Solo hiker

May 17 2015

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I woke up at 5:30am, as usual. Sam was still sleeping as I gathered up my gear and organized my backpack. I found a new pillowcase in the hiker box, a comfort item that I am still stoked about! When it isn’t cold I can stuff my puffy in it and rest up with a feather pillow.

I ate my breakfast as quietly as possible, but Nurse started rustling around and rolling out of bed. I whispered in the dark to Sam. “I’m leaving now, goodbye Sam.”

He didn’t respond. I knew he was hurting and probably wouldn’t be leaving town for the next few days. He’d been having shin splints and had been having less and less of a good time. I couldn’t help my feet. My desire to be my own person, hike my own hike, to go when and where I wanted, so I left. I thought maybe a feeble goodbye was most appropriate for a person I knew I would see again.

I felt selfish for ages, but I was on this hike for the sole purpose of showing myself that I could do things myself, be strong, be independent.

I wasn’t out to prove anything to anyone but myself. There were moments of frustration hiking with all my hiking buddies. I don’t think those frustrations can from our interactions or toleration because I loved them all immensely. To love is to love all of a person, especially their annoying attributes. My trouble was feeling like I wasn’t out there in the wilderness with myself, listening to my own breathing, understanding what it means to be whoever the fuck it is I am. I wanted to be learning how to love my own annoying attributes. Today I decided to be solo again. I had on my new trail runners and the rain had lifted into a bright morning fog. I was crossing a long bridge, thinking about the towering power plant in front of me, thinking about the purity of water and about the excitement of going, going, going without any idea of when or where I would stop. I walked from town to a small stone shelter, formally meeting Nurse along the way. I walked 19.5 miles to Pine Swamp Branch shelter. That night a very tall section hiker wandered into the tiny shelter and took a spot on the lower bunk. His feet were hanging over the edge by a couple feet, so I named him Hangover! I saw him off and on for quite a long time. I also met Glamper and Papa at this shelter. It felt scary to be alone again. That fear was exactly what I was trying to overcome while walking alone. I never want to be afraid to go alone or to be alone. I want to correct the surprise in people when they ask me: You hiked it all alone as a female?! I hiked it alone, just like every other solo hiker. I made lifelong friends. I walked with people I loved. I walked with myself and learned that this can be empowering.

Trail log:

Water flowing, wind blowing, all of the loose fragments of the world come tumbling down, falling with gravity, that no one could have predicted. The thick air leaves a residue on all the living creatures of the forest. It is a distinct mistake to talk about inter being with clouds, because even on the rainiest of days, these thoughts will not dry you out. I have so much more respect for the creatures that live here, in this harshness, in the lack of desolation we call comfort, in a place where struggle seems to be the only way.

Little green plants sprouting, growing, trembling in the early winds of spring. A sort of cold that makes me wonder, shake, run, hide and claw at myself for cover. The foggy forest extends further than any great distant view, it moves me invisibly, it twists and turns into a movement that engulfs, embraces, engages and holds nothing back. There is no stagnation here, there is no permanence, there is wind, there is turmoil, there is an amazing turning, twisting, frantic movement that transforms into the slow peaceful blooming of life. How resilient we are depends  on how well we can move as this wind pushes us, how should we, could we move?

How I walk, where I walk, when I walk, none of it seems to matter, only walking matters.

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