Although I’ve been Dreaming of Life on Foot, hiking around the USA on the National Trails System, the logistics seem unmanageable. To hike just the Pacific Crest Trail would take a minimum of six months, assuming I could walk 10 to 20 miles a day through often-rugged terrain. And that assumption is very optimistic. I get exhausted just walking a mile or two up steep hills. Still, if walking were a way of life, I could walk a mile, rest a while, walk another mile since there would be no reason to hurry to finish the trail. Well, that’s not true. There is one reason — winter. People try to finish the trek in six months so they don’t have to deal with inclement weather — neither the heat of desert summer nor the harsh climes (and climbs) of mountain winter.
Like other through-hikers, I could probably send food ahead so that I wouldn’t have to cart a wagonload of provisions. I could probably map out the watering holes (and from what I have heard, some of these holes are little more than stagnant puddles). I could perhaps even get in shape for such a trip (though the trip itself would get me in shape). But so many other problems seem insurmountable. For example, what would I do with my car? Do I park it at the trailhead and hope it is still there (and the battery still charged) when I return? And if so, how do I return to the car? Would it be better to put the vehicle in storage, and hope I can find a ride to the trailhead? Or do I sell it, and use rental cars in between jaunts? (Since I don’t have a charge card, renting cars isn’t really an option.)
And what about connectivity? I suppose I could just take off and forget about computers and phones and such, but this blog is important to me. I could write my blogs on the trail, and then post them when I got back to civilization, but that could be many weeks, or even months. I could get a solar charger, which would probably be necessary since a working phone would be nice to have in an emergency, but I have a hunch most of the trail(s) would be off the grid anyway.
And what about mosquitoes? Mosquitoes love to feast on me, but my body hates them. I get sick from even a single sting. And I’m allergic to mosquito repellent, even — especially — citronella oil. Until my current (temporary) relocation to the desert, I have always had to be careful to be inside by dusk. It’s only because this seems to be a mosquito-free area that I’ve been able to go walking at night with the Sierra Club. So the idea of camping out in bug season is a bit ludicrous. Can’t you just see me, trying to hike, swathed in yards and yards of mosquito netting?
And what about my eyeglasses? Do I need to have extra pairs with me or stashed in my sent-ahead supply boxes? The same with shoes. Do I break in two or three pairs of shoes, and have those packed in the supply boxes, too? I am not on any medication, but I do take supplements to keep me healthy. Do I forgo those and hope I don’t get colds or allergies or pains that don’t go away?
I thought my original idea of living on the road — perhaps sampling the trails or visiting all the national parks and in between staying at motels or extended stay hotels — was complicated, but that plan seems simple in comparison to a life on foot. I would be out in the wilds for just a few days at a time, I would be not too far from my car (which would provide emergency shelter or an emergency getaway), and I would be able to access my blog and recharge my phone every few days. I could even pass out gifts with information about my books to everyone I see. That was the original purpose of an extended trip — to promote my books — but the idea seems to metamorphose the more I think about it.
And there is a lot to think about. Of course, since my current responsibilities might not end for several years (I am looking after my 97-year-old father, and there is a good chance he could live to be 100), I have plenty of time to wonder, and dream, and prepare for whatever the future might have in store for me.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.