handle off of their toothbrush to save weight; others are less conservative with their total pack weight.  I'm not sure where I'm going to fall on this spectrum, but I suspect it's on the light-weight side of things.

Q: How often will you get off the trail and shower?  A: According to me, about once per week, depending on availability and cost.  According to you, not nearly often enough, especially if you're going to volunteer to hike with me or pick me up from the trailhead and let me crash at your place.  Sorry in advance.  :)

Q: Can I hike with you?  A: YES!  I'm open to anyone hiking with me, as long as you understand that I can't commit to any particular date, time, or location this far in advance.  Also, I will be requiring home-made cookies, so you'll need to bring some.  :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Keeping Things Whole

Over the weekend I moved from my large, beautiful (albeit cluttered) and sunlight spattered room downstairs to a significantly smaller room with baby blue and fire engine red walls.  My new room has one window which faces a fence and a garage-like house, and lets in significantly less light.  Although I only moved things into this room that I'll be using in the month of February, the room feels cluttered (I haven't gotten around to unpacking, and the extra boxes are taking up some of my preciously small floor space).  The rest of my belongings are sitting in a pile in the downstairs living room (sorry, Sarah).  While I managed to purge quite a few things, I'm still not done.  My pile of stuff, while not particularly large, still contain more things than I need.  Thankfully, my sister Ivy is coming to visit this weekend, and she will be able to help me sort and purge more.

I found the process of packing, moving, and purging to be very unsettling.  Throughout the entire day I kept questioning myself- is this a mistake?  What kind of person walks away (albeit temporarily) from a job in this kind of economy?  Am I regressing by attempting to simplify my life in this manner, and then venturing out into the unknown?  Starting in 47 days I'm going to be functionally homeless, without a permanent address, living out of a backpack.  During this time I will not be climbing the corporate ladder, working on making the world a better place, volunteering, or being present to witness the joys and share in the sorrows of my friends and family.  I will carry a cell phone, but it will be off almost all the time  I'll only access the Internet about once per week.  I won't be following current events.  I won't be running regularly.  Or going to see live music.  Or spending time with people I love.  Or having Tuesday Night Dinner. 

And now, several days later, I've come to a rather significant conclusion.  I will be giving up a lot of things for this hike- things that are bigger and more important than an over sized pile of possessions in the living room.  But in the pursuit of a dream I've had for over 15 years- for the ability to test my mettle and to see what sort of material I am made of, to spend six months living so simply that my only priorities will be food, shelter, motion, and sleep, and to be mentally and physically challenged in ways that I cannot fathom- for this, it's worth it.  And so I bought a train ticket.

I'm going to Georgia in March, and it's thrilling!