Stormy Weather

Silver City, New Mexico. A place with south western style, burritos on every corner, coffee, beer, and friendly locals. Basically, an oasis for hikers thru and through! I’m here with my friend Stephen, Jay (a hiker from DC) and G-Funk (a hiker from Austria) who both started on the same shuttle as I did 7 short days ago.

In 7 days we’ve been scorched and snowed on. Lost and lonesome. Hungry and happy. It’s a perfect slice of trail life. I’ve been telling my family and friends that so far, what I love most about this trail is it’s intensity. Because of it, I feel like we’re a similarly focused bunch of individuals. In past thru-hikes, the start feels more like a party. This time, it feels like a back-country experience.

Two days ago, I woke up at a windmill with Jay and Stephen. We got moving pretty early, and it started to rain, and then within the hour, snow. We were wet and cold and thinking, ‘This is going to be one of those keep moving or freeze sort of days.’ When out of the trees, emerged a dilapidated shelter. Or half of one at least. We were stoked like kids going to Disney Land! Ran for it to find 5 other hikers already huddled inside. We were immensely lucky for this rusty old structure and so aware of it. We shivered together and told stories of previous trails for 3 hours, until the rain and sleet let up. Then we hiked on through some beautiful stuff, the Gila National Forest topped with an inch of snow. It was marvelous.

Then came the rain!

Then came the rain!

 

 

That’s what thru-hiking has really given me. Gratitude! Copious amounts of it for things like warm cups of coffee and rusty old structures, and more than anything, the people to shiver with!

Just Don’t Step on a Cactus

I’ve made it back to Lordsburg and it feels great. Great, yes, but not graceful. I have a great racoon sunburn on my face, a little stiffness in the legs, hunger enough for three people……and JOY! It feels great to be back at it.

The Southern Terminus

The Southern Terminus

I spent most of my time out there alone, which was good. I wanted to get an idea of where I was at for navigation. It’s going pretty well. I think I understand what I’m doing. I like the new challenges of the CDT. It’s truly not a trail all the time, sometimes it’s cross country, from marker to marker, and it feels fun. Even when you can’t see the next marker and you get that little jump in your tummy that goes, ‘Alright, wilderness mode. What’s the smartest thing to do next?’ Then you find your marker 5 minutes later.

I’m loving the desert more and more. Hard to believe as a creature of the north. I appreciate the views so wide open and unique. The plants, the dirt, and most of all, the reptiles! What troopers. Seriously! I almost stepped on a horny toad the other day and could swear I heard it say, “Blend in” like in the movie Rango. I saw a couple of snakes just sprawled across the dirt, soaking up that sunlight and just felt impressed. I’m carrying lots of things in my goody bag, there just out here exposed.

The Boot Heel

The Boot Heel

That’s the word too, exposed. That’s what turns out to feel heavy about the desert. You have to live with it, there is nothing else. When the rain comes, when the sun is hot, your allies, the trees, aren’t there to save you. It feels cunning in a way. It feels like I’m learning something good. Something about what’s in me instead of what’s out there for me.

Home to Home

It’s time. I’m here. I can hardly explain how excited I am. My friend Stephen and I got off the bus in Lordsburg, NM, which is the launching pad for the start of the hike, and I haven’t stopped grinning since. And, wouldn’t you know it, an old hiker buddy, Cookie Monster was on the register. I went to his room for “hiker happy hour” and we told stories of the time we were once stupid enough to hike 30+ miles in the San Jacinto Mountains on the PCT without any warm gear on a cold, cold day. It’s been a great evening and I feel ready. So ready!

It’s a 6:15 shuttle to the desert tomorrow. In previous hikes I’ve taken this moment to spell out some expectations, just to laugh at later. I don’t feel like I can do that right now. I just read a great quote in John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley” on my commute here. “Life could not change the sun, or water the desert, so it changed itself.”

I remember the jitters of the last couple of hikes. The teary goodbyes. The weight. Though it was all cancelled out by joy and connection. This time though, it’s just love. It feels like a return to the life I love. I told the circle of hikers today at happy hour that I was feeling so glad to be around other thru-hikers. To finally not be the weirdo, “You’re doing what?!” Cookie and the others raised their beers for a toast and said, “Welcome home.”

Cookie Monster:)

Cookie Monster:)

Saying Goodbye

It’s my last night in Montana, and today felt heavy. I said goodbye to my cat this morning and went home to my empty cabin to clean it. I couldn’t stop thinking about the close of this current chapter. How it’s been a time for growth, which doesn’t always feel lovely, but it’s always worth going through, and I’m grateful.

