Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Unseen

The pitter-patter of thought, the rambles of a maniac; tiresome. The numbness, the clogged mind, are causing sluggishness. How much do I want to reveal without giving away to much details? But I must find a way for expression, venting. I must have a ramble session...

She looks back at me and tells me how bad or weird she is feeling. I've trained myself not to say much anymore though I still keep a tab on things in my head. How do I manage the pace of the day, her health, my ticker, and all the while making progress to Canada? It's a tough, tricky decision, none that many go through. There's many aspects I feel I've been doing and noticing from my perspective, from my line of sight, that may be lacking from her perspective, from her line of sight. I am listening but am I really absorbing what is so earnestly translated to me?

Her weight is getting drastically low. Despite the dietary adjustments the same atrophy occurs. Her body is eating itself. I look at myself and I feel fat, lethargic and bloated; I'm not working hard enough. I hug her and feel bones. Is she melting away? Yet we have to get to Canada. Is my arrogance blinding me to her personal needs? I know I'm opening myself as a target. I know I may get blasted for this but I know what I'm doing out here. I obsessively rack my brain on trail constantly trying to figure out what's wrong. I sometimes want that extra 2 miles so bad that I say nothing in regards to her laments. Must I push her to her limits for the sake of my selfish contentment? Then, I'll think: she's beaten melanoma; she's beaten a horrific car accident; she's battled through a nasty divorce, separation from her oldest son; she's beaten everything that's ever been in front of her. Why would an extra few miles beat her?

Maybe her soul and spirit need to catch up. Maybe her feet are moving too fast. Her writer's block is a product of her stress and exhaustion. I now know it's not because of her refusal to put forth any more words on a particular situation. The scene is flying by too fast for her. The idyllic information is swiftly moving by in a forgetful manner. Through the Marble Mountain Wilderness, amongst beauty so scenic, I tell her I want to feel nothing. That my philosophy of the wilds is to feel nothing. I looked at a blazoned peach and orange sunrise stifled by the ending blackness of night and my heart felt nothing. I couldn't even manage a smirk. She tells me she wants to be a tree; I tell her I want to be a rock, not of one to endure rather an emotionless one. Her eyes crinkle at my coldness. Only then I melt. But I do not show her. How do I change my nature? My only offer of consolation is to go into Shasta City, Etna, then Ashland for a brief rest, for some time off.

In the motel room in Ashland, I just want to escape. I put in my earphones to listen to music though I'd rather drink. She tells me that I've never done this before. I plug in and though the meaning of the song eludes the situation I escape to a place, a vision, in my mind that draws me away from here, now. 

I've been staring out of windows lately looking at the faraway horizons of the mountains and trees. The contradiction lies in where I want to escape to is put off for the time being due to the lingering town stop and the unknown. We both want to be out there fiendishly, most desirably. I drift back to the pain of dropping out on the PCT due to salmonella. Stricken even before my start date, I still have a bit of tortuous residue lingering inside because I felt I failed, that something was psychologically wrong with me. How I don't want her to experience that, that feeling. Nevertheless, I do not want to be the influential demise of health. We're a team; I was hiking solo back then and I was ready to die for what I had dreamed for. What would I tell myself back then now? How can I make an objective decision when I believe in her so much? When I trust her so much? I take pride in my adventures in knowing my most important gear item is my head. To make sound, heady, and smart, rational decisions is of utmost importance. I know she trusts me to make them when I'm away from her on another adventure of some sort. Then why are things so fuzzy, so blurred when it is clear as crystal?

We've been re-hashing our goals. The hard part is what I 'see' and 'don't see' everyday. One second it is invisible, then the next vivid, like a bone popping out of the skin. I sure as hell do not want to see her get worse. I feel pent up and want to express things realistically without hurting her. I tell myself: This is a life decision and not a hiking decision.

The unseen fucks with your head and heart. I called it quits on the PCT only after I woke up lying on my back in the middle of the trail for the fourth time. The drastic 30 pound weight loss wasn't evident enough for me. If we leave Ashland and that happens to her I would never forgive myself. But the unseen. It melds in the mesh of reality. It lurks in the interstitial plasma of the heart, like a cobweb splayed up in the corner of a high, dimly lit ceiling.

