Weight Shaming

I’ve read a lot about ultra lightweight backpacking, and it makes sense — the less weight you have to carry, the easier it will be. Sounds good, right? But ultra lightweight gear is generally absurdly expensive, and in some cases, those who desire to go ultra light end up with gear that seems counterproductive. For example, some ultra lightweight backpacks are ultra lightweight because they leave off the hipbelt (making the shoulders take all the weight) or making the pack a lot smaller. (Small ultra lightweight packs hold as little as 35 liters, which makes me laugh, thinking about the fellow at REI who refused to sell me a 38 liter pack because it wouldn’t hold enough for a long trek.) And some people don’t carry important emergency items in order to make their packs lighter because they don’t think they will ever need them.

The real issue is the weight shaming that so many of these elitist backpackers indulge in. They look down on, and make fun of people who carry a heavier pack. Some go in for body shaming, too, mentioning the absurdity of heavy people trying to cut back the weight of their pack rather than their body weight, but most shaming goes toward the pack base weight. (Pack base weight is the total weight you carry including the pack but minus food, water, and fuel.)

Apparently, the motive for the ultra lightweight hikers is to chew up the miles. Their method is hike, eat, sleep, repeat. That’s it. They seem to believe there is no reason to take anything to read or to write with because they say if you have energy left at the end of the day, you’re not doing it right. (Apparently, although these folks spout the hiker’s mantra, hike your own hike, they don’t mean it.) The latest thing I’ve been hearing is the importance of cutting back on tent weight (for these folks, often a tarp is enough) and sleeping pad. They say it’s better to be comfortable walking than comfortable sleeping.

Even without checking to see who these folks are, I would bet they are youngish males. No older woman would ever consider the idea that being too uncomfortable to sleep is better than carrying a couple of extra pounds in her pack, even if it means she has to go slower.

The real issue with the weight shamers seems to be the same issue that shows up in any other inter-human relationship — the inability to understand that others might have different values than you. They don’t consider that maybe people are out there to do other things besides simply walk. Writers need to write about their experiences while the feeling is fresh. Photographers want to indulge in their artistry. Readers might find comfort in the familiarity of words in the vastness of the night. Aesthetes need time to appreciate. Nature lovers need time to commune with the world around them. Pilgrims have to search for spiritual meaning in the quest.

So many reasons to embark on a long hike. So many reasons to put other considerations before pack weight.

I don’t know what my base weight is since I have not yet gotten to that point, but the weight of my “big three” (pack, tent, sleep system) is a mere ten pounds, though it’s still considered heavy by some. Regardless, that weight is about as light as I can get it unless I want to invest in an ultra lightweight tent and a lighter backpack that together will cost about a thousand dollars. Even so, the most weight I can save by spending all that money is two or three pounds. (I can’t go lighter on my sleep system or there will be no sleep!)

And anyway, my goal is not to hike, eat, sleep, repeat. It’s to experience whatever I can as deeply as I can. And if that means carrying a bit of extra weight in my pack, so be it.

Actually, the biggest weight in anyone’s pack comes from food (some hikers eat four thousand calories a day) and water if there is no water source. (Water weighs a bit more than two pounds a liter, and we need at least that much every day.) If we could learn to get our food and water from the air, just think how light our packs would be!

Something to aim for?

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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Climbing Mount Everest

I bet you guessed I didn’t really climb Mount Everest today, but it sure felt like it. Dance class was cancelled, so I strapped on my backpack and headed out to the desert despite the strong wind alert. The alert was right — those were very strong winds. Very cold strong winds. But I persevered. If I were on a real backpacking trip, I would have to deal with whatever weather comes my way, and today it was the wind that came.

Once I got to the desert, I did my usual loop, which takes me up a hill and back down and around, and the winds made that hill feel like a very steep mountain. I had to stop several times to catch my breath on the way up, but by the time I crested the hill and felt the full force of those winds, I was sure I’d done something as magnificent as climbing Mount Everest.

Oddly, although sometimes I feel very foolish for thinking about a long trek in the wilderness —after all, I am in no way athletic or outdoorsy — these preparatory hikes never feel foolish. They just are.

