Monthly Archives: May 2015

Southern comfort 

    

 
 I feel overwhelmed often as I am living this life, the trail life. People always ask me why I would choose to walk every day, why I would choose to live outside, be filthy, push my body and mind to the point of discomfort and exhaustion. They want to know why I would choose to be poor, to be alone. They ask where I go to the bathroom, how long I go without showering and what I do in the rain. They scrunch their noses when I tell them about packing out my shitty toilet paper. They look confused when I tell them that I weep when I am looking at beauty that I cannot comprehend. The truth is, this is becoming more what I understand every day. After hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I felt I had to return “home”, to the trail. Being out here day in and day in and day out is a privledge that I try to pay respect to. 

  
   The challenges I curse are a blessing and even as I am cursing loudly I am trying to be thankful. I awaken each morning looking forward to putting one foot in front of the other, excited to see what the day will provide. I get frustrated at times because when I am tired things begin to look the same, the mountains are blue and green, I am in a tunnel of vegetation. Rhodedendrons seem to welcome me at every summit. But with each exhale as I climb, with each little stream of sweat that pours down my face, each inch of dirt under my nail, I am reminded of my freedom. I am grateful for that freedom and I try to unwrap and untangle it. All of the feelings I experience on a daily basis feel like a mass welling up in my chest. Like the most intense and confusing love. I feel blinded at times and I have to stop and listen and try to pay attention to only small things so I can come back. I am consistently enveloped and safe in the embrace of the ever moist forest. My feet traverse over a trail of rock, root and decomposing leaves and pine needles. Sometimes as I count my steps I get lost in the most beautiful memories. I can hardly believe those memories are my life, that I have been blessed enough to see the places i’ve seen, loved the people I’ve loved and been loved by. Sometimes pain fills my heart, and I am forced to feel all of it, to the point that I cry, to remember it and re-live it is to accept it. And I feel it melt away as I push onward, and I am so grateful for my surroundings for taking it away from me and allowing me to be lighter. Out here it’s ok to love so much it hurts. It’s ok to give thanks almost every second, and it’s ok to be angry and to yell. And when things don’t seem to be the way I want them to be, it’s just because I’m not the way I want me to be. And I am lucky, because I just have to keep walking amongst these trees, and these green and blue mountains. And i am filthy, and I am poor. But I am always awake. And I’m learning. 

    

     
  The Appalacian Trail provides an intimacy I haven’t yet felt. It forces me to face aspects of myself I have been avoiding for so long. It shows me the smallest of treasures. It demands me to slow down and pay attention to the smallest details. Even as I look into the faces of the people I meet, I take more time now to watch their mouths move, listen to the tone of their voice, make communion with their presence. The birds wake me up in the morning and I often wipe my eyes and take in my world before first light. I can smell the dank dampness always, and climb out of my wet sleeping bag and stretch out, preparing to uncover something new. Cool breezes usually motivate packing and walking…and steamy sweat coats me as I watch the sun rise through the dense trees or on the horizon depending on where I slept. I can hear everything at this time. The light is so subtle. This is one of my favorite times. All of my senses are heightened and my body is warming up. Miles slide by quickly. In a sense this is like going to church for me. It is here, in these quiet moments in the trees, on the ridge, that I pray, that I give thanks, that I feel gratitude.

     I’m now about 275 miles in. I am so happy to have so many more miles to walk. It’s not always easy, I am not always aware, and I am certainly angry at times, but i am always, always humbled. 

   There are many things I haven’t talked about. I have a wonderful hiking partner named Stephen (Yogi) Newman. He has become such a great friend and teacher. I’m so lucky to have met him. He is a constant reminder to keep moving, to laugh and to experience everything. He helps me to relax, he points out what I don’t see and he is selfless and giving. He’s also extremely frugal, which is what I need to learn. I enjoy my days with him and am so grateful to share this time however long it lasts, with him following behind. I have met some of the most interesting people, on the trail and in the towns i have passed through. Most people it seems want to give. They want to share stories, they want to share food. it seems that everyone wants everyone to succeed, to feel good, to be fed. Each town I move through provides it’s own little satchel of a memory to carry and unwrap as I climb back up into the dense trees, into the wet greenery of home. I’m living in the biggest compost pile on earth. It’s remarkable to be a part of such constant decomposition and rebirth. This really is the most beautiful place of worship. 

