“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks disappearing? —It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy adventure beneath the skies.” -Jack Kerouac
Two days ago I kissed my husband André goodbye, gave my cats Bo and Juno some head scratches, hopped into Balerion the Black Dread (AKA my Honda Fit – “BB” for short), and began my journey back east to the Appalachians.
After sitting in early-afternoon rush hour traffic feeling eager and antsy, I finally broke free from the city and cruised through the Columbia River Gorge, the majestic river sparkling in the sun to my left, and mountains speckled with a melange of deep forest green and bone-dry brown rising up on either side of me.
I thought of the last seven months that I’d spent in Portland and how much fuller and richer my life is because of all the wonderful people in it. It seemed almost silly to leave with such a feeling of contentedness, but then again these sojourns have never been about escaping or running away from something. I was reminded of a quote I love from Jennifer Pharr Davis, “Hiking is not escapism; it’s realism. The people who choose to spend time outdoors are not running away from anything; we are returning to where we belong.”
Before I left, I received a note from a friend and mentor in Portland reading, “May your time away be fruitful, fulfilling, and rewarding; filled with play, pleasure, and powerful learning and growth. The older I get, I feel like I’m finally getting a visceral understanding of what it means to orient toward the journey, rather than simply the end point – so I salute you for the way you embrace, and are present to, every facet of the process.”
I made it to La Grande, Oregon on the first night, then yesterday evening I was treated to a homemade pasta dinner in Sandy, Utah by my coach Karl Meltzer, aka “Speedgoat” (if you’re reading this, thanks Karl!). While we’re in touch once a week or so to check in on my training, it was fun just getting to hang out and swap stories back and forth about the AT. I feel I’ve grown a ton over the last five months and I’m really glad to have him in my corner. Today I’m heading across the wide, open, rolling space through Wyoming, then who knows from there?
There are two specific events that I’m heading out east for: the Promise Land 50K in Virginia on April 24th, and an attempt to run a fastest known time on 72 miles of the AT through the Smoky Mountains (SCAR – the Smokies Challenge Adventure Run) later in May. While of course I have some goals laid out for each event–I’d like to try and make the podium or top 5 at PL, and I hope to break the women’s supported FKT set by Liz Canty in the Smokies–most of my actual time will be spent on the drive across the US and back, and spending time in between events visiting various parts of the AT and writing about my experience last summer.
It’s kind of neat for once to not have every single day perfectly planned or laid out. While my efforts at Promise Land and the Smokies will be a nice pinnacle to all the training I’ve put in this winter, the outcomes won’t determine the success or meaning behind the trip. That feels like freedom to me.
Thanks for reading. If you connected with this or felt inspired in some way, you can buy me a coffee! Please share this with a friend if you think they’d enjoy it, and comment below to share your thoughts.
I’ve been having fun posting bits and pieces from the road on Instagram – feel free to follow along @pinkfeathers. ‘Til next week! -Mercury