Have you stopped shaving your legs yet?
Funny question I know, but it belies something larger, just under its quirky surface.
Less than 60 days out from my start date, and we are beyond the time for last things, and solidly into what I call the crunch. As I make the final preparations and plan my last few weeks at the gym, I’m also beginning the process of winding down my day to day life.
As I forge new friendly relationships with delivery drivers and anticipate the trail to come, I am beginning to realize the truth of something I’ve heard almost endlessly from successful thru-hikers and trail blogs.
The hike is going to change you.
In some ways, it already has. I’ve stepped up my fitness routine, worked hard to get my finances in order, and taken a crash course in logistics planning and management. The goal has pushed me to get out there and take long hikes up the slopes of Mount St. Helens, and a brief section hike that took me over Bridge of the Gods.
Two years ago, while the dream was alive within me, my ability to achieve it was on life support. In that period, I was living as a recluse, hardly leaving my house, hiding from life, completely lost to the anxiety disorder that has rampaged through my life, stretching far back to my childhood.
I was simply too afraid to get out there, too afraid to try. All I had was the dream of it.
Overweight, sedentary, out of shape, I was living mainly through my novel writing, busying myself working to get my struggling business off the ground.
Still the trail called to me but it took a crisis to get me there.
In January 2018, I do not know what happened, but the day to day issues I faced, to quote Spinal Tap, got cranked to 11. The coping mechanisms that kept me holding on, both healthy and unhealthy ones, began to fail and I descended into a unique and special hell that stretched out over weeks of lost sleep, and growing terror.
This ended up being a blessing in disguise. It pushed me back toward my doctor, we talked about treatment options, made some decisions, and I found something inside me that pushed me to start the work.
With a new medicine, and a flickering resolve I began the long, slow road to recovery. By that summer, I was running on the treadmill every day, and beginning to take short hikes, and as my confidence grew, and I took more control of life, I found more strength to take on bigger challenges.
Change wasn’t just coming, change was here. My life began to rapidly improve and by the end of 2018, as I relaunched my business in fullness and released a new novel, the wind-carried song of the PCT grew loud in my ears.
Could I really do it? I remember wondering.
As I’ve written in a previous blog, the dream stretched back years, but suddenly it seemed to be attainable. It wasn’t just something to hope for, it was something I could do. While the costs and training seemed daunting, for the first time in my life it did not appear as a mirage on the horizon, but something real, that was just a little farther down the path that I was already on.
To be honest, I had no idea how far I really had to go, and I remain certain that is the case even now, after hours, if not days of research and time spent reading accounts of people who have made it through.
The one thing I do know is that change is inevitable, in big ways and small, and will encompass my entire life, from hygiene and beauty standards (like shaving), to how I view things as basic and prevalent in my day-to-day life as food and water.
My perspective is going to shift, the way I interpret my world is going to shift, all as my world changes.
In truth this is already the case, from the journey it took to get here, to the fuzzy legs I’m currently sporting.
No matter what awaits me, in many ways, my mind and heart are already on the trail, and for one of the first times in my life I can say that I am not afraid of what the future holds, but excited for the changes that will come.