Today it is 16 days since my very last day on the trail. It feels surreal that it is actually not that long since I pushed all those miles from the Canadian border and back to Hart's Pass. Because now it feels like months - like a dream that took place in a parallel reality.
I keep reminding myself that it was real. I know. The trail is in me. And I long for it every minute of every day.
The post hike shock
Coming home was a shock. In every way possible. The last week out there on the trail the days passed way too fast and I dreaded it; going home. I feared and I cried. The infinite sadness that my adventure was coming to an end meant no more simple life and having to say goodbye to my wonderful trail-family. Going back to civilization did not seem tempting - and it turned out to be a shock; both mentally and physically.
When I took my backpack and walked through the arrivals doors at the airport I felt completely empty. I had no emotions. Like all my inner life and thoughts was left behind out there in the mountains. And they were, I was not here, I was still there. Still there with my trail-family that was now heading to finish their last 600 miles in California and the Sierras. My whole being longing to be there with them and hike more. Dreaming to just hop on an airplane and head back; get a hitch and start climbing.
This was impossible; first of all; my legs and feet were completely in a post-hike crisis. All my joints aching, feet and legs like soggy logs; painfully swollen. I could barely walk! My circulation had gone to a complete stop not hiking 10 hours a day. There was no walking. No sleeping. It was like going back to the first weeks on trail; throbbing feet and aching knees. On top of this the overwhelming sorrow and panic of the "reality up next"-sign alarmingly blinking in the back of my head.
And the hunger... After eating immense amounts of food and chocolate for months, not ever getting enough, real life hits you pretty hard. I am hungry all the time. I thought I would be over the moon happy about eating fresh vegetables and fruit; craving to cleanse myself of all of the Snickers; but no.. The first thing I do home is making homemade donuts and eat way too many. I desperately try to balance it out with a chlorella and coconut oil smoothie afterwards. And so on.. Days passes by. The struggle is real. Post hike weight gain a horror waiting to happen. So I eat low glycemic food, omega acids, I drink chaga tea with coconut oil and chlorella smoothies with extra protein. And liters of water. Still I feel hungry. Hungry and sad.
On putting your friends in the closet..
Maybe the saddest moment coming home was to unpack my backpack, put my hiking gear in the laundry and see it all hanging there on the clothesline. Like it had never been used. Super clean. Actually I never thought it could be clean again, but even my moldy t-shirt regained its color after a wash in a functional laundry machine. Packing my beloved Agnes tent, clean and dry in her bag. My pack; Beverly, turned green again after a soak in the bathtub; no more sweat and dirt, and my pack towel; Jane had never looked better. To me they are not just things; they are my dearest travel companions and it felt cruel to put them away. I couldn't. I stashed them neatly on a shelf next to my bed under the map of the PCT so I can see them. I sleep better now.
So now; 16 days at home. Some days it feels better, some days are hard. My thoughts are still out there. I try to walk and run myself down; still having pain in my feet I have to be slow. I am trying to keep the stillness inside; I rest and keep to myself, trying to avoid the overwhelming civilization.
Work has to wait. Communication with my fellow hikers makes me smile and makes the days bearable; only they can understand how it truly feels, and it helps tremendously. The bond we formed out there, sharing everything that is real, will last a lifetime and their friendships means everything to me.
Most importantly; I dream of new trails, new adventures and I try hard to focus on my motto; dream-plan-execute-repeat. I guess I am back to the dreaming-phase now. Hopefully it will move fast towards the planning-phase.
This journey was just the beginning.
I have the trail in me now. The achievement is done and can never be undone. I am changed, but 100% more myself. I am stronger, more whole and grounded that I have ever been. The trail healed me and made me a complete human being. So in all the feelings of sadness and longing I experience right now there is the knowledge of this; I will never be the same. I can do it again. I believed everything was possible and it was - I experienced true happiness and that is like finding the gold in the end of the rainbow. Like discovering the secret of the earth.
I have that. I know where to find it. The trail is there for me to step on it. I will be able to readjust and make this transition. And then new adventures will be at my feet. So lets trust in the universe - like my dearest friend always says; "things always turn out the way they're supposed to". I choose to believe that.