I know this year isn’t over yet, but I’ve had some time to reflect today, and I thought I’d share. This year has felt like forever. I started it off still doing physical therapy from my back surgery last year. I’ve come a long way since then but some days are still hard for me. Some days, I can barely walk. I can carry a backpack for a month straight without a problem but if I sit for too long I need help getting around the next day. There is nothing more humbling than having my husband help me to the bathroom. I lost my second cat to cancer after he went through the excruciating recovery of an unnecessary surgery that was supposed to help him but didn’t. Never again. I lost good friends and gained new ones. I almost drowned, but just the once. Okay, twice. Don’t worry, this story gets better.
Last month was pretty hard on me, too. My friend left San Antonio, so I am down one hiking partner. My son came home from college for Thanksgiving, which was nice because I hadn’t seen him since July, but when he left again, I was devastated. I suppose I never processed him leaving for college the first time because I wasn’t even home. I was hiking. He is an extension of myself and a better human being than I could ever be. I miss him. My massage therapist moved to Alaska. I may have abandonment issues. Okay, okay, okay. That last one doesn’t sound that bad but I am a socially awkward person and it was hard to find someone I’d let touch me that I didn’t want to punch in the face. Plus, the massages help my back. When I came home from the Appalachian Trail in 2015 I genuinely struggled with post trail depression. This year, while I didn’t do as long of a hike, I did do two trails over 200 miles and dealt with the emotions of not being able to start the Pacific Crest Trail like I’d planned. This feels almost exactly the same, the sudden absence of people I got used to being around and the alienation of not being able to explain the feeling to anyone in a way they’d understand fully. It isn’t easy to explain to people I love that just because I want to be somewhere else, doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be here with them. I want to be in both places at once. The mountains aren’t just calling. They’re screaming until their voices are damn near lost.
This week, I was struggling even harder. I was going to do a 250-mile thru-hike of the Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas. Nothing cures heartache like a walk in the woods. After planning for a month, I fought all week with the decision to cancel. My new quilt didn’t arrive on time, I got food poisoning and threw up for 10 hours straight, I forked over $600+ for a mammogram, and my new rental house fell through. I am tired. Instead of hiking, I have to stay home and be an adult so my husband doesn’t have to find a house by himself. I’ve been sitting here feeling sorry for myself that I’m not in the Ozarks right now. This one-woman, two-cat, pity party has been raging all week.
Then, I woke up this morning to a view through my living room window that instantly put a smile on my face. My insanely handsome feline’s misty silhouette was lit up perfectly in front of my snow-dusted back yard. It hasn’t snowed here in 8 years. My heart still longs to feel the weight of a pack on my back and dirt on my feet but I don’t get to cry about it anymore. Not today. I am privelaged and I am grateful. This winter wonderland morning led to a lazy day of lounging on the couch playing on my laptop. That led to some interesting information. I was trying to remember all of the parks that the JMT goes through, and I couldn’t, so I looked it up. That led to looking up other locations as well, and I found myself spiraling down a 30-minute rabbit hole. I looked through photographs and maps and calendars and social media until I wrote down the name of every place I’ve been to this year. I didn’t think it would take that long but it did.
So, yeah, I didn’t get to hike the OHT this month. But, I DID get to walk in:
- 21 State Parks
- 10 National Forests
- 7 states
- 4 State Forests
- 3 countries (4 if you count my victory dance at the Canadian border on the Long Trail)
- 2 National Parks
- 2 State Natural Areas
- And 1 National Seashore
I really had no idea I’d done that much travelling just this year. Added up, I’ve hiked close to 800 miles since January and that’s not nothing. I don’t have anything to complain about. That’s just the hiking, too. In between the hiking, I planted trees, went to NoRuck, Trail Days, and road tripped across Texas for a week. I raised $655 for HIKE for Mental Health. All these numbers don’t even include everything else in my life. I celebrated non-hiking things like graduations, weddings, christenings, anniversaries, birthdays, and pride parades. I met my nephew! I rented 3 cars, took 13 Ubers, and 7 buses. The shuttles and trolleys are too many to remember. I purposely don’t remember the number of times I rode the tube in London because my husband and I were trying to get lost in a fit of silliness. I’ve spent 2 days on trains and 11 days on planes … AND jumped out of one of them.
Yes, this year was hard, but I may be the luckiest girl alive. Seriously, I paid for several resupplies with penny slot winnings. I have had an incredible year and my husband has earned the right to have me home for Christmas, especially with a 2018 PCT permit in my pocket. Sometimes, you just need a little perspective. Now, excuse me while I browse houses for rent on the internet. These kitchen backsplashes aren’t going to pick themselves out. :)