As I write, I’m sitting in an old European-style hotel in downtown Ashland, OR. The town is the largest I’ve been in since San Diego, and is bustling with tourists catching a show at the popular annual Shakespeare Festival. I’ve taken a couple days off here to celebrate (mostly with ice cream and craft beer) crossing into Oregon, resupply for the next few days and to send a box to myself in northern Oregon, and catch up on some sleep. My insomnia has reared is ugly head in the last couple weeks, making even th easier days feel incredibly difficult.
its strange to know I have only 950 miles left. At once it seems impossibly long, and so incredibly short. I want to hold onto every moment–every mile–so closely. I daydream sometimes about my regular life–about showering every day and pulling clean water from the tap and running around Seattle’s Green Lake in the early mornings. But this–this life, it is so precious and so fleeting, and it makes those small things so much more beautiful and important.
Costco, another hiker I’ve been traveling with for several weeks now, read a passage to me from a book he was reading that seemed particularly applicable:
“Living in a state of perpetual denial… had a way of heightening one’s appreciation of he small things…. for what is life, a good life, but the accumulation of small pleasures? In Washington we lived in a place where everything was available, for a price, and yet I couldn’t recall the last time I had really savor end soemthing–a book, a sunset, a fine meal. It was as if the sensory deprivation, a gilded weariness, where every thing is permitted and nothing appreciated.” (J. Maarten Troost)
A day in the life of a thru-hiker:
5:30a Wake up, consider falling back asleep, but ultimately race out of your tent to release the Israelites from Egypt.
6:30a Finish packing up all of your gear after breakfast (and this takes me longer than most, as I like hot breakfast and coffee), shoving a few snacks in your hip pockets.
6:35a: Glance at the maps/GPS again to get an idea of the elevation gain/loss you’ll be traveling through. Think about how many miles you might put in… Usually between 23-30 for me, depending on the terrain, how much I’ve slept, whether or not I’m stopping in a town, and if there’s a good swimming hole along the way.
6:37a: Start hiking. Pass a few hikers still sleeping or getting ready.
8:45a: Still hiking. Thinking about taking a break. Not yet.
8:47a: Suddenly feel like you took the wrong trail at the last junction. Nah, you took the right one.
8:48a: Did you, though? Did you look at the signs closely enough?
8:49a: Check the map to make sure sure–yep, you’re on the right trail. Feel a little foolish.
8:52a: Check the map again. Just to, you know. Make sure.
9:45a: Take a break. Shoes off, sit down, snack, filter a liter or two of water from a (hopefully nearby) stream or spring (hopefully not full of cow shit)
10:30a: Oops, kind of a long break. Hike some more.
12:30p: Lunch time! Tortillas with salami, cheese, and mayo. Possible accidental nap. Swat flies/mosquitos/bees. Inspect feet. Rinse out socks and underwear from previous day, hang on outside of pack to dry. Get passed by hikers from this morning. Chat about other hikers, how you accidentally dug your cathode near a switchback, how horrible that climb was, how hot it is, or about whether or not the brewery in the next town lets you camp in their backyard.
1:20p: Start walking again.
2:30p: Haven’t seen a trail hash for a while–obsessively check map to make sure you’re following the right trail.
3:00p: Wish you were done for the day. How many more miles? 10?! Ugh, fine.
3:45p: Stop to filter water
5:30p: Still Hiking
6:15p: Done for the day! Find a flat spot and set up your tent. Get dinner going (Ramen with peanut butter is a favorite)
7:00p: Joined by hikers from that Morning, or others. Discuss your food cravings, bowel movements, pass around a bottle of whiskey, talk about the trail and tell stories and wonder aloud what you’re going to do with your life after this.
8:45p: Stay up too late eating the sunset and hanging out with other hikers
9:15p: To bed and, if you’re lucky, to sleep.