I'm searching for an outlet, for the anxiety of not knowing is compressing my lungs. I cannot breath deeply right now, or exhale releasing the rigors of built up stress. The uncertainty is suffocating. She submitted test results for the unseen. But with systemic symptoms not going away nor with her condition worsening in a debilitating state I have a hard time believing what it potentially could be with her history. Also, I mean, for Christ sakes, she's still gutting out 30 miles per day. I've said it before and I'll say it again, ain't nobody stronger I've seen than my wife.

I've hesitated in sharing this ramble. However, I feel this is something I should share. As well as Bearclaw.  The trials, the endless tough decisions that need to be made, the strain in the body and mind, the sacrifice, the unending compromises, the grit and toughness exerted, and the boundless limits of endurance is something I want to share. I want the reader to get a glimpse of a thru-hiker, in particular in a mind of a speed hiker and an extremist. I want the reader to see the unseen.

The results came back with high levels of Giardia. Plans have been made, but with the uncertainty of what she is battling now having a name we feel more comforted in moving forward with those plans.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mas Northern Sierra

More Northern Sierra

Northern Sierra

The Goal of Not Being a Better Hiker

I hunched over, my left arm braced on my left knee, my right hand gripped the trekking pole, the fading echo of my voice across the emptiness oozed into the dark forest. Grace Meadow seemingly creeped into a blackness as if falling asleep, the last curtain of light of the day drew to a close on Keyes Dome. I felt exhausted and lonely, I felt so far away from her because I had failed her. The day was over, my time was up.

I depressingly hiked in the utter hope that I may still find her. An hour passed and the night became immense even with a bright moonlight. 40 or so miles later and still no sign of Bearclaw. We had planned to reconnect in Tahoe as she hiked towards me but I had awaken the morning before with a tremendous amount of clarity: I needed to go find my love, to walk back to her.

I found a ride to Sonora Pass and fervently hoofed it south with my goal to surprise her on my birthday. I met other hikers who had seen her and some who had not but thought she was ahead of them. The mixed messages narrowed my search, however, it gave away my surprise. I even received a sign from a bear sighting. I knew she was close. In fact, later on I found out we came within an hour of a meeting after that bear encounter. I left a few notes at critical junctions before settling into camp. 

The next morning I went up Dorothy Lake Pass and spotted fresh Altra tracks. I figured to be on her heels and frantically chased the footprints. 'It has to be her!' I thought. I pushed on knowing I had to because if we had missed each other the previous day and somehow she got ahead of me I couldn't risk waiting around. I thought maybe she is pushing hard to get to Tahoe. Up on the Sonora Crest I hunched over again in the same dejected position as the night before. This time I could see for miles around upon the 10,000 foot crest. I felt entranced in the vast space of peaks and rocks. I calmed my breath down and managed to send her a text telling her I had failed her, that I could not catch whomever was in front of me, but that I would wait at Sonora Pass. 

Hours went by, as did the same hikers I saw throughout the past 20 hours and 63 miles. Suddenly, from my position I spotted 2 silhouettes breach the crest high above. The shadowy figures zig-zagged slowly down. Another figure appeared, then 2 more. I knew I had a chance. I patiently waited for each one to get into plain sight so I could see if it was her or not. Time seeped on, no matter how patient I felt to be. 

On a snowy switchback, she appeared. I could tell by her gait and her pack. My love was near. I sat next to the monument on Sonora Pass and stared at the corner she would bend around on trail. Suddenly, I heard, 'Dirtmonger!.' I leaped up and ran to her. After many exhausting hours, we embraced at last.

From there we hiked on together to Tahoe. We spent our first night reunited under a blaring full moon. The miles flew on by as the scenery began to change. Granite changed into basalt, the forests got thicker and taller, and the tread became less rocky and more of dirt. We ambled along in a synchronized flow. Then, we spent 3 full days in Tahoe relaxing.

Before this hike on the PCT with Bearclaw I planned on evolving. For some reason, I thought I knew what that meant. I have passed along hiking and wilderness skills to Bearclaw yet I failed to realize the sacredness of our relationship. I proposed to her upon a bald mountain top believing I knew what that meant as a man. I even fell prey to the crows of social media and the ego of my self-centered ballooned head of a supposed hiking reputation.  I even harped in a previous entry about MYOB. In my hike I have seen a bigger contradiction in myself. I've had a lot of questions to ask myself. I threatened my own way of living more than anyone and, ultimately, have learned what love is from a wonderful woman. I thought I knew what strength was or even a good fight until I have seen her resilience. With Bearclaw and our experiences in this adventure I am now striving to not be a better hiker but rather a better man. Not for me, but for her, us. That is what hiking long distance is all about.