A Day in the Life
This past week, I have been caught up in a whirlwind of last minute planning and packing. I have been astonished at how I can be simultaneously both so precisely organized AND so completely disorganized.
I guess it doesn't help matters that I started the whole week with a move from North Carolina to Massachusetts. That added a completely new category of STUFF; I already had enough categories of stuff. I had stuff in the storage unit, stuff over the garage at my parent's place, NC stuff packed in the Jeep, hiking gear in storage, hiking gear in the Jeep and stuff/gear I had yet to purchase. Very precise, distinct, well-thought-out categories. In way too many areas.
It also doesn't help matters that I had a little surprise when I arrived at the storage facility. Massachusetts, you may have heard, had a most epic winter. Snow and ice galore! With snow banks and snow piles up to the roof in some places. (I, of course, was down in North Carolina, so I missed all that fun) Anyway, the giant heaping piles of snow had a tendency to cause damage to buildings. Buildings likes sheds and houses and, I don't know, maybe storage buildings. Fortunately, the leaky roof did not cause any damage to my actual STUFF ( just the storage containers housing them). But it did mean I had to devote almost an entire day to clearing out the unit and moving all the stuff across the facility to an empty unit. Time that could have been well spent doing some other kind of preparatory activity. (Although, I wouldn't have had the experience of riding with the door open, standing on the running board, and holding a mattress on the roof of the car because tying it down takes too long. Good times!) And yeah, the new storage unit is more organized than the old one was. But still! Precious time, people, precious time.
The PCT also takes more logistical prep than the AT. It's more remote. There are fewer places to resupply. And some places where you must resupply by mail drop. So though I rather enjoyed not having to have regular mail drops on the AT, I will have to enjoy picking up regular mail drops on the PCT. I did not enjoy packing up the mail drops!
Not nearly as fun as the picture would suggest. (The picture actually makes me want to pack a few more boxes just for kicks.)
The most important prep work in my head was pre-planning gifts for people. Last hike, I had this grand idea that I would just go on Amazon and order people's birthday and anniversary and special day gifts whenever I got to town, sending the gift directly to their house. It somehow never worked out that way and I ended up missing lots of people's birthdays. Lots of little cute people I'm related to. So when I got back, I had to look really lame as I rushed around to pick up gift cards.
This year I plan to rush around and look really lame by purchasing the gift cards before I leave.
Hiking is good in many ways...
Once again, as I hike, I am going to be raising funds for a worthy cause. My PCT thru-hike is dedicated to Devoted to Children, a charity that supports orphaned and impoverished children in Haiti. I was lucky enough to accompany the Devoted to Children founders, Kristen and Amber on a trip to Haiti last November. It was wonderful! I fell in love with the country of Haiti, the people, and most of all, the kids and staff at the Devoted to Children residential home.
The residential home has a different way of addressing the problem of orphaned or enslaved (Restavek) children. Rather than a traditional orphanage where children wait to be adopted out to a family -- often outside the country, the children are adopted IN to the home and the D2C family. The kids are provided with a stable and loving environment where they can grow and thrive in their home country of Haiti. I was very impressed with this alternative way of addressing such a prevalent social problem.
This week, another group of volunteers are in Haiti, working on D2C's newest project: an after-school tutoring program open to both the children in the residential home and other children in town. It is the latest in a series of outreach programs to address the needs of the community. Again, I am so impressed with the way D2C looks beyond its initial goal of providing for a small group of children and now works toward a goal of contributing to a stronger community and a better educated future generation.
As my hike progresses, I will continue to post about the D2C family, its projects, and news.
Please click on the COOL CAUSES tab above to contribute to my HikeFor fund for D2C or to visit the Devoted to Children website.
Frequently Asked Questions
DIDN'T YOU ALREADY DO A THRU HIKE? DIDN'T YOU GET THIS OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM?
Why, yes, I did already do a thru-hike. The AT rocks. I highly recommend it. And no, I did not get the thru-hiking bug out of my system. I'm afraid it is an incurable affliction. Which is wonderful.
Truth be told, I never had any intention of another long distance hike after the AT. When I summated Katahdin, I was in "check it off the life list and move on" mode. Done, and done.
But a funny thing happened when I got off trail. I found that I didn't look at things the same way. Things that used to bother me so much didn't phase me anymore. And other things that I never thought about were now things I felt passionately about.
Sometimes we are lucky enough to have experiences that change our entire outlook on life. And sometimes we are blessed enough that the change in our outlook is for the better. That's how I felt after the AT.
Plus I just missed trail life.
Imagine, if you will: no TV, no cell phone, no Facebook, no 24 hour cable news, no endless chatter and interruptions. Just you, the scenery, your feet, and your fellow hikers. On the trail, I found that we talked less, but we communicated more meaningfully. I didn't know anyone's profession, religion, political party, income, or address. Heck, I didn't know anybody's real name! But I knew more about people's true selves; their dreams, their hopes, their loves, their fears. Something magical happens when you slow down enough to really listen to somebody else.
