Guest post by long-time friend Alchemist
When I started hiking Oregon with K2 I had only a vague awareness of the 450-some miles to be travelled and the plan to fit it all into 30 days. People seemed alternately envious and fearful of my fate on the PCT. Partly because of this I was surprised to realize – 2 weeks later – how seamlessly I had fallen into our daily routine, watching the slow approach and fade of the relatively small Mount McLaughlin, then the South, Middle, and North Sisters, and Three-fingered Jack. As we neared Bend, Mount Jefferson loomed on the horizon, still.
I had worried about weighing down K2’s undoubtably zen attitude (she’d have acquired one by 1700 miles, right?) with fresh drama, but all my school and work and social stresses faded away on the trail. I wondered why; it certainly wasn’t *easier* than climate-controlled, vehicle-powered, and grocery store/resteraunt- accessible life.
However, K2’s blisters, hunger, plantar faciitis, pack rash, and (likely) variety of fungal spores didn’t arrest her forward motion. (Though I like to think my various potions and poultices helped keep them under wraps.)
Not to mention the mind game and emotional stressors. Like dozens of people passing you by daily, fear-mongering about timelines for hike-terminating snowfalls. Like being only hundreds of feet from a lightening strike to find ourselves crouched instinctively in the mud, only to ride and continue hitting the puddle-filled trail at 3.2 miles an hour. Or trekking over so many knobs and rocks and fragments and shoe-infiltrating particles of sharp lava that seeing the Dee Wright Lava Castle castle observatory in the distance feels like a pain-induced hallucination of the depths of Mordor. Or hiking and camping and hiking again for almost 48 continuous hours in the rain.
Human persistence and perseverance is incredible. Even with a busted knee, K2’s recovery time when she was in Reno was thoughtful and strategic – *internal* forward motion, healing and strengthening. Of course progress isn’t always physical or so clearly measured in miles.
With clarity of purpose, perhaps, comes clarity of progress: the through-hiking goal is not X miles tomorrow, it’s the long-game to finish, which takes endurance and the critical skill to take what may *look* like a step backward off-trail in order to make the last of those 2-something-thousand miles of steps possible.
Maybe you are a fellow hiker, past, present, or future, or maybe you are not. Either way, I bet something drives and draws you. Whatever it is you want, you could be this uncompromising about forward motion towards it. You can feel this clarity of purpose, the calm undercurrent to all that you do, assuring you (GPS or no) that you are on track.
My hope for you is that – like K2 – you will identify what it is you crave, and move closer to it every day. (Ignore those who believe your passion is overly messy, difficult, or dangerous!) This clarity of purpose may be as beautiful as any reward will ever be.