With the full moon and anniversary of the start of my PCT adventure in 2013, I was tempted to camp tonight. Then suddenly the heavens opened, the thunder and lightning begun, and all the little nooks I could have hidden in were muddy and wet. I opted instead to head to the Albergue in Baamonde which wasn’t a bad choice with its wooden floors and loft style sleeping area. Today I walked just over 40km, and reminisced about the PCT for 39 of them. I even put Missy Higgins on for the last hour coming into town for a true sense of nostalgia.
Today was an emotionally charged day which I expected, and fortunately the Camino was on actual trail or dirt roads that were far removed from society for the majority of the day; making for spectacular scenery and the chance for solitude. I had a lot of thinking time between 9am when I hit the trail and 9pm when I reached the Albergue. I was on a high at the beginning, a low after lunch, and then while I was resting on the wall of a bridge over a beautiful creek I received a comment which basically put into words exactly what I was going through and made me feel like someone else did actually understand what I’d experienced and how I must be feeling now. Somehow the words released all of the emotions I’d been carrying with me all day, and like any good crying session, I felt immediately relieved and my mind lighter afterwards.
Today was the first day I saw a road sign to Santiago. I’ve been vaguely keeping track of how many kilometres left, but when I saw that name appear I suddenly felt the excitement growing in my stomach. I keep forgetting how long and how far this journey actually is, and hadn’t fully appreciated that I’ve waked over 700km this last month until I realised how close I must be to my destination. I am planning to walk the additional 3 days to Finisterre, but I’m avoiding thinking beyond Santiago until I actually step foot in the cathedral.
It started pouring after my break on the bridge, but the rain and thunder were a welcome distraction from my former thoughts of the day, and in a symbolic fashion, cleared the slate for this new adventure to continue without distraction from the old.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts about how much this trail reminds me of the PCT and how therapeutic it has been to have time to process the events of last year. In all honesty I think of the PCT 80% of the time I’m walking, and to tell the truth, it’s been really difficult at times. The events of the PCT deserve a novel, and perhaps even a sequel, but it’s only now I’m actually appreciating that it was in fact me living those events from April to October in 2013 and also realising that no one will ever understand what life was like unless they were out there living it.
I wanted to post a video from my first day on April 15 2013 which I never posted on my former blog, but unfortunately I don’t have access to it just now. It’s so funny to look back at what a rookie I was on Day 1, I’ll have to post it when I’m off this new trail. I started watching my California Dreaming video today to evoke a few trail memories, but it was a actually too much for me, and I had to stop it halfway through to prevent tears from appearing in front of my fellow pilgrims. The emotions are still so raw from the experience that sometimes I think maybe it was too soon to hike another trail. But in some ways the Camino is such a different experience and so different to a thru-hike that maybe it was a perfect journey at the perfect time. I’m enjoying this adventure so therefore it can’t be a bad thing.
April 15 2013:
April 15 2014:
I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face having just watched the video of my arrival at the Northern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m not sure what made me do it. I was scrolling through the videos from that final treacherous day, finding it hard to believe that the person walking through the snow was actually me. Maybe it’s because I spoke to Fuller tonight and he mentioned that final thrilling day, and just how frightening those videos were. I guess I had to see them again for myself, which naturally brought back so many emotions and encouraged me to go the whole hog and watch the one I knew would bring a tear to my eye.
Speaking to Fuller brought back the reality of the trail. We both agreed that sometimes it’s hard to believe it really happened, that we did in fact walk from Mexico to Canada. We’ve both reached a point where it’s hard to talk about now. I think I’m in the process of filing away the memories and emotions, and each time I bring them up, I need to repack them neatly away again. Fuller came up with a good analogy about the trail being a little like an ex-lover. The experiences you share with the trail will never be known or understood by other people and it will forever hold a place in your heart.
I’ve obviously had too much solo time on my hands today because I was also reading some of the notes I wrote on my return to Sydney before I started this new blog. I definitely hit a few low points in those first few days readjusting to ‘home’ life again. I remember many people encouraging me to write about ‘life after the trail’. I think this is a topic that will continue to resurface for me and every other thru-hiker as the post-trail experience runs its course. Although the piece below sounds incredibly depressing, re-reading it made me feel it was worthwhile to share so that others feeling a bit of the same will realise you’re not alone:
I feel like I’m suffocating. I have an incredible knot in my stomach knowing that my life will never be the same. I will never again be preparing to embark on the most exciting adventure of my life. I’ve just lived it. From extraordinary to ordinary. I’m short of breath. The physical effects of this feeling of loss are breathtaking. The trail is no longer a looming mystery filled with longing and excitement. The story is complete, and I must find a new beginning without repeating the past. How can I top that? Haven’t I had enough excitement for one year? Shouldn’t I be satisfied and fall back into society’s groove like all the other players? I’m sliding down a plughole into the dark tunnel of my own thoughts. Flashbacks of a time that was haunt me. Even the bad feels good. I want it back, I wish it wasn’t over. I’m not ready to move on. The highs and lows that were magnified on the trail have followed me into this world. I want to crawl up and sleep, or escape into the wilderness.
The roller coaster of emotions has certainly steadied from that day. I did struggle a lot getting back in the groove of this reality, but continuing to move forward and staying active has definitely been the key.