Today is one of my last “lazy” Sundays before the trail. Three Sunday after this one I will be hiking through the desert barely having scratched the surface of 2600 miles. The last Sunday where I can imagine soreness and stiffness as a temporary condition.
Yesterday I hiked Battleship Mountain with three other people who are all doing the Oregon Coast Trail this summer. Our challenges are going to be different. They’re hiking 400 miles, but only have 3 weeks to do it, which means they will have to average 18 miles a day with little time to acclimate. I’m hiking 2600 miles but have the freedom of taking time and having patience with my body for the first few weeks. They will be cold. I will be battling the sun. They’ll be sleeping in hotels and yurts and designated campgrounds much of the way, eating hot meals and drinking beer, and I will not be.
Still, Battleship Mountain was a challenge for all of us. Long (5 miles before reaching the base), steep, bushwacking, trail finding, scrambling (some of which could be called low grade rock climbing).
We started giving each other trail names. When I slid my hand across a cactus that was hidden in a bush while we were bushwacking, I became “Cactus Whacker.” When my blistered feet and overtired legs made me slow for the last two miles, I became “Willie” – “because you’re moving by sheer force of will at this point.”
“So you’ve named me Cactus Willie Whacker?”
We got a kick out of that. I won’t be taking it with me on the PCT.
We didn’t make it to the very last summit of Battleship Mountain. That’s okay. We were tired, and the exhaustion was making the eroded granite that gave the “ball-bearing slope” its name especially treacherous. We called it and turned around.
Today I am hobbling around. I threaded some string through my blisters last night to much success, but my feet are still tender. I’ve decided to take it easy today. I took myself to brunch, read a book. I am trying to revel in the fact that in three Sundays, I won’t have the choice to put my feet up and drive to breakfast and watch hours of TV. I won’t get to cuddle with my dogs or wake up next to my husband. I will be choosing to be sore and exhausted every day. I will be choosing to walk on anyway.
It is also strange to think that however long I’m out there – hopefully five months, or however long it takes me to reach Canada – when I come back I will be coming back to a life that won’t quite fit me anymore. Too loose or too tight. Too sharp or soft. I will be stepping into a phantom life that I recognize and yet won’t quite seem alive anymore. Or that’s what I imagine. That’s what happens in small doses when I come back from long, hard hikes. I see my daily life and it seems to be, however slightly, sized to someone else.
I am nervous and afraid and excited and hopeful. 2600 miles seems too long and also totally possible. 5 months seems too hard and yet within my grasp.
The only way to do it is to do it I guess. But hopefully without feet filled with blisters. I have four pairs of shoes I’m testing out. Wide feet are especially hard to protect on the trail, it seems. I will find a way.
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