I woke up last Saturday morning in my sleeping bag, on a cot, in a concrete-floored workshop, on a farm, outside of Trout Lake. I fell asleep Saturday night in the huge and absurdly comfortable bed in my parents’ guest room in Portland, and I finally got a good night’s sleep. Days later, my feet were still sore and my knees were still creaky. I mean, they’re still kind of sore and creaky, respectively, now. That Saturday in Trout Lake, sprawled on the sunny lawn outside the grocery store, I talked to a nobo named Radish about the differences between bike touring and thru-hiking, and, laughing, I said, “bike touring, your body eventually stops hurting.” Totally seriously, she told me that, well, when you’re thru-hiking it takes about two months. Maybe there’s hope for me and my hiker hobble yet — or maybe I’ll have to start all over when I get back on trail.
Trout Lake on a sunny Saturday: food, beer, hikers everywhere. We said goodbye and happy hiking to Elroy (who’d beat us to town) and Beowulf and the nobos we met in town, and then my mom drove us to Portland.
I’ve been off trail for well over a week now. I didn’t do much of anything for a few days. On Thursday, I drove with my friend Eliot down to Eugene, where we picked up Landon, and then to a farm outside Medford, where our friend Jess is living. The four of us spent the night under the stars, sleeping on a tarp in the middle of a field, visited by a kitten named Rascal who pounced gleefully on our toes.
In the morning, Eliot, Landon, and I continued south into California and its smoky hazy brightness. Shasta floated above us, disconnected from the earth by a band of haze. The whole west is burning. We drove all the way to a little state park in Mendocino County, and slowly other cars arrived full of people we loved. A whole bunch of my college friends piled out and we made campfires and ate food and drank beer and hugged each other a whole lot until a park ranger had to come over and tell us to simmer down.
(super awesome fisheye photo by Dusty Gridley)
On Saturday, my friend Judith married my brother Scott’s friend Jeff (Scott was the best man! We were not at all responsible for them meeting! It’s a small small world!). The wedding was beautiful and fun and I did not take a single photo — the first wedding I’ve attended in years that I didn’t work, and I am so glad. I caught up with friends and cried like a baby during the ceremony and danced like crazy for hours and then we all collapsed back into our tents.
(Reedies in a boat photo by Barry Levine)
In the morning we scattered to the four winds again, and Eliot and Landon and I drove to Ashland and got dinner with Jess. We dropped Landon off with her (they’re on their way to Burning Man as we speak), and continued up to Roseburg, where Eliot grew up. Yesterday we slept in and then went for a little rafting trip on the North Umpqua River with his dad before driving home to Portland. Not bad at all. On Thursday I’m leaving town again to fly to New York for another wedding — this one I am working — and a few days in Brooklyn with Elana and Ben.
I’ve spent a lot of time off-trail talking about the trail and what I was doing before the trail and what I’ll be doing after. I have a little notebook that I’ve been carrying since I started (and covering in stickers), and on the first page I wrote “STACIA’S LITTLE RED BOOK OF A BETTER LIFE.” What do I want to do? What really matters to me? In Roseburg the other day, Eliot mentioned that his dad used to travel a lot, but now he’s found his spot on the Umpqua River and he just doesn’t want to leave anymore. Sometimes I get anxious and think that this — what my life has been like for years now — is going to be my life forever. Trying to find my place. Looking for a job, or a partner, or a place to live. Sometimes I believe the crap about making the life you want, making yourself into the person you want to be, and sometimes it seems like a total crapshoot. Some people get lucky and find what they’re looking for — and recognize it when they find it — and some people are seeking forever. The belief that I’ll find or make or discover what I’m looking for someday is like the belief in free will. I have to believe it, because the alternative is despair.
I know I’m already lucky. I’ve met so many wonderful people and some of them have thought I’m wonderful too. I’ve visited so many beautiful places. I’ve done so many awesome things. I’m ridiculously, inconceivably lucky to be doing what I’m doing this season. So here we go. Onward. Further. And then back again.