Honestly, that’s how I’ve felt a lot of times on the trail.
At first it was the water. At every source you need to figure out how much you need to get to the next source. And you need to decide if you will be camping before you get there, and if so, carry enough for that too. Then you walk away and that’s it: you’re committed!
Like the day I left Tehachapi with “16 miles” of water. I really would have liked to stop at mile 10, or 12, or 14, but I wouldn’t have any water. There’s really nothing for it but to keep walking no matter how bad I feel, or what the conditions are.
Now that I’m in the High Sierra there’s a similar dynamic with the passes. I can spend all day climbing a pass and get there in the late afternoon, dog-tired, but there’s nowhere to camp up there. No matter how bad the snow is, or what the conditions are, or what my condition is, I must get down to camp. There really is no choice about it.
I hate to think that my options are: 1) Keep Walking, or 2) Die, but it certainly feels that way. I could probably survive 12 hours with no water, and in an emergency I could camp on the trail itself, but you know, those are desperate measures. Survival mode. I’m trying to avoid that.
And then of course, there’s my stupid schedule. I predetermine how fast I will hike and then I’m kind of stuck. If I leave town with eight days of food, I need to be back in town in eight days. Again, I could survive a day or two without food, but yeah. Trying to avoid survival mode (and I certainly don’t need to lose any more weight!).
To a large extent these pinch points are unavoidable, and so far I have navigated them successfully. But my vision when I left was that with such a long trail I could just load up with some food and go hike. I would hike for 12 hours or so a day and get as far down the trail as I got. It hasn’t been like that. There’s always something pushing me. No rest for the weary. Trapped on a dirt treadmill.
It’s not fun feeling pressured like that, and it’s definitely affecting my enjoyment of the Sierra and the trail in general. I plan to stop it.
In two weeks I’ll be in Tahoe to meet my Dad and I can throw away my stupid schedule. Canada? Whatever. I have six months off and I plan to spend the rest of my time hiking more like I envisioned before I left. Hike all day (with breaks!) and camp when the day is done. Honestly, I’m afraid this hike will turn me off backpacking for good if I don’t start having fun.
The trail should get easier, and my pack should be lighter soon, and I’m in good shape, so in all likelihood I will still hike big miles and make it to Canada with time to spare. But for the next month or so getting to Canada will be secondary to living in the moment and not feeling pressured to push myself to the limit everyday. We’ll see how my priorities change as the summer and I progress.
In other news, yesterday was pretty nice here in Mammoth and I was doubting my decision to stay in town. I saw a few hikers heading out. But today was the day I was worried about, and it is already raining at dawn even though the real action isn’t supposed to start until after noon. My feet still hurt and I still feel tired walking up the stairs to my room, so the rest is probably good for me regardless.
Also, I woke up with toe pain this morning. One of my toenails is trying to go ingrown on me. Not good, but there doesn’t seem there’s much I can do about it. Hope for the best, I guess. I would hate to be taken off the trail by a toenail.
I head back tomorrow. Might still be a little damp, but it will be moving out instead of moving in. I’m going to try to mash some miles and see if I can only be one day behind my stupid schedule when I get to Tahoe instead of the two days I am taking off. Wish me luck.