I admit, I struggled a bit with this after returning to "the real world". We all seem so distracted and hurried all the time and we never really seem to listen to one another. Our interactions are selective; serving to get us whatever information we need for the next item on our to-do list. Our Facebook posts deteriorate to complaints, rants, or imposing our own agendas. And when we shut down and stop listening to one another this way, it can feel really lonely.
I was rarely lonely on the trail.
The other thing the trail provides is lots of time to think. Admittedly, I mostly thought: "I'm hungry", "My feet hurt", and "I'm tired." But sometimes, in between beautiful scenery and fantasizing about all-you-can-eat-pasta-bars, I thought some pretty deep thoughts.
This time around, I'm channeling those thoughts to answering the question of how to create that experience of slowing down, listening, and relating to people on a deeper level in the midst of all the distractions we encounter every day.
Why don't we all ponder that for a while? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
The playlist in my head...
It's funny what you can come across when you put your iPod on shuffle. I was out for a run and this came on -- something I haven't heard in a long while. Something about this song just speaks to the wanderlust inside me. Even back in high school, before I had been anywhere, this song would make me long for the open road and dream of future adventures.
So now, as I am getting gear together and doing my last bit of prep work, this little ditty is getting a lot more airplay. The countdown is on!
There is a saying on the trail: "Don't pack your fears." Good advice. But easier said than done.
For the past few weeks, as the starting date gets increasingly closer, I have been stocking up on fear. Fear of dehydration. Fear of snakes. Fear of not being in good enough shape. Fear of a packing too heavy. Fear of falling behind. Fear of not finishing. Fears that have been made exponentially worse by going onto online forums to PCT planning.
So a couple weekends ago, I did what always seems to work when I go into freak out mode: I went outside and went for a hike.
Two years ago, near Franklin, NC, we ended up skipping an 11 mile section of trail after a zero day in town. (The dirt road to the trail had washed out in a rainstorm.) I vowed to return one day and hike that missed section. Now, needing a good training hike under my belt, I decided to return to Franklin and reclaim those lost miles.
My original plan had been to go with a full pack, hike in 11 miles and camp, then hike out the following day. The weather had other plans for me. A cold front moved in on Friday and the low temps for Sat night were projected to be in the single digits to lower teens. I've camped in cold weather before and been fine. But not alone. And though I KNEW that I would not be alone on the trail, that other hikers would be around, I was a little leery about camping that night. (As I said, I was in freak out mode) I decided that I would instead stay in town on Sat night in a hotel and get up early to knock out the whole 22 miles without a pack on Sunday.
Franklin was hopping on Saturday. Cold hikers everywhere: hitching rides, eating giant plates of food, bemoaning achy feet, going to be at 9pm (hiker midnight). I gave a few rides, dispensed some advice, and possibly convinced one guy in his own freak out mode to rethink his decision to quit. Then I went to bed early myself, for a long Sunday.
I got up early and got to the trail head just before sunrise. The early morning temps were hanging around 15 degrees. I put on my cold weather gear, strapped on my daypack, and hit the trail. It was just what I needed.
I caught the sunrise from atop a ridge.
Walked through misty rhododendron tunnels (no blossoms yet!)
Ate lunch atop the fire tower.
And enjoyed the gorgeous 360 degree views.
I enjoyed the feeling of moving my legs over 22 miles of rugged terrain, sat in a sunny patch for a snack, and enjoyed to juxtaposition of early season flowers poking out of snow mounds. It was just what I needed. In more ways than one.
Even more than the physical activity, the mountain air, the breathtaking views I gained the confidence I needed for my upcoming hike. Because I once again experience the wonderful hiking community of both hikers and trail angels.
As cold as Saturday night was, I now know that I would have been fine. There were lots of hikers out, looking out for one another. And at the campgrounds and road crossings along the trail, there were RVs parked with signs in the windows "Cold hikers welcome inside." In the early morning as I walked along, I passed people who had tables set up with hot coffee, tea, hot chocolate and donuts for hikers. "Come get something to warm you up," they said as I approached.
When I got back to the parking lot at the trail head, I encountered a family who had set up tables, a tent, and a full grill. They were giving out hot dogs, drinks, and snacks to hikers. "Oh, no," I said. "I'm just out for the day. Save it for the thru-hikers."
"Don't be silly!" they said in return. "There's plenty for everyone. Sit down and eat."
So a spent a while with Crazy Tree and his family, exchanging hiking stories and bonding.
As I started the drive home, warmer, fuller, and happier than I started, I realized that somewhere along the way, I had unpacked my fears. Maybe it would be really hot. Maybe I would encounter snakes. Maybe I'm not in as great shape as I could be (though,hey, 22 miles ain't bad!) I will be fine. Because on the trail, as in life, you never go it alone. There are always plenty of trail angels ready to lend a hand, if you just open your eyes.
There's another, much more important saying on the trail: The trail provides. Good advice. Easy to follow
Hi, I'm Heather, AKA "Pink Lady". Welcome to my blog. I'm so excited to share my adventures as I embark on a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.