And anyway, what is wrong with foolish thinking? The more I contemplate a backpacking trip, the more reasonable it seems. Women’s hips are built for carrying weight. Women’s bodies (mine anyway) are built for storing up fat to prepare for extraordinary times. Odd to think that despite this, men hikers seem to outnumber women.

Although I have a few things going for me (woman’s physiology, determination, desire), my level of unfitness might be against me, but then, that’s what all this tramping around with a backpack is for. Either I will be better prepared to attempt a long hike, or I will have abandoned the whole idea long before I have to hike up a hill even steeper than the one I faced today.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

A Perfect Thing

I used to think ours was a dystopian world, a world where the rich own us; the corporations control us; the alphabet agencies spy on us and perform experiments on us; and the government keeps us in perpetual wars so that we never see the truth of what is being done to us.

Well, I still think that’s true, but now I wonder if we are more like the way Dickens began A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

It’s possible we are living in the worst of times and living in the best of times. A dystopia for sure, but also a utopia. Our sphere of freedom might be narrowing, but within that narrow sphere, we can still find the freedom to be who we want to be, to think what we want to think, to dream what we want to dream and to try to make those dreams come true.

Notice I say we have the freedom to try to make our dreams come true. Not all things are possible. Sometimes we don’t have the money or the knowledge or the health or the courage or the willingness to sacrifice to make those dreams come true, but we do have the freedom to try.

My dream, the impossible dream that has me in its clutches, makes ours seem not such a dystopian world after all (as long as I stay away from political rants on Facebook, anyway).

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is not an impossible dream for many people — they have the strength, the money, the knowledge, the courage. For some, such as recent college graduates, it isn’t even much of a sacrifice because they don’t have spouses and children to leave behind.

In my case, even though I might have the time, the money (at least temporarily), and maybe even the courage, I have doubts about my fitness level even for a long section hike. To make the logistics work, I’d have to be able to hike at least ten miles a day carrying a pack, and I simply don’t know if that would ever be possible. And I don’t know if I have mental stamina. Last night before I fell asleep, a feeling of horror came over me. “You’re thinking of doing what?” I screeched to myself. “Are you out of your mind?”

Whether it’s an impossible utopian dream or a dystopian nightmare waiting to happen, a long saunter on the Pacific Crest Trail has truly captured my imagination.

The PCT is such a perfect thing in and of itself. As Danny DeVito said in Other People’s Money, “It don’t care whether I’m good or not. It don’t care whether I snore or not. It don’t care which God I pray to.” He was talking about money, of course (money and donuts were his two obsessions), but the trail doesn’t care. It doesn’t care who trods its soil, doesn’t care how fat you are, doesn’t care how slow you go, doesn’t care about anything at all. It just is.

Think of it. A viable walking path that extends all the way from Mexico to Canada. Isn’t that utterly amazing? The Appalachian Trail starts in Georgia, the Continental Divide Trail has not yet been completed, though experienced hikers do manage to find their way from top to bottom. But the Pacific Crest Trail is completed, and even neophytes can (and do) attempt to hike the whole thing. And we each, individually, own it. Or at least, we own the bit of land we happen to be standing on at any given moment. We own the dreams the trail engenders. We own the views we can claim. We own the experience of a wilderness that is still mostly pristine.

Sounds to me like utopia, a utopia that is available to anyone who wishes to escape the dystopia the media consistently foists on us.

Interestingly, in the past couple of days, I have found inspiration from two separate sources — and on Facebook of all places.

John Smith, a LASHer (Long A** Section Hiker) responded to my concerns about how PCT thru hikers treat those who don’t fit the usual mold of hikers. He wrote:

You are likely to find your ‘trail family’ out there but I have to be honest, you might not. Receive the gifts you find on the trail in those you meet, the sights you see, and the challenges you overcome. Add to the peace and joy of others as you connect with them and as you disconnect as well. In all that you do, on the trail or off, grow and stretch and grasp for the next life-altering experience. It will be challenging, hard, uplifting and at times tear you apart inside but as you close your eyes each night you can reflect on the growth of the day and the strength you can bring to the world around you.

I found those words so beautiful I asked permission to post them here, and luckily for all of us, John agreed.

The second thing that moved me is the image attached to this article, a gift from my dear and so very wise friend Nanna Murakami.

