No, I didn’t finish. I got halfway before crippling depression and anxiety derailed my enjoyment of the big hike and so I decided to call it quits headed into Rawlins, Wyoming. That’s about 1600 miles, bringing my lifetime foot travels somewhere North of 4200 miles. Hard to call it a complete failure, and failure isn’t how I see it. I have owned it and used the early return to take a good look in the mirror and begin to tackle severe mental health issues that have plagued me since late October of 2013, the perihelion of my life to this point.
The come down since then has been a real bitch. I feel as if I have been dragged face first through the mud until my face is raw and my lungs are filled with worms and rot. The oxygen needed for clear and far-seeing thought simply hasn’t made it to the better parts of my brain through the slush of fatigued pessimism, relentless non-confidence, and what can only be described as the opposite of a body-high, a pervasive feeling in the tissues of my body that there is no light at the end of the tunnel and that I am buried in the rubble of the tunnel and the tunnel is filling with water and that I am drowning and there is no one to help and no point in yelling out.
It has been a thorough dicking, but today – for now – I can breathe and think a little bit better and feel some long-abandoned slice of the ambitious and self-assured (pre- “Trivia”) Zach trying to come back to life, like a left for dead sea star regrowing its limbs. This hasn’t been my first struggle with depression and wont be my last, but I don’t want to feel this awful for this long ever again.
Well, one step at a time. If you feel this way I encourage you to seek help, which is what I know I should do for myself. Long overdue if you ask my closest friends, I’m sure.
Then again, many of the people closest to me seem to have no clue. You have to do it for yourself. To hell with the stigma. I want to enjoy my life again.
So, that whole hiking thinking. The next trail I am looking at is the Hayduke Trail for 2017 or later. I’ve had encouragement from some trail legends to do it along with outstanding offers of help for the logistics of it. God, I love the trail community. I don’t have the will to do another long trail this season. As stated above, I need to take care of myself. This is the first day I have felt halfway lucid in two years. I can’t rely on miracles like this every day and will have to be aggressive to maintain lucidity. Imagine standing on a fourteen thousand foot peak early in the morning with clear skies and a brisk wind looking out across endless Colorado and feeling not awe and possibility but imprisonment. Ok, enough.
“The Hayduke” tours the highlights of the American Southwest taking the hiker – southwesterly, as it were – through Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Glen Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bryce, Grand Canyon, and Zion. It’s about 800 miles and given its geography is a hell of a walk in the sun, but I trust that the reader here scans that hall of fame list with widened eyes and is aroused as I am. By and large it’s not a trail at all, which adds to its attractiveness. Hiking in New Mexico on the CDT was often more of point to point landmark trek than a proper “trail” experience. It made you feel alive walking across the scalding and endless Chihuahuan Desert and that’s a feeling worth chasing at any cost, both financial and opportunistic.
The Hayduke , given its shorter length (well, you know what I mean…), is traditionally experienced at a more leisurely pace by hikers. It is treated like a fine cigar or Speyside single malt; challenging, engaging, taken in slowly, and most definitely harmful to your health. Given that, I may end up saving it for a special occasion, but no other trail quite catches my eye like the gem of the Southwest.
I’ll have to approach it from a cautious place while also accepting the highest risk of any travels I’ve yet had. That whole “finish even if it kills me” attitude is something I’ve lost as I descend into my middle and late twenties, having come a little bit closer to death on a few occasions (sorry mom and dad). When the right time and the right partner come along I’ll know it and then it’s load up the packs and hop on the train back into the better parts of this country.
I have a Kindle Direct Publishing account now, so there’s that. I think I might move to Seattle. If I’m going to be depressed I might as well be some place where the weather ceaselessly agrees with me.