I’ll admit that I kind of avoided talking about election season while it was going on. It was hard for me to keep up, honestly – I was kind of dealing with my own shit, dealing with the slow, inexorable decline of my endorphins, my dopamine, my seratonin, as I started to spend my days hunched in front of a computer instead of confidently striding down a trail. I mean, I kept up as best as I could while taking care of myself, but truth be told that was hardly better than it was while I was on the trail. I’d come into the living room to Spesh watching The Daily Show or @midnight and I’d get a few pieces here and there. I’d get on the book of many faces and see various articles that people had posted. That sort of thing. I didn’t hear much outside of my algorithm-induced echo chamber, but I knew, despite what I was hearing, that we were staring down the barrel of a potential Trump presidency. Continue reading
The drips from the roof of my apartment – dulled, distant, metallic – sound nothing like the drumming of drips from the pine trees onto my tent, but they keep me awake anyway. I’ve been having a hard time sleeping, sheets feeling strange on my skin, my pillow alternately my favorite part of civilization and just another accoutrement that I don’t need. I’m either too cold or too hot, and while I control the climate now, changing it’s not a simple matter of zipping or unzipping my sleeping bag. So I lie in bed, uncomfortable with comfort, and listen to the persistent plunk of the outside trying to get in.
I’ve been home just under two weeks, and everything I experience is this strange same-not-same, similar in ways, but muted in others. It’s pretty much been town chores on steroids: I’m constantly working, writing, doing laundry, eating food. Too much food. More food than is tenable for this new, sedentary, hunched-over-a-computer-writing lifestyle I’m living. Still, for whatever reason, the real world – what we call the real world – seems much less real than the world I left behind, the world of moments defined by distance, miles, steps. Here, the days just blur, one right into another.
It’s been hard to keep up with a writing schedule – I’m doing a lot of writing for Backpacker still, and I’ve found that writing for myself is harder than I expected. I think the post-trail blues are settling in, and writing my daily entries means exposing myself to my feels. I miss it, miss the trail, miss hiking. Even my body’s conspiring against me in that regard: muscles have memory, too, and they miss being sore, being challenged, seeing new things as much as my mind does.
So I’m headed off to Rocky Mountain National Park to spend a couple of days out. Work all my muscles, jog my physical and emotional memory. Maybe deal with a little bit of snow, although it’s not supposed to be terrible. I’ll have Day 75 up for you folks on Monday – and maybe I’ll even post a schedule I can stick to.
Thanks for understanding.
So it’s clear I’m quite a bit behind on my posting, and while I’ll have a load more up for you by morning – I’ve been trying to devote all my writing time to catching up on daily posts, rather than talking about the brown part of being a Brown Girl on the PCT – I need to get this off my chest. Continue reading
So I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection lately, particularly about the meanings ascribed to brownness and ladyness and intersectionality and hiking, and what I see as the tension among those things and between those things and the space I’ve carved out for myself on this blog. It’s complicated – like most things worth understanding are – so bear with me. Continue reading
So clearly, I didn’t finish my Colorado Trail thruhike and my blog concurrently.
On trail, my poor choice of external battery was to blame – between opting out of a couple of resupply stops and using my phone as a map and a camera and a blog-posting machine and and and, I couldn’t get everything typed up at night and make it into towns with battery remaining. I took notes at night in a Rite in the Rain notebook – sometimes extensive, sometimes skeletal – by headlamp light, until I could no longer hold my arms up or sit propped all weird-like, but it wasn’t in any sort of final form.
Off trail, I was initially so caught up in filling my work schedule, catching up with friends/imgur, and generally avoiding the fact that I wasn’t hiking anymore, that I didn’t have the mental energy to hunt through my photos, to force myself to see what I was missing by being broke but juuuust busy enough to be unable to go camping. I reconstructed days here and there using the notebook and the guidebook, but it was more painful than I thought it’d be. That depth of emotion felt like enough to drown a person who wasn’t ready for it. I pushed it down though, like ya do, and for the longest time after I got home all that pushing left me short-tempered, low-energy, fun-time avoidant, generally not the type of person I like to be around. But eventually,
imperceptibly after a lot of work, I got to the point where it was time.
So in the middle of finding a new place and moving and working a whole helluva lot, I made time to write. And write. And write. It was time. And just before I finished Day Thirty-Six, I went back to the beginning, read every day of the hike, made sure I felt all the feels I was feeling so I could finish it right.
It felt like standing at the Junction Creek Trailhead all over again – exuberance, exhaustion, and a rewarding kind of heartbreak. But I wouldn’t trade either finish for the world.
I’m not exactly finished with the blog, though – I’m working on updating the FAQ and writing posts that talk statistics, what’s next, and what I’ll do differently next time. Even so, I’m happy to be looking forward to more adventures in the new year and years to come.
I sit by Junction Creek in the immediate aftermath, sipping the remnants of the whiskey I’d bought in Lake City. I saved it for a reason – it suits my mood; the Colorado Trail’s trailhead is off to my left, the Creek’s softly flowing along, ushering my thoughts into and directly out of my mind. I’m content to flow along with it for the moment – what I’m thinking is too big to hold onto – while Crankster lets me have my space, making busy busy busy back back back to the real world. I’m not quite there yet, though I know I’ll have to be soon enough.
In towns, it feels like I’m near-constantly glued to a screen. Mostly, it’s because I chose the wrong external battery for writing blog posts – I should’ve brought the big one – but also because I have relatively few hours in which to contact the outside world, see what’s going on, not become completely disconnected from context. Otherwise, it’s all eating and resupply and talking with friends and and and – it’s easy to just forget the rest of the world is there.
But when I heard through the Facebook grapevine that Blackhawk started the Colorado Trail, I got absurdly, unabashedly excited. Not only another brown person, but another black person! Hiking! And while he’s only slightly newer to this whole backpacking thing than I am, he’s out there! Doing it! Getting it done despite hesitations and fears and a heavy pack and all those things I’m feeling. And I’m excited for him and excited for me and excited for us and and and–
And I wonder how different our experiences will be: he as an identifiable black man, me as a visually-ambiguous brown-black woman-girl.
So a couple days ago, after Jane and Sarah’s departure, I’m walking Frisco trying to find postcards, stamps, batteries, other little odds and ends I need for the leg to Twin Lakes, and I’m made aware of folks looking at me. Staring. Doing a really bad job of hiding the fact that they’re staring, and not like “hey baby” staring, but confusion staring.
And then I realize that I’m pretty much the only brown person in town. Continue reading
By April of 2014, I’d been on the fence for a while. Not so much an “if” fence as a “when” fence, which is just a different kind of “if” fence. Anyone who’s hiked before will tell you, and did tell me, that there’s always something standing in the way of such an endeavor: money, work, age, physical condition, prior commitments, life. It’s so easy to put something like this off because it is such a commitment. It helped having a thru-hiker as a partner – having physical proof that it is possible, that the world doesn’t end when you quit your job to go on a six-month adventure; being invited down to Lake Morena for the Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff certainly didn’t hurt, either. So after a day of silently watching listening learning at the Wolverines’ Shakedown Shack, of talking to hikers past, present, and future, and a night of waking repeatedly to rain pissing through the giant tree above us onto my soon-to-be-re-burrowed face1, I stood on the pavement in the glare of morning sunshine, drier than I thought I’d be, and told some former strangers I was going to hike the PCT in 2015. Continue reading