Friday, December 10, 2004

Nostalgic for the Future

Ready to be on the PCT. Or a trail. Any trail. Where I have 1,000 miles behind me and 1,000 miles to go. Sitting on a rock in the sunshine, taking a much-needed rest. Or hiking in cold rain, knowing I'll get to a hostel before dark, thinking how much better it is to be hiking in the cold rain than to be a dweller in temperature-controlled Cubicle Land.

Meeting other thru-hikers, other like-minded folks, the people that I belong with. Eating a big, fattening meal without hating myself for it. Walking ten, fifteen, twenty miles a day. Sleeping the sleep of the dead every night. Playing mind games with the mileages and the profile maps. Wondering if this uphill is ever going to end. Seeing the road at the bottom of the downhill, wondering how long it will take to get a ride into town.

Carrying everything I need on my back ... well, almost everything. What I don't have, I'll get in town at the store or the post office. Being hungry, genuinely hungry, and not bored-munching-hungry like I get in Cubicle Land.

Seeing for miles around every day. Mountain peaks, blue skies, clouds in the distance, and not a single computer, building, car, or television. The day's toughest decisions being, "Snickers ... or Power Bar?"

Stinking. Reeking to high heaven. Being dirty. Crusty dirty. And then finding a shower in town, and watching the dirt and grime come off, watching my "tan" return to my normal skin color as the water runs over me. Having healthy hair not stripped dry by hair products and repeated washings. Having a healthy body and a healthy heart from all of the walking.

Being with Dan, a.k.a. Sheltowee, a lot more than I am now. Spending time together when neither of us are stressed or depressed over our busy jobs, unrealistic expectations, "not-enough-time" complaints, or widening hips and expanding bellies. Walking in peaceful solitude on the trail, seeing his footprints, knowing he's just a few thousand feet in front of me.

Hitting the trail landmarks, the places I've dreamed of seeing, from Campo to Kennedy Meadows to the High Sierra to Crater Lake to the volcanoes to Manning Park. Singing to myself as I hike: everything from John Denver songs to selections from "The Marriage of Figaro," to whatever little ditties I happen to make up on the way. Memorizing crazy long poetry and chanting it as I take each step ... "There are strange things done in the midnight sun / By the men who moil for gold ..."

Sleeping on the ground, next to Sheltowee. Talking and snuggling under the stars. Listening to the sounds of the animals in the night. Watching for tracks as we hike during the day. Catching sight of wildflowers. Noticing how the trunks of one species of tree differs from another. Trees ... seeing the great redwoods.

Seeing old friends: Dodger, Belcher, Navigator, Twig, and any number of hikers that we've met before that we just "happen" to see on the trail. Meeting new friends, new friends that will become friends for life, as trail friends so often seem to do.

Chasing dreams. Living life. Thru-hiking. Five months of freedom, starting in the spring of 2006. I'll miss my piano terribly, but oh, will it be worth it.

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