Oh Sweet Water…
June 6, 2011 § 2 Comments
Wrightwood to Agua Dulce – 85 miles 6 days Total: 454 miles 33 days + 2 zero days
Back on the PCT we followed the trail climbing along the side of Mt Baden-Powell, named after the founder of the Boy Scout movement. We hiked a few miles on the highway as a detour is in place to protect the habitat of the endangered yellow-legged frog. On the 1st of June, one month on the trail, we passed the 400th mile. To get to the other side of Freeway 14 we walked along a drainage tunnel that runs under the highway, the heavy traffic above oblivious to the two hikers underneath. And right before Agua Dulce we temporarily lost the trail among some weird rocks that are part of the same rock formation than rocks we went by near Cajon Pass, a 100 miles back! Over million of years they got separated by movements along the San Andreas Fault (the PCT went right over the fault near Cajon Pass).
I have officially been christened on the PCT. It took time but I’ve earned my trailname. Call me Hazard. I am mostly a danger to myself – the number of times I tripped and ended up head first on the ground, that I slipped and wet my feet or scratched my chin at river crossings – but as Isabelle can attest, it’s safer for other hikers to maintain some distance. I don’t warn when I push branches that are gonna come flying back, I throw snakes, I forget I’m twice as wide with my pack on… but the summum was when I unintentionally (it’s always unintentional!) tripped her with my hiking poles! She snapped and that was it, I got my trailname.
We hung around the same bunch of hikers for a couple of days, it’s been fun. Word has gotten around that our packs are heavy. The bag where we keep the sweet stuff for snacks and dessert, that weighs a ton and we’re affectionately calling “The Goodies Bag”, has gained a fame of its own. Our comfort level seems slightly higher than other hikers so yes, our packs are a bit heavier but it works for us, we’ve gotten that far, we’ve proven ourselves. And anyway as the saying goes on the trail: “Hike your own hike”, do whatever works for you, everybody its strategy to make it. However, Isabelle is getting me quite worried as she now scans every item in our pack thinking of ways to make it lighter (she cut the toothbrush and went as far as suggesting we get rid of the cardboard inside the toilet paper!).
Even now you ask yourself “Why am I doing this?”. It’s not so much anymore because you hurt and you wonder why you chose to suffer, it’s more because you want to understand what’s driving you. The answers hold together now and THE reason has added strength to them but something is still missing. This whole thing is so crazy that there must be something big to explain the madness. I don’t think any of us thru-hikers has a clear answer.
We’re not the only ones to wonder. People we meet ask that question. You meet two types of people. The first ones, the ones that have heard about the PCT, are cool. They are genuinely interested in what you’re doing, they sometimes express the desire to do the same and wish you good luck. The second ones, the ones that don’t know about the PCT, make us uncomfortable. The first question they ask is usually: “Where are you hiking from?”. That’s when you get that uneasy feeling, almost dread, because “From the border with Mexico” is becoming a long way away and you know you’re gonna get that look of disbelief, of is-she-pulling-my-leg and of serious concern for your mental health. And just wait you tell them you’re hiking to Canada! And then comes the question: “Why are you doing this?” and you hate yourself for being embarassed because you don’t have a good answer to give. Partly because you don’t have one but mostly because it’s too complex to explain in 5 minutes to a stranger on the side of a road. So you shrug, which comes down to the same as the best answer we’ve heard from a thru-hiker so far: “Why not?”. But next time I might just answer with another question because as Isabelle observed it’s like asking them: “Why do you go to work every day?”.
I doubt we’ll have a better answer in 5 months. But it doesn’t matter. Because after a while you don’t care so much for an answer, you don’t need one anymore. You hike because there’s nothing else you feel like doing right now. And maybe that’s the answer. As simple as that, no need for something big. And as Isabelle reminded me of Rainer Maria Rilke’s words: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.”
So let’s live the question!