Fifty-two days. That’s the amount of time I have before boarding a plane for New Zealand. That’s less than two months of work while just enough time to down-size my possessions, acquire last minute gear and/or adapt current gear in addition to printing maps and trail notes so as to develop an itinerary and respective resupply strategy. It also includes saying goodbye to friends and family and if I’m diligent enough, time to revise my book, Married to the Trail, one more time. Then, if even a morsel of time is left, I will send my words off into the world in a quest for a publisher. I will then load up my backpack, fly to New Zealand and begin the next chapter of my life.
Right now I’m in a transitional chapter—the intermission. Not quite totally submerged in the life I lead now and not quite immersed into the rhythm of the trail. If your a thru-hiker, you know what that rhythm is. If your not, I can only describe it as a way of life. One filled with purpose, dedication, addiction and a pursuit for something bigger than myself.
For the last few nights, I’ve been reminded about this transitional phase, and also that the days leading up to the next chapter are getting less and less and quick. It’s like being a kid at christmas time. And as much as I look forward to the actual present, it’s the days leading up to the gift and the unwrapping of it’s contents that are equally and romantically just as fun.
So here I am, fifty-two days and counting, spending time with my family in Warwick, New York. It’s been over 2 1/2 years since I’ve come back to the place I had, and always will call home. While adrift in thoughts of the past and present, I was reminded of how easily time can escape us. For example, on my flight over here, I flew over the beautifully rugged wrinkles of the Rocky Mountains. I could have sworn I spotted the Continental Divide Trail as we neared Denver. I saw a faint trail cut across its snowy slopes—very appropriate as that was the condition it was in during my 2011 thru-hike. It was exhilarating, and yet almost disbelieving. After all, I had hiked the heart of those mountains and farther than my eyes could see both north and south. But it seems surreal now. It seems like forever ago, and a similar feeling has come over me as I walk through the rooms of the house I grew up in. As I walked through the neighborhood, what seemed like miles now shows as blocks. What seemed like looming mountains are hills. It wasn’t because I was smaller, as I was a kid well into my teens, it’s that I’ve seen and done and walked a world vastly bigger than the one I grew up in. My adventures have led me afar, and no doubt will go farther.
I don’t know if its something that you realize as you get older—or more mature as I now like to say—but it wasn’t until a year ago that I started to feel caught in a time vortex, with days and hours and even seconds feeling that much shorter. This is one of a dozen reasons that I constructed a three-year plan. Wow, right? I haven’t had one of these in a while, the spontaneous free-spirit that I am. But there is so much I want to see and do—and especially hike—that I needed to put my goals under the microscope. I sat down, many times right before bed, and pondered ideas, romanticizing the thoughts of where the next chapter could lead to. Which is hiking, of course. But not really of course because for a while I seriously considered going back to school for cartography or industrial design. But before I can do that, I have a few more hikes planned and likely after those hikes there will be more hikes, but seriously I need to cut the cord somewhere. I know that I’ll go to Italy one day, as well as South America, Alaska and Ireland, but again, the cord needs to be cut somewhere. I can braid in additional adventures when their time comes.
For now, I’m focused on the next three years. They will take me through many chapters, first starting in New Zealand, to which I’ll thru-hike the country’s two main islands. After, I hope to work at a winery, gaining insight into the industry of viticulture. I will then return to Bend to work and save up for the next adventure. Come February of 2015 I’m heading to the southwest to hike the Southwestern Horseshoe. It connects three spectacularly scenic trails: the Hayduke, which is a rugged and remote trail stretching 800 miles along the Arizona/Utah border, the Arizona Trail, an 800-mile trail that I’ve been itchy to do for a few years now, and the Grand Enchantment Trail which spans 730-miles across New Mexico and Arizona. The route will be a tour through the Southwest’s iconic landscapes, including deep canyons, arid desert and a remote, pristine landscape found nowhere else. Few have done it, and those who have are very experienced and headstrong hikers. I don’t consider myself either of these—more like spontaneous and stubborn which I need to give myself some credit as it’s gotten me this far. I’m sure I’ll develop such confidence and knowledge in due time so at least I have something to look forward to. Depending on how long of a route I piece together—upwards of 3,000 miles—I will return during summer to again work, saving up enough money to support my longest endeavor and an itch that simply needs scratching: the Calendar Triple. AT, PCT, CDT all in a single year.
Then maybe Italy. Or Alaska.
A three-year plan, especially one of this undertaking, seems like a bit much. Sure. But that’s the point. Time escapes us and memories fade. Live each chapter to the best as you can until your ready to write the next.