Jul 13, 2016

The Great Unknown

Cascadia, click here for more images.

Day 1, 5:52pm.
It's my first night on the Pacific Crest Trail, southbound, and there is a very large storm coming straight at me.  I'm writing this because I'm afraid.

No, not of the storm.
I've done this before. I walked 1408 miles on the PCT and slept countless nights alone in the woods. The hardest night I ever had on the PCT was this one.

Well, this one and the first one.

I remember it vividly. I camped early, much like tonight, and funny enough I did so for the same reason. Rain. Lots of it. I was prepared for a many of things coming out of Campo, but a downpour wasn't one of them. I ended up pitching my tent on a rock. Literally. The mud was so thick that I didn't want to risk what it might do to my tent or my spirits which, I must say, were not very high. Despite my horrible choice of camping locations however, the real problem that evening was the same problem I face tonight.


Ominous mountains
These mountains don't forgive

I knew what Pacific Crest Trail was then. I knew what it meant. Removal. I was removed from everything familiar, with no method or means by which to contact anyone.  Now, back on the PCT, I face the same sense of "removal," all over again.

That is what I wanted, right?

In my other life, the one outside the PCT, I have a girl.  I have a family, and friends, and a life. I have dogs that wiggle when they see me and raise their paws when I stop rubbing them. I love all of these things. These things still exist. They're out there right now, many many miles away. They live their lives without me. I am now a ghost in their lives and this is difficult to bear.

I imagine this feeling is similar to that which prisoners must feel. Even prisoners have other prisoners to speak with, however.  The thing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is that I'm alone. Cell phones don't work. I won't be able to speak with anyone from my other life for many days. Can you imagine that feeling? For most of us, in our ultra-connected world that is hard to imagine much less empathize with.

Oh, and for you hard-asses out there bitching about how "wimpy" society is that we can't live without our cell phones. Fuck you. Walk 1400 miles then you can consider speaking to me about "wimpy." Better yet, man up and say something real for once in your life before you saddle up to my bar and shoot another Jamo.

Cascadia Unchained

For all the rest of us here in the modern world, however, I'm not afraid to admit, that solitude scares me. Always has. The feeling of being alone. Forever. Unknown and unregarded.

A few years ago I attended the San Diego County Fair. If you've ever been to San Diego for a summer then you've probably been there. It's a month long marathon of an exhibition. It dominates all of June and even has a decent concert series on Friday nights. My favorite is the piglet races. These little piglets run fast as hell for an oreo cookie. I love those little guys. Anyway, at the fair they had one of those portable bungee jump apparatuses.

For $25 a pop, workers would set you up with some long rubber cords attached to your legs and then lift you about 100 or so feet in the air on a single slim platform. Beneath the platform is a large blow up bed to catch you just in case something goes wrong. I paid the money to do that. My legs shook the entire way up. By the time the small pedestal reached its apogee I was senseless with fear. My body didn't work right. I couldn't walk or speak straight. I knew only one thing.

Tiger Lilly flower Taken from Karma's sobo thru-hike of the PCT
I've been told this is a Tiger Lily

I would not back down. At one point one of the workers even told me it was "okay," and they would take me back down if I wanted. No shame.

I had do it though.

So I did. I leapt off the platform and fell through the air. It was fine. I was fine. I shook for hours afterwards however. The adrenaline wouldn't go away.

Believe it or not I'm not an adrenaline-junkie. I don't crave danger; nor do I seek it out. There's only one thing I truly despise and I confront it every time I feel it; that is fear. I have a fear of heights and I confront it with every chance I get. Because I don't want it to win. I don't want to be overcome by it. I want to master it. As much as that is possible, anyway. That bungee jump was just one example of many in my life where I force myself to confront things that scare me.

Snow wall blocks the PCT.
Try getting around this...

I'm up in these mountains all alone for the very same reason, you know. That same fear I described earlier; the fear of being alone, of being forgotten, of being unknown, It haunts me a bit. I know where it comes from and why it's there. Deep seated issues I don't feel like considering at the moment. But I can't let the fear win. If I do, I'm no better than those who use fear as a method of control.

You know who I'm talking about. You see them on your TV every day. Telling us all to be afraid of this or that. Talking heads, politicians, marketers; they're all agents of fear, in their own little way, guiding us towards their ends. It's clear as day once you stop being afraid. "Deprogrammed," they call it. I don't like this fear, nor the effect it has upon me.


The storm last night was intense. As fierce as any I've encountered thus far. there were several times I was quite certain I would lose my rain fly. Winds whipped up madly and beat against it ferociously, but my little tent held out and now I lay here listening to the smaller droplets quietly beat against the tent wall. At no time was I afraid of the massive storm overhead, despite that it quite literally could have killed me. The absurdity of that is the damnedest thing, don't you think?

Karma's backpack sits on the Pacific  Crest Trail.
Karmas Lonely Pack


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