Wow. This is it. My last night in civilization. I am staying with friends in southern L.A., my gear is exploded onto their living room floor because, like all first timers, I have the uncontrollable urge to go through it one more time. My fuel bottle is full, my food bag is ready, my camera is charged, my phone is suspended and goodbye tears are but a sweet memory to pack with me on the trail (memory of goodbye tears: 0.6 oz).
Right before I left, several people have asked me what my greatest fear is for the trail. Last year, before going into Death Valley for a 4 day solo fast, I was asked the same question. My answer then was ‘to go insane’ and in a way, that is what happened. I don’t think a spiritual quest can ever be complete without having to face one’s greatest fear. Fear is not a place in which I usually dwell however, so I have mostly eluded the question up to now. What do I fear? What would I admit to fearing knowing that is most likely what I will have to face?
I do not fear solitude, I seek it. I do not fear bugs, bears, creepy crawlies, stomach ailments, stalkers, leeches (humans and animal), hardships, weather, aches and pains, doubts or confusion. I do not fear having to get off the trail because of injuries or lack of money. Although both exist in the realm of possibilities, I feel I was always meant to walk this trail. I didn’t decide to walk it, it called me as one of its own. I don’t believe the trail would call one of its own this strongly only to break her down quickly. It will break me down, I know this, but I don’t expect it would get so bad as to make me want to quit completely. It could delay or postpone my plans though, and there are valuable lessons in that eventuality – Lessons I hope I don’t have to learn. I do fear life lessons – I fear those unexpected twists of fate that are so inconvenient and from which you learn so much. Life lessons. Ughhh! Eeek!
I fear that one of those life lessons would take me off the trail completely because I don’t have a back up plan. I fear having to return to “normal life”, I mean a job, bills, 9 to 5, etc. I don’t know why I fear this; I have not had that sort of life since I was 23 or so. I guess the fear of entrapment will likely live in me all my life. I welcome it, it keeps me on the go, it makes me who I am, but still it is a fear nonetheless. Let me specify here (because some have felt I was judgmental on the topic) that I am not belittling the 9 to 5 “normal” kind of life. I think there is a sweet freedom that comes from knowing exactly what tomorrow brings. There is freedom in stability. In many ways the random life I have been living has less elbow room because it is channeled into specific adventures. I mean, when one stays put in life, he or she has the luxury of growing friendships deeper, take harmonica lessons longer, sit on the patio and enjoy tea and the smell of fresh cut grass with the peace of mind that a steady paycheck imparts. I’ve gone another way. I’ve replaced a set of problems with another. That’s really all it is. I do not claim my lifestyle to be better, just more to my liking for now.
I fear the end of the trail, for all the reasons mentioned above and a little bit of past experience with getting off a trail. When I returned from field camp, after sleeping for 6 weeks under the stars, I found society and having a roof over my head unbearable. My need for space had grown so wide it even cost me a marriage (it wasn’t the only reason, but it did contribute). I don’t fear the unknown usually – I have a hefty genetic dose of optimism from my Dad’s side that leads me to believe that all is well and all will be well, no matter what -, but I must admit that not knowing where I will want to go, what I will want to do, whom I will be with, if anyone, and who I will have become makes for a lot of unknowns in one’s brain. But then, that was the best part about coming to the USA, 20 years ago, so what has changed? Maybe I just know better. Looking for work and being broke sucks. Especially when all you want is to be back in the woods. So, yes, I definitely fear the end of the trail, but that won’t happen for a while. I’m shooting for longest time on the trail, no speed record here.
I fear poisonous plants, like poison oaks and that dogwood brush nastiness people are saying is all over the trail. I don’t react well to those.
I fear toothaches. I actually feel one coming on. I hope it just goes away.
I fear obligations. A loved one told me that the trail actually has enough space available to even accommodate MY need for space. If that is so, I might not feel confined for the first time in my life. If I do get into that space in my head, I know I will resent having to touch base with the outside world, even loved ones, because any obligation leads to a lessening of freedom, and if I ignore the sense of obligation to touch base , then I will get guilt about my own selfishness. Either way, if I get to a place of ultimate space, I’m going to have to flex my non-attachment muscle to keep myself in check and get some balance. Balance … mmmh … I guess I am back to fearing a life lesson. Ack! Arghh!
I fear the low moral and bad attitude that comes from eating bad food. I’ll have to keep an eye on that. Just because I will be burning calories faster than a coal train doesn’t mean I need to jump on the hiker trash diet of doom bandwagon. I might not always have a choice. We’ll see.
That’s all I can think of.
I look forward to everything else. I was just sitting outside on the patio in the warm California evening air with my friend and host Chris a minute ago. I can’t believe it is really here. I leave tomorrow. Wow. There is part of me that feels so incredibly lucky that it almost feels unfair to the rest of the world. I feel like I am the Golden Girl of the Universe and I might just need all that open space just to contain the gratitude I feel about being allowed to do this.
And this last statement will be very fun to read later on if it turns out I really hate it, won’t it? 🙂
I am exhausted, so I’ll go crash. My plan is to make my way to my first resupply stop in a couple of days, pitch my tent and sleep for 24 hours straight before continuing on. I think a fresh rested mind will alleviate about 80% of the fears I do have and allow me to extract more out of the trail.
Stay in touch, either here, or via mail, or send me snail mail.
A tired haiku:
A roaming bobcat
Another wild adventure
Thank you Universe