I was almost over my most current urge to run away when I came across a comment from a backpacker saying that now is the perfect time to hike the desert portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. Wildflowers. No snakes. Bearable temperatures. Few people since the herd doesn’t start for another month or two.
Oh, my. Sounds so lovely, I can feel my feet itching to go.
But I have promises to keep. And dances to learn. And a book club to attend (to talk about Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare). And a casino vacation next weekend with a friend. And oh, so many things!
Besides, I’m not yet physically ready to hike hundreds of miles. And until my short solo backpacking trip in May, I won’t know if I will ever be mentally ready.
It’s possible that by this time next year I’ll be able to do that desert backpacking trip, but I’m not so sure any more about a thru hike. (Do you know how it grates on me to spell “through” that way? But that’s the term. Thru hike.) The distances one has to walk each day to go 2,700 miles in five months is ridiculous. Like a never-ending marathon. Even if I ever could rack up that sort of mileage, I would much rather spend the time going slowly and wringing joy from each moment, experiencing the nuance of every step.
I can understand the pull to complete the challenge of a thru hike, but I see no reason to deal with excessive heat in the desert, snow or raging creeks in the high country, kamikaze mosquitoes in Oregon, smoke and detours from wildfires. Or walking with blistered feet. Or any number of horrors. I especially don’t care that overcoming such things would make a good story. All I want is a nice walk. (If I want a good story, I’ll make one up!)
I’ve followed hikers’ stories in some of the trail groups online and in blogs, and while many people do follow through with what they plan, others bail out for various reasons. One woman was a constant presence in the group, hyped up about her trek, even quit her job, and the first day, she fell and broke her ankle. Another woman spent a year preparing, and had to quit the trail after one hundred miles because her knees gave out. Another managed four hundred miles, but the people she met weren’t her kind of people, so she quit. (I have a hunch that she’d read too many books and blogs where people paired up for sex on the trail, and she hadn’t found anyone.) Some quit because they got bored. (Apparently, walking ten to twenty miles every day is boring.) Some quit because they never had any intention of completing the trail. (I wouldn’t call that quitting, though — it’s just stopping.) Most quit because they run out of money, had family emergencies, got sick or injured. Others quit because after the challenges of hiking the desert and seeing the vastness of the Sierras, they couldn’t face the next, less dramatic, phase of the trail.
I think a lot of what one accomplishes has to do with what a person wants from the trail. What calls to me is the trail itself. (Is it any wonder that most of the photos I post from my various treks show trails?) I don’t think it matters what trail I hike — long or short — it’s just that for now, the PCT is the closest epic trail and so that is the trail that fuels my dreams.
But any trail calls me.
Lucky for me, tomorrow I get to strap on my backpack, head out into the heat of the desert, and saunter around those trails for a few miles. (“Saunter” is the goal. “Trudge” is the reality.)
I get to pretend, for a short time, that I am running away. I get to pretend that I am on a great adventure. And then at night, I get to sleep in my own bed.
Who could ask for more than that?
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Unfinished, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, 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.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.