Whether I ever actually go backpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail seems unimportant right now. What is important is that I walk with love in my steps and receive the gifts that each of those steps bring.

There is more than a bit of utopia in that.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Adventure? Or a Boring Walk in the Park?

A friend commented the other day that the trails that call to her are the Grand Canyon and Bryce, and it struck me that although I’ve always lived within a two-day road trip from both, I’ve never been to either. So much to see!

I need more adventures.

If I can’t get fit enough to do a long backpacking trip, I can always drive to those legendary places, camp in a campground, and then do day hikes. (In the back of my mind, a little voice is telling me that the Grand Canyon is part of the Arizona National Scenic Trail. Does it sound like I’m obsessed with trails?)

In my favor, I am up to carrying twenty-six pounds for five miles, which means at the very least, I can do dispersed camping trips to get me into the back country.

That’s not bad. Maybe not a thru-hike, but it’s more than simply sitting and staring at a computer. And I have to admit, I do spend a lot of time on the computer, not just because of this blog, but also researching the trails and such.

During one such search, I found a discussion about the best way of preparing for a thru hike. A hiker suggested doing a lot of hiking, and at least one day a week, hike for nine hours. Not nine miles. Nine hours! I don’t want to do anything for nine hours. Not even read. Or sit at the computer. Or sleep, apparently, since I am now in the habit of waking several times during the night.

But this made me think — parts of the trail are dangerous if you aren’t paying attention, and who can possibly keep themselves focused for nine hours? Among the recent college graduates who make up the bulk of the trail population, there is a good bit of drinking and drugs, and there don’t seem to be a lot of folks falling off cliffs. So perhaps the trail isn’t as dangerous at all. Maybe it truly is a walk in the park.

A boring walk in the park. In  my post “Pretending”, I mentioned that one of the reasons people quit the trail is boredom, and I wonder if it’s a more prevalent reason than people are willing to admit. I remember one woman a long time ago saying she got tired of staring at dirt, and that’s the truth of it. Unless you saunter, as I do, and stop every few minutes to look around, all you see is the ground in front of you. Even out in the desert near here, where the trails I walk are wide enough for off-road vehicles, one misstep could cause an injury. So I see a whole heck of a lot of dirt and sand.

But seeing dirt and sand is still seeing, right? And if all I see is dirt, it would still be nice to see dirt of different colors.

Yep. More adventures.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Washington Retrip

I haven’t even taken my first trip to Washington, and I’m already considering a retrip later this year. There are parts of the Washington section of the Pacific Coast Trail that seem perfect for a fall saunter, and I’m not sure I want to wait another year to set foot on the trail. (Perfect because of weather. Perfect because of available water. Not having to carry as much water as in the desert would make a trek so much easier.)

By having to cut my trip short and come back before Memorial Day (I promised my dance teacher I’d try to be back to do a belly dance performance at the local college, the same place where I destroyed my arm), I will miss out on a second Washington backpacking trip. The original plan was a night or two in the wilderness to make sure it’s what I want to do, and then a longer trip the following week for a wilder adventure. It’s that second trip I still want to take, so if I head back to Washington in the fall, I will get another chance at a “supported” hike.

Presently, because I live not far from the trail, I could take a taxi to the nearest trailhead (assuming, of course, I could get a taxi to take me out that far) and then with no further ado, just start hiking. Not that I want to hike with anyone, but heading out like that on a backpacking trip seems sad. And lonely. (I have to laugh at myself sometimes — I talk about a 2,700 mile hike, and yet balk at a hike that barely makes a blip on the PCT map.)

On the other hand, if I take a train up to Washington, maybe my sister and brother-in-law would be willing to drive me to the trail and even walk a mile or so with me. And meet me at road junctions with food resupply boxes. And pick me up at the end or even in the middle if I have difficulties. (The scariest part of any long hike is the hitchhiking that seems so much a part of the culture. Eek.)

I’d still have plenty of time to do the King’s Canyon National Park trip with my friend who’d be flying in from Texas. We’d get together before or after Washington (since besides lots of trees, she wants to see snow covered mountains, after would make more sense, but either way would work). Which gives me two adventures to plan for! Well, three since I still haven’t taken my May trip.

