From Swain’s Flat to Grizzly Creek Redwood State Park
We straggle out of our sleeping bags late, tired and groggy. The coast doesn’t seem so far away this morning with a gray wash of clouds hanging over the forest on the hills around us. I wander out of the backyard to the front of the store, where I find Pacman and J on the porch, nursing cups of coffee and chatting with local dudes about sustainability and community development. I’m happy to sit on the porch myself and listen.
The cool, overcast morning is disorienting after so many days of burning summer sunrises. It’s hard to tell what time it is, and next thing we know it’s almost noon. “We should probably get going, huh?” asks J.
“Yeah, I guess.” We bid farewell to our hosts at Swain’s flat (“be careful out there!” “watch out for trucks, man!”) and ease our sore backsides onto our bike seats. Two miles and we’re here – the redwoods. The road is roofed and pillared with tall, stretching trees, and the light is green and dim. We ride into the Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park for showers and some time in the trees. At least, I ride in for a shower. Apparently, dudes don’t need showers. We’ve turned into hiker trash.
There were vague plans of moving on today, but they don’t happen. I feel like the threads connecting this crazy ride to the Pacific Crest Trail are fraying – what am I doing here? What am I doing at all? My PCT crazy-self is creeping back, my neuroticism looking for a new channel. Without having to masochistically punish myself, physically and mentally, with unrealistic expectations for mileage and my own body, what’s the point, right? I’m not sure how to say all this. It’s just that I think I got so wrapped up in an arbitrary goal that I forgot what the point was in the first place. I mean, what’s the point of thru-hike after all? Is there a fairy godmother waiting for me at the northern terminus, to magically grant me a happily-ever-after?
I started this hike to be happy – to be happy now, not later, not after. The northern terminus is only supposed to be a crutch, an aid to getting up in the morning and doing something hard – but it’s not the point. The point is all the days in between, right? Everything is confused and mushed-up in my head. The PCT – for me – isn’t a racecourse, where the culmination is the end. And it’s not a pilgrimage either, quite, where the destination is still as important as the journey to it – the PCT is only a middle, a place to be, a place to move and stay in place, a place where I have to work hard every day, but also a place where I am incredibly free. Which takes me right back to the question of what I’m doing now. I’m not even on the PCT. I don’t even seem to be making a point of trying to get back to it.
J and I have a huge fight, there in the soft ferns under the old, old redwood trees. Life-purpose crises can be tough on relationships. We work it out, plan on making moves tomorrow. I go to bed with a headache, fall asleep to the snores of the campers in the site next to us.