The Mental Game

Day 130: Burned area north of Ashland, OR

This part of the trail is for me turning into the mental game. Oregon is boring. I find myself listening to anything and everything that I have downloaded to my phone. I stare 3 feet ahead at the dirt floor lining up ahead, looking up with no real interest to the constant fir trees scattered before me. The trail is pretty, sure, but incredibly monotonous. The view seems unchanging, except for this morning when the trail became difficult, precisely when I had hoped to at least move fast to reduce the time spent in this consistent landscape.When I had hoped, even counted on, moving quickly to make many miles in this day, the trail turns to constant loose rock rolling and shifting under my footsteps. My easy 3+ mile an hour gait was reduced to 2 mph. My positive attitude was in turn equally reduced.

My pack feels heavy, ill weighted. Seems to want to pull me backwards, like it’s holding me away from future Oregon miles, tugging me back to California with its views, sunshine, and friendships. Yeah, this is a thing: I had a deep need to hike alone in order to see my own preferences, my own patterns, my own self through my own eyes. I have been doing this, and now I am separated by the people I like best on the trail by 3 to 4 days in either direction. Of course I have met new people, and most of them are splendid, but they are not my family now and I do feel alone. Which is of course exactly what I needed, and despite the relative discomfort, it is exactly what I want.

All day I want to stop and take a break. All day I want to make miles and get through this dull landscape. You can see that the two are mutually exclusive, so I’ve been relatively frustrated all day. I sit at regular breaks and eat my heaviest food to reduce my pack weight. I try to move fast in between breaks so as to accomplish some big miles by the time I camp tonight. I am not feeling either fully rested or fully satisfied with my movement. In fact, I’m starting to feel constantly frustrated and in a state of mild discontent, a new phenomenon for me on this trail.

I am currently able to observe how the trail is not always easy and light. These last couple of days it feels like a burden. Still, I am nowhere near giving up. I am way too stubborn for that. In fact, in my last conversation with Salmon, he told me he knew from the start I will finish the trail. I asked “how?“ He answered: “you are very stubborn. At the end of the day, all it takes is that kind of stubbornness.” So I suppose I will instead simply observe this part of the trail and myself, both not my preferred expressions of otherwise wonderful beings. And this too will become part of the experience.

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