I sleep like shit.
At 1:50AM I wake up and I’m filled with longing. Carrot has finished her trip to Alaska, her glorious, beautiful, serene sounding trip and she is in my BED with the dogs that I’ve more or less decided to take as my own.
I love all three of them so much, in my house, in my room, between my covers. Carrot has been gone for weeks and she gets closer all the time but here at 1:50 AM we cannot get to each other fast enough and I feel a little stupid in my tent. I could have waited a few days and we wouldn’t be so far! But what is life if you can’t just go and have your adventure regardless? I went when I felt like I had to, there was no ETA for her return, and here we are. This is just how it is sometimes, I suppose.
I close my eyes and I imagine what it’s like when I’m with Carrot. I think of how sometimes she’s doing the dishes and I come up behind her and put my arms around her waist and press my face into her hair. I think about how we wake up and the morning light spills through my window and she smiles before she opens her eyes. I think about her relationship with her dogs, how they all three love one another the best and the most and how she gives them so much careful attention and calls me her dog’s other mom. I feel like that’s kind of a big deal statement and it feels really good to me to recall.
Eventually I drift back to sleep thinking of Carrot’s hands and her eyelashes and her walk and her rosy cheeks and a few hours later I can hear my trail family rustling about. While I lay with drool crusted down my cheek everyone else is ready to go.
Here’s the thing. I *am* a morning person. I love to make early plans and exercise early and write in the morning when my brain is most fresh. But I cannot just wake up and pack out. It goes against everything in my nature to forgo a breakfast eaten from my sleeping bag, a hot instant coffee slowly savored. Dad leaves, then Homework, then Jukebox and I am left alone in our campsite to chew and drink and stare into space before I go. It like to go slow.
I’m gonna give it to you straight: I haven’t shit on the actual trail yet and it is in this moment that I know that I’m going to have to. I meander away from the other campers with my toilet paper and my trowel and I poke at the ground looking for a soft spot. Everything is trees and roots and sturdy stocked plants and I. Really. Fucking. Have. To. Go. This shit waits for no soft ground.
Just as I’m deciding to post dig (that is shit first, dig later) I go and it’s fucking gross. I need vegetables! Looking my poop in the face tells me so.
I proceed to dig a cat hole that not only am I not proud of, but I’m honestly deeply ashamed of. I tip my trowel toward the poop and dump it in the shallow hole. “I’m sorry” I whisper to the forest. I tried my best.
Objectively speaking, trail conditions are fucking perfect today. Gentle slopes and gentle declines. Sun dappled trees and perfect trail tread. It is beautiful and I’m so fucking grateful, but as the miles go on my knees hurt more and more. Every step is like a bunch of tiny little knives in my knee pit and I KNOW this is overuse, I KNOW i need to rest, but I also know I am very close to our first town and my friends seem to mostly feel good and I want to stay with them. It’s a conundrum! One of drive and of ego and maybe a dash of codependence.
At 8:42AM I am about eight miles in and Carrot texts to tell me she’s hatched a plan. She wants to join me (how am I so lucky) but she’s sprained her ankle just before the kayak portion of her trip and she’s unsure it would be wise to hike relentless big days on a healing ankle.
She says she’s going to go on a test hike. If her ankle still feels too tender she’s going to drive out to us with a van load of dogs and kombucha and kale salad and KT tape. If not, she’ll just come and hike. She’s going to see me tomorrow either way and that makes me want to jump up and down and scream and scream and scream. Carrot!!!!!!!! My beautiful brilliant lover is coming to me!!!!!!!!
(And additionally she was awake from 2-5 AM too, missing me and probably thinking of her own tiny vignettes. This happens to us all the time, whether with sleep patterns or moods while apart and we decide that Quito the tiny chubby puppy transmits us to one another through his special antenna. It is important to Quito that we stay connected.)
This buoys my spirits despite the fact that when I find my trail family at our designated meet up point they’ve all been there for an hour and a half. I’d considered stopping at this point for the day, I really am in a lot of pain after all, but when I arrive it’s a giant dirt road expanse, full of bugs and the water source is scummy and stagnant. Our next water is a beautiful free flowing stream just 2.5 miles away and it feels worth it to get there, even if just to keep moving away from the bugs.
99.99% of the time on this trail I’ve hiked alone. I’ve had more pain than the others so I’ve gone significantly slower, but I’ve also loved listening to books (Hunger, Tiny Beautiful Things and Stray City so far) plus podcasts and having abundant time to think. I’ve cried every day on this trail because I’ve been so struck by what a breathtakingly gorgeous and heartbreakingly painful thing just existing is. I have felt incredible feelings allowed only by solo time on this trail and I’m so glad for it. BUT! For this 2.5 miles we all hike to the water source together and it’s fucking incredible. Time melts away, I laugh uproariously again and again and before I know it we arrive. It’s shocking honestly! I never get anywhere on a hike before I know it.
We all fill up and express gratitude for today’s conditions. Like I said, fucking perfect from beginning to end. Dad gives me some of their ibuprofen and it’s decided: although I could camp alone, it is better to hike the last 3 miles together and stick close. My knees are a good reason to stop, but togetherness is also a very good reason to keep going.