April 26th, 2006

Redtail - learning to walk

In SoCal, and as ready as I'll ever be

I'm staying over at necama's place tonight to catch a few winks before leaving for the trailhead. T-minus approx. eight hours, which will be spent packing and sleeping (in that order).

The last two months have been one long roller-coaster. At times, I'd consult some trail books, or buy some gear, or go out on a training hike, and I'd get psyched up and ready to charge through the first hundred miles at a single pass. Then I'd spend a week fruitlessly trying to find gloves or shoes in my size, or stumble across the online trail journal of someone who had to bow out halfway through, or stare at some unexpected bill that forced me to hurriedly recalculate trip finances, and be ready to crumple up in a little ball in the corner.

Having the start date creep this close has magnified all of that.

Two nights ago, as Kady was getting ready to go to bed, I was staring at two rooms' worth of scattered gear and despairing of collating it in time to leave for San Diego. Stress levels were pretty high. We exchanged a few shouted words over my not being packed yet, and quickly apologized. I ended up pulling pretty much an all-nighter (though, to be fair, a few hours of that were hurrying to get the last of the prep trip journal posted); we got on the road a little later than expected anyway due to last-minute chores; and our plans of reaching San Diego that night turned into "drive until 2 AM, collapse into a hotel, and meet Brian for lunch Wednesday." It was exhausting on pretty much every level, and if it hadn't been for the quasi-deadline of starting in time to make the kickoff party, I would have pushed my departure back a week without even blinking.

Today, we ate a tasty lunch with Brian and delicious dinner with my father and stepsister; watched La Jolla's harbor seals and walked down the beach in Escondido; and caught some warm, breezy SoCal sunshine to chase away the last week's clouds. It was calming, reconnecting, and a lovely memory to take with me on the trail.

Tonight, my knees are hurting from the abuse of being cramped up in a car for two days straight; I again have stuff scattered over the better part of two rooms; I'm going to be getting no sleep (though, to be fair, a few minutes of that will be trying to vent into my journal for posterity); and, in general, I'm sort of dreading getting up tomorrow morning.

Not the walking. I expect the walking to be the easy part. My body is going to ache all over, but keeping going won't be the issue; there's nothing else to do out on the trail but continue putting one foot in front of the other, and occasionally halt to grab some water, shade, or food.

What I'm dreading is pulling myself out of bed yet again on a few hours' sleep, cramming my body back into a car, and trying to convince still-town-soft creaky joints and crampy muscles that, no, really, 20 miles of hiking is a reasonable thing to do in a day. I'm dreading the thought that I might just collapse from exhaustion half-packed and end up hastily cramming 50 pounds of gear into my bag and still not bring the lighter or the maps or the can opener. I'm dreading that inevitable broken arm two miles before our starting point.*

But it'll be an adventure. I keep telling myself that; and more importantly, I believe it. I know that the roller-coaster will continue. There will be days when all is right with the world, I walk ten miles before breakfast, and I go all kung-fu on a mountain lion with one hand while performing CPR to save a day-hiker's life with the other. Then there will be days when just crawling out of my tent into the driving rain is an effort, the only food left in my pack is a past-expiration carrot cake Clif bar and a dusty can of kippered snacks***, and the giardia is starting to kick in. And everything in between.

I've just gotta stick with it. Get done what needs to get done, prepare myself as well as I can with what time and energy I have, and be ready for my expectations to be useless. It'll be some beautiful country out there, peppered with learning experiences, "trail magic," unexpected pleasures, and distance hiker camaraderie.

Plus, only twenty miles stand between me and a full weekend of partying with 600 people. I can dig it.

* In-joke.**
** The 2006 version of this has slightly changed. Since I've got health insurance, I can confidently predict nothing will happen that it would cover. So, either I'm going to finish the trip unhurt, or I'm going to have a meteor fall on me.
*** Both things I've eaten on the trail. Or, well, expect to have eaten. The Clif bar is still sitting there. Looking at me. With its little beady eyes. It gives me the jibblies.