Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Longest Way Back Home

  
(Summit of Katahdin) 

      It’s been so long and I genuinely apologize. I’ve started a blog over and over since I’ve been off trail but just honestly couldn’t bring myself to write.    I’m in Carratunk Maine, procrastinating so bad it’s driving me batty. I feel as though I’ve been sucked into an alternate universe this summer. Nothing has been working as planned, and somehow, I think that’s the plan. I feel as though I’m stuck in mud, my brain mush, my path completely and utterly foggy. I want to articulate to you everything, to explain where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing and seeing . It’s now been 2 months and two weeks since I’ve broken my foot. I’ve been off and on the trail.

   

 

( stupid broken foot)   

       Lifetimes seemingly have passed since the last entry. I did my time in Philadelphia trying to heal, I returned to the trail much too soon with a still broken foot and attempted to keep going. I walked the entire state of New Jersey in pain and utter ecstasy. My first return to the trail was heartbreaking and just plain stubborn. I wanted so bad to return home to the forest. I wanted to will my foot to be better. I wanted to override the injury with the power of my mind, the passion in my chest- the sheer want to be where I thought I HAD to be, DESERVED to be. The trail always wins and so it carves it’s own path for you. At least that’s what it feels like. 

  

  

  •     (Hiking alone in New Jersey)

       My first day back out (the first time), I crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey. I was the closest on trail to my actual home and I felt so good to be walking away. To be going north. To know that I’d be back into the comfort of the green tunnel, away from the concrete, away from the hustle, the bustle, the pulsating oppression of the city. As soon as I entered the forest I felt alive and happy. The coolness of the air in the trees made the sweat on my body feel like a sheen of some kind of positive force field. I saw my first water source and filtered from the cold stream. I walked on the dirt, over rocks and even though each step was painful I refused to believe I’d have to leave again. I could hear the chatter of birds, the rustling of leaves , the uneven crunching of dirt and debris under my feet. It was also my first time really being alone on the Appalachian Trail. I had a feeling I’d never felt before as I hobbled along, it was a sincere feeling of peace and of calm. I did not feel rushed. There was no want or need, no nothing. I could hear my breathing as I walked. I was out of shape but didn’t care. I fumbled over rocks, fell often and decided not to listen to the throbbing stabbing pain as I put my left foot down each time. In my mind I was not getting off trail again. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. It wasn’t an option. 

   (I was lucky enough to hike with Boots for much of New Jersey. A great human being with a great attitude)

   (The woods in New Jersey) 

       After three glorious days of spending time with some of the most beautiful people and of lying to myself about my level of pain and discomfort I realized I had to stop. I was lucky enough to hike a few miles with my trail partner yogi. I hugged him goodbye, so sad I wouldn’t be hiking with him again on the trail and made my way to a place in the woods that I knew I could relax. 

   
         

  •           (The Jim Murray property in New Jersey) 

    I was lucky enough to rest at the Jim Murray property for a day. I spent most of the day alone and I simply sat, listening to the breeze in the trees, watching the light change, falling asleep on and off and only letting my brain scan do what it does best, surf through memories, people, experiences and then onward to something close to a future plan. I sincerely had no idea what to do next. I knew that I was going to run out of money if I just sat there for the time it would take to actually heal. I also knew I’d go crazy just sitting there. I knew I needed to find something, make something, DO SOMETHING. I didn’t want to go back home to philadelphia. I wanted so bad just to stay on the trail, but for the second time, the trail was spitting me out. Telling me no. Making me feel like I just wasn’t worthy. I had no real choice. I had to leave. I accepted that reality and roughly an hour after letting it settle in my heart I recieved a text from a good friend of mine. By the next day I had a temporary job with housing on Fire Island in New York. Three weeks of healing on the beach while working my ass off to continue my thru hike. Not bad. Not bad at all. I could take you on that detour of magic and mayhem, of sunsets and storms by the ocean, of 10-12 hour workdays in a sweltering hot kitchen, wearing my boot and cooking for the wealthiest of the wealthy, secret and mysterious boardwalk pathways through dense overgrowth, meteor showers and swimming in the ocean by only the light of the full moon, unrequieted love (not on my part for a change),happiness, comraderie and financial inadequacy. My three weeks of healing and working my ass off on Fire Island were a blur, and when it was time to go and hit the trail again, return HOME to the dense forest…the pathway led by the light of the white blaze, I moved on, took the ferry from the island, watched that tiny but explosive time in my life slide away, disappear, move to the darkened banks of the river  of my memory.
   
