CT Mileage: 484.5m
Total Hiking Mileage (VL + CT): 3476m
"He's a lot like his dad, just not as deep," my Auntie told my Granny.
"Oh yeah, he is. He just doesn't show it as much. He has a good head on his shoulders; he's not lost," my Granny replied.
Recently, my real dad disappeared. I've never known him. In fact, I've only met him once in my life and that was 8 years ago. No one knows where he wandered off to. Nobody has spoken to him. Rumor has it he had been acting erratically. He also had been displaying some violence and had been speaking to himself in reproachful tones aloud. My Granny tells me he used to do this all the time: wander off in no particular direction or place without telling anyone for days or even months at a time.
The Vagabond Loop is my greatest achievement in my life. I spent many years trying to solve the problem of my wandering spirit. I knew I was cut from the same cloth as my vagabond dad, however, I believed deep down inside I wasn't crazy. And I also am not mentally diseased. Though I did realize my wont to wander, or explore, or vagabond, bothered many people I knew it would never cease within my person. Honestly, I struggled with holding relationships and other commitments. I always kept an out. But I've got a good head on my shoulders, or I should say I've got a good heart in the right place, and I've always believed in my self. I have worked really hard to be a good man and harness my wandering spirit. The VL may have taken me 4 months to hike but it has been my path, my journey, my whole life.
I found it hard to think about, to digest as I floundered about from the GET terminus some 2 and a half weeks ago. I just kept walking. I walked all the way into Apache Junction, some 15 miles from the trail head. My head was programmed to do what I had been doing all summer. And because the summer season hasn't changed yet my rhythm is still in tune with walking with the flow and time that is now. Then, I wondered if I was lost.
I felt the need to keep my freedom alive. I hopped on a plane from Phoenix and landed in Denver, which is the eastern terminus of the Colorado Trail. I realized within the first mile of Waterton Canyon that I didn't want to find out anything new or reflect on what I had just accomplished. I just wanted to simply walk unimpeded in the mountains alone along a well-established path. The miles flew on by and I finally was able to gauge my hiking ability against other hikers. This may seem like a competitive twitch to some reading this, especially since most people reading this know how competitive I have always been. But this self-assessment helped me regulate my summer's pattern of isolation and lonesomeness. I felt like I was back in the real world, sort of. The CT was easy for me, I found out. But it was incredibly fun. Pure, simple fun at that too. The CT itself was a lot like hearing what mileage the other hikers had been doing. The CT put in perspective how hard and adventurous the VL was. Over a couple days on the CT I realized I wasn't lost and I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.
The vagabond life I lead now is a far cry from my dad's wandering days. He spent 20 years on skid-row slumming it and abusing drugs until one day some people found him unconscious on the sidewalk in a tiny town of Oroville, CA. A local hospital took him and eventually he fell under State care while living in a halfway house. I wouldn't say I learned from his mistakes; I just couldn't let down the people who cared about me.
Often, while trekking along a lonesome canyon or plateau or ridgeline in the VL, I would stop and snap out of my hiking trance. I took many deep breaths, up through the nose and out through the mouth. I lucidly recalled the miles I had mashed. I would gaze in the distance and think about leaping over the edge and not coming back. I would feel the urge to freely roam with no point in mind well up inside. Then the machine inside of me would rudely nudge it aside. My inner-compass is lead by the mechanical drive that overpowers my wanderlust. I think my dad had it the other way around.
The CT wended its way through the Rockies and I felt like a passenger on a roller coaster with my legs being on auto-pilot. Frequently, I would have 35m by 7pm, even after a 7am start time, which normally I was up and at 'em around 530am. I didn't become lost in my thoughts. I became enchanted again by the high alpine tundra, the craggy bluffs of lofty summits, the shimmering fresh and cold water, the supple and colorful wildflowers, and the twinkling and quaking of massive aspen groves.
I did not plan and hike the VL to figure out how alike and different I am to that of a man I really do not know. And I didn't do it to 'find' myself. I think I hiked the VL to do things the 'right way.' I accomplished what I set out to do this past Spring--a connection around the Four Corners region tying the AZT, HT, GET and CT (I reconnected with the VL while on the CT at Bolam Pass, a place I walked through going from Moab to Durango). Things weren't cookie cutter to what I had originally planned and that's fine. I had to adapt, I had to fidget around obstacles, and I had to check my ego. When that happened I was able to balance my wandering spirit with my mechanical drive. I blossomed then, I flourished and I saw things clearer than I have ever seen them before.
It may take a while for me to fully comprehend the harsh conditions, the emotional breakdowns, the insanely beautiful scenery, the tender isolation, and the wonderful freedom
I experienced, among an infinite number of other moments and feelings. I do not even know if this entry will suffice the true meaning of what I have written in previous entries to you, the reader. I just want to keep going forward with my legs propelling the way. I just want to keep wandering with a goal in my heart. I just want to keep being who I am: a Vagabond.