Second Day Blues

It’s disheartening to peck out a blog post on your iPhone in a tent and then lose it to the electronic ether. It’s the capper on a rough day. I continued climbing up toward Wrightwood, gaining about 4000 feet in 12 miles. It was a long, hot tramp, though it’s ended in some lovely pine forest and a charming campsite. The world’s most insanely steep path leads from the camp to a dribbling cold spring, which was used to supplement my dwindling water supply. Thankfully, it’s a short jaunt tomorrow to the highway to meet the family for resupply.

There send to be something about the second day back on the trail. I have only two second days to compare, but that’s one more than most folks get. (I’m praying this phenomenon does not repeat after resupplies or zero days.) The first day seems to go well, but the second brings up all the pains, all the worries, all he frustrations. Physically I’m doing well, but mentally I’ve been all over the place. All the worries about my slow pace, my dragging gait, the immensity of the task before me, my missing my family and the comforts of home… They seem to crowd in and take away the joy I’m looking for out here; right now, it all feels like work. It may just be withdrawal from “regular” life, or a settling-in period, but it’s frustrating. The few other hikers I’ve seen are all young people, powering past me as I lay sprawled beside the trail once more. (One pair of young gents—Handy Andy and Gilligan—did stop to chat briefly and interviewed me about my trail name.)

It feels churlish and ungrateful to even complain about such things after so many years of mooning about and whining about wanting to go, and months of planning and warping my family around this singular dream. At any rate, I’m doing well physically; if I can get the mental on track, I should be well set up, indeed.




Lovely views from up high.


The inside of a real thru-hiker’s tent!

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18 thoughts on “Second Day Blues

  1. Summer

    I enjoy following you and look forward to continue following you on your journey! So glad you made it back out there! I’m sure your family misses you just as much as you miss them!! You’re not alone out there, you have a lot of people rooting for you, including me, a stranger! It’s nice to follow a fellow local person, I attended SBVC! Glad there are people out there like you, who follow their dreams! I look forward to stepping foot on the PCT one day, thank you for the inspiration!!
    I hope your phase of decompressing from the real world is quick so that you can begin the fully enjoy the beauty of your adventure!! Safe travels, be safe! You have lots a great people sending positive and well wishes your way!

    • Thank you for your encouragement. Such comments really do make a difference. My wife (and others) have suggested that hiking with someone might help with the emotional journey; the blog comments sort of stand in for that when I’m on my own (and have internet access…)

  2. “All the worries about my slow pace, my dragging gait, the immensity of the task before me…”

    Staaahhhhp! Especially the last part of that.

    I remember a few 10 – 15 mile runs when I was in the Army. I hated running. Push-ups, sit-ups, crab-walks, whatever, all were no problem, but running wasn’t my cup of tea. The trick that got me through those long runs was training myself to NOT think about how long the runs was going to be, especially early on in a run. I put one foot in front of the other, thinking only about what was happening around me at that given moment, and the miles melted away.

    This adventure of yours needs to center around the treasures each day brings, not the sum of the distance traveled. If the latter is the case you are doing it for the wrong reasons. How many horned-toads did you say you have seen so far? I haven’t seen one since I was 12. Think about today, not beyond. Smell the roses…or horned toads…and before you know it you will be in Oregon.

    I’m enjoying your blog a great deal, please keep it up. Don’t let your foot concern you, it’ll shape up and give in to the demands of the journey just as soon as your heart and mind do.

    Robert Herrick wasn’t 100% right. Rosebuds aren’t just for the virgins, old timer!

    • An extremely useful set of thoughts; thanks for sharing. I know that looking ahead to the long haul is a recipe for despair, but I find it terribly difficult not to do so. Not only is it my inclination, but in the long hours of walking, it’s hard not to let one’s thoughts wander wherever they wish to go. If my rearrangement of my schedule works out, leaving me more time to appreciate the beauty and the journey, I think much of this will be alleviated.

  3. I’m reminded of how the hardest day when you’re beginning a new exercise regimen is the second day. The first day, everything’s pretty new. The second day, you know what’s coming and it can be tough to power through it. Of course, I’m saying this as a person who has needed to start exercising again for a very long time and keep putting it off.

    While I could finger-wag and tut-tut at you for taking your dream journey for granted, obviously I shouldn’t expect you to be in a state of bliss at every moment. Like any other dream opportunity, eventually it becomes work. It beats digging ditches (or, in your case, grading student homework), but it can be difficult to forget that, I imagine.

    But I certainly agree with Andrew. Even in normal life we should ideally be focusing only on today and leaving tomorrow’s worries for tomorrow, but in a situation like yours, when you have only your own brain for company, I would imagine that becoming even more important. I want to urge you not to spend all of your time on the trail with your head never having left home. On the other hand, I want to encourage you by reminding you of the discussion we had about the Louis C.K. video I was telling you about, and the importance of allowing ourselves to be in that moment instead of seeking distraction from it. I wonder if, despite the pains and worries that may cycle through, it may ultimately lead to a better and more peaceful place?

    In any case, keep the Faith, brother, and keep hydrated.

    • Thank you, sir. It really is a struggle to let go of home enough to allow for growth but not so much as to lose it. One of the things I’ve found most fascinating is how the journey has already made me think of home so differently. I am inclined always to feel that greatness and joy are to be found somewhere else than where I am; this has so far reminded me (and really given me a new perspective) on the joy that I have every day.

