There was one night when I couldn’t sleep. It was near the end when the final climb felt real, when my return home teased me with smells of burgers and shakes and orange chicken. What kept me up though, what really made my mind race, wasn’t these thoughts at all–most of us on the trail probably talked about food and sex more than any healthy person should. Instead, it was this: these words right here. What I would write to you, dear reader.
I don’t remember everything I thought. Most of it wasn’t worth repeating. Poetic rambles detailing the events of the trail. None of them are what you would find in a travel log. None of the meanderings of life, what it means, where are we going, what this is all about. I suppose I save those conversations for parties, when enough beers have washed through to remind me what it’s like to be 15 and earnest. And so I returned home and I sat down in front of my computer and tried to write. Nothing really came out. Just some poorly scribbled contrasts between the day hikers, the PCTers, and the JMTers. The writing felt mean and angry and cynical, three emotions I’ve barely recognized since my return. Later I tried to write again, this time about what it means for me now, what it means for my future, who I want to be, what I want to be. I barely got as far as this sentence before I scrapped the entire thing altogether. Mostly, I haven’t written at all. Since I’ve been back you can find me reading a book on my couch, playing Magic, thinking about video games, eating salads, talking to too many girls, and in general, Keanu Reevesing myself into a very content, rather simple lifestyle.
I can’t say there’s much to complain about. But time passes and I think back to the walk. I recognize the fade–not the memories, they’re locked in for good–but the mindset: how I always seemed to be looking up even when staring down at the trail ahead of me.
Mostly, I’m reminded of my first big adventure, a solo week long road trip to Canada I took when I was 18. Nothing much happened on that trip. I observed the passage of plains to mountains, snow to rain. It was a time to be alone. When I came back I was told what the trip was supposed to be. What it meant. A time to “find myself”, a quest, a journey, all the hundred and one cliches you read in travel logs and journals. I did consider these things but none of them really stuck. I just wanted to go. Yes, that was it. I just wanted to do something. Maybe that motivation was psychological. Maybe it was rooted in adolescent upheaval or some early trauma I’ve long since forgotten. Maybe not. Maybe life and living is enough. In the end that’s all this trip was. A time to do and nothing more. I didn’t have to worry about a job because I wasn’t working. I didn’t have to worry about money because I wasn’t getting paid. This trip was no different than that first one. Maybe it was longer, more challenging, more intense, more dangerous even. But it’s core pleasure remained fixed: the passage of land before me. Plains to trees, rain to snow, meadows to mountains. There might not be a greater pleasure.
© 2014 Christopher Dart