Loneliness doesn’t hit you on the trail. The sky is too big. The trees too plentiful. The mountaintops all take on the visage of some unfamiliar face. It’s not a party. You’re not there to impress. More like purgatory or a circle from an enjoyable hell alternative.
At night the sun goes down. Unpack. Shelter. Food. Warmth. Maybe a fire. You’ll have time for a book and a dump and possibly a cocktail if you had spare weight and space. Otherwise, there just ain’t no time for loneliness.
If the trail was endless, if it wove it’s way through high mountain passes and between flummoxed lakes, if there was no trail, but simply land and nothing more: I don’t think I’d ever get lonely.
But I do. I do get lonely.
Cathedral Lake. John Muir Trail. Not yet noon. Khakis. Visors. Hallmark travel gear. People look. Some ask questions. Most don’t. We all look different than them. We long distance hikers. Sunbeaten. Hairy. Filthy. Our aesthetic is not the quaint bedazzled traveler. We look homeless. I look homeless. I’ve got 8 hours before I can consider sleep. Loneliness is an anvil.
This is when it happens. With nothing to do, the real world crashes around you. I don’t get lonely in the wild because the wild is the escape. The real world is what creates tension. The real world is what creates that loneliness. I might ache for contact. I might want a girl, a pizza, a shower, I might want all the trappings of society. That want is not loneliness though. Loneliness is another monster. Trapped by people. Eyes pressing in. A hundred people and no connection. A dead bulb surrounded by wires.
© 2014 Christopher Dart