Composed on the trail 6/24:
This last stretch of trail (Bishop to Mammoth) was a really hard one for me, and today after two days in town and now back on the trail I’m beginning to process why.
Granted, it was probably the most difficult stretch of trail, terrain-wise, and after two months my body is now operating on a calorie deficit, where it is just hungry all the time without realizing it. But also, I’ve discovered, any issues you have in life follow you out onto the trail. They don’t go away. In fact they reverberate off the trees and mountains like an echo. Only instead of fading like echoes, they get louder. They are amplified by the fact you are physically exhausted and starving your body.
Issues. We’ve all got them. Here are some of mine that have been out to play lately: anxiety about the future, the need to always have a plan, the need for control, and the desire for perfection. These little guys have been haunting me on the trail too, making for one tough hike mentally.
I reached a breaking point on this last stretch. When you get to this point there are only two options — push through or quit, right?
Well, I’ve always been a fan of the middle ground, so I came up with one more — take a break, a time out. My plan: one week off the trail to take a mental break, a step back to let my body and mind recharge and find the motivation to continue. But because the march to Canada before snow continues, Jason will continue on without me for these days. (Yes, for you purists, I realize I have just lost the title of official thru hiker, and I am completely at peace with that. I need to do this trail my way.)
Now my troubles on the trail are no worse than any other hikers. I share all this just to let you in on an honest look at what the experience has been for me. I don’t want your pity (or envy) as these are all my choices I bring upon myself.
Also, not every hiker is like this. Jason, for instance, is a natural thru hiker. He shrugs off physical discomfort and has his eye on the prize at all times –Canada. I’ll tell you about some other hikers I’ve met as well. I ran into a woman again recently that I’d met earlier who hiked the trail last year. She told me she cried all the time (me also this last week), and she struggled all the way to Canada. Another hiker said this was all so much easier than he thought it would be and he hadn’t really experienced any challenges yet. And another, hiking the trail for his second consecutive summer, said he had never felt happier in his life than when he was on the trail.
There are as many different experiences as there are hikers. The tales in this blog are only one of them.
Even though I am looking forward to my break and visit with friends, as I sit here in our tent, in our little slice of heaven, secluded and surrounded by those rugged mountain peaks, watching the last soft pink glow of daylight fade into night, I know I am not done with this trail yet. Even if I have a love/hate relationship with it, I am not done yet.
Composed 6/30, on a bus to Stockton:
So I am recharging with two good friends I haven’t been able to visit with in years, and get the privilege of meeting their beautiful children for the first time.
I was going to leave the trail to visit them from Mammoth, but I literally could not get out of that town without it being on my own two feet. There were no rental cars left and no trains or buses till the weekend, so I had to get back on the trail and hike two more days to Tuolomne Meadows in Yosemite. In the end this ended up being a good thing, and the two days were both pleasant and beautiful hikes.
It took us two days to figure out that I couldn’t get out of Mammoth though, which meant Jason and I had a great double zero in a cool town that I was relaxed enough in to enjoy. We had the best sushi we’ve had in a trail town yet, that piña colada I’ve been craving for the last 200 miles; we even found an outdoor ping pong table and played a round.
Since getting off the trail, I’ve taken naps, gotten a foot massage, played in the park and pool with children, taken a yoga class, and eaten, and eaten, and eaten. I’m feeling more myself again and have some new strategies for making this journey more my own. It was such a new and foreign experience for me for the first two months, but now that I’ve experienced it and had some distance from that experience, I can see it differently and can rely on my own instincts now rather than trying to model my hike off others.
So, I’ll let you know how that goes! Jason’s hike is going well. He got into Bridgport yesterday and discovered the wildfire that was burning near the next section of trail is contained and the trail is safe to travel through. He’ll be in South Lake Tahoe on Thursday where I will meet him in a rental car, and we’ll hike out the next day. Now finished with the Sierras and entering into the Northern California section of the trail.
Now here’s some reasons why I love the trail:
June 30, 2015 at 6:55 pm
Enjoyed reading your post.
Sounds like you are doing the trail your way. Lovely photos.
July 1, 2015 at 3:41 pm
July 1, 2015 at 4:32 am
Your hike- your way. Everyone has choices in life and you made yours-sounds like it did you a world of good ! Your photos are gorgeous-such beauty. So proud of you and Jason-and envious-just not enough to tackle it myself-lol. Love your posts, Catie- keep ’em coming !!
July 1, 2015 at 3:42 pm
July 1, 2015 at 6:07 pm
Hey Comet! Just wanted to say that it is so good to hear that you are making the trail/hike your own. I struggle constantly with trying to hike at my own pace and do my own thing vs staying with certain people/a group, which sometimes leads me to not hike my own hike. The section from Bishop to Mammoth was a beautiful bitch!!! It took me at least two days longer than planned and I fell behind everyone I knew. I met new friends, though, and ended up having a great week. The physical struggles were real, and I cried more than once. I also questioned my motives and my determination. I skipped ahead to Yosemite to meet family who then took me to Tuolumne where I met up with the whole group again! It was pure trail magic, and that was a day I will remember forever. I south bounded back to Mammoth by myself, and it really helped me grow. There was rain and thunderstorms, something I don’t do well with, but I learned how to rely on my own strength and try to keep the fear out of my head as best I could. I also camped by myself for the first time last night, and though I was scared and went to bed at 8 with headphones on, I woke up feeling so much stronger. These past two days have shown me how far I’ve come. I am telling you all of this to just give you another perspective. I struggle a lot with eating enough and feeling like I’m physically strong enough to do this. I am slowly learning that I am strong enough, and I know you are, too! I am glad you had a nice break and visit, and I really hope to see you on the trail again, soon. 🙂
July 2, 2015 at 12:16 am
Hey Animal! That’s awesome! Sounds like your really learning how to hike your own hike as well. Yes, I hope we meet up again soon too! It seems like we’ve lost most of the people we knew as well. We’ll be in south lake on Thursday, hiking out on Friday. Sounds like you’re not far behind us? Happy hiking!