Thursday, September 23, 2010
September in Washington
The rain keeps tumbling down. Some days ago I was hiking with Sneezes and Hot Mess. As we traversed the ridges of the cascade mountains through swirling fog and spattering rain, they informed me of the hiker coalition which they have formed. It is called T.H.A.W. Thru-Hikers Against Walking. A school of indoctrination which encourages hikers to walk as little as possible. i.e.- Never go off trail for water.
Never go more than 50 feet off the trail to camp.
When in town, acquire centrally located accommodations which minimize the amount of town walking, as those miles don't count.
Truly what is getting most of us through these last hundreds of miles is allowing ourselves these sardonic ruminations. Taking comfort in that we are all in the same boat. (With the amount of water running down the trail, we may as well be in boats. Inner tubes at the very least.
The terrain has again become difficult, making a 25 mile day a challenge to cover, but we do it. At this point in the game, with the aid of power bars, I can walk 4-5 hours without stopping. I do this because stopping means getting cold and even more wet. Once I start walking again, it takes at least 45 minutes to get myself thawed enough to be able to use my extremities. String cheese wrappers are the bane of my frigid fingers. Whoever is the fellow who labels things 'easy open', well, I would like to bring him up here for about a month, just to get a taste. Let him try to work buttons and buckles with numb, weak fingers. No matter how many times or how much you focus on sending the commands to your digits, they just won't work. Let that guy try to open a wrapper or packet of hot chocolate. Then, may he spend the rest of his life trying to peel shrink wrap off of CDs.
Despite the daily challenges, or perhaps in light of them, I am keenly aware of the tremendous blessings. A few days ago I caught up with my trail family. Rif-Raf, Shannon, and Frog were three faces which brought sunshine to my heart when I caught them. Other dear trail-friends as well, such as Princess, are moving in the vicinity as well. Recollections of encountering the people around me, thousands of miles ago lends a certain strength to our bond. This is made even stronger by the fact that we are all fighting our way through the same conditions. I cannot emphasize the power of community enough. Certainly without them I would not be at this point today.
Another major blessing are my blood family. The night I rolled in, LaDeana and the girls came up to see me. Having already had a full day, they loaded up into the car and drove well over an hour to bring me cheer, and love, and food. We chatted over pizza and I drank in their beautiful and brilliant faces. Listening to the girls' laughs and seeing how they are growing into such kind, polite, generous human beings. I am honored to be a member of such an astounding family.
A final source of strength for me, is you all. Knowing that you stand behind me, encouraging, hoping, supporting. I cannot begin to explain how many times my thoughts wander to those back home and around the world who are rooting for me, and at the moments when I cannot find the strength in myself to push on, well, I draw on you.
I head out under cloudy skies and banks of fog, beginning the final push. I am terrified and elated. Nervous and hopeful. Sometimes all at once. While I know I have walked 2475 miles to get to this point, I cannot wrap my mind around it as a unified concept. I know I have done it. I have been getting up and walking as far as I can every day for 5 months. It makes sense, but that does not necessarily lend any conceptual grasp. So I suppose I will just push on and make of it what I can. Wish me strength. I'm going to need it.