There is a place

I’m sitting by a fire with a group of men and boys. I’m in North Carolina. The miles somehow slide by and I don’t say that easily. Days are long. I climb and my body feels heavy and unnecessary. This is what I’ve chosen. What all of us have chosen. The sky is full of all of the broken diamonds of stars. I should be asleep after 17 miles of rough and tumble ups and downs, noteworthy climbs and decents, hard breathing and 100 percent mostly pain . This trail is so different. So lonesome and unforgiving. There is almost always no reward of a vista or view . The only validation is a completion of a climb…and that climb leads to a dense tunnel at the top of a mountain of rhododendron. This is a place of mental and physical reckoning, a proving ground for every hope, fear, doubt and god damn belief in magic and alchemy. I have given up on all of my anxieties because here there is no place. This perhaps…is just the way it’s supposed to be day by day. 

   On the PCT I had a strange comfaderie. Here, every single moment it earned. Each breath is hard. I awaken before the sun rises every morning. I’m cold and slow and confused. And I’m lucky enough to walk. The birds all sing the songs I cannot decipher but am lucky enough to hear. Their language is all their own, their songs bright and loud. Shrieking but quiet. The red ball of the life force rises and illuminates everything, the path, the white blaze, the plants and trees ever abundant in the green tunnel, the massive clouds lining glacial carved mountains ever beneath me. This quiet time in the morning pushes me. This is what makes me climb into the oppressive midday climb…the painful sweaty descent. I’m hiking long miles fairly fast but it still isn’t easy. This is my home and my reality. I could quit and work a job and go to the beach. But I don’t want that. I want the pain. I want the agony. I want the magic. I have the key. I just have to unlock the door. I just have to find the door.  

109.6 miles and counting

 

  Almost one week ago I started my second thru hike. Almost one year ago today I began my first on the Pacific Crest Trail. I was introduced to a world that really and truly changed me. In a sense, returning to the trail albeit a far different trail felt so much like returning home. Winter seemed to slide by for the most part. I found myself returning to the same old habits I’d worked so hard the previous summer to cut back on or cut out. Needless to say, I began at mile 0.0 completely and utterly out of shape. The only real tools I seemed to have were some muscle memory and the mental preparedness for what I was about to endure. The trail brought me back and true to form I had some beautiful foreshadowing of the characteristics of trail life.

  The trail breathes giving, gratitude and…well…magic. Three days prior to my start I was picked up by a car at the greyhound station in Atlanta and taken to Suwanee Georgia where I was spoiled rotten by people I had only met briefly during my winter job in Alta, UT. The Thompsons and their friends and family helped me prepare, fed me, pampered me and made sure I was happy, charged and filled with goodness. Their kindness and selfless giving reminded me of all that I gave and received on the PCT. It was a good thing to put in my mental pack. I felt grateful and undeserving and so ready to start walking. 

   The night before I was to leave I felt nervous and scared. In the pit of my stomach I almost felt lost and questioned myself over and over as I laid in a bed that was not my own. Just as the doubt was sinking in my phone rang. It was a friend I’d made on the PCT. I hiked with her on and off. I could barely keep up with her clip out there in the Sierra. But she was a beautiful person. everytime I’d see her I felt inspired to push. I knew she was also beginning the AT, but was unsure when. I suppose I figured we’d catch each other out there in the green void…somewhere. 

    Her phone call was to the point.  “Kimchi? It’s storybook. Where are you? When are you starting?” I answered the following day to which she asked again where I was and basically informed me that she would be picking me up and we could start together.  She’s not a demanding or direct person so I was surprised by her candid forward ness and took it as a sign that I should agree. I tried to sleep my last sleep in a comfortable bed and prepare myself for seeing A)Seeing Storybook again and B)knowing I’d have to try to keep up with her while I C) hiked another long trail. I finally drifted off, letting myself relax and take in all of the good fortune, the beginning of the magic. 

  We started together one week ago at Springer Mountain ( the southern terminus) in Georgia. My pack felt heavy with my whole life inside of it …the weight alone of five days of food was a burden in and of itself. The knowledge that I would be pushing my body to the brink everyday was building anxiety with each step. We signed the register and with unsure legs I just began moving, one foot in front of the other as the realization set in that for the next 5 months I would be walking everyday for roughly 10 hours a day. 

   The weather was beautiful. The Chatahoochie Forest smelled beautiful. I followed Storybook’s happily bouncing backpack into the trees, onto the trail and into Georgia.

   I’m now 109.6 miles in and I really have to fully update you on this week but I’m exhausted. (I hiked a 20 mile day and hitch hiked into Franklin NC to resupply). I just wanted to give you something . 

   I’ll try to get up early before we leave to at least update the week. I miss and love you all and apologize for the crappy writing. I’m just so tired. This trail is way harder.  Xoxo