I, allegedly, spent last summer walking about 2,650 miles, or closer to 2,900 based on data I seem to have recorded in my phone, from Mexico to Canada, though I sure couldn't tell you, because it all feels like a fever dream now, three months out, and things are just the same as they were before the trail, except for the small ways in which they're different: I have a few new friends, a new apartment, my old friends will sometimes ask me a question about hiking, I've achieved minor local notoriety as "that person who walked really far" and not just as "that hot, very gay, presumably useless annoying child".
It was a high snow year, the highest ever, according to The Internet, and a very small number of people went northbound through the Sierra. I know this from journals I wrote, because my therapist said I would want to read them later; she also said she was curious to hear about the trip, and did not trust me as an unbiased narrator-- as I seem to have forgotten the whole thing, her lack of confidence is perfectly justified.
I hiked really fast, except for the times I didn't, and I avoided significant drama and mostly hiked alone, except, naturally, for the times I very much did not do those things.
The trail was very slow; I was very successful in my goal to be as present as possible. It's a very easy goal when all you have to do is breathe & walk, so no major celebration is necessary. I was so very aware of my body, everything around me, all the time. There were, of course, times where I was so tired I would close my eyes while walking, or experiencing such excruciating pain that I would tear up every time my left leg took weight (for one thousand miles), or so convinced of my imminent demise that I got all the way through fear into acceptance, or my body pushed so far past its breaking point that I couldn't stop shivering or coughing. But most of the time, this was very easy.
The trail also went by exceedingly quickly. The desert was very fast, and I said goodbye to most of my new friends at Kennedy Meadows. I went into the Sierra with some newer friends, into the snow, and was with them for a while, and by then they were old friends, after waking up at 3 am every morning and screaming until the sun came up and slogging through the snow. There's a closeness from relying on someone for survival, and watching them almost die a bunch of times in a row. I picked up some other friends in Yosemite, and we did a bunch of NorCal together, until I ran ahead of them, got hurt, and fell behind. I never saw them again.
In NorCal, I saw some desert friends coming south, having flipped to Oregon, and then again when I got to Oregon on foot and they got there by car. I met someone, though I had tried not to, and I tried pretty hard not to then, too. I accidentally lied about my camping plans and hiked forty-five miles, and then another forty-five, and then stopped at a buffet, like some kind of idiot. They caught up, and then we were in Washington, and inseparable until the end. My old friends, from the Sierra, re-appeared, and we hiked as a little bubble all the way to Canada, where we met the end of the trek with a snowstorm. A fitting end to the snowiest hike ever.
So, how am I now? I don't know. I oscillate between overstimulated and wildly bored. I miss being so present, but I am also so glad I live under a roof and have a shower. I can't wait to do this again. I can't believe I have to look at a computer for my silly little job; I can't believe I am employed. I'm a little heartbroken that things from the trail cannot remain-- I tell people that I'm ok with it, because that was always the premise, the core idea, but between you and me, it makes me sad. I wish that some things from my life on the move could stay with me. I made a list, a wishlist, and in the moment they all felt achievable. Now, I think they're all impossible. So, the version of me that existed out there, is is incompatible with my life the way it is usually? What's usual? Does it matter?
When I think about trail, it feels foggy and distant, on the whole, because honestly, I didn't walk From Mexico To Canada, or even The Pacific Crest Trail, I just kind of slept on the ground every night and walked all day every day, from town to town, and just never stopped doing that until I reached a weird pile of wood in the forest and then that was it. I have sharp flashes of memory about specific things, especially when I talk with my friends, but it's almost like my brain doesn't know how to record something so big, how to get down so much information in a way that will stick.
Don't let my declining mental state make it sound like I had a bad trip-- I had more fun than anyone out there, as was remarked upon by every southbounder, and most of my friends. I had what can only be described as an annoyingly good time. But the emotional fallout from living such a good, simple life isn't easy. And it's not until I actually type those words that I remember that post-trail depression is a well-documented phenomenon, and damn, maybe I will talk to my therapist about trail after all.
To Chirp, Emery, Turtle, Hamp, Daria, Stiches, Wolverine, Runway, Buzzy/Snorlax, Pickles/Sloth, Rave Dad, Silky, Island Time, Beesley, Cactass, Lucky, Feng Shui, Matrix, Mooney, Taut, Iron Will, Sonic, Toph, Starfox, Sharkbait, Summer, Dumpster Fire, Quarterback, Hammer, Goofy, Platinum, Bean, Creature, Hot Take, Sunrise, Tangerine, Undefeated, Bob ze Builder, Tiger Queen/Snooze, Coach Batman, Ranger Nessa (Human), Golden, Snooze, Snowmobile, Bear, Guardian, J-Walker, Zip, Turbo, Owl, Flex, Bootscoot, Dust Bunny/Doc, Boomerang, Assassin, Mothball, Olaf, Scarface/Jack-Jack, Runway ('21), Patches, Rainbow Clouds, Creed, Junkrat, Boom-Boom, Inches, Head Start, Twist, Clif Bar, Lost Keys-- thank you.