Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Ticker and the Heart: Leaving SoCal

I am driven, obsessed actually, by miles and speed. That is my confession. I admit it. The drive is so impulsive that I cannot control it. Physical challenge and exertion is fulfilling to me and to a point of pushing things beyond what is reasonable. I am not racing against time, that's the internal ticker my body only knows and obsesses over. 

How I absorb nature and the world around is affected by this ticker. I see things clearer, I am more open-minded, friendlier, patient, calmer, and level-headed. I admit that I've been a whiny little baby at times while hiking with Bearclaw. See, we have the same goals and with our experience levels being far apart we have striven to compromise with each other. But at times I compromise less. My ego gets in the way, my ticker. Her pushing through injury and a backpack and back problem while still hitting our mileage mark should suffice my ego and my extremely goal oriented mind set. But... It's the same when I'm hiking alone: I will fore sake what is sensible to feed my drive.

I am an asshole. Period. I am hard to deal with as I only want things my way. feel a deep sadness while walking on trail at some of my temper tantrums. I am not this way, honest. I know that I do not want to fore sake the perfect love we have for each other. But that fucking ticker...

I feel frustrated when the flow is interrupted, not because of Bearclaw but with issues I feel should be resolved. One of my goals before this adventure was to gain a sense of patience outside of my comfort zone and obtaining a better quality of this trait with the woman I love. At times, I do not exhibit this.

Recently, we mashed into Kennedy Meadows after a 36m day. I let Bearclaw dictate the whole day. I felt relaxed and content; my ticker felt challenged though I could not help but think of going farther. I felt proud of what Bearclaw accomplished that day and she looked really good at the end of it. However, my mind set needs to change from feeling like she 'gave me 36m' to she performed at a higher level that we attained together. 

We left Kennedy Meadows soon after and the sky let fall a cold blow of precipitation. My spirit swelled as we hiked in the rain and sleet. My obsessiveness overwhelmed my sensible decision making. All I could think about was embracing the cold, the icy, wet cold, to do big miles. All this despite what Bearclaw was feeling. The lure of the Sierra and its challenges have turned me into a beast. I want, crave and need, situations and moments the most difficult. When the shit gets worse I want to dive in, excel and perform. I want my feet frozen, my beard grizzled in hoarfrost, my fingertips hot from nip; I want what no one wants. I was unaware that I'd be like this with Bearclaw before the trail.

I kept pushing her. We slugged through a foot and a half of fresh snow over the shoulders of Olancha Peak. Bearclaw's back gave her excruciating pain yet my eye was on the mileage we needed to attain to lumber up and over Forester Pass and out Kearsarge Pass in 3 days (at the time, I thought quite feasible). Bearclaw fought back with her will. She kept on even as the sleet and hail pelted us. Most other hikers we saw were holed up for the day at camp keeping coverage from the storm. 20m zeroed in on my ticker, though I couldn't escape the obsessive impulse of mashing out 30m days through the mess.

We camped up high on the ridge overlooking Owens Lake, about 10,400ft. We pulled up short on mileage that I zeroed in on. The wind blew in a brisk manner as I scraped out a camp spot through 8in of crusty snow with a frozen granite rock. Bearclaw laid down with a booming headache. I sat up on my elbows hunkered down in the tarp waiting for the sun to go down. I couldn't escape the thought that I should still be out there fighting, going farther, as Bearclaw looked at me dreary eyed, woozily with a booming head. I kissed her on the nose, we said goodnight and I thought of an early morning start.

Our water froze, the ground was solidly frozen under a crunchy blanket of snow. Bearclaw braved the cold in a manner I've never seen. She gaped in wonder at the beauty around her. She kept telling me to look at what she observed as beautiful. This Sierra was new to her and it instilled a dramatic courage and verve beyond my comprehension, no matter how experienced I am, no matter how many wild places I've been, no matter how big the stars, nor how deep the canyons, nothing. 

