PCT Day 128, zero, Idyllwild

The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for. – Maureen Dowd

I’m amazed at how exhausted I am. Another zero seems to do the trick and I have just enough time to enjoy it in this lovely village tucked into the mountains. I should finish walking in less than two weeks. How about them apples?!

I sleep late, enjoy coffee and the New York Times on a private porch, walk to the local store to resupply, run into Pinky from way back at Walker Pass – who tells me she was stalked by a mountain lion – lunch at the Red Kettle, create another ‘Peeps of the PCT,’ dine at Ferro, get nervous about crossing a rockslide tomorrow, then cuddle into an enormous bed where I can spread out and let my legs rest up for the coming miles.

Last night I dreamt I could still play the flute but was forced to re-audition for my job, much to my dismay. In fact every night my subconscious works overtime replaying a humiliating saga of my having to prove my worth. Enough already! Just let me sleep and get on with things!

So here’s a question you might help me answer:

Is it possible – and I’m speaking metaphorically here – is it possible to continue to walk the trail after I finish walking the trail?

I realize this is a bit of a koan or riddle that I have no satisfying answer to, but I wholeheartedly welcome yours.

For now, it’s (hopefully) a dreamless sleep so I can build up the reserves of courage I’ll need to vanquish the rock slide and slay double digit miles from one water source to the next – thankfully, this time with guaranteed camping!

Reader Comments

  1. When I was in high school, I was part of the downhill ski club. Every Sunday, the school (I went to boarding school) would take a bunch of us up to Snoqualmie to go skiing for six or seven hours at a time. That night, back in my dorm room, as I was drifting off to sleep, I would see, hear, and feel the snow under my feet and found my self “skiing” in bed as I swooshed down the mountain. I thought I was the only one doing this until I realized that my roommate, on the other side of the room was also “skiing” her way to sleep each Sunday night. So, yes, I think you may keep walking after you are done walking. And not just the PCT, but any of the hikes you’ve done.

    Sometimes in my dreams, I’m back in the studio ready to panic because there is no music pulled (pre-computer days) to play, and the station manager is waiting with skimmer tape at the ready and pen in hand.

  2. Alison,
    Before you complete your hike, I wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed following your journey. Thank you for letting me share this experience with you. I wish I had some advice or words of wisdom to share with you about hiking after your hike. This is what I think about when things seem dark.
    Before we moved to Minnesota my wife and I lived in Arizona. While there, I learned to fly sailplanes over the desert. Sailplanes can fly for hours on invisible columns of rising air called thermals. You can probably see the dust devils across the ground where you are now.
    Here’s how it works. A shadow in the desert makes a cool spot which causes the warm air to rush in from all sides. Since it has no where else to go, it goes up. If it goes high enough, the hot air hits the cooler air and forms a cloud. The cloud makes a shadow which makes a cool spot which makes another thermal.

    So, the lift makes the cloud and the cloud makes the lift.

    I think there’s life lesson in there somewhere. The natural cycles are neither wrong or right, they just are. I know that you have experienced some dark clouds this year. Maybe those are the things that bring the lift.

    1. Tim, this is so beautiful! I am deeply touched. There is so much in the natural world that teaches me about life, and the trail itself illustrates trust and patience as well as joy in the moment. Your imagery is a magical one I will hold close in the final days.

  3. Alison….you look flashy, woman!….in a good way. This experience would
    cause anyone to re-live it in dreams later…not to worry…..keep on going
    and always be mindful….do not lose your camera….Ms Ansel Adams!
    You will make a wonderful compendium of your experiences….I just
    know you will! I am so lucky to have followed your Blogs….Zola

    1. I write to share, of course, but it also helps me frame my experience as it happens. The camera makes me see and the words make me feel. I am deeply touched you came with me, Zola.

  4. The picture of you sitting by huge wildlife statute should be the cover of your book on hiking the PCT! Following that, to answer your question about continuing to walk the trail after you have finished it: I think you will always have memories and dreams of the amazing hiking you have done this past year! It will be an experience that you never stop thinking about! That is good! I am so proud of you and what you have accomplished and you have to know that what you have done is basically unbelievable – thats why those of us who followed your journeys are so amazed at you and your strong will and fortitude!

    1. I feel incredibly blessed! Richard sent me on the PCT, somehow knowing me better than I know myself. I can hardly believe what I’ve done!! I will walk still, maybe only small trails near my home, but they will be filled with the TA and PCT.

  5. Dear Alison, you will always remember walking this trail and think of the trails not yet taken as long as you are able. That is the way life should be. looking to a positive future rather than past negativity. You are heroic !

    1. I am SO glad we saw each other during my hike! You helped me so much to take that positive fork in the trail. I am impressed by you, Dave, and so glad we’re friends.

  6. James Thurber wrote, “Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.” I first learned of awareness backpacking in the Big Horns of Wyoming and the Bear Tooth of Montana. It was exhilarating, charming, and occasionally terrifying. I had no time for resentments of the past or fears of the future. I was totally focused on the present and seeing for the first time my environment in different levels of understanding. On the occasions decades later when I achieve total awareness, I think back of those high mountain trips and what they taught me. It will be the same for you. Incidentally, Mr. Schoonhoven above wrote a beautiful and appropriate comment that I found incredibly thoughtful.

    1. I will ponder this quote in my final days. Isn’t that amazing how such beauty focuses us into the ‘now?’ I am deeply touched you came with me on this journey, Ed!

  7. Alison – Here’s a resounding YES! to your hiking the PCT and to those comments above about what it means to the commentators to continue the walking after the walking is done. Pretty much, we have laid out your book for you: you have a cover picture, you have the stories, photos, structure (the journey motif!) for the contents, and all this commentary for an afterward! Easy peasy to smush all of this into a big, fat coffee table book–after hiking 3,000 miles, writing a book will be the equivalent of crossing a rockslide. Here’s another, more metaphysical thought: think of all the thinking your writing about walking these magnificent trails around the world have made your READERS think! In so many ways, we’re walking along with you, which accomplishes the goal of continuing your walk after walking, since we’re thinking about your walking. Maybe that’s a way to think about the “legs” your walks have had–they’re ours, too, and for which we thank you, heartfelt and on-going . . . and the walking continues long after the hike is accomplished. Godspeed!

    1. wow! this is fantastic. You know, the most powerful moments of my life have been as a teacher or mentor. My flute students were more than musicians, they were like children or maybe my teachers of how to explain and help so they could be their own best teachers. If anything I’ve shared helps someone else think, I am incredibly blessed!

  8. Wonderful to see the end of the journey ahead. I’ve so enjoyed your posts. A book based on this would be perfect.

    But I’m wishing you all the best after the hiking is finished (for now).

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