Mishaps and Misery

Day six:

Overall the trail life is divine and this whole experience has me grinning so much I’m going to get sunburn on my teeth, but… there are days when it’s a little tougher than others. Day 6 was one of those days.  Mishaps happened.


Getting out of the car that brought us to Campo, I broke my camera lens. Yes, before I even arrived at the Southern terminus! (I’m making the camera work with limited functionality.)

Then after only 4 nights, the stove blew up and true mishap overtook me. First it caught on fire and burned my fingers while trying to turn it off, then I cold burned my fingers with the compressed gas when trying to remove the stove from the fuel canister this morning.

All this while I was crazy angry in the middle of windstorm that lasted 20 hours. During the morning walk, I ran out of water. I got to a water source that was a pool of brown, bug infested nonsense. Fortunately, other hikers were willing to go back to the last water source (via a hitch) to fill all the water bottles for us hikers —thank you Jenny and Shelly!

About 2 miles back on the trail, my water bladder leaked into my pack. This is bad. This is worse in the desert. This is the worst on a desert stretch of 17 miles without water. I knew I would make it to Julian, but I may get there good and thirsty.  Rrrrgh.


To be totally honest, I was miserable this morning. Wind is of course my Achilles’ heel, and gusts up to 50 knots continued blowing for 12 hours, so you can imagine my mood this morning. Here I am bundled up in rain gear and wind gear and still just barely meeting what the wind is handing out.  My guy lines frayed in last night’s wind.  There would be no hot tea tonight.  My friends are… a day behind? A day ahead?


So with all the cold misery this morning and no hope for a warm coffee for days to come, I lost my happy place. I got instead something I thought would not happen for another 800 or thousand miles: quitting thoughts.


Later in the day, after I had come to terms with my mind and it’s power, I reluctantly admitted the thoughts to my friends. One by one, they slowly looked around, kind of confused and then each sheepishly admitted “I’ve had quit thoughts from the first day.”

Though the quit thoughts didn’t stick, the lesson did: through admitting my weakness, I saw was one among many. The deal is to simply realize everyone has quit thoughts; the finishers just don’t let those thoughts become reality.


Within the miserable space I was having, I was intolerant of others’ “wrongdoings” as well. Worst was a graffiti amateur who signed his existence into the natural landscape. Boy did I bitch and justify my righteousness vis-a-vis this “pathetic clown’s need for recognition”. How many ways did I decide he was insecure of his penis size so he needed to prove his existence with marking the physical ground where he had stayed? Uncountable ways. His graffiti was thoroughly pissing me off, and I hated that I had a face to hate (I know exactly who did it since it’s his name he graffitied all over every site).  I walked with thoughts like: “What is it with people that they have to mark themselves like a dog?… If you can’t be remembered by just being there, and you have to write it down, then maybe you should be doing something different… Why are macho boys such animals?”

These are the thoughts that I allowed real estate in my brain, feeding my negativity and feeding on it in equal measure. This is a bad trail mind.

So I observed this crazy sequence and began to laugh at my own ideas. I swapped “awful” for “wouldn’t it be nice if…?” And, after some time, I came to see that in the passing of those mishaps, such joy arrived with the smallest things. A cup of coffee, a passing smile, a cirrus cloud coating the heat of the day— these blessings are the foundation of the world, not to go unnoticed.


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