She moved easily over the trail. I could tell her spirit swelled with energy. And all because of the Sierra, even though her back ached. She labored in pain and in shallow breaths. She was exerting tremendous effort to ascend the saddle where the junction of Mulkey Pass is situated. I sat under a girthy foxtail pine as she lumbered up the trail looking lugubriously. I keep inventorying our food and miles ahead of us in my head. Another hiker made it to the saddle. She spoke a little more freely to him about her back pain. I knew then she was afraid to tell me how bad it hurt. 

It is strange to look at her as an objective observer while being her lover, as well as keeping at bay my infamous ticker. Inside my heart and head battled, fought in a war, a battle of fierce opponents colliding like booming thunderheads. 

Again, like she always does, she sucked it up. I stopped her trying to get an accurate assessment of her painful back. I knew the terrain and conditions that lay ahead, as well as how much, or should I say how little, food we had. I wanted to push on because that's what I wanted to do, however, it was not what we needed to do. Together, we made the decision to bail out at Cottonwood Pass to solve the painful back mystery, rest and reassess our food.

I'm an asshole. Sometimes I manage to make her feel bad about my thoughts drifting to a PCT yo-yo, a CDT yo-yo, a cross country route through Nevada rivaling the Hayduke Trail. I tell her of 40m days, over and over again. What I need to tell her is how great she is doing, how much we are on our mark, ahead of our pace. I need to remember what type of journey we are on. I need to share in these moments of what we have ahead of us in these wonderful mountains afoot on the Pacific Crest Trail.

We've had other issues that have managed to give us some stress. April and I started our relationship not too long ago. Despite what I wrote above, our relationship is a rather easy one. However, my family, in particular my mom, has seemed to struggle with me having a woman I will call my wife. I'll spare the details but it was not uncommon to go into a town with some type of issue regarding my family side of things, as if interfering with our relationship, stunting our growth. Leaving the Tehachapi area we finally felt like we were actually thru-hiking and out on our own, as SoCal is where my family resides.

Bearclaw's story brings other things at play along the trail. Recently, her family disowned her and threatened violence against her for her uncoverings of family ill-occurrences when she was a young girl. (There's other issues at well but you'll need to read her blog) The trail is a time of reflection and healing, a time of such raw emotion and understanding that it is hard for others to understand someone leading such a brave life. The outside world will never understand as fear is their only guiding light. Bearclaw and I have seen this together while walking with the seasons. We speak of these roadblocks openly and support each other. To us, it's me and her against the world.

Ill finish with this: we're lounging in Lone Pine soaking up the hot rays of a holiday weekend with the serrated backdrop of the High Sierra. For me, the mental part of this journey is more challenging than any other journey whether a physical or mental one. I'm a better man because of April, because of what we are doing together. Where would I be without April and mountains...

Side note and bullet-point rant:

This year's thru-hikers (or whatever type of hiker you are):

*Stop littering the trail with TP blossoms. Please find a shit-spot well out of sight of trail, dig a deep cathole, and carry out your goddamn TP.

*Please only use a small amount at water caches, even less than what you need. Carry your goddamn water and stop relying on these convenient, well-placed safety mechanisms. Get tough!!

*Also, do not leave your trash at the water caches!! Carry your own garbage out. The people who stash the water are not getting paid to pick up after your shit that's left behind.

*Another thing, quit yogi-ing unless you're in dire straits. It is your responsibility to do research, carry your own food, and know your ability. Stop taking advantage of others' kindness. Graciously accept trail magic, pitch in when you can.

*Lastly, this is directed at some 'so-called trail angels' and the hikers who enable them. This pot/ganja/marijuana thang is beyond repulsiveness. Respect the trail, nature, and man. Hiking the PCT is not an illegal profit business. I don't care if you smoke pot but the more you buy from these 'so-called trail angel' roaches the more they are encourage to drive around to different trail heads and poach. To me, this is the epitome of hiker trash that give a bad name to long distance hikers who live the lifestyle and walk the walk (and I'm calling out the name Hiker Trash. For reals!?).


  1. Well written buddy. Do your thing and good luck to you both.

  2. Keep on trucking man, I love the brutal honesty you write each time, and for calling out the punks on trail-keep up the good work!