One of the things I most love about life is its spontaneity. Give an inch of time and watch life fold in on you and make creases you could have never dreamed. Give life a foot and you feel what the oldest trees do - that growth is tenuous but pushing.
It’s been six years since the New Years that brought 2013. 2013 entered while I lay in a hotel room outside of the Sierra Nevada. The morning was spent falling in love with Death Valley National Park, a place I had no expectations for. But that evening was all about my inner world. I lay in bed and thought about what I wanted from life. Complacency and convenience had clouded my life with the threat of that goal: comfort. I had put on considerable weight, the trip represented my first earnest foray outside in some time, and the strength of my integrity to live purposefully had waned with the cold season. Stock blocks of unease lay crumpled in my mind.
And for me, that’s a cause to look inward. I thought about the things I had desired in middle school - hiking the Appalachian Trail. Exploring endlessly. Being a guest to the outdoors. Things yearned for nondescript.
The scale of light triggers photosynthesis or its ceasing. The scale of a mind juxtaposing current with antecedent ensures change or remorse. I chose change.
Laid down by size, I scaled up a series of outdoor plans that would be encapsulated by the next. First year I would do the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure across the state and complete my first century ride. Year two would involve a self-supported bicycle tour from Vancouver, British Columbia to the border of Mexico south of San Diego on the Pacific Coast Highway. Thru-hiking the John Muir Trail and climbing Half Dome would be year three. Year four would the big one - a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. All activities building on each other. Experience and endurance culminating to the next step while I put in hours during the year to lose weight.
Timelines are always drawn linear, but mine managed to split reckless at times. I managed to smash my body in a mountain bike accident in March of 2013, got hit by a car on our bicycle tour in California in 2015, and then in January 2017 I split my patellar tendon open in an ultramarathon race. These were fucking frustrating moments. As stated, the unpredictability of life will draw down creases that I, at least, never imagine. The length of my timeline spread in latitude, but it managed to include goals I didn’t know I craved until they sprung: getting back into mountain biking, taking up gravel grinding, attending a NOLS backpacking/rock climbing course in the Wind River Range, bicycle touring the Olympic Peninsula, embracing the importance and meaning of teaching environmental science, and finding that deep meaning of loving humanity by being an educator.
The pain in my knee from compounded endurance efforts (precipitating with the ultramarathon) has been emotionally erosive at times. Despite this, I seek times in what could be called the Extraordinary World. The Ordinary World is the straight-lined concrete of sidewalks and calked-lined showers. It is the influential hand of humanity. It absolutely has meaning. But it is the domain of the everyday and therefore the Ordinary World. The wild spaces, soiled or untrammeled, constitute the Extraordinary World - the place I leave and recognize I did not get enough of. The place of extended visits that never count toward overstaying. If something gives you meaning, let fire light your movements to it.
And this is where I find myself now. After the rules of life have subsided and my plans have fruited or rusted, I am now preparing to hike the Arizona Trail. We plan on starting at the border at Coronado National Memorial. The original plan was to begin today, but when you wake up and see this warning:
“Winter Storm Warning from MON 8:00 PM MST until TUE 8:00 PM MST…WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 8 PM THIS EVENING TO 8 PM MST TUESDAY ABOVE 6500 FEET… * WHAT…Heavy snow. Total snow accumulations of 8 to 18 inches expected, with localized higher amounts on the mountain peaks. * WHERE…Galiuro and Pinaleno Mountains, Chiricahua Mountains, Dragoon and Mule and Huachuca and Santa Rita Mountains and Catalina and Rincon Mountains. * WHEN…8 PM today to 8 PM Tuesday. * ADDITIONAL DETAILS…Look for significant reductions in visibility at times. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A Winter Storm Warning means heavy snow accumulations are expected. Gusty winds and blowing snow are also possible. This will make travel very difficult or impossible…especially in the mountains.”
Considering that our first site tonight is around 8,000 feet, we decided to forgo immediate mountaineering conditions for a few days. Thus, the start of our thru-hike will begin on Thursday, March 14.
Considering the state of my knee, I harbor no certainty about the how far we will make it. 50 miles to Patagonia? –> most certainly. All the way to Oracle and on to Phoenix? –> hopefully. All the way to Utah at Vermillion Cliffs National Monument? –> man I hope so. The only way to know is to begin. And that’s how life is. Give life an inch and it begins to fold. I choose to begin with that inch.