I feel like such an armchair traveler, talking about things I’m not yet doing. I have to remind myself that I have done things — two months of day hikes in Northern California, a twelve-thousand-mile cross-country trip. But those things now seem long in the past, and one day, these trips (or the planning, anyway) will also be long in the past.

Meantime, there is today. I just got back from five miles in the desert (dripping wet, and not from rain but from the heat and carrying twenty-six pounds), so I better go eat or else I won’t have the strength to go anywhere.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Pretending

I was almost over my most current urge to run away when I came across a comment from a backpacker saying that now is the perfect time to hike the desert portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. Wildflowers. No snakes. Bearable temperatures. Few people since the herd doesn’t start for another month or two.

Oh, my. Sounds so lovely, I can feel my feet itching to go.

But I have promises to keep. And dances to learn. And a book club to attend (to talk about Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare). And a casino vacation next weekend with a friend. And oh, so many things!

Besides, I’m not yet physically ready to hike hundreds of miles. And until my short solo backpacking trip in May, I won’t know if I will ever be mentally ready.

It’s possible that by this time next year I’ll be able to do that desert backpacking trip, but I’m not so sure any more about a thru hike. (Do you know how it grates on me to spell “through” that way? But that’s the term. Thru hike.) The distances one has to walk each day to go 2,700 miles in five months is ridiculous. Like a never-ending marathon. Even if I ever could rack up that sort of mileage, I would much rather spend the time going slowly and wringing joy from each moment, experiencing the nuance of every step.

I can understand the pull to complete the challenge of a thru hike, but I see no reason to deal with excessive heat in the desert, snow or raging creeks in the high country, kamikaze mosquitoes in Oregon, smoke and detours from wildfires. Or walking with blistered feet. Or any number of horrors. I especially don’t care that overcoming such things would make a good story. All I want is a nice walk. (If I want a good story, I’ll make one up!)

I’ve followed hikers’ stories in some of the trail groups online and in blogs, and while many people do follow through with what they plan, others bail out for various reasons. One woman was a constant presence in the group, hyped up about her trek, even quit her job, and the first day, she fell and broke her ankle. Another woman spent a year preparing, and had to quit the trail after one hundred miles because her knees gave out. Another managed four hundred miles, but the people she met weren’t her kind of people, so she quit. (I have a hunch that she’d read too many books and blogs where people paired up for sex on the trail, and she hadn’t found anyone.) Some quit because they got bored. (Apparently, walking ten to twenty miles every day is boring.) Some quit because they never had any intention of completing the trail. (I wouldn’t call that quitting, though — it’s just stopping.) Most quit because they run out of money, had family emergencies, got sick or injured. Others quit because after the challenges of hiking the desert and seeing the vastness of the Sierras, they couldn’t face the next, less dramatic, phase of the trail.

I think a lot of what one accomplishes has to do with what a person wants from the trail. What calls to me is the trail itself. (Is it any wonder that most of the photos I post from my various treks show trails?) I don’t think it matters what trail I hike — long or short — it’s just that for now, the PCT is the closest epic trail and so that is the trail that fuels my dreams.

But any trail calls me.

Lucky for me, tomorrow I get to strap on my backpack, head out into the heat of the desert, and saunter around those trails for a few miles. (“Saunter” is the goal. “Trudge” is the reality.)

I get to pretend, for a short time, that I am running away. I get to pretend that I am on a great adventure. And then at night, I get to sleep in my own bed.

Who could ask for more than that?

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Run, Run, Run Away

It’s a good thing I’m already planning a trip in May because I just want to run, run, run away. Originally, I wasn’t going to leave until the beginning of May with a possibility of not coming back, at least not until the end of summer, but I made a sort of promise to try to be back after Memorial Day, so now I’ve moved my departure date to late April to make sure I can do most of what I’d planned. The way I feel today, though I might move the date even closer.

I am tired of drama, other people’s negativity, and my reaction to both. I wish I could just let drama and negativity run down my back, but as an empath, I feel the energy. The problem is, if I run away from the bad energy, then I also run away from the good. Today at Hawaiian class, there was no drama; everyone quietly went about the business of practicing our dances. We were all moving as one, which is the way it is supposed to be, and I could feel the positive energy, could almost feel the strings connecting our arms as we raised them in unison, could almost see the aura of our single entity-ness. That is such a special joy.

