Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Arizona Trail journal, December 20, 2006

I stayed up late last night, reading, listening to the radio (Tucson callers reported -- oh my -- frost on their windshields this morning), and watching TV, so used up most of my allotted time at the hotel sleeping in. I checked out of the Stage Stop Inn at 11:30 a.m. My pack weighs a TON.

I can tell I'm too used to being alone. Last night in a restaurant I caught myself talking aloud -- to myself! -- and had to force myself to stop -- twice! I find I talk aloud when I'm setting up and taking down camp, and at various times in the day for no reason at all. I'm lucky, I guess, to have a strong internal dialogue.

But it scares me sometimes. I know this trail obsession classifies me as a freak of sorts -- a member of a nerdy little club. I know others who are like this, who spend much time alone. All sorts of odd personal mannerisms, unchecked by company, emerge. How is this manifesting itself in me? Talking in public? Chewing on my shirt? Wringing my hands or rubbing them on the back of my head? Saying "mmmm-mmmm" all the time?

I've come to enjoy solitude. This past year has been one of the loneliest in my life. But I'll be the first to admit it's been tough at times. I AM a social person. There was about a 3-4 week period last semester (in October and November), when I didn't do anything but teach, study, read, and see my son. I didn't go out. I didn't socialize. This is part of the reason I had such a successful semester. The lack of company allowed me to focus.

But it was hard. I got depressed, lonely. The finality of the end of relationships left me feeling empty, unwanted, blank, and... Alone. I'm learning to come to grips with this reality, but by no means has it been easy. Being out here alone is easier for some reason.

"Morning found us calmly unaware

Noon burn gold into our hair

At night, we swim the laughing seas

When summer's gone

where will we be?"-- The Doors, from "Summer's Almost Gone"

So, that's what's on my mind by this mesquite fire in the shadow of Mt. Wrightson. Took a nice road walk to get here. Many great vistas and of distant mountains and nearby down-canyon views.

I mailed extra food ahead to Roosevelt Lake and a gourd to Jon and Esther. The Post Office has a trail register dating back to 2003. I was the first to sign it since April 27, 2005. As I left town, a class of 8th graders in a "life skills" class, walking back from the store with their teacher, joined me. They asked the usual questions. I told them about the trail and how hard it is to follow because of the illegal trails. One kid spoke up. "There's a canyon out behind my house they used to camp in. I've seen 'em."

We departed at their school sign, where I took a left down FR 72 and back into the silence -- and solitude -- of the backcountry. En route in golden afternoon sunshine I saw ponies grazing in a rolling field, and later, near dusk, checked out the shaft and remains of an old mine. I'm now camped at about 7,000 feet. Whew! It's chilly. A comfy down bag awaits.

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