Off the Trail. On the Trail.
My original intent for this web log was to mix politics and affairs with my other writings such as the Appalachian trail and nature. Looking back on my posts since I began last June, I see far more of the former and only a few of the latter (here, here and here). The War on Iraq and the US presidential campaign caught my attention. Hell, they had me by the throat. I’m off the campaign trail now. And I am back on the Appalachian Trail, at least mentally. I will return east next year to hike the miles I missed in 2002. Suddenly, the planning, figuring, arranging and anticipation of that adventure are taking a space in my brain and time. Good thing, too. I’m pretty burned out on the campaign trail. A real trail offers opportunity for a soothing respite.
Only a romantic could have written that last sentence. Any time spent remembering my 2002 thru-hike (hiking the entire 2,000 miles in one shot) will soon recall times of hardship, discomfort and discouragement. My journal records numerous days when just getting to the next camp was hard. But even in difficult times, there was a solace, an apartness from the rest of the world, that was a relief. War, destruction, self-serving politicians and greedy corporations were not much part of a world where staying dry and warm was all that mattered, where eating a pot of instant mashed potatoes was a pleasure. My mind focused on the immediate.
Solace came from my immediate surroundings as a thru-hiker. As often as not, the days were beautiful (sometimes in the midst of hardship), the walking was good and the company pleasant. Even at these times, when the mind was (somewhat) free of survival thoughts, the outside world was not a great concern. Thoughts turned to the forest around me, the ground underfoot and the sky above. More than once did I see some glorious scene or event and say, “THIS is why I hiked.” These moments are gifts in my life that I will always cherish. Reason enough to hike again.
Logistics for the hike are already lining up in my mind. I need to cover 16 miles in Georgia, 35 miles in North Carolina and 172 miles in Pennsylvania. The Carolina and Georgia miles are close enough that my brother in Atlanta can shuttle me between them. My friends from the 2002 hike, Kutsa and Montreal, will be hiking the trail again next year; I think I can link up with them in Carolina. I can visit my Aunt Peg in Pennsylvania. At 86 years, Peg is the last survivor of my parent’s generation. This trip offers companionship and adventure sufficient to relieve the intensity and trauma of this year’s presidential campaign.
Taking an active part in the campaign was good for me, however hard it may have been emotionally. I stood up for a democratic America and actively encouraged others to do so. I look the future in the eye and tell myself that I supported democracy when it was endangered. My hope is that I will see a future America still true to its ideals of individual freedom, dignity of all individuals. If the future America is otherwise, I can say I did what I could. I will be forever proud of what I did this year. Now that I have stood up for democracy, I won’t be sitting down again.
But I will be hiking, which will offer the balance I need to stay active and involved. The campaign kept me away from my trail manuscript, which I wrote and edited in 2003. I plan to spend more time working on it now. I hope the time away from it will give me fresh insights about merging two incompatible (so far) formats. My previous posts about the trail have been the thought pieces. Maybe I’ll post a few journal excerpts. My 2005 hiking plans may also offer new insights on what I have written; I’ll want to explore that. But don’t expect me to ignore current events. My country is killing people in my name. The Dark Forces control the federal government (thank god for the states), plundering this nation’s wealth and resources at the expense of most Americans and many others throughout the world not to mention future generations. As long as I can think, write and act, I will not remain sielent about what I see. But for a few months next year I will see mostly earth and sky.