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[pct-l] Re: Does anyone miss the trail?

The couple of posts talking about missing the trail or balancing your life
after it come when I'm engaging in the ultimately enjoyable act of deciding
what section to spend 30 days hiking this summer.  I've been talking with a
couple of friends about hiking with me, and don't expect anyone will be able
to, if recent history is replicated.  

And as I read the guidebooks and gaze at the gazeteers, I remember other
month long trips on the PCT, with and without partners, and am not sure I
want to hike with someone else.  I think it was Ryan who mentioned hiking up
the Golden Staircase and all the encumbent emotions that altered reality for
him, and how this alteration remains with him.  

I feel this strikes to the core of the what the long distance hiking
experience offers, the alteration of reality.  Back in the late 60s and
early 70s I partook of hallucinogens to find a more meaningful way to live
than what becoming an adult meant then, that I could be sent to Vietnam to
kill and be killed, that I had to go to college, decide on a career, wear a
suit, get married, buy a home, have kids, plan for retirement, retire and
die.  Being an adult just didn't make sense to me.  So I tried to find
alternate realities through experimentation with drugs.  (I'm not
recommending this by the way.  I was lucky to avoid the law and hurting
myself, very lucky.)

In the mid-seventies I realized that I had found what I was looking for,
that I was "conscious" while under the influence of hallucinogens.  But when
I came down life was the same.  I stopped doing drugs for that reason,
figuring I could find a way to live that was structured by the understanding
attained while under the influence.  

I began hiking longer than the normal week long trips in the early 90s and
found that 30 days on the trail was literally a "Trip".  All my trips have
been taken under that metaphor.  What Ryan described is akin to the
understanding achieved while conscious and high.  

Any experience has the possibility to be profoundly transformative and
moving.  But it seems long distance hiking offers substantially more
possibility for this than many other experiences.  I've talked with people
who were driven to finish, so goal ori9ented they never seemed to "get it".
I've talked with an old woman at the top of Bishop Pass who was hiking a
trail she and her newly dead husband had hiked 50 years before on their
honeymoon.  She was partly in another world.  I've run "guys" who would
literally run from the emotions long distance hiking generates.  Last summer
in the second hour of hiking from Stevens Pass to Stehekin we ran across a
fellow who had collapsed and died from a heart attack.  

For me the emotions generated or released or uncovered during my last
section hike have formed the foundation of my academic work.  The intensely
emotional and spiritual sense of "moving through", or better, "moving
without movements" any transformative experience offers can structure all
thoughts and feelings and behaving.  It seems to me it is meaningful only to
the degree it continues to be transformative, a fulcrum in deciding how to
feel, think and act.  The danger for me is that I "talk about the past" and
find "now" dreary.  

The feelings I experienced on long solo hikes offer themselves as
possibilities for structuring reality.  Where hallucinogens were fleeting
moments in which a glimmer popped in and out, lost forever, the experience
over 30+ days of hiking is solid and palpable.  For me the possibility here
is to expand the metaphor of "The Trip" to include every moment in living.  

So now I plan this summer's "Trip" in part to continue the
emotional/spiritual work of the last 30 day plus trip of three years ago.
The dissertation looms with beckoning arms and I want to structure what it
says with what I experience (feel) this summer.  I'm hoping to clarify even
more what being an adult during our era can mean, for me at least...

Jeffrey Olson
Seattle, Washington...where spring was skipped and summer is here...

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