      That guilt thing really is an issue to deal with. I’m prone to guilt at the best of times; when things are difficult, I can find a way to feel bad about every aspect of my life and every action. To accept that feelings of loss, of fear, of loneliness, and of pain are a part of the process and not a failure on my part is a difficult challenge. This advice is well given.

  4. Anthony Slusser

    Bucket List, Bucket List. When Morgan Freeman begins sharing about God, Jack Nicholson states, “I can’t get my head around that.” Freeman’s character retorts, “Maybe your head is getting in the way.” You’re not rich enough to have monkey poop coffee served to you in a silver cup, nor poor enough to be depending on someone else’s largess. You are where you are… in your dream. Andy is right, and by the way, I’ve never seen a horned toad in the wild. Your body is up for it. Let your heart revel in the fact that your family, kith and kin, are all enjoying your trip as much as you are. Sort of suggests you should look for the joy to share, even in horned toad adventure. Let your legs carry you far, your back bend to discover each small wonder, your heart urge you to journal to all of us of your discoveries… and don’t let your head get in the way, it blocks the view.

    • You’re speaking to your son, here, father: the king of letting my head get in the way, because it’s always busy analyzing every action and reaction. It’s a growth process; I’ll be going through the pains for some time, I’m sure. I doubt I’ll have that conundrum solved in this lifetime, but each turn of the wheel is rounding off some of the roughness of the edges.

    • Somehow flying in that plane looks a lot more inviting than climbing another hill. But it’s true enough that the romanticized version of adventure I have (fueled, no doubt, by a whole lot of Hollywood versions on the screen) emphasizes the joy and downplays the pain. Since I have so little real pain in my life, it’s tough when it does rear its head. Mentally, I know this is supposed to give value to the achievement, but in the moment it’s easy to lose sight of that. The encouragement is appreciated, though.

  5. cryptopur

    On another note, I’m fascinated to see the miles and miles of wilderness even so close to LA and San Bernardino. It’s so easy to think the concrete jungle is all pervasive and look – a fairly short walk and you’re nowhere…that’s glorious.

    • Indeed–it is nice to know that the wild spaces haven’t entirely been eaten up. You are never allowed to forget them: this is a tamed, well-traveled wild space, with consistent traffic noise and views of the urban landscape below. But even this much is far better than nothing. And driving back, even I was impressed by how far I had managed to get.

  6. I adore you and your honesty and your looking forward, up, out, within the moment, inside yourself, and into our delighted Father’s eyes. And after an evening of pondering what, if anything to share or say, our friends Rankin and Bass came to me and said that Winter Warlock and Kris Kringle wanted to chat and sing with you. 🙂

    Winter: I really am a mean, and despicable creature at heart you know. It’s difficult to [sniff] really change.
    Kris: Difficult? [chuckles] Why, why look here, changing from bad to good is as easy as taking your first step.

    Put one foot in front of the other
    And soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor.
    You put one foot in front of the other
    And soon you’ll be walking out the door.

    You never will get where you’re going
    If ya never get up on your feet.
    Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowin’
    A fast walking man is hard to beat.


    If you want to change your direction,
    If your time of life is at hand,
    Well, don’t be the rule, be the exception
    A good way to start is to stand.


    Winter: If I want to change the reflection
    I see in the mirror each morn…
    Kris: Oh, you do.
    Winter: You mean that it’s just my election?
    Kris: Just that.
    Winter: To vote for a chance to be reformed? Woo-hoo!

    Here’s to reformation, transformation, contemplation, adoration, and celebration. Love you to the moon and back. 🙂

    • First, I must thank you for getting that song stuck in my head EVERY SINGLE TIME I HIKED UP AN INCLINE. Every. Single. Time.

      On the other hand, it was, in its goofy way, an encouraging ear-worm. This, combined with Bilbo’s song from the Rankin-Bass Hobbit, “The Greatest Adventure,” proved to be the silly yet enduring songs that kept me moving. It’s amazing how, at least in my head, the constant repetitive rhythm of hiking makes my brain form patterns: a song will insert itself insistently in my head, and I have to find useful lyrics before my brain settles on something depressing or meaningless and I go mad. The more upbeat and hopeful songs I can muster, the better.

      I don’t know if you got these lyrics from the internet hive-mind, or if you copied them down from the video, but I like to imagine you listening to the song over and over, picking out the words bit at a time until the whole was complete.

  7. Jim N Joelle Bare

    The very idea of adventuring vicariously through someone who actually has the nerve to do “it” is distasteful to me, and yet here we are. We appreciate your stories, and even at some level imagine chatting while walking alongside. Then we think of blisters and bugs and bodily functions
    in the wild and are happy again to be reading instead of adventuring. Be encouraged, we appreciate you and your efforts.

    • I’m happy to be the focal point for vicarious adventures. I’m hoping to provide more fodder very soon! Thanks for the encouragement.

  8. Oh how harshly we deal with ourselves sometimes! If one of your loved ones was having the experience you just described, how would you respond to him or her? With love and encouragement, methinks. Feel what you feel and don’t let that mind of yours pass too much judgement – no critique is necessary. How beautiful your views were – thanks for the pics! I enjoy that in all the blogs I read from last years Class and the 7 I’m following now everyone captures different perspectives of the same trail and it’s like a little window into what the individual sees as most interesting, beautiful or representative of how they’re responding to the environment. It’s wonderful; thanks again for your part in that, you are a real thru-hiker.

    • Thank you for that dose of perspective. It’s true that I’m usually far harsher with myself than I am with others (at least outwardly!). Hopefully those other blogs are feeding your hunger for adventure; I hope to be back doing the same soon!

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