The other day, after about a week during which I hadn't heard a peep out of SWOH, a couple of rather distressed-sounding voicemails reached me here in southern Germany. Sabine and Olli were in Oregon, in the middle of a PCT "low" - dare I call it crisis? - and I sensed they deeply needed a break for some major recuperation and regrouping of energies. I have to admit, I'd been anticipating something of the sort. The days leading up to it had been rough, coping with gazillions of very hungry mosquitos, extreme weather conditions, illness, and maybe exhaustion.
All along, I've been with them in my thoughts. Their progress weaves through my days. I think about what their experience teaches me, who am merely their translator. Every day my writing practice - "Morning Pages" (Julia Cameron, "The Artist's Way") - offers the perfect opportunity to think about what SWOH's experiences teach me.
Up until now, I had the impression the PCT is all about making mileage, food. Getting there – wherever "there" is at the end of the day. My family used the word "winning" - a strange concept to me. When I asked them what they meant, they said, "achieving the goal, pushing yourself to the utmost." There are all kinds of reasons to do the PCT, of course, probably as individual as the individuals who hike it. SWOH had and have their reasons - which are tucked between every line of their blog. And I suspect they'll probably broaden that list, when all is said and done. But as an observer, perhaps I can see the bigger picture.
Their crisis teaches me we're responsible for our state of health, of mind, of psyche. It teaches me we must develop a constant awareness, like an animal, of our surroundings. If we don't pay attention, we make mistakes, endanger ourselves, perhaps others. It's a wakefulness we tend to lose in our modern, convenience-filled life - to our detriment. If SWOH can translate this mindfulness to their regular lives back in Germany, I feel sure longevity and overall good health will be the reward. Possibly, their "teamhood" will improve, although in my eyes they've always been a good team - but be even more optimized than before.
Ultimately, I hope they can carry over these "lessons" nature has gifted them. I tend to think of the hardships and difficulties as gifts - but then, I'm not the one being attacked by gazillions of very hungry mosquitos. Nor need I worry about the dangers of rattlesnakes, scorpions, mountain lions, or bears. And I always know where I'm sleeping at night. I HAVE slept under the stars before - but to say "slept" would be to vastly misconstrue the term. I hardly shut an eye. And this was in the French countryside - far from mountain lions, bears, scorpions, or rattlesnakes. I will say that observing the Milky Way flimmering above my head was beyond magical. But when the biting bugs became too annoying, I simply retired indoors and crawled into the nearest bed.
So I'm deeply awed by my friends' intrepid persistence, the sheer doggedness in keeping their vision foremost in mind, following their own North Star, their inner compass. They seem to be always open to what life (and nature) offers, ready to engage with whatever and whoever is present. In a way, I feel they're doing this trail for me, too: Thanks to SWOH, I am a vicarious PCT thru-hiker. I'm with them in spirit, truly, every single day.
Sabine and Olli: Keep on keeping on! (And take a break: you need it!)
Sincerely, your vicarious blogger, Gabriele