And I would run away from friendship, which is much more valuable to me than my struggles to deal with those who enervate me.

People always say that if you run away, you take you with you, but in my case, that is not a problem. I do fine by myself. What I would carry with me, however, is my ever-worsening financial situation, which is something I will eventually have to face.

But not today.

Today I’m dreaming of life on the run. Or rather, life on the saunter. As much as that appeals to me, if I run away now, I also run away from the opportunity to continue conditioning myself to the backpack.

And I’d run away from the opportunity to learn more. I’ve been reading about the various troubles some people have with the trail community. Though most people seem to be supportive, there are a few elitists who think the thru hikers are the only ones who belong on the trail, a few who see the whole thing as an athletic endeavor, a few who are too insensitive to make allowances for those who are different. I doubt any of these folks would be a problem for me — I probably wouldn’t see them longer that it takes to say hello. My only worry would be that one of these folks would inadvertently push me over the edge of a mountain as they scurried by me.

I keep thinking the trail is not far from here, so just run away for a short backpacking trip and see what happens. But then I’d lose the benefit of having someone help me plan my first backpacking trip and to be standing by in case I run into problems I cannot handle.

Can you tell I’m psyching myself to continue the status quo for a bit longer?

So, I’ll stay for now.

Or go.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Grief’s Gravity

I’ve had requests to continue writing about grief, but the truth is, it’s hard to write about something I no longer particularly feel. And yet, whether I write about it or not, grief is still part of my life.

It’s been almost a year since my last real upsurge in grief, and though I’m just as glad not to have to deal with the horrendous sorrow and the bleak outlook that comes from grief, I feel that something is missing — not just Jeff, because of course he is missing from my life, but also a wildness that came from grief.

I had never experienced anything as massive as grief before Jeff died, except perhaps falling in love. Grief is an all-consuming state that seems to swallow you whole. In addition, if you have been deeply connected to the deceased loved one, you often feel as if you are straddling the line between this life and eternity, as if part of you went to the other side with him, and part of you remains here. Gradually, you move away from the abyss, but that feeling of being on the edge of eternity, as much as the death itself, leaves its mark.

Whenever I have to explain what my life is like, I usually mention how little I have to anchor me to the world, with no house, no children, no living parents, no place I really want to be, and no mate. The other day a woman told me, “You say Jeff is gone, but he is still in your life.” This wasn’t a patronizing remark; it was said more as an observation.

The truth is, he is gone from my life in any real concept of the term — I cannot touch him, cannot hear his voice, cannot see his smile, cannot take care of him, cannot be comforted by him.

His absence, however, is in my life. His absence bounds my life.

If I were still with him, I would never have come to the desert, never have taken dance classes, never have gotten the madcap idea of an epic hike or even a short backpacking trip. I wouldn’t be searching for something to fill the hole in my life because there would be no hole. I wouldn’t be looking to experience “something more,” because I probably wouldn’t know there was more.

It’s grief that taught me about “more.” If there is such an awe-full and awful state as grief that we humans can experience, a state that changes our very being, perhaps there are other unknown states to experience. Love, of course. But could there be more?

A downside to this lingering phase of grief, for lack of a better term to describe it, is difficulty in putting up with some people’s spirit-draining chatter and their perpetual self-aggrandizement. Even if their narcissism comes from a sense of their own inadequacy, I can understand and sympathize, but in no way do I want to have to deal with their negativity. Because if there is more, I don’t see why I should have to settle for so little.

To be honest, no one — grief-stricken or not — should have to settle for less than pure wonder. There is a whole lot of world out there to experience. If you can walk, you don’t even need to go to other countries, don’t need to do tours and such to see the wonders. Every step shows you a new marvel, every turn of the path gives you a new view to contemplate.

What it comes down to is that even though I’m not exactly grieving anymore, not trapped in the wild center of the whirlwind we call grief, I am still caught in the outer fringes by grief’s gravity.