On my last day as nanny for two delightful, wild boys, we set up tent city in the yard. We agreed that it was the coolest thing the three of us have ever done together. We even got some friends, Emily, Jossey, and Eliza to come play with us. Then my housemate, the boy’s mom, Jami came out too. At one point, we were 3 women and 4 children all huddled in the same 2 person tent. I thought to myself how special that was. How lucky I am for the place I call home and the remarkable people that make it so much more than the magical landscape it already is. How lucky I am to get to live life the way I do and how rich I am for the love.

P1000661

 So tomorrow I set out. In some ways it feels like my steps on to the platform at the train station are the most significant. The real beginning. Though where the journey actually begins, I couldn’t say. I think it already has.

Oh, Montana. I leave you again, but this time I’m crossing you in style. So goodbye dear friends, I’ll see you always.

Lessons in Length

Last weekend I went running in Moab, Utah. With a few of my best friends and my father there to support me. My favorite thing about distance running is how I always know it’s going to teach me something. Lessons I need to learn. Like giving up control for one, a particularly good lesson for me, because, sure, I can make something happen for myself. I can save up enough money to move to NYC as a teenager, or put together enough food to get from Georgia to Maine. However, I can’t do anything about the choices made in the moment to change my circumstances or the thunderheads coming in hot!

 Moab 07

 And speaking of coming in hot! Oh boy! What a day! There was a high of 87 degrees is this desert location. Granted, it’s been a warm spring, but still, I should have been better prepared. I got cocky, and I got smacked! My last words to my best friend as I left the hotel room at 5 in morning were, “I’m not carrying a backpack! Backpack’s are for suckers!” As I gave her a kiss on the cheek and we all had a good laugh. Flash forward to 2:30pm, mile 38 and you can find me belly up in the shade of a great tree saying goodbye to the world as my head throbs, my fingers and toes tingle, and I think to myself, “this is a good day to die.”

I left checkpoint at mile 33 feeling awesome! I gave a hoot and my dad and Shasta and a few other spectators cheered back. I felt rejuvenated and fresh. Energized after a tough hot stretch where the aid station they told us to was going to be 5 miles away, turned out to be 6 miles away, then not to exist at all. Shasta and my dad saved the race for me there, as I was long run dry and feeling awfully dizzy. They gave me, and 5 or 6 other runners, some water. Shasta ran the next 2 1/2 miles with me and greatly improved my state of mind. So one water/food break later, I was feeling happy. I crawled out of the canyon and scrambled up to the ridge without a care in the world. Then looked down at my one hand held water bottle. “Eight miles to the next check point” I heard the nice woman from mile 33 say. Then it hit me, ‘I’m a moron!’ I have about 5 ounces of water left in my one bottle, and it’s about 5 miles to the next check point. Meanwhile, it’s 2pm and the heat is fierce. ‘I know, I’ll just run fast! My body feels strong, and the faster I go, the sooner the water comes.’ So for the longest 10 minutes of my life, I try to run as fast as I can stand to and keep glancing at my watch thinking time is playing some kind of cruel trick on me. Before long, I realize that I’ve fried myself stupid. I can’t walk in a straight line and I’ve got to get in the shade!

So I lay myself down under a tree. I covered all of my skin in dirt, I see dogs do it all the time, and figure it could cool me. My first thought is, ‘I just want to be dust, turn me into dust’. My second, ‘this is the most comfortable I’ve ever been’. I just laid there and felt happy, thought about love as some kind of big indescribable montage involving so many good people in my life. A woman came by a bit after that and I told her I felt like I might be in some trouble. That I would wait there in the shade until I either got cooled enough, or the heat of the day passed. She wanted me to walk with her for the next 4 miles to the aid station. I tried and zig zagged too much. Then picked another tree and insisted she move on. What a generous person though. She offered to split the little water she had left, and I refused. Everyone needed it desperately.

After a bit more time in the shade I was surprised to feel pretty great. I got up and walked and felt a lot more with it than I had before. And figured, as long as I didn’t push it, I could keep going. About 15 minutes later, a dirt bike came by, and Isaac, my hero, gave me all the water he had. Saying, ” I know I’m on one of these, but I’m actually an endurance athlete too. I’ve gotten myself in the same situations too, trying to carry as little as possible.”

After that, it was pretty smooth sailing. I ran a bit, but mostly walked to the finish line and felt pretty darn grateful that nature didn’t kill me. What timing too! A few short weeks before I set out to walk across the desert of New Mexico. A special thanks to mother nature for the backhand smack that I truly needed!

Moab 03

My barefoot father and bad-ass friend Heidi (who had already finished her 50 mile run that day) running me into the finish line.

Pre-race dinner with the mega-loves of my life! Shasta, Adrienne, and Heidi.

Pre-race dinner with the mega-loves of my life! Shasta, Adrienne, and Heidi.

Dougnut cheers for the 50 milers. Congrats to Heidi for crushing her 1st 50! Amazing!

Dougnut cheers for the 50 milers. Congrats to Heidi for crushing her 1st 50! Amazing!