    
      (Brief glimpse into the life on fire island) 

          -I slowly made my way up to Maine. I’ve been here before. I thought I knew it so well. Maine was a gateway to nature for me in my early 20’s. My best friend is a Maine native. He and his family and friends are the salt of the earth, the heartiest of our species. Nothing can stop a Mainer from living, from working and from steering the boat of humanity through the worst of the storms, the most destructive of weather. Maine has always, in my heart, been a rugged place that produces the most rugged of people. That being said, I was extremely excited to live outside in this great state and also scared to fucking death.
  

   I summited Katahdin, the final obstacle of the Appalachian Trail, the end all be all, the goal, the finish, the literal top of the mountain. And I stood on the sign, and instead of this being my completion of the trail, it would be yet another beginning, another cycle, another attempt for me to make my time with this trail, to exist on it, to be a part of it, to hope that by god, it would actually let me be a part of it. I climbed up and over and explored the knife’s edge. I reached the base of the mountain on the other side later that night, and I found my partner in town, in Millenocket even later that night. I fell asleep next to him after excitedly catching up, scared to death and excited beyond belief even later than later that night.

   When morning came I knew that it was time to move. Back to the trail. Back to the forest. No more excuses. No more rest. No more mending. It was just the place I was supposed to be.

  I most certainly wasn’t in shape and my foot wasn’t at 100 percent. We had 6 days of food and 110 miles to hike to get back to civilization.  I was entering the 100 mile wilderness with someone I sincerely look up to and actually don’t know that well. I put the pack on, opened my head and heart as much as possible and tried to grab the reigns of my anxiety. Onward and upward as Sarah Sanders likes to say. 

  

    
        (Heading into the 100 mile ) 

     Walking into the 100 mile wilderness I knew that really there was no turning back. The dense maine forest pulled me in. Sunlight soaked everything. The pine needle floor was soft and comforting. I followed Ryan “Rock Ocean” Welty down the path, further in. We walked until the end of the day and ate dinner in the dark. We drank tea and talked about possibilities for the following day. Partnerships can be complicated. They usually take sacrifice and a give and take. Both Rock Ocean and I are independent yet empathetic. In my mind I supposed I imagined a jumbled mess of communication that sounded something like ” what do you want to do? No what do you want to do?”  Somehow we naturally moved into position. We both had to transition into thru hiker mode. He’s a far stronger hiker than I am, but I’m stubborn. He was so immediately accommodating and positive. We moved into Maine together and separate. The 100 mile wilderness took it’s toll on me. I couldn’t see most of the time (glasses fogged, steamed), I got a UTI and peed blood, had my period and well…my foot, my foot. 
     The terrain was rugged, muddy and just plain crazy. I’d be climbing straight up wet rocks and wet exposed roots just to climb down the same. I got sucked knee deep into a mud bog one morning, pulling myself out with the help of some blueberry shrubs. I’ve fallen face first, on my ass and straight up skidded across a wet wooden plank bridge. Maine doesn’t give a shit about me. It reminds me daily that I don’t matter, that I’m lucky to exist here in this world, that any problem I’m having with the terrain is really just something internal that I don’t like about myself. If I can accept myself then and only then can I enjoy the unforgiving very raw beauty that is Maine. An entire barrage of terrible cuss words flies from my mouth on a daily basis as I tromp through water, fetid smelling mud and slippery everything. My feet are never dry and when it rains , it rains. Nothing can dry out here in the green tunnel. Everything is moist. The forest is constantly breathing it’s hot humid breath down my neck, my back, my chest-Permeating everything. In this place I see my weakness, my thin skin, my impatience. 

   
    (Maine. Maine.maine) 

         I’m “home”. I’m here with one of the most beautiful and pure human beings I’ve found along the way. He teaches me daily, allows me to be, and shares his calm and his sheer appreciation with me. He does not see my weakness as an albatross, rather he gives me the chance to learn to take flight, to navigate the mental limits I create, to keep moving, hoping and crushing. I’ve laughed harder than I have in awhile. I look forward to each morning and although I’m struggling to adapt physically and mentally at times, I’m aware that I create these hardships. I’m excited to keep trying, keep walking and climbing and trudging. I’m grateful to open my heart and mind with a true friend as well, because this navigation of actual human love is just as hard as the terrain for me. My partner, my friend, my teacher is opening the pathways to most things I’ve shut down. And I can breathe. And maybe, just maybe I’ll make it further than I expect. 
   
    (It’s good to have a good partner-Rock Ocean always comes correct) 

    Tomorrow I head back into the dense trees, the mud, the rivers to ford. Ill climb bigger mountains and feel the rugged fierce pulse of Maine. I’m about 150 miles in. Heading southbound for the first time. Let’s see how far I can push it. Hopefully further than I ever have.