And chances are, I always will be.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Continuing to Do What I’ve Been Continuing to Do

I’ve been wondering if my blog posts are getting to be too much the same — so many of them seem to be about things I might do, would like to do, possibly could do — but a blog friend commented that she loved my adventure planning, so if you have been hoping that I would a) stop blogging until I have something to say; b) stop talking about things that have as much chance of happening as snow on Mars; or c) do something worth writing about, you’re out of luck. I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been continuing to do.

Mostly what I’ve been doing, more than actually planning or preparing or researching, is continuing to contemplate logistics of long distance backpacking. For example, there are places on most long trails — not just the epic trails like the Pacific Coast Trail, the Appalachian Trail, or the Continental Divide Trail, but the shorter long distance trails like the Colorado Trail or the Enchantment Trail — where water is lacking for forty miles or so. Not an insurmountable problem for fast hikers who can cross such barren stretches in two or three days, but for a slow mover like me, it could take eight days, which means I’d have to carry thirty-two pounds of water. Yikes. I can’t carry thirty-two pounds of anything, especially not when added to the other twenty pounds of hiking gear!

Some people solve the problem of dry stretches by stashing bottles of water on the trail, but the way I figure it, if I am going to be hiking far enough into the trail to hide all that water in a waterless section, I’d probably need the water to get there and back without dying of dehydration.

So, forget the long trails. What about doing three or four day hikes on the PCT, for example? Most ingresses to the trail are from roads where the only parking is on the shoulder. Oh, yeah, I want to leave my car on the side of the road for all that time! Often when I’ve done day hikes, I’ve seen vehicles that have been vandalized, and that seems too much of a price to pay for a few days of solitude. I could, of course, leave the car parked where it is now, but then the problem comes in the form of transportation. How do I get to the trail? How do I get back?

So I continue to do what I’ve been continuing to do all along: plan adventures, research, and contemplate hiking the long — and short — trails while I slog through the desert carrying a backpack three days a week.

Luckily, there is dance class today to give me a rest from all this continuing.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Great Adventure We Call Life

I am planning a fall adventure with a friend. We’re considering a camping trip to King’s Canyon National Park. I’m assuming there is a canyon in the park, but basically all I know is that there are trees. Giant trees! That sure will be a change from the desert, a needed change for both of us. Like me, she’s alone and needs adventure, needs to get out, needs to live larger than she is.

Actually, there are a lot of us in that situation. An east coast friend wants me to go on an adventure in Harper’s Ferry with her for those very same reasons, and perhaps I’ll be able to do it next year, but I’m not yet ready for another cross country road trip. If I go, I would like to saunter along the Shenandoah National Park section of the Appalachian Trail, and I’m not ready for that yet, either.

Despite my rhetoric about traveling alone, I am looking forward to this proposed fall trip — it’s a different sort of adventure, one that isn’t dependent on me alone. It also adds an adventure to my life without taking away from my solo adventures. Assuming I haven’t come to hate backpacking by then, I’d like to do a solo backpacking trip this fall, but there will be plenty of warm weather after the King’s Canyon adventure. And if not, if it gets cold before I can go backpacking, well, I’ve never been to Death Valley. And never backpacked in Joshua Tree National Park. Or the desert portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Adventures galore!

It might not seem as if my life is going anywhere, it might seem as if I am always talking about the same things — what I’m going to do, what I would like to do, what I’m trying to do — and yet, there are changes.

I keep working my elbow, arm, and hand, and though the arm and wrist are slightly deformed, I can do most of what I did before. Some things are difficult, such as not being able to touch my left shoulder with my left hand, but I can now use the left trekking pole with the left hand (without an inordinate amount of pain) and oh, so many things that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do.

I’ve been walking, adding distance to the saunter and weight to the pack. I don’t know if I’m actually getting stronger, but I carried twenty-five pounds today for five miles. That’s something.

And I’ve been good about not eating wheat or sugar.

Little challenges. Little changes. Will they add up to big changes? I don’t know, and at this point, I don’t suppose it matters. What does matter is that today I went sauntering. Today I ate healthy foods. Today I spent time with a friend. (A woman I met at dance class has been joining me on my Sunday saunters lately. It’s been a great way to visit, and keeps me going just a bit longer than I might have otherwise felt like trudging.)

All part of the great adventure we call life.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.